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Delaware Health Alert Network #45

September 19, 2003 1:33 pm

Health Advisory

Water intrusion creates a variety of health and safety risks for families. Flooding is a leading cause of mold growth in homes. Flooding also puts water in dangerous proximity to electricity, creating risk of electrical shock. Delaware's Division of Public Health offers the following recommendations to head off this growing problem:

  • Make sure electrical service is turned off before going back into a building that has flooded. Do that by turning off the main electrical switch and all circuits.
  • Do not wait for water-soaked items to dry. Remove them from your home immediately. If you are unable to lift heavy items, ask for assistance.
  • Start with bedrooms first, since this is where you generally spend long hours. Remove water-damaged items such as carpet and padding, mattresses, bedding, furniture, draperies and clothing.
  • Remove and discard wet drywall at 12 inches above the water line.
  • Discard all wet carpet.

Cleaning and Repairing Flooded Basements

  • Turn off the electricity and don't turn it back on until a licensed electrician has checked the system.
  • Check outside cellar walls for possible cave-ins, evidence of structural damage or other hazards.
  • Turn off gas or fuel service valves.
  • Open doors and windows or use blowers to force fresh air in.
  • Run dehumidifiers and empty the water pan frequently.
  • Do not use an electric pump powered by your own electrical system. Use a gas-powered pump or one connected to an outside power source. Fire departments in some communities may help with such services. Ventilate the area to prevent build up of carbon monoxide gas.

After water has been pumped from the basement, shovel out the mud and debris while it is still moist. Hose down walls to remove as much silt as possible before it dries. Floors and walls may need sanitizing, particularly if sewage has entered the basement. Scrub walls and floors with a 10% bleach solution or other comparable commercially available disinfectant.

Oil stains in basements caused by overturned or damaged oil tanks may be a problem following flooding. Call a professional to remove oil residue.

Dealing with garbage and sewage can be challenging. If toilets aren't working use portable units. Beware that sewage can backflow through floor drains into basements. Clean with a disinfectant. Never mix ammonia and chlorine bleach, which produces poisonous chloramine gas. After coming into contact with sewage or floodwater, wash your hands well and use a brush to clean under fingernails.

A few simple precautions will make your clean up tasks safer and keep you healthy.

For more information or other public health concerns, contact the Division of Public Health at 1-888-459-2943.

Categories of Health Alert messages:

  • Health Alert: Conveys the highest level of importance; warrants immediate action or attention.
  • Health Advisory: Provides important information for a specific incident or situation; may not require immediate action.
  • Health Update: Provides updated information regarding an incident or situation; unlikely to require immediate action.
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