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Returning to flooded home? Be cautious

BY SUSAN KIM | Baltimore, MD | June 18, 2001

"While it's good to be home and to begin cleaning up, it's vital to know what risks are posed

in a flood-damaged home," he said.

Severe storms and torrential rains flooded counties from Texas in the south to New Jersey

along the northeast coast.

Allbaugh recommended residents assume anything touched by floodwater is contaminated.

Mud left by floodwater can contain chemicals ranging from garden pesticide to propane gas

to household cleaners. In addition, homes with flood damage may have damp areas where

molds, mildews and other fungal organisms thrive. Electrical shock and a possibility of

injury from hidden sharp objects also pose danger.

FEMA warned there is a danger of structural instability as well. Before going inside their

homes, residents should check to make sure porch roofs and overhangs still have all their

supports. If residents see damage, a building inspector or contractor should check the

building before anyone enters.

If residents suspect a gas leak or smell gas, they should leave home immediately and call the

gas company.

In addition, FEMA warned residents should enter their home carefully. If the door sticks at

the top, it could mean the ceiling is ready to fall. If the door must be forced open, residents

should wait outside the doorway in case debris falls. Once inside, dwellers should check the

ceiling for signs of sagging. Wind, rain, or deep flooding may wet plaster or wallboard,

which is very heavy and dangerous if it falls.

Other post-flood tips for those returning to their homes include:

-- Make sure the electricity is turned off. Unplug appliances and lamps, remove light bulbs

and remove the cover plates of wall switches and outlets that got wet. If local building

inspection code allows wiring to be disconnected from switches and outlets, do so and

throw away the switches and outlets.

-- A combination of household bleach and soap or detergent can be used to wash down

walls, floors and other mold-contaminated areas. This will eliminate fungal problems and

their inherent dangers. Follow directions on containers and take particularly note of


-- Remove as much mud and debris as possible. Plan to disinfect the basement at a later

date. Check the water system for leaks, then hose down the inside of the house and its

contents. It's best to use an attachment that sprays soap to wash and rinse the walls, floors,

furniture, sockets, electrical boxes, and other major items that got muddy.

-- Remove heating and cooling registers and ducts, then hose the ducts to prevent

contamination from blowing through the ducts at a later date. After hosing duct work,

wash with a disinfectant or sanitizer. If ducts are in slab or otherwise inaccessible, have

them cleaned professionally.

-- Don't let floodwater sit for long. Use a mop, squeegee or wet/dry vacuum cleaner to

remove standing water.

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