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corner of content windowHurricane Ivan News
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 23, 2004
CONTACT: FEMA/Florida News Desk: 407-858-6207
                  Frank A. Adinolfe 404-909-0460

Care Urged in Returning to a Flooded Home

ORLANDO—Disaster officials urge Floridians to take extra precautions when returning to flood-damaged homes, apartments or businesses to avoid accidents and injury.

The State Emergency Response Team (SERT) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) caution that the danger is not past just because the water has receded. Flood hazards include exposed electrical wires, contaminated floodwater and a weakened structure. These are not always obvious but can be life-threatening.

Officials say flood victims also should be aware of potential chemical hazards such as solvents, car batteries and other industrial chemicals. Residents who are unsure of the nature of a substance should get advice from an expert. They recommend following these tips:


Check the outside of the building: Call the utility company immediately if you find downed power lines or detect gas leaks. (Gas leaks will smell like rotten eggs.)

Look for external damage: Examine the foundation for cracks or other damage. Inspect porch roofs and overhangs and the foundation. If you find obvious damage, ask a building inspector to check the building before you go inside.

Enter the building carefully: If the door sticks at the top as it opens, it could mean the ceiling is ready to cave in. Don’t walk under a sagging ceiling until it has been checked.


Look before you step: Floors and stairs may be covered with debris and may be very slippery. Watch out for broken bottles, nails and other hazards.

Be alert for gas leaks: Do not strike a match or use an open flame when entering a building unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage.

Turn off the main breakers and valves for electricity, water and gas. Even if the power company has turned off electricity to the area, be sure to disconnect your home’s main power supply. Have all utility connections inspected before resuming their use. Do not use appliances or motors that have gotten wet until they have been cleaned and dried.

Expect mold growth. Within days of being water soaked, dry wall, upholstered furniture and wooden fixtures may develop mold or mildew. These can be health hazards. Ask your local health authorities for information on removing mold.

Dress for safety. Wear a disposable dust mask inside the house to filter mold spores, asbestos, lead or other contaminants. Wear safety glasses, leather or rubber gloves and protective shoes. This will minimize harm to you if you encounter a hazard.

Watch for animals, especially snakes: Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Scare them away by poking a stick into likely hiding places, taking particular care to listen for the warning sound of a rattlesnake.

Carbon monoxide exhaust kills: Do not use generators or other gasoline-powered machines indoors. All cooking on camp stoves and charcoal grills should be done outside. Gas and charcoal fumes can be deadly.

Drain the basement carefully and slowly: Groundwater creates hydrostatic pressure on basement walls and floors. Drain the basement no more than one foot per day to minimize further structural damage.

Hose the house: Many health hazards are found in the mud and silt floodwaters leave behind. Shovel as much mud as possible out of the house, then hose it down, inside and out.

Be aware of health hazards: Floodwaters pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories and storage buildings. Many flooded items, such as wallboard and mattresses, will hold mud and contamination forever. Spoiled food, water-logged cosmetics and medicine are also health hazards. When in doubt, throw it out.

The State Emergency Response Team (SERT) is a collaboration of Florida’s emergency management agencies led by the state coordinating officer. SERT’s mission is to ensure that Florida is prepared to respond to emergencies, recover from them, and mitigate their impact. Visit http://www.floridadisaster.org for the latest information on the hurricane relief effort.

On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.


Last updated: July 08, 2005

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