August 30, 2021
AFTER THE STORM: A post-hurricane health & safety guide
MOBILE, Ala. — Here are basic facts to remember that will protect your personal health and safety in the aftermath of a hurricane or flood.
Listen for announcements on the safety of the municipal water supply. If an advisory to boil water is issued, practice appropriate purification methods.
Test water from flooded, private water wells.
Water that might be contaminated should be purified. Before purifying, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.
Boiling. Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 3-5 minutes, keeping in mind that some of the water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.
Disinfecting. You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners. Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. The only agent used to purify water should be household liquid bleach. These two methods will kill most microbes in water. Remember… Bottled, boiled, or treated water is safe for drinking and/or cooking.
Well Water Testing. Sterile sample bottles are available from the local branch of the State Laboratory, 757 Museum Drive, or at the Mobile County Health Department, 251 North Bayou Street, Building 6. Samples should be returned to the State Lab (Museum Drive). The lab may be contacted by calling 251-344-6049.
Golden Rule: “When in Doubt, Throw it Out!”
Do not eat any food that may have come in contact with floodwater.
A full upright freezer will keep foods frozen for about two days without power. Wrapping the freezer in blankets or other insulation will help conserve the cold.
A partially full freezer will keep frozen foods for about one day. Keeping the door shut may extend this time.
A refrigerator will keep foods cool for four to six hours if the doors is kept shut as much as possible.
Foods that have been refrigerated when bought should be kept refrigerated or used immediately.
Any thawed foods that have been at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded. Frozen foods that have not completely thawed may be cooked immediately and used.
Foods still containing ice crystals can be refrozen, although the quality of the food may decrease. Foods that have thawed to refrigerator temperature (that is, no more than 40o F) can also be cooked and then refrozen.
Do not use canned foods if top or bottom of the can is swollen. Avoid foods in cans with bends and dents at the seams.
All uncooked fruits and vegetables should be washed with uncontaminated water before eating.
All foods are a possible source of illness, especially beef, pork, turkey, chicken or fish. Most foods will have a disagreeable odor when spoiled or contaminated. Call MCHD at 251-690-8116 or the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555 for more information.
SANITATION & HYGIENE
Floodwaters may contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems, agricultural and industrial by-products.
Wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before: preparing or eating food; after toilet use; after participating in flood cleanup activities; and after handling articles.
If you have open cuts or sores that will be exposed to flood water, keep them as clean as possibly by washing with soap.
Do not allow children to play in floodwater areas. Wash their hands frequently and make sure all toys exposed to contaminated floodwater are cleaned.
Try to return to your home during the daylight.
If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off main gas valve, open windows and leave home immediately. Call the gas company and do not turn on the lights or do anything to cause a spark.
I you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should shut off the electrical system at the circuit breaker.
Avoid any downed power lines, especially those in water.
Do not operate any gas-powered equipment indoors.
All electrical equipment and appliances must be completely dry before use.
Walls and hard-surfaced floors should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of ½ cup bleach to 1 gallon of water.
Disinfect food contact surfaces (counters, pantry shelves, refrigerators, etc.) and areas where small children play.
Wash all linen and clothing in hot water, or dry-clean them.
Air dry mattresses and upholstered furniture and then spray them thoroughly with a disinfectant.
Steam clean all carpeting.
If there has been a backflow of sewage into the house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during clean up.
Remove absorbent household materials such as wall-coverings, rugs, and sheetrock.
OTHER CONCERNS & HAZARDS
To minimize the chances of tetanus, adults living or working in flooded areas should receive a tetanus booster if it has been more than 10 years since their last dose or if they do not know when they received their last booster shot. Immediate tetanus shots are recommended for individuals who received open wounds or puncture wounds while involved in cleanup efforts and who have not had a tetanus shot within the past five years.
Many wild animals have been forced out of their homes. They may carry rabies.
Rats are often a problem after floods so be sure to secure all food supplies.
Watch out for snakes! If you are bitten, try to remain calm and if possible, try to accurately identify the type of snake for the medical worker.
QUESTIONS? Call the Mobile County Health Department…
Food Inspection 251-690-8116 Mosquito Control 251-690-8124
Rodent Control 251-690-8819 Septic Tank Inspection 251-634-9801
Immunization Services 251-690-8821 General Information 251-690-8158