As the flood waters begin to recede and Siouxland moves into the flood recovery stage, residents are understandably eager to return to their homes. In order to help people take precautions as they return home and begin repairs on their homes and businesses, Siouxland District Health Department has compiled many resources to help inform people how to protect their families and their properties as this recovery stage progresses.
Prior to entering any property that has been evacuated due to flooding, it is important to ensure that it is safe. This includes checking for structural damage and electrical and gas safety. Also be aware of contaminants that may be present in the air and remaining water and silt. The following documents have guidelines on reentering a flooded property:
Homeowner Quick Guidelines After a Flood
Return Home Safely
Reentering Your Flooded Home
After a flood, tap or well water may not be safe to drink, or even to use for cleaning and bathing. To make sure your water is safe, if you are connected to a public water supply, listen to state and local officials who will give information on the status of your water. If you are on private well water, and you know or suspect that your well has been compromised by flood water, stop using the water until the well can be inspected and tested. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has instructions for dealing with flooded wells. Click here to access What Should I do When My Well Floods.
Private Septic Systems
Flooded septic systems can be hazardous for homeowners and to the system. Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has instructions for Flooded Private Sewage Systems.
Flood Cleanup & Mold
While cleaning up after a flood, it can be difficult to determine what can be cleaned and what needs to be discarded, and the most effective way to clean and make repairs so that both people and property are protected. Mold, in particular, can cause serious problems. Following are several documents that will help residents as they begin the process of cleanup:
FAQ About Cleaning Flooded Basements
Cleaning Playground Equipment
Cleaning and Disinfecting After a Flood
What to do With Flooded Personal Items
FAQ About Mold
FEMA – Mold & Mildew – Cleaning up Your Flood-Damaged Home
EPA – Flood Cleanup and the Air in Your Home
EPA – A Brief Guide to Mold and Moisture in Your Home
In addition, if your home heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning unit could have been contaminated by floodwater or mold, have it checked out and cleaned by a service professional before you turn it on. This can help prevent the mold contamination from being spread throughout your home.
Hiring a Reputable Contractor
Property owners that intend to hire a contractor will want to make sure they are hiring a company that is reputable and can properly do the work that needs to be done. Iowa State Extension has good guidance for Hiring Contractors After a Disaster.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If you or a contractor will be using gas-powered equipment such as generators or pressure washers during the cleanup process, it is extremely important that they are well-ventilated. Carbon monoxide fumes can build up and become harmful or even fatal. You cannot see or smell this gas. Be sure to:
NEVER place gas generated equipment such as pressure washer engines indoors during use.
NEVER place gas generated equipment such as pressure washer engines in a garage or other enclosed space during use.
NEVER place gas generated equipment such as pressure washer engines near open windows, doors, or vents during use.
Floodwaters provide excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Check out the fact sheets Mosquito Bite Prevention and Use of Mosquito Repellant on Children to help protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes, including those that transmit disease such as the West Nile virus.
The Iowa DNR is reminding residents that, in most cases, sand from sandbags is not hazardous and can be reused. It should not; however, be used in children’s play areas. Empty bags can be placed in the trash and sent to a landfill. To read the DNR’s statement on sand bag reuse, click here.
Sometimes, when dealing with a disaster, people can overlook basic strategies to keep themselves healthy. This can include using proper personal protective equipment during the cleanup process, ensuring you are up to date on your vaccinations, and basic personal hygiene.
Proper personal protective equipment during cleanup will include
Closed-toe, hard-sole boots or shoes
An N-95 or higher rated respirator (these are widely available at hardware stores)
Long pants and long-sleeved shirt
Vaccination and basic hygiene information is available on the fact sheets Immunization Recommendations and Flood Hygiene.
Always consult your healthcare provider if you have any health issues that may be a concern, such as respiratory problems, severe allergies, or a compromised immune system.
You can find additional resources at the following websites:
Additional flood cleanup requirements for food establishments can be found by clicking here.
The Siouxland District Health Department has many of these resources available in printed form, and can also answer many of your cleanup questions. Give us a call at 712-279-6119, or toll free 800-587-3005, or stop by our office at 1014 Nebraska Street in Sioux City.