On Tuesday, October 30th, an NYPD truck drives through the flood Hurricane Sandy left.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Just because a storm is over doesn’t mean you’re out of danger. Not by a long shot. Even if you’ve done everything right, prepared like a pro, and survived without a scratch, even if the waters have receded, you still need to know what to do after the flood.

Because the dirty floodwater has contaminated anything it’s touched, been sprayed on by the wind, everything. And most floodwater has picked up raw sewage along the way.

It’s like providing sugar water for ants or free alcohol for investment bankers: germs congregate and thrive in this stuff. Name your bacteria, virus, fungus, amoeba, and it loves to live in this sort of primordial sludge. In fact, there are many disease germs you or I have never even heard of lurking in these waters. Not to mention the toxic chemicals.

And, when the waters recede, the germs cling to whatever they can. The point is anything that’s touched floodwaters is contaminated with potentially disease-causing germs and must be disinfected.

Working with wet feet? Be sure to read my post on how to prevent trench foot—especially in this cold weather.

Anytime you’ve touched contaminated areas, inside or outside, wash your hands with soap and clean water. And don’t depend on tap water for this until it has been given the all-clear from the utility company. No, you’re going to have to use your stored water, or see my post on how to disinfect water.

A word of caution: Never try to disinfect floodwater and use it for washing or drinking. In addition to the germs, it’s likely to contain who-knows-what types of chemical toxins it’s picked up along the way.

 Be prepared. Get The Survival Doctor’s easy-to-follow guidebooks here.

Books adWhen you get back home, don’t forget to disinfect contaminated food cans, stored water containers, or anything that has possibly had any floodwater on it. The CDC recommends using one cup of bleach to five gallons of clean water to do this.

Anything that can’t be washed, you need to throw away. Contaminated clothes need to be washed in hot water separate from any uncontaminated washing. Of course, until the utility service says your water is safe, you need to clean by hand or take it to a laundry where the water has been given the okay for cleaning.

Now, one other thing about this floodwater: Even if it has receded, your floors may be wet. If you’re returning home after the flood, turn off your electricity from a safe, dry location. Don’t turn it back on until the floors are dry and the house has been searched for any frayed cords or electrical wire damage.

I expect many of you can think of other after-the-flood hazards and what to do to avoid them. If so, please comment for other readers’ benefits. Also, are you now experiencing, or have you ever experienced, flooding?

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Photo by David Shankbone.