New Yorkers Urged to Take Precautions in Flooded Areas

New York State
Emergency Management Office
John R. Gibb
Director
Contact: Dennis Michalski
518-292-2310
Department of Health
Antonia C. Novello, M.D. M.P.H, Dr.P.H.
Commissioner
Contact: Robert Kenny
518-474-7354, ext. 1

New Yorkers Urged to Take Precautions in Flooded Areas

ALBANY, NY, June 28, 2006 - New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) Director John R. Gibb and State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. today reminded New Yorkers living in parts of the state ravaged by heavy rains and flooding to take all necessary precautions to protect their health and safety.

"During flooding, the greatest threat comes from moving water," Director Gibb warned. "Water moving at just two miles per hour can sweep a car off a bridge. People should avoid driving in moving water, regardless of the size of their vehicle. Keep in mind that road surfaces can become obscured, and drivers can unknowingly steer into a deep body of water. Don't be in a hurry—know what you are getting into and be sure it is safe to proceed."

According to Gibb, travelers should not attempt to cross a stream or pool of water unless they are certain that the water will not be over their knees, or above the middle of their car's wheels, all the way across. "If you do decide it is safe to cross, put your car in low gear and drive very slowly to avoid splashing water into your engine and causing it to stop. Also, remember that your brakes may not work well after the car has been in deep water. Try them out a few times when you reach the other side."

SEMO also urged residents in flood-prone or stricken areas to follow the instructions and advice of local government officials. It is important to stay aware of current conditions and emergency information in your community by monitoring local radio and TV broadcasts. If evacuation is advised, do so promptly. Follow instructions on where to go and what travel routes to follow. Don't attempt to find short cuts.

As you travel, watch for washed-out roads, earth slides, broken water or sewer mains, loose or downed electrical wires and falling or fallen objects. Undamaged streetlights and power poles also may be hazardous. These may be active through standing water, causing a deadly shock to anyone coming in contact with it.

Health and safety concerns may persist even after flood waters have receded," Dr. Novello cautioned. "After a flood, it is crucial to protect your family from developing illnesses associated with contaminated water, food, and air in an affected region."

According to the State Health Department homeowners who are cleaning up after flooding should not use any drinking water sources until health officials approve them; discard frozen foods that may have thawed during a power outage; and begin as soon as possible to dry out and disinfect walls. Standing water and excessive moisture can lead to the growth of bacteria, mold and insects.

The State Health Department recommends the following:

Foods:

  • Foods exposed to flood waters should be discarded because of possible contamination.
  • Destroy the contents of foods in glass jars that have been exposed to flood waters. The food-safety seals may have been broken. Destroy canned foods when swelling, rusting or serious denting is visible.
  • Cook all foods thoroughly. Frozen foods that have been thawed should be discarded if not consumed immediately, or kept refrigerated at 45 degrees F. or lower.

Household Clean-Up:

  • Prior to flooding, power should have been turned off in cellars. If possible, wait for ground waters to drop below floor level. Otherwise, drain or pump water from flooded cellars. Wash down the walls, floors and other areas exposed to flood waters with soap and hot water. Keep windows and doors open for ventilation. Disinfect the washed areas by applying a solution of bleach with a broom. The solution is prepared by adding four tablespoons of bleach to five gallons of water. Allow the solution to remain on the surface for approximately 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water as soon as possible to minimize staining.
  • Furniture: Clean and then wash metal and leather surfaces with mild soap and water and wipe dry immediately. Some upholstery may be washed on the surface with soap and water and wiped dry. Expose to open air and sunshine.
  • Floor Coverings: Clean rugs and carpets with a hose and squeegee, then wash with lukewarm water containing a detergent. Rinse and dry in sun.

Safety:

  • Rubber gloves should be worn while scrubbing damaged interiors with a bleach solution.
  • Don't neglect supposedly minor cuts, scratches or other injuries or sickness experienced during the emergency.
  • Individuals who suffer injury that results in an open wound or who swallow contaminated flood water should seek medical attention.

For more information, please visit the State Emergency Management Office web site at: www.semo.state.ny.us and the State Health Department web site at: www.health.ny.gov.