As the massive storm that began as Hurricane Sandy churns slowly away from the East Coast today it is leaving behind floodwaters that have residents up to their knees and homes damaged and soaked.
Rainfall totals of four to eight inches are expected today over the mid-Atlantic states, while one to three inches are possible from New York through New England. Parts of the mid-Atlantic and northeast states also remained under flash flood watches and warnings and normally dry areas near the coast could be vulnerable to potential flooding brought on by high tide, according to the National Weather Service.
The potential for even more flooding raises the potential for even more worries as the waters bring serious health risks ranging from infectious diseases to chemical hazards and injuries.
“When that flood water comes into your home you have to worry about what is it bringing in with it,” ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said today on “Good Morning America.” “You have to worry about contamination, animal waste and human waste that’s contaminated with bacteria.”
As former head of emergency response and preparedness for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Besser is familiar with the dangers that can come from not treating flood waters seriously. Below he offers four simple tips to keep you and your family safe.
Tip #1: Boil or Bleach Your Water
According to Besser, “For a boiled water advisory you need to boil your water for at least one minute of full boil. If you don’t have power and can’t do that you can take a gallon of water and add eight drops of bleach to that water and that will make that safe to drink.”
Tip #2: Wait to Clean Out the Floods
“You want to have good light so you can see what you’re doing,” Besser said. “When you have a couple of feet of water in your basement there may be sharp objects. There may also be electrical problems when you’re going into a basement that has water.”
Tip #3: Wear Protective Gear
“You don’t want it to come in contact so you want to wear boots and rubber gloves and goggles so that it’s not irritating your skin and you want to wash off very well after doing that [cleaning].”
Tip #4: Pitch Any Flood-Tainted Food and Water
Any food, any water, even in a sealed package, that has come in contact with flood water, you want to get rid of that,” Besser said. “The one exception for that is canned goods. You can take the labels off and either boil those cans or you can soak those cans in a bleach solution and then rinse those with clean water and use them.”