a Flood: The First Steps
has been flooded. Although floodwaters may be down in some areas, many
dangers still exist. Here are some things to remember in the days ahead.
Roads may still be closed because they have been damaged or are covered
by water. Barricades have been placed for your protection. If you come
upon a barricade or a flooded road, go another way.
Keep listening to the radio for news about what to do, where to go, or
places to avoid.
Emergency workers will be assisting people in flooded areas. You can help
them by staying off the roads and out of the way.
If you must walk or drive in areas that have been flooded --
Stay on firm ground. Moving water only 6 inches deep can sweep
you off your feet. Standing water may be electrically charged from underground
or downed power lines.
Flooding may have caused familiar places to change. Floodwaters often
erode roads and walkways. Flood debris may hide animals and broken bottles,
and it's also slippery. Avoid walking or driving through it.
Play it safe. Additional flooding or flash floods can occur. Listen
for local warnings and information. If your car stalls in rapidly rising
waters, get out immediately and climb to higher ground.
A flood can cause emotional and physical stress. You need to look after
yourself and your family as you focus on cleanup and repair.
Rest often and eat well.
Keep a manageable schedule. Make a list and do jobs one at a time.
Discuss your concerns with others and seek help. Contact Red Cross for
information on emotional support available in your area.
Cleaning Up and Repairing Your Home
Turn off the electricity at the main breaker or fuse box, even if the
power is off in your community. That way, you can decide when your home
is dry enough to turn it back on.
Get a copy of the book Repairing Your Flooded Home. It will tell you:
How to enter your home safely.
Repairing Your Flooded Home is available free from the American Red Cross
or your state or local emergency manager.
How to protect your home and belongings from further damage.
How to record damage to support insurance claims and requests for assistance.
How to check for gas or water leaks and how to have service restored.
How to clean up appliances, furniture, floors and other belongs.
The American Red Cross can help you by providing you with a voucher to
purchase new clothing, groceries, essential medications, bedding, essential
furnishings, and other items to meet emergency needs. Listen to the radio
to find out where to go for assistance, or look up American Red Cross
in the phone book and call.
The Red Cross can provide you with a cleanup kit: mop, broom, bucket, and
Contact your insurance agent to discuss claims.
Listen to your radio for information on assistance that may be provided
by the state or federal government or other organizations.
If you hire cleanup or repair contractors, be sure they are qualified to
do the job. Be wary of people who drive through neighborhoods offering help
in cleaning up or repairing your home. Check references.
for the Care of Water-Damaged Family Heirlooms and Other Valuables
Following a disaster, people often lose family heirlooms and other valuables
to water damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has obtained
general information/recommendations from the American Institute for Conservation
of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and the National Institute for the
Conservation of Cultural Property (NIC) for homeowners regarding the recovery
of water-damaged belongings.
Ten Tips for the Homeowner:
If the object is still wet, rinse with clear, clean water or a fine hose
spray. Clean off dry silt and debris from your belongings with soft brushes
or dab with damp cloths without grinding debris into objects.
Air dry objects indoors if possible. Sunlight and heat may dry certain
materials too quickly, causing splits, warpage, and buckling.
The best way to inhibit growth of mold and mildew is to reduce humidity.
Increase air flow wi th fans, open windows, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers.
Remove heavy deposits of mold growth from walls, baseboards, floors, and
other household surfaces with commercially available disinfectants. Avoid
the use of disinfectants on historic wallpapers.
If objects are broken or begin to fall apart, place all broken pieces,
bits of veneer, and detached parts in clearly labeled open containers.
Do not attempt to repair objects until completely dry or, in the case
of important materials, until you have consulted with a professional conservator.
Documents, books, photographs and works of art on paper may be extremely
fragile when wet; use caution when handling. Free the edges of prints
and paper objects in mats and frames, if possible. These should be allowed
to air dry. Rinse mud off wet photographs with clear water, but do not
touch surfaces. Sodden books and papers should also be air dried, or may
be kept in a refrigerator or freezer until they can be treated by a professional
Textiles, leather, and other "organic" materials will also be
severely affected by exposure to water and should be allowed to air dry.
Remove wet paintings from the frame but not from the stretcher. Air dry,
face up, away from direct sunlight.
Furniture finishes and painting surfaces may develop a white haze or bloom
from contact with water and humidity. These problems do not require immediate
attention. Consult a professional conservator for treatment.
Rinse metal objects exposed to flood waters, mud, or silt with clear water
and dry immediately with a clean, soft cloth. Allow heavy mud deposits
on large metal objects, such as sculpture, to dry. Caked mud can be removed
later. Consult a professional conservator for further treatment.
Because the information given above is general, FEMA, AIC and NIC strongly
recommend that professional conservators be consulted as to the appropriate
method of treatment for historic objects. Professional conservators may
be contacted through the FREE Conservation Services Referral System of
the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works,
1717 K Street, NW, Ste. 301, Washington, DC 20006; (202) 452-9545; fax:
(202) 452-9328. Based on a complete description of the artifact, a computer-generated
list of conservators will be compiled and grouped geographically, by specialization,
and by type of service provided
Precious Heirlooms and Other Items from Flood Waters
Flood waters leave significant structural devastation in their wake, but
sometimes the most wrenching losses are the smallest - personal items
such as heirlooms, photographs, textiles and books. With proper handling,
however, some of these items may be reclaimed from the flood waters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers these tips based on recommendations
of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
and the Heritage Preservation.
wet photos carefully; the surfaces may be fragile. Wet photos may be
rinsed in clean water and sealed in a plastic garbage bag with a tie
or a Zip-Lock type plastic bag. If possible, put wax paper between each
photo. If a freezer is available, freeze the photos immediately. Later,
photos may be defrosted, separated and air-dried.
- If no
freezer or refrigerator is available, rinse wet photos in clean water
and dry them, face up, in a single layer on a clean surface (a table,
window screen or clean plastic laid out on the ground). Don't dry photos
in direct sunlight. Don't worry if the photos curl as they dry. A photo
expert can be contacted later about flattening them.
textiles, such as quilts, laces, needlework or tapestries, will be weaker
and heavier when wet and will require extra care. Wear plastic disposable
gloves, protective clothing, goggles, and if possible, use a respirator
while working on flood-damaged textiles
- Do not
attempt to unfold extremely delicate fabrics if the fragile layers are
stuck together. Wait until they are dry and consult a conservator.
- To remove
mud and debris, re-wet the textiles with gently flowing clean water
or with a fine hose spray. Gently press water out with the palm of your
hand. Don't wring or twist dry. Remove excess water with dry towels,
blotting paper or blank newsprint, especially if the dyes are bleeding.
Avoid stacking textiles while drying. Reshape the textile while it is
damp to approximate its original contours.
place textiles in sealed plastic bags. Air dry indoors with the lights
on to inhibit mold and circulate the air with air conditioning, fans
and open windows. Use a dehumidifier in the room with the wet textiles
and drain the collecting container often.
- If heirloom
items are broken or begin to fall apart, place broken pieces, bits of
veneer and detached parts in labeled open containers. Don't attempt
to repair objects until completely dry or, in the case of important
materials, until you consult with a professional conservator.
books and works of art on paper may be extremely fragile when wet. Free
the edges of prints and paper objects in mats and frames, if possible.
These should be allowed to air dry. Sodden papers should also be air
dried or may be kept in a refrigerator or freezer until they can be
treated by a professional conservator.
wet paintings from the frame but not from the stretcher. Air dry, face
up, away from direct sunlight.
- If the
books are underwater or soaking wet, pick up each one with both hands
and place it in a non-paper container (milk crate, wire basket, etc.)
so it can be transported safely to an area where it can dry. Keep the
book closed while you move it; wet books are very fragile. Remember:
the wetter the book, the heavier it is and the more likely to be damaged
by rough handling.
- The best
way to dry books is with cool, dry, circulating air. Never dry them
by using an oven, microwave, hair dryer or iron. If the volume is very
wet, place it flat on a clean table or bench that is covered with absorbent
material. Carefully place sheets of absorbent material (paper towels,
blotters or uninked newsprint) between sections of pages. Don't distort
the binding, though. Change the sheets as they become wet. To speed
drying, change the location of the blotters each time they are replaced.
With books that have coated pages, use waxed paper instead of absorbent
sheets between pages.
- If the
volume is damp or only partially wet, stand it upright on its driest
edge with its pages fanned open. If you are using fans to keep the air
circulating, make sure the spines or covers are facing the breeze. If
needed, insert blotting materials between pages.
the book is dry but feels cool to the touch, close it and place it on
its side with a slight weight on it. Check regularly for mold growth.
You can also freeze the books to be defrosted and dried later, when
conservators may be contacted through the free Conservation Services Referral
System of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic
Works, 1717 K Street, NW, Ste. 301, Washington, DC 20006; (202) 452-9545.
Product Safety Commission Alert
Courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington,
Tips for Flood Victims
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends several safety tips
to the victims of floods. This safety alert illustrates some dangerous
practices which consumers may be tempted to engage in during efforts to
rebuild or while staying in temporary housing, tents, or partially damaged
homes. This information is provided in an effort to prevent injuries and
deaths from consumer products as flood survivors make new beginnings.
"We hope this information helps prevent product-related injuries
and deaths during these difficult times." -- Chairman Ann Brown
Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet. Water can damage
the motors in electrical appliances, such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators,
washing machines, and dryers.
If electrical appliances have been under water, have them dried out and
reconditioned by a qualified service repairman. Do not turn on damaged
electrical appliances because the electrical parts can become grounded
and pose an electric shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire. Before
flipping a switch or plugging in an appliance, have an electrician check
the house wiring and appliance to make sure it is safe to use.
Electricity and water don't mix.
Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions
and electrical shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install
and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.
When using a "wet-dry vacuum cleaner," be sure to follow the
manufacturer's instructions to avoid electric shock.
Do not allow the power cord connections to become wet. Do not remove or
bypass the ground pin on the three-prong plug. Use a GFCI to prevent electrocution.
NEVER remove or bypass the ground pin on a three-pronged plug in order
to insert it into a non-grounded outlet.
NEVER allow the connection between the machine's power cord and the extension
cord to lie in water.
To prevent a gas explosion and fire, have gas appliances (natural gas
and LP gas) inspected and cleaned after flooding.
If gas appliances have been under water, have them inspected and cleaned
and their gas controls replaced. The gas company or a qualified appliance
repair person or plumber should do this work. Water can damage gas controls
so that safety features are blocked, even if the gas controls appear to
operate properly. If you suspect a gas leak, don't light a match, use
any electrical appliance, turn lights on or off, or use the phone. These
may produce sparks. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater.
If you smell gas or hear gas escaping, turn off the main valve, open windows,
leave the area immediately, and call the gas company or a qualified appliance
repair person or plumber for repairs. Never store flammable materials
near any gas appliance or equipment.
make sure your smoke detector is functioning. Smoke detectors can save
your life in a fire. Check the battery frequently to make sure it is operating.
Fire extinguishers also are a good idea.
Gasoline is made to explode!
Never use gasoline around ignition sources such as cigarettes, matches,
lighters, water heaters, or electric sparks. Gasoline vapors can travel
and be ignited by pilot light or other ignition sources. Make sure that
gasoline powered generators are away from easily combustible materials.
Chain saws can cause serious injuries. Chain saws can be hazardous, especially
if they "kick back." To help reduce this hazard, make sure that
your chain saw in equipped with the low-kickback chain. Look for other
safety features on chain saws, including hand guard, safety tip, chain
brake, vibration reduction system, spark arrestor on gasoline models,
trigger or throttle lockout, chain catcher, and bumper spikes. Always
wear shoes, gloves, and protective glasses. On new saws, look for certification
to the ANSI B-175.1 standard.
When cleaning up from a flood, store medicines and chemicals away from
young children. Poisonings can happen when young children swallow medicines
and household chemicals.
Keep household chemicals and medicines locked up away from children. Use
the child resistant closures that come on most medicines and chemicals.
Burning charcoal gives off carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide has no odor
and can kill you. Never burn charcoal inside homes, tents, campers, vans,
cars, trucks, garages, or mobile homes.
WARNING: Submerged gas control valves, circuit breakers, and fuses pose
explosion and fire hazard!
Replace all gas control valves, circuit breakers, and fuses that have
been under water:
GAS CONTROL VALVES on furnaces, water heaters, and other gas appliances
that have been under water are unfit for continued use. If they are used,
they could cause a fire or an explosion. Silt and corrosion from flood
water can damage internal components of control valves and prevent proper
operation. Gas can leak and result in an explosion or fire. Replace ALL
gas control valves that have been under water.
ELECTRIC CIRCUIT BREAKERS AND FUSES can malfunction when water and silt
get inside. Discard ALL circuit breakers and fuses that have been submerged.