Flood Safety Information: Things You Need to Know When Disaster Strikes

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Whenever a very large amount of water has overflowed from a water source to a previously dry area, it is considered as flood. Floods have existed since the dawn of time. The cause varies. It may be due to storms, faulty drainage systems, deforestation practices, and many more. Often enough, flood has been the root cause of health problems, accidents, loss of properties, and overall disturbance in daily living. Although preventable, there is still a minute percentage for floods to happen. Prevention is better than cure. However, when all else fails, it is best to be informed. Remember: Safety First.

First and Foremost

  • Identify if your location is a flood-free zone or not.

  • Know the flood warning system in your community. Remember, a flood watch is different from a flood warning. A flood watch tells that flooding is possible. Meanwhile, a flood warning tells that flooding is inevitable or is occurring or will be occurring.

  • Be vigilant to monitor the weather condition. Take time to turn on your television set, radio, or computer to know the weather condition in your locality. There are also weather apps that are easy to download on your mobile phone.

  • Designate an evacuation area for your family. Rather, identify the evacuation area in your community.

  • Keep a stock of the following: food which requires little or no cooking or refrigeration, blanket, transistorized radio, flashlight, spare batteries, portable cooking equipment, matches, and a first aid kit in case of emergency. Store the supplies above expected flood water level.

When Warned of Flood

  • Immediately pack your bags with important items in case you need to evacuate. Pack up medications too.

  • Move essential items and appliances to an upper floor. Disconnect all electrical appliances and turn off utilities at the main switches or valves.

  • When advised to evacuate, do so without any hesitation. When advised of flash flood, move to a higher ground or to your community’s designated evacuation area.

During a Flood

  • Do not walk through moving water. Flood water of at least 6 inches can be hazardous as it may cause accidents. If it is inevitable, use a stick to assess the firmness of the ground when you are walking. Do not attempt to cross rivers or flowing streams when water has overflowed from it.

  • Never drive into flooded areas. If floodwater rises above your vehicle, leave immediately and move to higher ground. Never attempt to touch any electrical equipment or electrical wiring when you are wet or walking in floodwater.

After a Flood

  • Re-enter the dwellings with caution using a flashlight. Do not attempt to light a match or use candles, as flammables may be inside.

  • Carefully inspect dwelling for fire hazards like open wires, report it immediately to the responsible authorities. Do not attempt to use appliances once there are faulty electrical lines. Moreover, do not turn on the main switch unless checked by a competent electrician.

  • Do not attempt to eat food or drink water that has been contaminated by floodwater. Wait until items are checked for floodwater contamination. Listen for community reports to know if water supply is safe to drink. Or, only obtain items from a reputable source after the flood.

  • Consult health authorities for immunization requirements. Tetanus immunization is highly important.

  • Inspect drainage, cesspool, pits, leaching systems, and septic tank for any leakage.  Report to responsible agencies as sewage may be a serious health hazard.

  • Clean and disinfect everything that was submerged in floodwater. Wear a mask when cleaning as molds and other chemicals cause respiratory illness. Wear gloves and boots to prevent contamination.

  • Allow proper ventilation for gas-powered heaters or generators as it may emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide that can be toxic to health.

Ways to Mitigate Flood

  • Regulate cutting of trees. Be vigilant to protest against deforestation practices. Report illegal loggers or “kaingeros” to officials.

  • Report the illegal construction of fishponds near waterways or establishments.

  • Never throw garbage in rivers, esteros, and other drainage systems.

  • Keep our neighbourhood clean.

Prevalent Diseases to Avoid:

Water Borne Diseases:

  • Typhoid Fever

  • Cholera

  • Leptospirosis

  • Hepatitis A

Vector Borne Diseases:

  • Dengue

  • Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever

Helpful Tips from the World Health Organization (WHO)

Chlorination of water

“Ensuring uninterrupted provision of safe drinking water is the most important preventive measure to be implemented following flooding, in order to reduce the risk of outbreaks of water-borne diseases. Free chlorine is the most widely and easily used, and the most affordable of the drinking water disinfectants. It is also highly effective against nearly all waterborne pathogens (except Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts and Mycobacteria species). At doses of a few mg/litre and contact times of about 30 minutes, free chlorine generally inactivates >99.99% of enteric bacteria and viruses.”

 

Vaccination against Hepatitis A

“The use of hepatitis A vaccines for mass immunization is not recommended. Although vaccination of high-risk groups, such as persons involved in the management of drinking water, waste water or sewage might be considered.”

Helpful Tips from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)

 

On Diarrheal Diseases

“Eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water can cause diarrheal disease. To protect yourself and your family, practice good hygiene (handwashing) after contact with flood waters, do not allow children to play in flood water areas, wash children’s hands frequently (always before meals), do not allow children to play with toys that have been contaminated by flood water and have not been disinfected.”

On Wound Infection

“Open wounds and rashes exposed to flood waters can become infected. To protect yourself and your family, avoid exposure to flood waters if you have an open wound, cover open wounds with a waterproof bandage, keep open wounds as clean as possible by washing well with soap and clean water, if a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.”

 

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