- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (see CDC HAN 00415: Hurricane Florence — Clinical Guidance For Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning)
- Food poisoning (see A Consumer's Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes)
- Chain saw accidents (see Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a Disaster)
- Toxic mold and mildew (see CDC Mold After a Disaster).
- And even psychological impacts (including PTSD) (see Sandy 1 Year Later: Coping With The Aftermath).
Stay out of floodwater
Floodwaters contain many things that may harm health. We don’t know exactly what is in floodwater at any given point in time. Floodwater can contain:
Exposure to contaminated floodwater can cause:
It is important to protect yourself from exposure to floodwater regardless of the source of contamination. The best way to protect yourself is to stay out of the water.
If you come in contact with floodwater:
If you must enter floodwater, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles.
One of my most vivid memories from standing in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 2005 - a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina - was the staggering number of refrigerators and freezers dragged out to the curbs - filled with rotting food - waiting to be hauled away.
With the power likely to be out for days, there is a real danger of food poisoning.
Find out how to keep food safe during and after an emergency, such as a flood, fire, national disaster, or the loss of power.
Emergency Preparedness (USDA)Provides materials, including videos and podcasts, on ensuring food safety during emergencies.[resources available in Spanish]
Proper safety precautions to keep food and water safe. [available in Spanish and French]
Includes tips for making water safe to drink and storing food.
Chart: Refrigerated Food:Is food in the refrigerator safe during a power outage? Use this chart to find out.
Chainsaw accidents also figure prominently after many weather-related disasters, as many people with little experience find themselves clearing driveways and rooftop of fallen branches. The CDC maintains a chainsaw safety web page:Chart: Frozen Food:Is thawed or partially thawed food in the freezer safe to eat? Use this chart as a guide.
Each year, approximately 36,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries from using chain saws. The potential risk of injury increases after hurricanes and other natural disasters, when chain saws are widely used to remove fallen or partially fallen trees and tree branches.
Gasoline generators, along with improvised cooking and heating facilities, can put people at risk of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Each year, hundreds of Americans die from exposure to this odorless and colorless gas.
With the possibility of widespread power outages the potential for this sort of preventable tragedy in the post-storm period can’t be ignored.
In Carbon Monoxide: A Stealthy Killer I wrote in depth on the issue, but a few tips from the CDC include:
You Can Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure
- Do have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Do install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.
- Do seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.
- Don't use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
- Don't run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
- Don't burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn't vented.
- Don't heat your house with a gas oven.
While many believe the worst will be over once the storm has passed, in truth, often the biggest challenges are found during the days and weeks that follow.