Safety tips as post-flooding cleanup begins
BATON ROUGE – The Baton Rouge Fire Department said Wednesday that residents should use caution when removing gypsum or sheetrock from flooded homes.
“If the materials predate 1980, there is a strong possibility that they may contain asbestos,” officials said Tuesday.
Asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen. The use of asbestos declined in the late 1970s when it became evident that asbestos posed a health threat.
The warning comes after historic flooding damages thousands of homes across the Baton Rouge area earlier this week.
The Ochsner Baton Rouge Emergency Department offers the tips below to prevent injury and stay healthy:
· Use safety goggles, gloves, masks, hats, cut-resistant legwear and boots that cover the ankles when moving debris or cutting down branches and trees. Always wear socks and closed-toe shoes – never wear sandals or go barefoot.
· Be aware that the most serious and most frequent injuries are hand injuries related to use of chain saws and eye injuries from contact with downed tree branches. Slips and falls are another common source of injuries as well as back problems from lifting heavy objects.
· Inside the home, be careful about mixing household cleaners and disinfectants like bleach products, as combining certain types of products can produce toxic fumes and result in injury or death.
· Throw out all food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood waters and mud, including canned goods and containers with food or liquid that has been sealed shut. When in doubt, throw it out.
· Remove all drywall and insulation that has been in contact with flood waters. Clean hard surfaces (e.g. flooring, countertops and appliances) thoroughly with hot water and soap or a detergent.
If an injury occurs, apply direct pressure over areas of bleeding and seek medical care. If heavy bleeding occurs go to the nearest ER or call 9-1-1.
· If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel.
· Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
· Be careful when entering flooded areas or touching electrical equipment if the ground is wet, unless you are certain that the power is off. Additionally, never touch a downed power line.
· When using gasoline and diesel generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the off position prior to starting the generator.
· If clearing or other work must be performed near a downed power line, contact the utility company to discuss de-energizing and grounding or shielding of power lines. Extreme caution is necessary when moving ladders and other equipment near overhead power lines to avoid inadvertent contact.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning
· Generators, grills, camp stoves or gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices should never be used inside a home, basement, garage or camper – even outside near an open window.
· Every home should have at least one working carbon monoxide detector that runs on batteries.
· Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
· Chest pain
· If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, consult a healthcare professional immediately.
Be Prepared for Fires
· Fire can pose a major threat to an already badly damaged flood area because of inoperable fire-protection and firefighting water supply systems, hampered fire department response and flood-damaged fire-protection systems.
· To protect yourself against fires after a natural disaster, keep at least two fire extinguishers, each with a UL rating of at least 10A, at every cleanup job.
Chemical burn treatment
If you come in contact with a chemical, remove the potential cause as soon as possible.
· Read instructions to see if water should be used. Then flush the chemicals off of the skin (20 minutes is ideal). Do not use soaps, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or iodine which can make the wound worse.
· Remember to remove any clothing that has been in contact with the chemical, including jewelry. Dress the wound with gauze moistened with clean water and do not allow the area to “dry out.” If the area continues to burn, rinse the wound again and re-dress as stated above. If blisters develop, see a physician as soon as possible.