The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reminds residents to take safety precautions when cleaning up after a disaster as injuries often occur during cleanup. The following tips to prevent illnesses and injuries are recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
OSDH recommends the following guidelines for refrigerated and frozen foods to citizens or food establishments which have been without power for more than four hours:
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
Discard any potentially hazardous foods such as meats, eggs, dairy products and leftovers when the power has been off for more than four hours. When in doubt, throw it out.
Frozen foods in a freezer can normally be kept up to 48 hours without power. A frozen product that has thawed should not be refrozen; it should be used immediately or thrown away.
Throw away food which has come in contact with flood or storm water.
Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened or damaged.
Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, snap-open, and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with water or soot because they cannot be disinfected.
Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula.
Breastfed infants should continue breastfeeding. For formula-fed infants, use ready-to-feed formula if possible. If using ready-to-feed formula is not possible, it is best to use bottled water to prepare powdered or concentrated formula. If bottled water is not available, use boiled water. Use treated water to prepare formula only if you do not have bottled or boiled water.
Clean feeding bottles and nipples with bottled, boiled, or treated water before each use.
Contact your doctor if you are concerned about medications having spoiled.
Residents in rural areas may also be without water during a power outage. If the safety of the water is not known, it is recommended to vigorously boil the water for at least one minute to prevent potential waterborne illnesses. Safe water would include store-bought bottled water, or uninterrupted city water. Untreated water should not be used to prepare foods, wash hands or brush teeth.
Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.
Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.
Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.
Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.
Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent. It is recommended that a laundromat be used for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until your onsite waste-water system has been professionally inspected and serviced.
Mold can be recognized by discoloring of walls and ceilings. There may also be a noticeable foul odor such as a musty, earthy smell. It is recommended to remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Porous, non-cleanable items include carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation material, some clothing, leather, paper, wood, and food. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold may cause allergic reactions in some people.
Never use generators, grills, camp stoves, or similar devices inside the house, in basements, in garages or near windows. Improper use of such devices can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
If you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with feces, soil, or saliva, have a medical provider or health department determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary based on individual records.
For more information about storm safety, visit www.ready.gov or www.cdc.gov/disasters. Preparedness information also is available in English, Spanish and American Sign Language by visiting the OSDH YouTube channel and selecting the Preparedness playlist.