As many residents prepare to return to their homes and property damaged by floodwaters, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages the public to use caution when reentering their home.

Scott Sproat, director of the OSDH Emergency Preparedness and Response Service, said there are a number of factors for residents to consider.

“In the upcoming weeks, there will be many Oklahomans returning to damaged homes,” said Sproat. “We want to ensure the public’s health and safety as we continue to recover from the recent disaster.”

If a flooded home has been closed up for several days, residents should assume there is mold and take proper precautions. Occupants should enter the home briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for at least 30 minutes before staying for any length of time. After standing water has been removed, use fans and dehumidifiers to help remove excess moisture. Fans should be placed at a window or door to blow the air outwards rather than inwards, so not to spread the mold.

It is recommended to have the home’s heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system checked and cleaned by a maintenance or service professional who is experienced in mold cleanup before being turned on. If the HVAC system was flooded with water, turning on the mold-contaminated HVAC will spread mold throughout the house. Professional cleaning will kill the mold and prevent later mold growth. When the service determines that the system is clean and if it is safe to do so, turn it on and use it to help remove excess moisture from your home.

The following additional safety tips are recommended:

Ensure the utilities to a flooded building are shut off. Homeowners who are not familiar with electricity or their home’s electrical system should contact a professional to help make the property safe from electrical hazards.

Use flashlights. Avoid using lanterns, torches or matches to examine dark buildings. Flammable gases may be present and open flames can cause a fire or explosion.

Generators or other gasoline-powered machinery should only be used outdoors away from doors and windows as carbon monoxide exhaust can be fatal.

Contact your doctor if you’re concerned about medications having spoiled.

Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water as well as perishable foods which have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages. When in doubt, throw it out.

Be on the lookout for snakes or rodents which may be looking for shelter on higher ground.

For more information about safety after a disaster, visit www.cdc.gov or www.ready.gov.