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You have seen the television footage — flood victims wading through water, kids jumping into flood water to cool off, and floating debris rushing downstream. Flood water contains visible and hidden dangers. What are they?

1. Fast current. Minneapolis MN, on its Web site, says just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet. Two feet of fast-moving water can sweep cars away. The current may be moving faster than it appears. Young children, the elderly, and the disabled are vulnerable to fast-moving current.

2. Toxic chemicals. The chemicals in flood water depend on location. In agricultural areas the water may contain animal feces, fertilizer, and pesticides. According to the CDC, flood water may also contain battery acid. OSHA reports that flood water may also contain gasoline, overflows from toxic waste sites, and manufacturing chemicals.

3. Dead and live animals. Flood water kills livestock — cows, pigs, sheep, poultry — and family pets. The dark, murky water my also contain live snakes and rats which are dangerous to humans.

4. Electrical hazards. According to OSHA, flood water may be charged with electricity from underground or downed power lines. Victims should not return to their homes until the electricity is turned off.

6. Dangerous debris. Rushing flood water may contain railroad ties, trees, tree branches, home propane tanks, gas grill tanks, furniture, children’s play sets/toys, and even houses. This heavy debris can cause serious injuries.

7. Infectious organisms. The U.S. Dept. of Labor says flood water may contain E. Coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Hepatitis A Virus, and Typhoid. Flood water also attracts mosquitoes. “Pools of standing water become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, increasing the risk of West Nile Virus and encephalitis,” according to West Virginia University Extension Service.

Though most floods don’t cause serious outbreaks of disease, it is best to be prepared. These tips will help you guard against flood water dangers.

* Get a tetanus shot or booster.

* Wear rubber waders and gloves.

* Protect your eyes with goggles and your lungs with a face mask.

* Use insect repellent.

* Cover your arms and legs.

* Drink bottled water from safe bottling plants.

* If no safe water is available, disinfect water with a solution of five drops of household bleach to one gallon of water.

* Rinse water storage containers with bleach solution.

* Wash hands with disinfected water and soap.

* Clean open sores and cuts with alcohol.

* Discard all contaminated food, including dented cans.

The best way to deal with flood disaster is to prepare for it. For more information log onto the American Red Cross Website and print out the “Disaster Supplies Kit.”

Resources

– American Red Cross, “Disaster Supplies Kit”

– American Red Cross, “Repairing Your Flooded Home”

– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “After a Flood”

– City of Minneapolis, “Flood Safety”

– Occupational Savety & Health Administration (OSHA), “Flood Cleanup”

– West Virginia University Extension Service, “How to Protect Yourself When Cleaning Up After a Flood”

Copyright 2008 by Harriet Hodgson

http://www.harriethodgson.com

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance nonfiction writer for 30 years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from http://www.amazon.com

Centering Corporation in Omaha, NE, North America’s oldest and largest grief resource center, is publishing her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss & Grief to a New Life.” Please log onto Harriet’s Website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.

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