There are many hazards associated with post-hurricane or post-flood cleanup. Today, Interviews and News talks to safety and environmental specialist Michael Courouleau about some of the dangers to watch out for.
Interviews and News: Michael Courouleau, thanks so much for meeting with us today…
Michael Courouleau: Sure thing, happy to be of help!
Interviews and News: Give us a brief rundown of the dangers of cleanup in a post-flood or post-hurricane environment.
Michael Courouleau: There are so many, it’s hard to know where to start.
Interviews and News: What about food and water?
Michael Courouleau: Good starting point. All food and water on-site should be considered contaminated, so cleanup crews will need pre-packaged food and water. Any food on-site should be discarded.
Interviews and News: Floodwaters by themselves are dangerous…
Michael Courouleau: Absolutely. Crews should avoid getting in remaining floodwater at all, if it’s avoidable.
Interviews and News: What sorts of dangers can they expect?
Michael Courouleau: Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, there can be drowned animals in the water, and the water can carry all kinds of toxins, allergens and microorganisms. Extreme caution and protective gear should be used.
Interviews and News: Doesn’t floodwater have sanitation concerns as well?
Michael Courouleau: Yes, once storm drains and sewers overflow it’s a very big sanitation concern. Workers should wash hands frequently, use alcohol sanitizers and rubber gloves when possible, as well as being very careful of any open cuts or scratches.
Interviews and News: Flooding tends to undermine buildings as well…
Michael Courouleau: Yes, it’s definitely best to play it safe when entering a flooded building. If at all possible, have a structural engineer or building inspector look at the place before anyone else does.
Interviews and News: What sorts of precautions should others take?
Michael Courouleau: Place signs or caution tape around the unsafe areas; if any unusual noises are heard, indicating the structure might be on the verge of collapse, the crew should be ready to evacuate right away.
Interviews and News: Aren’t there electrical and fire hazards as well?
Michael Courouleau: That’s one of the biggest dangers of disaster cleanup. Personnel should always be wary of downed power lines, other compromised electrical wiring, and should treat everything as though it were hot and energized.
Interviews and News: What if a hot circuit is found?
Michael Courouleau: Isolate it with lock-out/tag-out procedures, and de-energize the circuit right away.
Interviews and News: What about the crews themselves?
Michael Courouleau: Supervisors should be conscious of not pushing crews too hard or getting in too big a hurry. Disaster cleanup is demanding work and crews will be susceptible to heat exhaustion. Keep plenty of fresh water on hand and take breaks when needed.
Interviews and News: Should heavy work be put off until cooler hours?
Michael Courouleau: If possible, yes.
Interviews and News: What about first aid concerns?
Michael Courouleau: Head off possible injuries by coaching teams on stretching, proper lifting, and not lifting over 50 lbs. per person. Scrapes and cuts need to be tended to immediately to avoid infection; also, all team members should be up to date on tetanus and Hep A shots.