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Safety Tips for Flood Victims

Safety Tips for Flood Damage

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends several safety tips to the victims of floods. This safety alert illustrates some dangerous practices which consumers may be tempted to engage in during efforts to rebuild or while staying in temporary housing, tents or partially damaged homes. This information is provided in an effort to prevent injuries and deaths from consumer products as flood survivors make new beginnings. "We hope this information helps prevent product-related injuries and deaths during these difficult times."

Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet.

Water can damage the motors in electrical appliances, such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers.

If electrical appliances have been under water, have them dried out and reconditioned by a qualified service repairman. Do not turn on damaged electrical appliances because the electrical parts can become grounded and pose an electric shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire. Before flipping a switch or plugging in an appliance, have an electrician check the house wiring and appliance to make sure it is safe to use.

Electricity and water don't mix.

Use a ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electric shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.

Types of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters Include:

  • Receptacle
  • Circuit Breaker
  • Portable Plug-in
  • Portable Cord Type

When using a "wet-dry vacuum cleaner," be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions to avoid electric shock.

Do not allow the power cord connections to become wet. Do not remove or bypass the ground pin on a three-prong plug. Use a GFCI to prevent electrocution.

Never remove or bypass the ground pin on a three-pronged plug in order to insert it into a non-grounding outlet.

Never allow the connection between the machine's power cord and the three-wire grounded extension cord to lie in water.

To prevent a gas explosion and fire, have gas appliances (natural gas and LP gas) inspected and cleaned after flooding.

If gas appliances have been under water, have them inspected and cleaned and their gas controls replaced, if necessary. The gas company or a qualified appliance repair person or plumber should do this work. Water can damage gas controls so that safety features are blocked, even if the gas controls appear to operate properly. If you suspect a gas leak, don't light a match, use any electrical appliances, turn lights on or off, or use the phone. These may produce sparks. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or hear gas escaping, turn off the main valve. Open windows, leave the area immediately, and call the gas company or a qualified appliance repair person or plumber for repairs. Never store flammable materials near any gas appliance or equipment.

Check to make sure your smoke detector is functioning.

Smoke detectors can save your life in a fire. Check to make sure the smoke detector is working properly near any electrical equipment such as HVAC equipment, washer and dryer units, and water heaters that could have been damage during flooding

Wet carpet and other furnishings can lead to the growth of biological pollutants.

Bacteria, fungi, and dust mites can grow on wet surfaces. If furnishings have been under water, they must be thrown out or steam-cleaned and dried thoroughly.

  • Throw out water-damaged mattresses, wicker furniture, straw baskets and the like because they may contain mold. These items cannot be recovered.
  • Throw out any water-damaged furnishings such as carpets, drapes, stuffed toys, upholstered furniture and ceiling tiles, unless they can be restored by steam cleaning or hot water washing and thorough drying.
  • Remove and replace wet insulation to prevent conditions where biological pollutants can grow.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

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