Floods are one of the common natural disasters, which occur especially after a catastrophic hurricane. And flood rescue is a crucial responsibility that requires expertise and sufficient knowledge.
Rescuing people from a flood is dangerous. It’s essential toalways work with other rescuers to guide you while you are in the water. Keep in mind that your safety must be your priority. When participating in flood rescue activities, training,pre-planning, the right equipment, and effective scene assessment are crucial.
What is the OSHA Flood Warning System?
Knowing the warning systems helps you plan your evacuation carefully. Here is a guide to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) warning system:
- Flood Watch – This refers to the possibility of a flood. You need to stayup-to-date with the situation in your area by monitoring your radio and TV stations.
- Flash Flood Watch – This indicates the possibility of flash flooding. When your area has a flash flood watch, you need to be ready to evacuate to higher ground.
- Flood Warning – It shows an imminent threat. When local authorities issue this report, flooding is already happening or will happen soon. Evacuate immediately if advised.
- Flash Flood Warning – This signifies that a flash flood is already occurring in your area or will occur soon. You must immediately seek higher ground on foot.
When your area is under a flood watch, preparation is essential. You need to have an emergency preparedness kit you can use during or after the flood. Your kit must at least include the following:
- Water for drinking and sanitation
- A supply of non-perishable food that is good for a minimum of three days
- A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Cell phones with chargers and a backup battery
You should also prepare an evacuation plan with your family to get them ready when the flood comes. If you have a pet, you’ll also need toprepare them.
Preparing Your Family and Home
Knowing if you live in a flash-flood prone area is vital so you can make an appropriate evacuation plan for you and your family. You’ll want to practice a flood evacuation route with them, and change the plan when you move, change jobs, or have a child.
You may alsowant to ask your relatives living in another state to be the family contact in case you and your family get separated during the calamity. Each of you should know the contact details of this relative.
Preparing your home is also necessary. Local authorities may advise you to switch off your main power together with your gas and water supplies before you evacuate. You must have a fire extinguisher ready, and everyone in your family should know how to use it.
Contact professionals to perform some adjustment in your home, including electrical components, sewer connections, and others.
Avoid coming into contact with flood water since it could be harmful to your health. This may be contaminated with sewage, hazardous wastes, and other contaminants that can make you ill.
You may develop different complications once you had an exposure to floodwater, these include:
- Skin rash
- Wound Infections
- Gastrointestinal illness
Avoiding contact with flood water could be challenging if you are in a severely flooded place. If this happens, you should clean the affected area with soap and clean water right away. You can also use alcohol-based sanitizer or wipes if soap or water is not available.
Make sure that kids will not play or go near flood water, so they do not get contaminated. When you have to enter flood water, consider wearing protective gear, including rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles.
Injuries and Diseases Prevention
You will be susceptible to injuries and diseases when it floods, whether you’re participating in emergency response or waiting to be rescued.
You might encounter sharp objects, like glass or metal pieces, that can cause injury and possibly lead to infection, if untreated. To heal small wounds and prevent infection, apply first aid as soon as possible.
Seeking medical help from professionals could be essential if you have obtained a punctured wound or a wound contaminated with soil, feces, or saliva. A medical professional can determine if a tetanus booster is necessary.
Moreover, exposure to flood water can infect your open wounds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that certain coastal waters may have vibrios, a type of bacteria that can cause skin infections, particularly to open wounds. Avoiding exposure to flood water is one way to prevent this infection.
As a first responder, you can limit your exposure to waterborne diseases by washing your hands properly. Use soap and clean, running water when cleaning your hands, especially before work and meal or after handling contaminated items.
Other ways to prevent infections include:
- Using a waterproof bandage to cover clean, open wounds.
- Washing open wounds with soap and clean water and keep them as clean as possible.
- Seeking medical help when a wound starts to show signs of redness, swelling, or oozing.
In some instances, immediate medical attention is necessary, such as when:
- The wound has a foreign object embedded in it, including wood, soil, or metal;
- The wound is at risk for infection, like a dog bite, and
- Signs of infection starts showing in an old wound.
The CDC also mentions that floods can move chemical containers from their normal storage spots. In case you find propane tanks, remember not to move them as they can cause a fire or explosion. Instead, you can contact the fire department, police, or the State Fire Marshal office.
Additionally, you should be careful when removing car batteries, particularly when they are in flood water. Use insulated gloves to protect yourself from the electrical charge from the batteries.
After the Flood
After the flood has receded, it is important to assure your family and friends that you are safe. You can use the Safe and Well website by the American Red Cross to inform them of your condition.
You should also listen to news and updates about your community. It will inform you whether it is safe to return to your home, especially if you evacuated. Local authorities will tell you the areas you need to avoid for your safety. For instance, there might have roads that could collapse under the weight of a car.
In addition, you should also know whether it is safe to drink the water in your area. Otherwise, you might suffer from various diseases. Make sure to boil the water before using it to kill any bacteria that might be present.
Once you have returned home, be careful of possible hidden dangers due to the flood. You should check if power lines or electrical connections are in contact with the water. If there are problems, contact the right utility company to repair the damage.
Wearing appropriate clothing also ensures your safety when you enter your flooded home. Get the following protective gear:
- Hard hats and Protective Clothing – protect your head and body from danger, such as falling debris, trapped water, and loose ceilings.
- A 95 Micron Dust mask – this mask can filter out the mold and other particles. Wearing a mask over your mouth and nose can protect your lungs against pollutants and disease.
- Gloves – protect your hands against hazards due to sewage, oil, and chemicals in the water.
- Waterproof rubber boots or waders with hard soles – they are ideal for muddy, water-coated floors and basement. They can also protect your feet against sharp objects that you could step on.
You may also want to clean and disinfect items that have been submerged in water. They may have been contaminated by hazardous substances. If you think you cannot clean or disinfect your valuables, you may want to dispose of them. The same goes for food, beverages, and medicines that have been exposed to flood water.
Alternatively, use a service that specializes in flood water cleanup. With a professional restoring your home, you won’t have to worry about traces of contaminants.
Of course, all your preparations are better carried out when you have training for natural hazards.
Get Training and Help More People
You’ll especially need training and adequate equipment if you live in a flood-prone area. And fortunately, you’ll have plenty of resources to expand your knowledge and skills. Many organizations that partner with state and local communities offer free education and training. Look into volunteer opportunities with the American Red Cross or, if you’re a practicing or retired healthcare professional, the Medical Reserve Corps.
A good starting point would be to get into a Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) program. It’ll train you in basic disaster response skills, from light search and rescue to team organization.
Whether you intend to participate in community emergency response and sign up for volunteer training or simply need to ensure the safety of your loved ones, preparation is crucial to saving lives. Start today and prepare for any event.