Cleanup Safety Tips

Disaster cleanup presents its own unique set of hazards. These tips can help keep you, your family and coworkers safe as you begin to put your home or business back in order:

Avoid walking through flowing water. Drowning is the No. 1 cause of flood deaths, with most of these drownings occurring during flash floods. Six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. Use a pole or stick to test the firmness of the ground before you walk through areas where the water has receded.

Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. If you are driving and come upon rapidly rising waters, turn around and find another route. Don’t drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out. If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, get out immediately and climb to higher ground.

Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Report downed power lines to your utility company.

Turn off your electricity when you return to your home or business. Some appliances, such as television sets, can shock you even after they have been unplugged. Don’t use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried.

Watch for animals, especially snakes. Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Use a pole or stick to poke and turn items over and scare away small animals.

Be alert for gas leaks. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don’t smoke or use candles, lanterns or open flames unless you are sure that the gas has been turned off and the area has been aired out. Carbon monoxide exhaust kills. Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machine outdoors. The same goes for camping stoves. Fumes from charcoal are especially deadly — cook with charcoal only outdoors.

Clean everything that got wet. Floodwaters have picked up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories and storage buildings. Spoiled food, flooded cosmetics and medicines are health hazards. When in doubt, throw it out.

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About Fairfax County Emergency Information

Official emergency information about preparedness, response and recovery from Fairfax County Government.