Preventing disease and injury when cleaning up after the storm

Preventing disease and injury when cleaning up after the storm

FRANKLIN AND WILLIAMSON COUNTIES, IL (KFVS) - Cleaning your home after the storm is not only a big job, but it could potentially put you at risk for disease and injury as well.

The Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Health Department advised taking a few precautions when cleaning to prevent these issues.

Those working with the health department said flood waters and sewer overflows can contain bacteria, fecal material, viruses, and other organisms that may cause disease.

They advise that affected retail food service establishments contact their local health department to determine how best to clean.

After flood waters and/or sewer overflows are gone, the health department said the public should follow the information below to protect health and prevent disease.

These basic precautions can help to prevent disease:

  • Minimize skin contact with flood water, especially cuts and sores. Keep them clean and covered.
  • Do not allow children to play in areas contaminated by flood water and/or sewage overflows.
  • Use only bottled or disinfected water for drinking, cooking, tooth brushing, and bathing until you are sure the water supply is safe.
  • Do not eat or drink anything exposed to flood water.
  • Discard food exposed to contaminated waters. Discard all bulging or leaking canned food and any food stored in jars. Un-dented, intact cans can be cleaned with a bleach solution before use.
  • Keep contaminated objects, water, and hands away from your mouth, eyes, and nose.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after bathroom use, before eating, and immediately following contact with flood water or contaminated objects or surfaces.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.

Take the following precautions to prevent injury:

  • Turn off main power switches if necessary. Air out and wipe dry all appliances and electrical outlets exposed to water before use.
  • If there are fuel oil or gas systems, be sure tanks are secure and all lines are free from breaks.
  • Wear rubber boots, gloves, and an N95 or HEPA respirator mask during removal and cleanup.
  • Open windows if possible to ventilate and dry the area. Fans can be used to help with drying.
  • Keep children from playing in flood and sewer water.

The following cleaning guidelines may help prevent the transmission of disease and reduce property loss.

General Cleaning:

  • Discard any contaminated objects that cannot be thoroughly washed or laundered.
  • Wash contaminated surfaces and objects with warm, soapy water and disinfect with a bleach and water solution made of no more than 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water. For objects that would be damaged by bleach, use a home or laundry disinfectant.
  • Make sure to read and follow label instructions. Do not use ammonia. Do not mix ammonia and bleach; the vapors are hazardous.
  • Scrub and wash all objects in the affected area of your home, including clothes, exposed to flood waters. Use warm, not hot, tap water with soap.

Specific Cleaning:

  • Carpets and rugs that cannot be thoroughly dried and cleaned should be discarded and replaced.
  • There are professional home cleaning services that may be able to clean carpets, furniture, and drapes.
  • Paneling and wallboard must be immediately cleaned and dried thoroughly. If the damage is severe, they should be removed and replaced.
  • Pump out standing water and remove all debris in basements. Wait to pump until flood waters have receded below basement level. Allow debris to drain before disposal. Strain away all liquids from trash. After straining trash, wrap in newspaper and store in tight-lid garbage cans until pick up.

Septic Tanks:

Many homes are equipped with septic tanks. Some systems need electricity to continue running. Without it, sewage can backup into a home.

Residents are advised to use very little water from the tap until power is restored. Do not continue to use water if sewage backs up into the house or if water or sewage is observed surfacing near the septic system.

The health department says to keep children out of wet areas affected by sewage.

After flood waters recede, repairs may be necessary for a private sewage system to properly function. Removal of debris may damage a septic system.

Vehicles can crush drain fields, tanks and distribution boxes, especially when the soil is saturated. Make sure no one drives in or around the septic tank and drain field, and either allow stumps to rot in place or have the stumps ground with a small stump grinder.

Outdoor toilets that have been flooded should be scrubbed thoroughly with a solution of ½ cup of laundry bleach per gallon of water.

If no toilet facilities are available, deposit body waste in a water-tight receptacle used for that purpose only. Place a small amount of water in the receptacle before it is used to make emptying easier.

Dig a trench or pit and empty the contents of the receptacle into this pit as soon as possible after each use. Cover the waste in the trench after each use with a small layer of dirt, ashes, or lime.

Also, empty the water used to wash the receptacle into the pit or trench. When closing the trench, cover it with at least 12 inches of dirt.


Resource tables have been setup at the West Frankfort Public Safety Complex located at 201 E. Nolen St., West Frankfort, IL.

Health-related information such as flood clean-up, mosquito exposure, mold, etc., will be available to those needing these resources.

Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Health Department and/ or Franklin-Williamson- Medical Reserve Corp (FW-MRC) will be available at a table to provide resources and to answer any health-related questions.

These resource tables will be available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. with times varying for Thursday and Friday.

The FW-MRC will also conduct door-to-door outreach in some impacted areas of Franklin County by providing health information, checking on residents helping to connect them and their requests for assistance to the appropriate agencies.

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