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nyc_department_health_mental_hygiene_banner_nyreblog_com_.jpgHealth Department Advises New Yorkers on Protecting Their Health and Avoiding Injury following Hurricane Irene

Guidelines to minimize personal harm and illness during clean-up

On Monday, the Health Department issued guidelines and practical advice to the many New Yorkers impacted by flooding and power outages in the wake of Hurricane Irene. The New York City Health Department advises New Yorkers to keep the following health tips in mind as they recover from the storm and to take caution when making efforts to repair storm damage to their homes.

Here is some useful information about how to keep yourself and your family safe:

  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning: Never use generators, charcoal grills, or camp stoves inside your home or garage. Always keep generators outdoors and away from windows and doors.
  • While floodwaters are unlikely to be contaminated with sewage, wear boots, gloves, and do not splash flood water on skin as a precaution.
  • Throw away any food, including packaged food, that was touched by flood water.
  • Do not open the refrigerator if you've lost power. If the fridge door remains closed, foods will remain cold for longer, possibly until the power comes back on. Throw away meat, chicken, fish and dairy products if they are kept at more than 40 degrees F for more than 2 hours.
  • Dry all wet areas quickly and fully to prevent mold.
  • Tap water is safe to drink. Sewage overflows don't typically affect the water supply in New York City. If it doesn't work when you turn on your faucet, make sure you run the water for 30 seconds or until it runs cold before you drink it or cook with it.
  • Exercise extreme caution when assessing downed trees or other large obstacles that may have fallen on your property.
  • Do not wade in deep water. Electrical hazards may be present, including equipment or cables.
  • Never touch a fallen power line. Call the power company to report fallen power lines. If electrical circuits and equipment have gotten wet or are in or near water, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
  • During power outages, use flashlights or other battery-operated lights. Avoid using candles.
  • Take precautions to avoid falls, strains, cuts and bruises. Secure ladders and use on level ground. Use protective eyewear and gloves when clearing debris and get help to lift heavy items.
  • Avoid driving vehicles in flooded areas and obstructions in roadways.
  • Call 311 to report unsafe conditions. As always, dial 911 for emergencies only.
More Detail on Health Tips:

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless, toxic gas that can kill you before you are aware it is in your home.

  • DO NOT run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • If your carbon monoxide detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.
  • For additional information on carbon monoxide see http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/ei/eicarbon.shtml

Clean Up
Floods can cause damage to floors, walls, rugs and personal belongings.  After a flood, it is important to clean and dry affected items as quickly as possible to prevent mold growth.  If flood waters contain sewage, it is important to disinfect contaminated items and to keep yourself from coming into contact with the sewage while you clean.

  • Wash and dry all clothing and other washable items, using detergent and water.
  • Clean floors, furniture and other surfaces with detergent and water.
  • If the flood waters contain sewage:
    • Remove visible contamination with detergent and water from surfaces.
    • Disinfect by wiping surface with a bleach solution. Use a half cup of household bleach in a gallon of water. Non-bleach sanitizers can also be used.
      Warning: Never mix bleach with ammonia or detergents containing ammonia products, since dangerous gases may be created. Bleach may damage some materials.
    • Keep children, pets and people with compromised immune systems away until the area has been cleaned and disinfected.
    • Wash your hands, body and clothing with soap and water after cleanup.
  • Stay away from deep water. Extensive flooding damage may require cleanup and restoration by professionals.

Prevent Mold
Mold usually takes a day or two to develop after flooding. Mold may cause allergic reactions in some people and may also be an asthma trigger. Take the following steps to avoid mold growth:

  • Open windows (if it is not raining)
  • Use fans to dry out your home and reduce odors. Warning: DO NOT run any electrical equipment or appliances near standing water.
  • Use a dehumidifier to help dry out enclosed spaces. If there is extensive damage, hire a professional to clean and restore your home.

Clean Mold

  • If the mold problem is small (less than about 10 square feet - roughly a 3 foot by 3 foot patch), then you can normally handle the cleanup job yourself. If you have a larger area of mold, you may need professional help.
  • Remove mold with sponges or rags using a detergent. Scrub mold off hard surfaces with soap or a detergent, and water, and dry completely.
  • Moldy ceiling tiles, carpet and other porous materials should be thrown away. Dispose of any sponges or rags used to clean mold.
  • If the mold returns quickly or spreads, you may have an ongoing water/moisture problem.
  • Protect yourself: Use waterproof gloves. For larger jobs, consider using safety goggles and a respirator.
  • Learn more about how to clean mold and the health effects of mold by visiting http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/epi/mold.shtml

Keep Food Safe

Cleaning up

  • DO NOT eat any food or beverages that may have come into contact with flood water. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans.
  • Thoroughly wash dishes and utensils with soap and water, using hot water if available, if they have come in contact with flood water.
  • Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water, using hot water if available, if they have come into contact with flood water. When cleaning or disinfecting, wear protective clothing, such as gloves, to avoid skin contact, irritation, or infection.
  • Throw away wooden cutting boards, wooden dishes and utensils, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers that have come into contact with flood water.
  • Make sure to carefully clean corners, cracks and crevices, door handles, and door seals, in rooms that have been affected by flood water.


  • Throw away refrigerators that have been submerged in flood water, or if enough moisture was present from liquefied food items to reach the insulation inside the equipment.