Hurricane Michael will likely adversely impact DOI personnel who live and work within the southeastern US within the next few days. If you are in any of these areas, it is very important to make yourself and family members aware of the potential dangers you may face and take proper precautions to avoid associated health risks.
After a hurricane, you may face flooding, long-term power outages, mold overgrowth, and other risks to your health. The following are recommendations/tips you can follow to reduce your risks when recovering from a hurricane disaster.
Food and Water Safety
- After a disaster, throw away food that might have come in contact with flood or storm water, perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages, and those food items with an unusual odor, color, or texture. Unsafe food can make you and your family sick even if it looks, smells, and tastes normal. When in doubt, throw out.
- Do not use water you suspect or have been told is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, bathe, and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Look for information from your state, local, territorial or tribal health department about specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area.
- Private drinking water wells in flooded areas should always be considered contaminated. Do not drink or bathe with well water.
- If you are on a public water system, before using water, verify with your local public health and public utilities that the local water supply has been cleared for use.
- If you are unsure, use bottled or boiled water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, washing hands, and cleaning foods.
- For more information and tips, go to:
Air quality and respiratory risks
- If you are a smoker, have asthma, other lung, or breathing conditions, or are involved in activities requiring heavy exertion, you may find it difficult to breathe in the hurricane or flood affected areas.
- The EPA's AirNow website provides local air quality conditions and information on associated health effects.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning- In a long-term power outage, alternative sources of power (such as generators, stoves, and lanterns) can cause carbon monoxide to build up in a home and poison the people and animals inside. Ensure your CO detector has working batteries. Place generators outside at least 20 feet from any door, window, or vent.
For more information, check out the CDC's Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After a Disaster.
Limiting your Exposure to mold
- Mold spores are everywhere, but in certain conditions mold can grow indoors or it can “overgrow” outdoors. Indoors or out, high mold spore exposure can cause sneezing, runny nose, eye irritation, cough and congestion, aggravation of asthma, and skin rash. Individuals with allergies, asthma, sinusitis, lung diseases, and individuals with weakened immune systems are at the greatest risk of health effects from exposure to mold.
- If you must disturb moldy material indoors, consider using respiratory protection and other protective equipment.
- For more information, check out the CDC's Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters.
Staying Safe Outdoors after the hurricane
- Always follow warnings about flooded roads and do not drive through floodwater and standing water.
- Floodwater often carries germs and contaminants. Be keep your hands as clean as possible by washing with soap and disinfected water, or use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer often.
- Be alert for domesticated or wild animals. Immediate and thorough washing of all bite wounds and scratches with soap and clean water is a critical measure for preventing skin and wound infections. For more guidance, follow the CDC's Fact Sheet: Protect Yourself from Animal- and Insect-Related Hazards After a Disaster.
- Floods can bring mosquitoes that carry disease. Use insect repellent (bug spray) with DEET or Picaridin. Wear long sleeves, pants and socks when you are outside.
- For additional information, check out the CDC's guidance on Mosquitos and Hurricanes.
- Broken skin may become infected and lead to serious problems. Any bite, cut, or broken skin should be cleaned with safe water. Seek medical help if you experience increasing pain, redness, or discharge from a cut as it suggests a spreading infection and may require antibiotic treatment.
- For additional information, the CDC has instructions for Emergency Wound Care After a Disaster.
Coping with Stress
- Coping with the natural disaster can be overwhelming. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) can provide support, counseling, as well as links to local resources such as relief agencies, the American Red Cross, or community-based organizations who can provide practical assistance with immediate needs such as locating hotels, shelters, and emergency food supplies. Here's helpful info on Coping With The Stress Of Natural Disasters.
Additional Disaster Resources: