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Hurricane Aftermath: How to Safely Clean Your Home

Sept. 22, 2017 at midnight

Hurricane Harvey is one of the most destructive natural disasters in the last decade. It flooded and destroyed properties and entire communities in Texas. People lost their possessions, cars, homes, and the memories associated with these things - photo albums were washed away, and memorabilia collected over the years were gone.

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In times of need like the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, compassion and solidarity win. The best in us come out and we come together to help our communities to stand back up. What we can rebuild, we do. What was lost, we support and rely on each other to get through.

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If you're cleaning up your property after the flood or helping out others in the community to clean up theirs, you have to do everything with safety in mind.

Here are some safety measures from the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

1. When re-entering the house, do it in the daytime to prevent any further accidents. The first thing you need to do is to turn off any electrical and/or gas sources to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions. If there are exposed wires after the flood, do not approach. Call the fire department to ask for assistance.

2. Wear protective clothing when walking in flooded areas that may contain glass or metal fragments. Boots, pants, rubber gloves and a long-sleeved shirt are ideal.

3. Remember that different materials in the house (e.g. linens, mattresses, carpets, etc.) require different cleaning and drying steps. Perform the proper cleaning and drying methods for each. If there are contaminated materials, do not attempt to reuse them. Immediately dispose of any materials that can harm or infect you and your family.

4. Use a mold inhibitor to salvage porous materials that have been submerged in floodwater. Make sure that all your belongings are completely dry before returning them inside the house to prevent molds.

5. If you need to put everything back in before they are completely dry, make sure that your house gets a lot of ventilation either by opening windows or using fans. You can also use dehumidifiers to remove any excess moisture left in your belongings or space.

6. Disinfecting your house is a must. After cleaning surfaces with soap or detergent, use a diluted solution of 10 percent household bleach to disinfect. Also, remember to use non-ammonia soap or detergent when cleaning the house because combining ammonia and bleach lead to toxic fumes.

7. Propane tanks can be dangerous if they have been moved by floodwater. Do not attempt to move them back by yourself. You will put yourself at risk if you do so; remember that propane tanks are highly flammable and may explode spontaneously. If you encounter this problem, you need to call the fire department and ask for their help.

8. Be careful of spilled chemicals that may have mixed with the floodwater. Again, wear protective clothing to prevent accidents. Do not put your head into the floodwater even if you need to retrieve an item that has been submerged.

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Natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey allow us to become stronger, both personally and as a community. By lending each other a helping hand, we can overcome this obstacle together. Remember to follow the safety measures that you have learned from this article. Guide others in your community so they can also stay safe.


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