Many homes and businesses sustained water damage from Hurricane Sandy. Cleanup of flooding should start as soon as it is safe to do so. The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) reminds all Rhode Islanders of the following safety precautions to take:
Avoid Contact With Standing Water
Flooded areas may be contaminated by mold, sewage, or viruses that can cause gastrointestinal illness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Do not allow children or pets to wade in or play in floodwater, and do not expose open cuts or wounds to floodwaters. Floodwaters can cause an infection in an open wound. Do not eat any food that has come in contact with floodwater.
Protect yourself from chemical injuries by covering exposed skin. Wear long pants and shirts, rubber gloves, and boots. If clothing comes in contact with floodwaters, remove clothing as soon as possible and wash it in hot, soapy water. (Wash separate from uncontaminated laundry.) Goggles and N-95 masks can be purchased at hardware stores or home improvement stores. Open windows and use fans (if possible) to move chemical fumes away from your work area.
Clean and dry out your home if it has been flooded. Remove wet carpets, furniture and bedding as soon as possible. Dry out any flooded areas within 48 hours. Wash curtains, clothing, and bedding with hot soapy water and bleach (when possible) and then dry them. Rinse rugs and furniture with clean water, and shampoo and air dry them.
Throw away wet materials that can't be cleaned. It is a good idea to take pictures of damages to use when filing an insurance claim. Call your insurance carrier with any questions about coverage.
If there is a large amount of mold or extensive flood damage, consider hiring a professional to help you clean. Ask your insurance company for a recommendation.
Use cleaning products with a disinfectant that kills germs. Do not mix bleach with other cleaning products.
Cleaning Yards and Public Spaces
Follow guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for making sure an outside area is safe for cleanup activities and play. Yards that have been contaminated by flooded sewage systems can be sanitized by a liberal application of hydrated lime, available at lawn and garden stores and home improvement stores. (Hydrated lime is different than limestone or "ag lime".) Keep children and animals away from limed areas until the lime is no longer visible. Paper, plastic, and other yard trash can be put in a plastic bag and disposed of in a trashcan or Dumpster.
Wash your hands with soap and clean water (or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer) after finishing a cleanup project or handling items contaminated by floodwater or sewage and before preparing or eating food.
For regularly updated information about the response to Hurricane Sandy, visit www.riema.ri.gov or call 211.