Spring rains and melting winter snow are a powerful combination for our part of the country. It seems our entire world can become saturated and, many times, it is filled to capacity and beyond. Spring flooding is a common occurrence, affecting everything from backyards and roadways to basements. While two to three inches of water may not seem like a big deal, it is vital to remember that any standing water that occurs from flooding has potential risks.
Here are some hidden dangers and helpful tips to keep you safe from flood waters:
1. Flooded roadways pose a potential risk to all drivers and their occupants. Always remember it is not so much the water itself, which may only be a few inches deep, but the current associated with the water that presents the danger. Water at the depth of six inches can carry enough force to knock an adult off their feet. Two feet of moving water has the ability to carry cars into areas that are deeper and deeper. If your car stalls out in high water, get out of the car, particularly if you can feel it moving. Move on foot to higher ground. You can be sure the water will not be taking your car to lower water levels.
2. Walking in flood waters is also dangerous for another reason: Contamination. Flood waters can contain runoff from fields, bacteria from almost everywhere, and contaminants such as toxic chemicals (like gasoline or oil) or wastes (from animals and humans). That is why in areas of the world where there is flooding from tsunamis, etc., those villages generally have a large outbreak of cholera, dysentery, and other water borne diseases. And I haven’t even mentioned snakes yet! No one should ever treat flood waters like a stroll through your swimming pool. They are a health hazard, and can cause acute illnesses, particularly in children. Never let your kids play in flood water.
3. Flooded basements hold many of the same hazards. The water is dirty, and any room that has been flooded will need decontamination with bleach water. Flood waters can cause structural issues, so always be careful when entering a building that has been flooded. Beware of falling plaster and areas of the floor that may have lost their integrity. Basements should be pumped out very slowly (1/3 of the water per day) so as not to cause structural damage from the sudden change. Throw away anything that was saturated with flood water or came in contact with it that cannot be easily cleaned. That includes canned goods, household items, and paper items, such as books.
Stay safe through the spring rains, and keep your family safe as well!
Diane Simon, RN, CEN is the Trauma Coordinator/Registrar for ProMedica Defiance Regional Hospital.