Health Department Warns of
Baton Rouge - The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals advises
people to avoid contact with floodwaters following Hurricane Ike.
Residents of areas affected by Ike are advised to keep the following
tips in mind if flooding has occurred in their area:
1. Don't Wade or Swim in Contaminated Floodwaters
There is always the possibility that heavy rains or other major storm
activity will cause sewage treatment systems (both community and
residential) to fail. Sewage disposal ponds and cattle and swine lagoons
can also overflow, potentially exposing area residents to
Therefore, residents should not deliberately enter
floodwater. It is also important to keep an eye on children and make
sure they do not attempt to swim in a flooded area. Do not ever, under
any circumstances, drink or ingest floodwater.
If people do come in contact with floodwater, they
should bathe and wash their clothes with hot, soapy water immediately
2. Septic Tanks Could be Affected by Floodwater
Health officials say that flooding will keep septic systems and other
residential sewage disposal systems from operating correctly until the
floodwaters recede. Homeowners should take the following steps if their
septic tank system has failed:
Avoid using the home's plumbing system if the septic
tank or the drain field is still underwater.
Do not use the plumbing system if sewage is backing up
into the house.
Try to reduce the amount of debris entering the septic
tank and plumbing systems.
Avoid contact with the sewage from malfunctioning
septic tanks - raw sewage is a public health problem and can cause
Avoid contact with electrical wiring and electrical
components of mechanical sewage treatment systems.
Officials warn that some systems may be so damaged that
repairs will be required before they will work again. Significant health
problems associated with a residential sewage disposal system that does
not work are the release of untreated sewage onto the top of the ground,
into streams and bayous, or into stagnant pools left behind by flooding.
For more information about how to deal with failed
residential sewage systems contact your parish health unit.
3. Cleaning Homes Contaminated with Sewage
People whose homes were flooded during the hurricane
should assume everything touched by floodwater is contaminated with
bacteria and will have to be disinfected. Most cleanup can be done with
household cleaning products such as bleach or antibacterial products.
Residents are advised to wash their hands frequently during cleanup and
always wear rubber gloves.
Materials that can be cleaned should be washed with a
detergent solution, rinsed with clear water, and rinsed again with a
solution such as 1 1/2 cups of household chlorine bleach mixed with one
gallon of water. Allow this solution to stay in contact with the
material for five minutes and rinse again with clear water. Avoid skin
contact with the solution and use only in well-ventilated areas. Some
materials, such as clothing, may be damaged by the bleach solution.
Remember that the use of disinfectants is no substitute for drying and
Make sure the materials are dry before cleaning. If they
cannot be dried out, throw them away. Dispose of them properly.
Porous, soft or spongy materials such as carpet,
upholstered furniture, sheet rock and bedding that are soaked by
floodwater containing sewage contains harmful microorganisms, which can
reproduce in these materials to numbers that can present a health risk
after only a few hours.
If conditions are favorable, microscopic organisms such
as bacteria and fungi can multiply after the initial cleanup has been
completed. People who live and work in contaminated buildings run the
risk of developing or worsening potentially serious illnesses such as
asthma and allergies.
The only way to effectively prevent this growth is to
control the moisture. Once the materials have been contaminated, they
must either be thoroughly cleaned or disposed.
The following guidelines are recommended for cleanup
Porous, absorbent, or spongy materials that remain wet
for more than 48 hours should be cleaned throughout or thrown away.
Fungi and bacteria will re-contaminate materials if
they remain wet even after very thorough cleaning and disinfecting.
If carpet or other materials become moldy or musty
smelling, they are probably contaminated. Carpet cleaning
professionals using hot water extraction methods may be able to remove
the contaminants. If not, the carpet and padding should be replaced.
Contaminated upholstered furniture, bedding and books
are much more difficult to clean than carpet and should usually be
thrown away because cleaning may be more expensive than replacement.
Handling and cleaning contaminated materials can result
in massive exposures to mold, bacteria, viruses and other contaminants.
Individuals with respiratory allergies, or other respiratory illnesses,
should not handle or disturb materials that have visible mold growth.
Professional cleaning companies using appropriate
personal protective equipment should be used if contamination is
For the latest information on Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, visit
emergency.louisiana.gov or call the state's emergency hotline at
1-866-288-2484 to listen to a recorded message with the most up-to-date
Residents Urged to Practice
BATON ROUGE -- One of the first chores most people
pick immediately after a storm is the clearing of tree limbs by using
chainsaws. Residents who suffered downed trees and branches as a result
of Hurricane Ike will be busy over the next few days clearing the debris
using this method, which is often a source of many post-storm injuries.
People who have little experience with these dangerous tools often get
hurt and should not attempt to learn how to use them with no
instruction. Even users familiar with chain saws put themselves in
danger when they become fatigued but continue to cut limbs. Residents
are encouraged to follow the following tips to avoid injury:
Read the owner's manual thoroughly, even if you think
you know what it says. Especially pay attention to the section on
Learn to operate a chain saw before it is necessary.
Do not wait until after a storm to learn to start and operate the
Avoid power lines
Keep the chain sharpened, and have several spares.
Cutting into the ground quickly dulls the cutting edges, increasing
Maintain the proper level of bar oil
Wear boots, gloves and eye protection
Use ear plugs or muffs to protect hearing
Hold the saw with both hands
Never hold the saw above shoulder level
Do not climb with a chain saw that is running
Choose the proper size of chain saw to match the job
Others need to stay at least two (2) tree lengths (at
least 150 feet) from someone felling a tree and at least 30 feet from
anyone using a chain saw to remove limbs or cutting a fallen tree
If you are removing limbs from a downed tree:
Avoid cutting in wet or windy conditions
Start cutting the limbs from the base of the trunk,
and work your way up to the top
Keep in mind that limbs under tension from the weight
of a tree or another branch can suddenly break free while you are
cutting, causing injury or death
Be careful because your view of some limbs will be
blocked, and your footing will not be even
If the tree is on a hillside, position yourself above
the limb you are cutting
Do not walk on the tree trunk because it could roll
Be alert for wire or nails embedded in the tree
If a limb has a downward bend, start a cut on the
topside of the limb, then finish with a cut on the bottom of the limb
by using the top of the chainsaw bar. This will prevent the limb from
binding the chain. If the limb has an upward bend, make a cut on the
The days after a hurricane are not a good time to learn
how to cut down a tree. Fatigue and stress from dealing with the storm
will make the job even more difficult. When you are tired is not a good
time to be operating a chain saw. A damaged tree that is not posing a
danger to anyone can remain in place until a crew of trained
professionals can get to it. Trees that are hung up, prevented from
falling by an obstruction, are extremely dangerous and should be
attempted only by professionals. Often, heavy equipment will be required
to push lodged trees down.
Before you hire a tree cutter:
Make sure the company has insurance to cover any
Find out if the company has obtained the proper
permits and licenses required by local authorities for doing business
in your area
Do not make payment until the job is done
For more information on chainsaw safety, consult these
Residents Urged to Use Caution
when Operating Generators
BATON ROUGE -- Every year, people die because of deadly
exhaust fumes from generators that seep into homes. It only takes a
small opening for enough carbon monoxide to enter a home, killing or
injuring residents. That's why the Department of Health and Hospitals is
cautioning residents who may be using generators due to power outages
caused by Hurricane Ike to be mindful of the dangerous health risks that
may result if not used properly.
Carbon monoxide does not have a smell or color. It
builds up in the body through repeated exposures. About the only way to
know if you are being exposed to this deadly gas is through the use of a
carbon monoxide detector. Get a carbon monoxide detector and make sure
it runs off battery power.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea,
headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, irritability, confusion and
memory loss. Getting to fresh air is essential once the symptoms are
recognized, and call for medical help.
Do not run a generator inside your home because the
carbon monoxide gases emitted from the generator can kill you. Do not
put it in a garage either, because the deadly gas could still enter the
home. For the same reason, generators should also not be placed near air
conditioning intakes. Use heavy-gauge extension cords to run power from
the generator to appliances. If you have to run an extension cord from
the generator into the house through an open doorway or window, do not
slam the door or window shut on the extension cord. That could result in
a short and cause a fire.
Leave just enough space in the door or window to run the
cord, and then seal the opening by using duct tape. Check this taped
seal frequently for leaks to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not
connect a generator directly to a household electrical system because it
can back feed electrical current into power lines. If this is done,
utility workers will be unaware that power is running through a line,
and they could be electrocuted and killed or injured.
An electrician can install a wiring harness to enable
you to attach a generator to your home. This will disconnect the
residence's electrical connection to power lines, preventing a safety
hazard to electrical workers.
Store fuel in a container designated for gasoline or diesel. Do not
use discarded milk jugs, glass bottles or other containers to store
fuel. Some plastics can melt if they come in contact with fuel
Store fuel for your generator away from the generator, and refuel
only after the generator has cooled
Use a funnel to prevent spills
To prevent creating a dangerous spark when refueling, make sure the
gas can is placed on the ground. Do not refill when the container is
in or on a vehicle
Choose a generator that produces more power than you will need when
all electrical appliances are running
Allow a generator to run for two (2) to three (3) minutes before
plugging in a power cord
Turn off appliances before shutting off a generator to prevent
damage to electrical circuits
Consult the generator owner's manual to determine its power
capacity. Most generators are not strong enough to power an entire
house, so you will have to ration its use to prevent tripping a
circuit breaker on the generator. Each electrical device uses a
maximum number of watts. That number usually can be found on a
manufacturer's label on the appliance. For example, a 5,000-watt
generator can run an average refrigerator, freezer, portable fan and
a 60-watt light bulb
Always operate a generator in a clean, dry location. A
generator produces enough electricity to electrocute you, so do not run
a generator in standing water. Voltage-sensitive appliances such as
televisions and computers should not be powered by a generator without
some type of surge protection device.
For more information on generators, look at the Consumer
Product Safety Commission's Web site:
KANE Request Line: