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Recovery Tips

Health Department Warns of Flooding Dangers
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 disease-causing bacteria.

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 afterward.

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 disease.

  • 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 cleaning materials.

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 activities:

  • 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 extensive.

For the latest information on Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, visit or call the state's emergency hotline at 1-866-288-2484 to listen to a recorded message with the most up-to-date information.

Residents Urged to Practice Chainsaw Safety

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 kickback

  • Learn to operate a chain saw before it is necessary. Do not wait until after a storm to learn to start and operate the device

  • Avoid power lines

  • Keep the chain sharpened, and have several spares. Cutting into the ground quickly dulls the cutting edges, increasing the dangers

  • 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 over

  • 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 bottom

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 damage

  • 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 Web sites:

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:
(337) 367-1240

KANE Business Line:
(337) 365-3434


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