After the immediate damage from a large hurricane, many hazards remain from flooding and standing waters.

News, Your Health | 3 years ago

The Damaging Effects of Flood Waters Following A Hurricane

After the immediate damage from a large hurricane, many hazards remain from flooding and standing waters.

As Hurricane Florence picks up strength in the Atlantic Ocean, with landfall expected to directly impact the Carolinas, emergency management groups along with Atrium Health are tracking its course.

A storm of this magnitude is likely to cause flooding and leave debris in its wake. Flood water can pose harm beyond damage to your home and property. For this reason, Atrium Health recommends caution and taking these steps when approaching any flood waters.

Health Risks

According to the CDC, infectious diseases are of particular concern when individuals are exposed to flood waters. Many of these illnesses can be treated with common medications, but due to potential pharmaceutical shortages it’s best to prevent the initial illness from happening in the first place. To protect yourself and your family, follow the list of tips below:

Tips to Protect Yourself

  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
  • Avoid walking through flood waters. If you must travel through flood water, ensure you’re wearing proper footwear. This will protect your feet from cuts or scrapes, which could become infected from bacteria in flood water.
  • Don’t use flood water for drinking. Flood water can contain a variety of contaminants and debris, including bacteria like E. coli. It is not safe to drink and ingesting the flood water could lead to illness. Only drink from bottled water or uncontaminated public water. Check with your local utilities company if you are concerned about your public water source.
  • Do not drive over bridges that span fast-moving floodwaters. Floodwaters can scour foundation material from around the structure's foundation and make the bridge unstable.
  • Don’t take chances traveling through standing water. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground.
  • Do not leave the car and enter moving water. If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground.
  • Follow emergency warnings and move quickly to higher ground if you notice water levels rising from heavy rainfall. If you live near streams, rivers, and creeks, these areas can flood quickly and with little warning.

Know Your Emergency Warnings and Have a Plan

Flood Watch = “Be Aware.” Conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area.

  • Turn on your TV/radio. You will receive the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Know where to go. You may need to reach higher ground quickly and on foot.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash and first aid supplies.
  • Bring in outdoor furniture and move important indoor items to the highest possible floor. This will help protect them from flood damage.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. You could be electrocuted.
  • If instructed, turn off your gas and electricity at the main switch or valve. This helps prevent fires and explosions.

Flood Warning = "Take Action!"  Flooding is either happening or will happen shortly.

  • Move immediately to higher ground or stay on high ground.
  • Evacuate if directed.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.

Know How to Get Help

For serious medical emergencies, Atrium Health’s emergency rooms are open 24/7 and staffed by providers board-certified in emergency medicine. If you are experiencing a life-threatening condition, call 911 right away.

Additionally, Atrium Health has an emergency department dedicated to children, providing access to specialized pediatric care in a family-friendly environment. If you need to reach the Children’s Emergency Department directly, call 704-446-KIDS (5437). If your child has come into contact with or swallowed a poisonous substance, call the Poison Center at 800-222-1222.

If you have suffered an unexpected illness or injury, you can schedule an Urgent Care reservation online. See our other virtual care options.

If you’re evacuating due to the floods, make sure you have a plan and you let your family and friends know where you’re going. If you are in need of food, water or shelter, please contact your local chapter or find a shelter near you.