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Flood decontamination tips

On the Job, Safety & Codes | June 1, 2013 | By:

Decontamination tips for equipment and crews exposed to floodwaters.

The tent rental industry is a crucial part of disaster response plans, providing temporary shelter for displaced people and supplies. Often, as was the case with 2012’s Sandy and 2005’s Katrina, flooding is at the core of the challenges faced by tent rental crews, which can mean exposure to mold and bacterial, viral and protozoal diseases.

Floodwaters can be contaminated with sewage and decaying animal and human remains. Therefore, disinfection of contaminated hands, clothing, tools, equipment and surfaces in work areas is critical in disease prevention. Household bleach solutions of various strengths can often be used for this purpose.

Hand decontamination

  • Wash hands completely with soap and water.
  • Rinse completely; dry with a clean towel or air dry.

Clothing, tool and equipment decontamination

  • It is preferable to use soap and clean water when available.
  • If only contaminated water is available, mix ¼ cup bleach per gallon of water.
  • Immerse objects in solution for 10 minutes; if clothing, gently agitate periodically.
  • Transfer objects to hand wash solution for 10 minutes; if clothing, gently agitate periodically.
  • Allow clothes and tools/equipment to thoroughly air dry before re-use.

Severe surface decontamination

  • Use for decontaminating only the most seriously affected surfaces.
  • Mix 1½ cups bleach per gallon of water.
  • Douse surfaces with bleach mixture and allow to sit for 3 minutes.
  • Wipe the contamination from the surface with a paper towel and douse the surface again but use the ¼-cup-bleach-per-gallon-of-water solution.
  • Wipe off residual contamination with a paper towel.

Important considerations

  • Use gloves and eye protection.
  • Prepare bleach solutions daily and allow to stand for at least 30 minutes before use.
  • All containers should be labeled “Bleach-disinfected water, DO NOT DRINK.”
  • Do not immerse electrical or battery operated tools/equipment in solutions; clean exterior with a rag soaked with soap and water or disinfectant solution.

CAUTION: Do not mix bleach with products containing ammonia.

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