Tips on how to safely clean up after a flood

Photo: Tony Feder/ Getty Images.

The east coast of Australia was hit with extensive flooding over the weekend as a massive storm cell moved south from Brisbane to Canberra.

Three people have died in floodwaters across NSW and the ACT, while another two are thought to be missing in Tasmania.

Police and emergency services are urging people in flood-affected areas to ensure safety as the water recedes as well as remaining vigilant when cleaning up.

Deputy NSW emergency operations controller, acting assistant commissioner Kyle Stewart said while it’s not over yet, some areas are starting the process of recovery and that generally begins with cleaning up.

“The affects of the clean up can be just as dangerous as the floods themselves and we are appealing to the communities impacted by the floods to take all precautions and listen to advice of the emergency service agencies,” he said.

Authorities are asking people to check on family and neighbours, and share this information with anyone who does not currently have access to technology.

The police have issued a checklist to ensure safety is maintained during the clean up process.

Here it is.

Household Fire Safety for flood recovery

  • If you have lost household power and are using candles or portable light or heating sources, never leave them unattended and ensure they are kept well away from all flammable material.
  • Always extinguish candles or any other open flame before going to bed.
  • Don’t use LPG or solid fuel burning BBQs indoors. They give off poisonous Carbon Monoxide.
  • Don’t use patio heaters or other LPG fuelled heating devices inside your home. They are designed for outdoor use only and give off poisonous Carbon Monoxide.
  • If you have lost household power, turn off all appliances at the power points as they may be affected by a power surge when the power resumes.
  • Any electrical appliances which may have been in contact with water must be inspected by a qualified electrician before use to ensure they can be operated safely.
  • If drying clothing, keep wet clothing at least 1 metre from heaters or fireplaces and never leave them unattended. If you use a clothes dryer make sure you clean the lint filter each and every time you use it.
  • If you have a garage or shed, remember to take extra care with any stored chemicals and fuels. Handle with extreme caution and use the recommended protective equipment: gloves, safety goggles, etc.
  • If you are concerned about stored chemicals, contact your local Fire Station for advice.
  • In the event of fire, leave the house and call triple zero and ask for Fire.

Health advice for flood clean-up

“Floodwaters contaminated with sewage may carry a range of viruses and parasites. Experience from past floods shows that the greatest risk of infection is bacteria picked up through cuts and abrasions,” a police spokesperson says.

The most effective way of preventing infection is:

  • Thorough hand washing after contact with flood contaminated materials;
  • Wearing gloves; and
  • Avoiding contact between cuts or abrasions and flood water or contaminated materials.
  • People should contact their GP if they are concerned about their health. As a precaution, people should treat all floodwater as potentially contaminated with sewage.
  • Keep children away from flood affected areas and avoid all unnecessary contact with mud and floodwaters.
  • Ensure feet are covered if they are likely to come into contact with mud and always wear gloves when handling flood affected items or mud.
  • Children’s toys affected by floodwater should be discarded if they are soft toys or moulded plastic toys with air injection holes. Solid toys should be disinfected before allowing children to play with them.
  • Resident should always wash their hands thoroughly with soap and clean water, or with an alcohol gel:
    • – After handling flood-affected items;

      – When participating in flood clean-up activities;

      – Immediately after going to the toilet; and

      – Always before handling or eating food.

For the latest on road closures members of the community can visit the website www.livetraffic.com or contact their local councils.

Members of the public in flood affected areas should continue to listen to local radio stations, or check ses.nsw.gov.au, bom.gov.au and emergency.nsw.gov.au.

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