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Illinois Residents Urged To Take Flooding Precautions

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

As people in several parts of Illinois begin cleaning up homes flooded by flash flooding over the weekend, the Blagojevich Administration today offered residents several tips for staying safe and healthy. Governor Blagojevich also assured flood-impacted communities that the state will continue to provide assistance to help them with flood recovery.

“We had a lot of water last weekend that went in and out of homes and flooded streets. It is important that people in these flooded areas protect themselves from disease that can be carried by flood waters, and the best way to do that is by staying out of the water as much as possible,” said Governor Blagojevich. “We are doing everything possible to assist people during this difficult time, and I encourage everyone to play it safe as the waters recede.”

The Governor said the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is continuing to coordinate with local officials to provide state assistance during the flood recovery. To date, that assistance has included 180,000 sandbags, dozens of barricades, several water pumps and two programmable road signs; law enforcement assistance with evacuations, rescues and security; surveys of water levels in rivers and streams and assessments of dams; and emergency management staff to facilitate requests for state assistance.

Flood waters and sewer overflows can contain bacteria, fecal material, viruses, and other organisms that may cause disease. The following information can help protect communities from illness and injury:

* Avoid skin contact with sewer water, especially cuts and sores. Keep them clean and covered.

* Do not allow children to play in areas contaminated by sewage backup.

* Do not eat or drink anything exposed to sewer water.

* Keep contaminated objects, water and hands away from mucous membranes (mouth, eyes and nose).

* Wash hands frequently, especially after bathroom use, before eating and immediately following contact with sewer water or contaminated objects or surfaces.

Food and Water Safety

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Use only bottled or disinfected water for drinking, cooking, tooth brushing and bathing until you are sure the water supply is safe. There are several communities in Illinois that are currently under boil orders, because the water quality in the system is potentially compromised by flooding or equipment damage. The current recommendation is to bring water to a rolling boil for five minutes. Discard food exposed to contaminated waters. If refrigerators or freezers have taken in water, discard food stored there. If no water entered these appliances, but power was lost long enough for foods to thaw, discard all partially thawed foods unless prepared immediately.

Discard milk, cheeses and other foods prone to spoilage. Completely thawed meats and vegetables should be discarded without question. Discard all bulging or leaking canned food and any food stored in jars. Undented, intact cans can be cleaned with a bleach solution before use.

Removal and cleanup of sewer or flood water is essential. It is important to take the following precautions to prevent injury:

* Turn off main power switches, if necessary. Air out and wipe dry all appliances and electrical outlets exposed to water before use.

* If you have fuel oil or gas systems, be sure tanks are secure and all lines are free from breaks.

* Wear rubber boots, gloves and a dust mask during removal and cleanup.

* Open windows if possible to ventilate and dry the area. Fans can be used to help with drying.

* Keep children from playing in water.

The following cleaning guidelines may help prevent the transmission of disease and reduce property loss:

* Discard any contaminated objects that cannot be thoroughly washed or laundered.

* Wash contaminated surfaces and objects with warm, soapy water and then disinfect them with a bleach and water solution made of no more than one cup of 5.25 percent chlorine bleach per one gallon of water. For objects that would be damaged by bleach, use a home or laundry disinfectant.

* Make sure to read and follow label instructions. Do not use ammonia. Ammonia vapors mixed with bleach vapors create a toxic gas that could be deadly.