Post-Irma Clean-Up: Play It Safe

Residents and others working to clean up debris left by Hurricane Irma could be at risk of sustaining injuries, and the Florida Department of Health is urging residents to practice caution when cleaning in and around their homes.

Every person involved in clean up should make sure they have an up to date tetanus vaccination and avoid heat stress when working outside or in non-air-conditioned buildings. 

There may also be unseen hazards under the water in areas that received storm surge or freshwater flooding. 

Flood waters can mask debris, downed power lines and other hazards.

The department recommends people wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during clean-up of sewage and to avoid injury and contamination.

Be careful about mixing household cleaners and disinfectants. Combining certain types of products can produce toxic fumes and result in injury or death.

Walls, hard-surfaced floors and many other household surfaces must be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of 1 cup of bleach per 5 gallons of water.

Remove and discard contaminated household materials that cannot be disinfected such as wall-coverings, cloth and rugs. Wash all linens and clothing in hot water or dry-clean.

Drywall and insulation that have been soaked should be removed and discarded so disinfection and drying of the internal wall structure can take place.

It can be difficult to throw away items in a home, particularly those with sentimental value. However, keeping certain items soaked by sewage or floodwaters may be unhealthy. In general, materials that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours should be discarded.

If you sustain a wound or deep cut that concerns you as handle debris, seek medical attention. Make sure to ask your doctor if you need a tetanus booster vaccine.

Due to possible contamination, do not expose wounds to floodwaters.

Everyone participating in post-storm clean up should also practice heat safety. 

A person can experience sunstroke, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and even heatstroke if exposed to high temperatures for an extended period of time. 

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting.

To avoid becoming dehydrated, drink plenty of fluids, especially water, even if you don't feel thirsty. 

Persons who have medical conditions such as kidney and heart disease, who require a fluid restricted diet, or who have problems with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.

Dress for the heat. 

Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun's energy.

 It is also a good idea to wear a hat or to use an umbrella.

For more information about debris clean up safety, visit

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