Items you should have on hand:
- Safety shoes or boots
- Protective eye gear
- Rubber gloves
- A dust mask (N-95 or higher)
- Pry bar
- Flashlight (with extra batteries)
- Camera or video recorder (or your phone) to document everything for insurance/FEMA
- Hand sanitizer and alcohol swabs
- Potable water and chemical cleaners/sanitizers
- Wiping rags
- Packing supplies
- First aid kit
- Pen and paper
- Storage bags
Before you enter:
- Check outside for structural and electrical damage. Determine whether the property is safe to enter.
- Check for fire hazards and gas leaks.
- Turn off the main electrical switch. Do not turn it back on until you are certain there has been no damage to wires or appliances connected to the system.
- Flood water is likely toxic and there is an increased risk of infection when cleaning out a flooded home. If you have any open wounds, use waterproof bandages or adhesives to cover them. If you notice redness or swelling, get medical attention immediately.
- Always wear protective equipment (googles, masks, gloves, boots, etc.).
As you enter, go slowly and watch for:
- Weakened floors, walls or ceilings which might fall or collapse.
- Watch for exposed nails and other sharp objects.
- Wild animals (raccoons, snakes, etc.) that may have moved in to escape the floodwaters. Allow them to escape through an open window or door; do not trap or corner them. You can also leave and call animal control (713-229-7300 for Houston city limits, others here).
- If you smell gas or suspect a gas leak, leave immediately, call 911 and notify the gas company. Warn neighbors of the potential problem.
- Be sure sewer lines are intact before turning on the water or using the toilet.
- If mold is present, wear a mask that can filter spores (an N-95 mask that you can pick up at a hardware store).
- Use battery-powered light sources.
- Do not use electrical appliances which have been in contact with floodwaters.
To clean electrical outlets:
- Disconnect the main switch and all circuits.
- Remove covers from all outlets and the fuse or breaker boxes; flush with clean water.
- Let dry, and spray with contact cleaner/lubricant.
- Have an electrician check for grounds and other unsafe conditions before reconnecting the system.
To clean appliances:
- Clean and dry the submerged household appliance before starting.
- With the electricity or fuel turned off, unplug and open as much as possible to rinse or wipe clean and let dry.
- Tilt to drain and aid quick drying. Three days to a week is necessary for drying.
- Appliance repair professionals should inspect before reconnecting. Many appliances can be saved.
Food: Undamaged, commercially-prepared foods in all-metal cans or retort pouches can be saved if you remove the labels, thoroughly wash the cans, rinse them, and then disinfect them with a sanitizing solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of potable water. Finally, re-label containers that had the labels removed, including the expiration date, with a marker. Food containers with screw caps, snap lids, flip caps, twist caps and home-canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with floodwater because they cannot be disinfected.
Utensils: Discard flood-contaminated wooden cutting boards and wooden spoons, plastic utensils, baby bottles, nipples, and pacifiers. Thoroughly wash metal and ceramic pans, utensils, and dishes with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them or by immersing for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tsp chlorine bleach/quart water.
The Houston Food Bank can assist with food and applying for SNAP: http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/get-involved/harvey-disaster-relief/.