Flood & Water Damage: How To Disinfect and Protect Yourself

Posted by Audrey Lavalley on 21 September, 2018

During a major force of nature like a storm or a hurricane, a family's first response should always be to follow evacuation procedures. No matter what happens, it's more important to be in a safe location as water levels rise and flooding comes in from the coast. 

Once the waters retreat and the storm has passed, the aftermath can be traumatizing for many. Some will have extreme structural damage to their homes. Others will have downed trees and branches littering their yards. But one of the most insidious and harmful after-effects of a storm is water damage. Though it can seem benign, or even like it's not a problem once the waters have retreated from the home, it's a serious issue and can't be taken lightly. 



Historical Storms & Water Damage 

Over the last few years, a series of hurricanes and storms have hit coastal communities, causing incredible amounts of damage to home and communities. When it comes to flooding and water damage, there are some incredible statistics from the past few years. 

Hurricane Katrina

Late August to early September of 2005 were just the beginning of the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina, which struck Gulf Coast states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. In the aftermath, some evacuees from Texas found to be infected with norovirus. There were also clusters of dangerous Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in evacuees.

Hurricane Harvey 

In late August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas as a category 3 storm. Harvey caused about $125 billion in damage. In the aftermath of Harvey, scientists were alarmed to find the huge amounts of coliform and E. Coli bacteria found in the water. These bacterium, found in human and animal feces, cause serious sickness in human beings. 

Hurricane Maria

This devastating storm hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. It caused massive power outages and displacement. Its aftermath also delivered something else to the residents of the island: more frequent and severe cases of asthma in children, thought to be linked to the high levels of airborne pollutants and mold proliferation following the disaster.


Why Do You Need To Disinfect After A Flood?

Flood Water Diseases: Viruses, Bacteria, and Mold 

Following storms and hurricanes, many of us think of rising waters as primarily a danger because it is a drowning hazard. And while this is certainly the case, floodwater is also dangerous as a carrier of infectious diseases. In most cases, this is because floods can overwhelm water purification and treatment centers, spreading toxic sewage water into the community. When this happens, feces-borne contaminants spread into drinking water.

And it's not just drinking water that's a concern. Dangerous viruses can proliferate in standing water, infecting human beings and animals through openings in the skin. At the same time, standing water inside buildings creates a moist environment perfect for mold and mildew spores to sprout.


Floodwater often contains harmful Bacteria

E.coli - this bacteria is often found in human and animal intestines naturally. However some strains of E. coli, which are transmitted through contaminated water or food, can cause diarrhea, UTI's, and bloodstream infections.

Salmonella - This bacteria causes 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the U.S. annually. Salmonella causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. It often requires hospitalization,

Shigella - Yet another gastrointestinal terror, Shigella causes diarrhea, fever, and cramps. This is an extremely common bacteria that can easily enter the water during the sewage overflows associated with floods.


Floodwater often contains harmful viruses

Hepatitis B and C - These are both serious liver diseases caused by viruses. Hepatitis B can range in severity, in some cases resulting in liver disease or liver cancer. Hepatitis C often turns into a chronic condition that leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Norovirus - This extremely common virus causes acute gastroenteritis, meaning that those infected will suffer vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and cramps.   


Increased Danger of Mold & Mildew

Mold and mildew are a type of fungi that thrive in moist, damp environments. Spread easily by spores, these organisms can flourish incredibly quickly: they can start to grow on moist surfaces within 24-48 hours. From there, mold will continue to grow until it is destroyed.

Unfortunately, flooding and water damage are major causes of mold and mildew proliferation, as the standing water and moisture creates an ideal ground for spores. Mold and mildew pose some serious health hazards:

  • Can cause stuffy nose, sneezing, and skin irritation.
  • Is dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or those in treatment for cancer.
  • Can be especially dangerous for those with asthma or breathing conditions.
  • Those with weakened immune systems can actually develop mold infections inside their lungs.
  • Mold and mildew can be dangerous for children.


Guidelines on Staying Safe During & After a Storm

During a storm and in its immediate aftermath, it's important to practice commonsense measures to prevent bacterial or viral infection from flood waters. According to the CDC, you should follow these tips in a flood situation:

  • Do not drink, bathe in, or brush your teeth with flood water.
  • Don't return to your home until authorities have given it clearance.
  • Throw away any food or drinks that have contacted flood water.
  • Practice excellent hygiene by thoroughly and frequently washing your hands with clean water and soap.

After you've been cleared to go home, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Throw out items that can't be disinfected, like mattresses and pillows.
  • Store items outside of the home until insurance agencies can do a walk-through.
  • Clean and disinfect home to get rid of viruses, bacteria, and mold.


How to Clean & Disinfect your Home Thoroughly

To clean your home so that it will be safe for you and your family, you're going to need a serious disinfectant that can get rid of a variety of issues. Disinfectants like the RMR-141 RTU will accomplish the following in your home:

  • Kill and prevents mold, mildew, and spores that can cause dangerous respiratory distress and lung infections.
  • Kill 99.9% of household bacteria, including E.coli, MRSA, and salmonella.
  • Kill viruses like norovirus, and Hepatitis B and C.
  • Remove dirt & organic soils.
  • Kill cold & flu viruses.

Using proper ventilation, and diluting to product specifications, make sure you saturate contaminated items with a powerful disinfectant for at least 10 minutes to kill virus and bacteria.


When you return home after a storm or a hurricane, take care and use common sense precautions to prevent the transmission of disease to you or your family. Though it can seem disheartening, there's no reason to panic or to lose hope. 

With patience, time, and the careful use of a powerful, EPA-approved disinfectant in your home, you can reverse a lot of the danger and damage of contaminated water, stop mold in its tracks, and start the process of getting your life back to normal. Contact us at RMR Solutions for more information.

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