Safety and first aid

In and around your home after cyclones, floods and other disasters

General household clean up

Following a disaster you will need to clean your house thoroughly.

Read tips and advice on how to clean up your house after a flood.

Mould

Cleaning up mould

If you intend to clean up mouldy areas it is recommended that you wear:

  • a shower cap
  • goggles
  • a P1 or P2 particulate face respirator, to prevent breathing in mould spores.

Steps to minimise mould after a flood

Mould removal efforts should focus on:

  • removing all sources of pooled water or excessive moisture from the home
  • removing all wet or flood damaged materials or items that cannot be adequately dried or cleaned, including:
    • wallpaper
    • plasterboard
    • carpet
    • rugs
    • bedding
    • mattresses
    • furniture
    • stuffed toys
    • clothing
    • wet or damaged materials
  • removing all porous (soft or absorbent) materials with mould growth
  • temporarily storing damaged or discarded items outside the home (in a safe, clean, dry place such as a shed or garage) until your insurance claim is processed
  • cleaning and disinfecting all affected surfaces inside the house, including:
    • floors
    • walls
    • kitchen
    • bathroom
    • laundry
  • Allowing the house to dry throughout by airing or active drying (for example fans or dehumidifiers).

Drying out the house after a flood

When returning to your home after a flood, open doors and windows to let the house air out for as long as possible.

Once power is restored use fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the house.

Air conditioning or central heating should not be used unless they are undamaged and uncontaminated by the floodwaters.

If you suspect contamination with mould or floodwaters, do not use these systems until they have been cleaned and checked by a qualified person.

Injury prevention and bacterial infections

A flood or cyclone may bring dirty water, mud and silt into your:

  • home
  • backyard
  • street
  • parks
  • local playgrounds.

Water, mud and silt can contain a range of bacteria and viruses that can make you or your family sick.

Illnesses may include:

Floodwaters can also make surfaces such footpaths, roads and floors very slippery. Fall injuries are not unusual in flood clean-ups.

Hazards also can occur when cyclonic winds lift a range of materials and debris such as:

  • fences
  • roofs
  • electricity wires
  • cars.

It is important that you take proper precautions to prevent illness and injury:

  • Always wear protective clothing, such as boots, gloves and a face mask when cleaning.
  • Do not expose broken skin or cuts to dirty water, mud or silt.
  • Do not use petrol or diesel-powered equipment, such as generators or pumps, in enclosed spaces
  • Be alert to snakes, spiders and rats that may have taken refuge in your home.
  • Make sure your immunisations, especially tetanus, are up-to-date.
  • Always wash your hands and any part of your body that has been exposed to dirty water, mud or silt, especially before eating or preparing food.
  • Wear a mask when working with heavy mould.
  • Never touch electric wires, even if you think they are not live.

You need to seek medical attention if you do become ill or injure yourself, particularly if any cut becomes painful and red and if you develop a fever.

Dead animal carcasses

Following a natural disaster, many animals, particularly farm animals may not survive.

It is important to promptly dispose of these animal carcasses to prevent fly breeding, reduce odours, and protect surviving animals from disease.

Landholders should search their property for dead animals as soon as possible after a disaster, provided it is safe to do so.

In some cases, carcasses may have commercial value, so consider sending them to a rendering plant if possible.

If rendering is impractical, dispose of the dead animals on the premises.

Procedures to dispose of dead animals

  • Cover a carcass with crude oil or kerosene to keep away dogs, scavenging birds and vermin.

Well-fed pigs are the only animal carcasses that will burn satisfactorily. Old railway sleepers can be used as fuel. Burning of other carcasses is not recommended.

  • Bury other carcasses. Use earth moving equipment if it is available.
  • Choose a site where subsurface drainage will not reach water supplies.
  • Bury the carcass at least 90cm to 120cm deep, so predatory animals won't be able to reach them.
  • If quicklime (Builder’s Lime) is available, cover the carcasses with it before backfilling. Quicklime speeds up the decomposition process.
  • Contact your local council animal control officer for further guidelines.

More information


Acknowledgements
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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