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Helpful Tips

Storm and flood cleanup activities can be hazardous. Workers and volunteers involved with flood cleanup should be aware of the potential dangers and the proper safety precautions. Work-related hazards include, but are not limited to, downed power lines, carbon monoxide, lifting, chemical/biological hazards, motor vehicles, hazardous materials, insects/snakes and confined spaces.

Quick Links


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Ready.gov


Contact Information

For any questions or concerns, contact Steve Wiltshire at (202) 905-2103 or wiltshire@abc.org.

Emergency Preparedness and Response Resources

ABC has assembled Emergency Preparedness and Response Resources to help our chapters and members quickly access state and federal agency websites that have the latest information and guidance. 

Additional links and presentations will be posted in the future. Please contact Steve Wiltshire at (202) 905-2103 or wiltshire@abc.org with feedback on other preparedness and response resources ABC members would find useful. 

Thank you, 

Greg Sizemore
Vice President, HSE and Workforce Development

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 
CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the United States. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Provides up-to-date advisories and safety tips to help disaster response and recovery efforts around the country.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
OSHA offers information on how to prepare and train for emergencies and the hazards to be aware of when an emergency occurs. There is also information for employers and workers across industries and for workers who will be responding to the emergency.

Ready.gov
Provides information on a wide range of topics, from earthquakes to active shooter events, chemical emergencies, floods, hurricanes, severe weather, snowstorms and extreme cold, tornadoes and wildfires.
Active Shooter Preparedness

DHS has developed a series of materials to assist businesses, government offices, and schools in preparing for and responding to an active shooter. These resources include a detailed booklet, a desk reference guide, a reference poster, and a pocket-size reference card. DHS has also developed both a Recovery Guide, and an Incident Fact Sheet to assist your organization as you consider the recovery phase of an event.

Issues covered in the active shooter resources include:

• Profile of an active shooter
• Responding to an active shooter or other workplace violence situation
• Training for an active shooter situation and creating an emergency action plan
• Tips for recognizing signs of potential workplace violence

Source/Resource: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

CDC Immunization Recommendations for Disaster Workers

In accordance with the current CDC guidelines, responders should receive a tetanus booster if they have not been vaccinated for tetanus during the past 10 years. Td (tetanus/diphtheria) or Tdap (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis) can be used; getting the Tdap formula for one tetanus booster during adulthood is recommended to maintain protection against pertussis. While documentation of vaccination is preferred, it should not be a prerequisite to work.

A Hepatitis B vaccine series is recommended/required for persons who will be performing direct patient care or otherwise expected to have contact with bodily fluids.

Source/Resource: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Disaster Contractors Network Portal

Connecting property owners and building professionals with storm related goods and services.

Source/Resource: Disaster Contractors Network Portal 


Hurricane Response Jobs at the SBA

The Small Business Administration is hiring temporary employees to assist with disaster relief efforts this hurricane season from September 1st to December 31st, 2017. Bilingual language skills a plus.

Source/Resource: Small Business Administration 

Medical Precautions for Disaster Workers

Pre-deployment screening is particularly important for work in areas affected by natural disasters because the potential for exposure to hazardous conditions or agents may not be easily predicted, adequately characterized or effectively controlled. 

Source/Resource: CDC

Personal Protective Equipment

Key Points:

• Always wear watertight boots with a steel toe and insole, gloves, long pants, and safety glasses during cleanup operations; sneakers should NOT be worn because they will not prevent punctures, bites or crush injuries. 
• Wear a hardhat if there is any danger of falling debris.  
• Wear a NIOSH-approved dust respirator if working with moldy building materials. 
• When handling bleach or other chemicals, follow the directions on the package; wear eye, hand, and face protection as appropriate; and have plenty of clean water available for eyewash and other first-aid treatments.

Source/Resource: CDC

Portable Ladders

Key Points:

• Avoid electrical hazards! Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder.
• Always maintain a three-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing.
• An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.

Source/Resource: OSHA

Post Exposure Medical Precautions for Disaster Workers

Considering the potential health risks of post disaster work, screening programs should be undertaken to determine the extent, if any, to which individual workers have been adversely affected by their work and to identify as early as possible any affected workers needing preventive measures or medical care. 

Source/Resource: CDC

Rodents, Snakes, Insects and Fire Ants

Both live and dead animals can spread diseases such as rat bite fever and rabies. Dispose of dead animals as soon as possible. If bitten or scratched, seek medical attention immediately.

Watch where you place your hands and feet when removing debris. If possible, do not place your fingers under debris you are moving. Wear heavy gloves. If you see a snake, step back and allow it to proceed. A snake’s striking distance is about half the total length of the snake.

Watch out for fire ants; their bites are painful and can cause blisters. Severe reactions to fire ant bites (such as chest pain, nausea, sweating, loss of breath, serious swelling or slurred speech) require immediate medical treatment.  

Source/Resources: OSHA Doc 1 and OSHA Doc 2

Tree Removal/Chain Saws

Key Points:

• Choose the proper size of chain saw to match the job.
• Operate, adjust and maintain the saw per the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Take extra care in cutting “spring poles” (trees or branches that have been bent, twisted, hung up on, or caught under another object during a high wind).
• Be sure that bystanders are at a safe distance from cutting activities.

Source/Resource: CDC

Carbon Monoxide Hazards/Generator Safety

Gasoline and diesel-powered generators, pumps and pressure washers all release carbon monoxide, a deadly, colorless and odorless gas. These devices must be operated outdoors and never inside confined spaces. When placed outside, position the device downwind of the work area.  

Source/Resource: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Chemical and Biological Hazards

Floodwaters may contain chemicals and biohazards due to direct contamination by untreated raw sewage, dead animals, rotting food, etc. 

Source/Resource: OSHA and CDC

Cleanup Hazards

Cleanup work of any kind is hazardous, but flood conditions make it even more so. Following the procedures listed below will help keep workers safe and healthy while cleaning up after natural disasters that involve flooding.

• Take frequent rest breaks when lifting heavy, water-laden objects.
• Use a wooden stick or pole to check flooded areas for pits, holes and protruding objects before entering.
• Frequently wash hands during the day, especially before eating or drinking.

Source/Resource: CDC

Confined Spaces

Workers in or around confined spaces must be trained in the recognition of what constitutes a confined space and the potential hazards that may be encountered in them. Workers and rescue agencies in hurricane-damaged areas that may enter a confined space must be familiar with and trained in confined space entry procedures, as well as rescue requirements and techniques.

Source/Resource: CDC

Earthquake Preparedness

Source/Resource: CDC

Electrical Hazards

Expect to find standing water throughout a flood zone. If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits or electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Never enter flooded areas and touch electrical equipment if the ground is wet.  

Source/Resource: OSHA

Filling and Placing Sandbags

Manually filling, moving and placing sandbags is physically demanding work. It involves repeatedly lifting and carrying heavy loads, and may involve working in awkward positions that could lead to back and other injuries.

Source/Resource: OSHA

Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over the water and move toward land. Threats from hurricanes include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and tornadoes. These large storms are called typhoons in the North Pacific Ocean and cyclones in other parts of the world.

Source/Resource: Ready.gov

Mold, Fungi and Flood Cleanup

Flood conditions contribute to the growth and transmission of many kinds of fungi, some of which can cause sickness. Cleanup workers are at increased risk of exposure to airborne fungi and their spores because they often handle moldy building materials, decaying vegetable matter, rotting waste material and other fungus-contaminated debris. The fungal material is carried into the respiratory tract when airborne particles are inhaled.

Source/Resource: OSHA

Portable Ladders

Key Points:

• Avoid electrical hazards! Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder.
• Always maintain a three-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing.
• An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.

Source/Resource: OSHA

Personal Protective Equipment

Key Points:

• Always wear watertight boots with a steel toe and insole, gloves, long pants, and safety glasses during cleanup operations; sneakers should NOT be worn because they will not prevent punctures, bites or crush injuries. 
• Wear a hardhat if there is any danger of falling debris.  
• Wear a NIOSH-approved dust respirator if working with moldy building materials. 
• When handling bleach or other chemicals, follow the directions on the package; wear eye, hand, and face protection as appropriate; and have plenty of clean water available for eyewash and other first-aid treatments.

Source/Resource: CDC

Tornado Preparedness

Tornado cleanup activities can be hazardous. Emergency-response directors and supervisors should be aware of the potential dangers involved, and should establish and enforce proper safety programs. Injuries and illnesses in the line of duty are preventable. Workers and volunteers involved with tornado cleanup should be aware of the potential dangers involved, and the proper safety precautions. Work-related hazards that could be encountered include: electrical hazards, carbon monoxide exposures, musculoskeletal hazards, heat stress, motor vehicle and large machinery accidents, hazardous materials, fire, confined spaces and falls. Links to information about hazards associated with tornadoes and other natural disaster cleanup can be found below. This information is intended to help employers and workers prepare in advance for anticipated response activities, and to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the field once rescue, recovery, and clean-up begin.

Source/Resource: CDC

Tree Removal/Chain Saws

Key Points:

• Choose the proper size of chain saw to match the job.
• Operate, adjust and maintain the saw per the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Take extra care in cutting “spring poles” (trees or branches that have been bent, twisted, hung up on, or caught under another object during a high wind).
• Be sure that bystanders are at a safe distance from cutting activities.

Source/Resource: CDC

Wildfire Preparedness

Wildfires can occur anywhere and can destroy homes, businesses, infrastructure, natural resources, and agriculture. How to Prepare for a Wildfire explains how to protect yourself and your property, and details the steps to take now so that you can act quickly when you, your home, or your business is in danger.

Source/Resource: FEMA