All cities in Galveston County have their own emergency management offices. Telephone numbers are listed below.
|Clear Lake Shores||281-334-1034|
Health & Safety Information
- Disinfecting Water Wells
- Food & Safety
- Sanitation & Hygiene
- Precautions When Returning to Your Home
- Swiftly Flowing Water
- Chemical Hazards
Warnings for Flood Cleanup Work
All wells that have been flooded or exposed in any other way to contamination require heavy doses of chlorine for disinfection. The procedure for chlorinating a typical private well is as follows:
Add approximately one gallon of liquid household bleach (5.25% Calcium Hypochlorite) to the well through a suitable casing vent or tap.
Surge the well by turning the pump on and off three or four times.
Flush the lines at each inside and outside outlet until a chlorine odor is noticeable.
Allow the chlorinated water to remain in the entire system for at least four hours and preferably 24 hours.
After the waiting period, flush the entire system at all outlets until the chlorinated water has been removed from the system.
Take a water sample in a sterile sample bottle supplied by the health department and submit the sample for bacteriological examination.
Water samples should be brought to the Galveston County Health District laboratory at 1205 Oak Street in La Marque or the nearest state approved laboratory within 30 hours.
Please call the Environmental and Consumer Health Division at (409) 938-2411 with any questions you might have regarding water well disinfection or sampling.
Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. Discard any food without a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the can labels, thoroughly wash the cans, and then disinfect them with a solution consisting of one cup bleach in 5 gallons of water. Relabel your cans, including expiration date, with a marker. Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with flood water because they cannot be disinfected. For infants, use only pre-prepared canned baby formula that requires no added water, rather than powder formulas prepared with treated water.
Frozen and Refrigerated Foods - If your refrigerator or freezer may be without power for a long period:
- Divide your frozen foods among friends' freezers if they have electricity;
- Seek freezer space in a store, church, school, or commercial freezer that has electrical service; or
- Use dry ice - 25 pounds of dry ice will keep a 10 cubic foot freezer below freezing for 3 - 4 days. (Exercise care when handling dry ice, because it freezes everything it touches. wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury.)
Thawed food can usually be eaten or refrozen if it is still "refrigerator cold", or if it still contains ice crystals. To be safe, remember, "When it doubt, throw it out." Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.
Your refrigerator will keep foods cool for about 4 hours without power if it is unopened. Add block or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity will be off longer than 4 hours.
It is critical for you to remember to practice basic hygiene during the emergency period. Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected:
- before preparing or eating food;
- after toilet use
- after participating in flood cleanup activities; and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
Flood waters may contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems, and agricultural and industrial byproducts. Although skin contact with flood water does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, there is some risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated with flood water. If you have any open cuts or sores that will be exposed to flood water, keep them as clean as possible by washing well with soap to control infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.
In addition, parents need to help children avoid waterborne illness. Do not allow children to play in flood water areas, wash children's hands frequently (always before meals), and do not allow children to play with flood-water contaminated toys that have not been disinfected. You can disinfect toys using a solution of one cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water.
Electrical power and natural gas of propane tanks should be shut off to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions. Try to return to your home during the daytime so that you do not have to use any lights. Use battery powered flashlights and lanterns, rather than candles, gas lanterns, or torches. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company or the police or fire departments or State Fire Marshall's office, and do not turn on the lights or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to the house until you are told it is safe to do so.
Your electrical system may also be damaged. If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning but no visible fire, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the circuit breaker.
Avoid any downed power lines, particularly those in water. Avoid wading in standing water, which also may contain glass or metal fragments.
You should consult your utility company about using electrical equipment, including power generators. Be aware that it is against the law and a violation of electrical codes to connect generators to your home's electrical circuits without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices. If a generator is on line when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard. In addition, the improper connection of a generator to your home's electrical circuits may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area. All electrical equipment and appliances must be completely dry before returning them to service. It is advisable to have a certified electrician check these items if there is any questions. Also, remember not to operate any gas-powered equipment indoors.
Walls, hard-surfaced floors, and many other household surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of 1 cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water. Be particularly careful to thoroughly disinfect surfaces that may come in contact with food, such as counter tops, pantry shelves, refrigerators, etc. Areas where small children play should also be carefully cleaned. Wash all linens and clothing in hot water, or dry clean them. For items that cannot be washed or dry cleaned, such as mattresses and upholstered furniture, air dry them in the sun and then spray them thoroughly with a disinfectant. Steam clean all carpeting. If there has been a backflow of sewage into the house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup. Remove and discard contaminated household materials that cannot be disinfected, such as wallcoverings, cloth, rugs, and drywall.
Outbreaks of communicable diseases after floods are unusual. However, the rates of diseases that were present before a flood may increase because of decreased sanitation or overcrowding among displaced persons. Increases in infectious diseases that were not present in the community before the flood are not usually a problem. If you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with feces, soil, or saliva, have a doctor or health department determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary based on individual records.
Specific recommendations for vaccinations should be made on a case-by-case basis, or as determined by local and state health departments.
Due to a shortage of the tetanus vaccination, the Galveston County Health District has implemented the following guidelines for prioritizing available Td doses:
- Persons traveling to a country where the risk for diphtheria is high.
- Persons requiring tetanus vaccination for prophylaxis in wound management.
- Persons who have received fewer than 3 doses of vaccine containing Td.
- Pregnant women and persons at occupational risk for tetanus prone injuries who have not been vaccinated with Td within the preceding 10 years.
- Adolescents who have not been vaccinated with Td within the preceding 10 years.
- Adults who have not been vaccinated with Td within the preceding 10 years.
The large amount of pooled water remaining after the flood will lead to an increase in mosquito populations. Mosquitoes are most active at sunrise and sunset. The majority of these mosquitoes will be pests, but will not carry communicable diseases. Local, state, and federal public health authorities will be actively working to control the spread of any mosquito-borne diseases.
To protect yourself from mosquitoes, use screens on dwellings, and wear long-sleeved and long-legged clothing. Insect repellents containing DEET are very effective. Be sure to read all instructions before using DEET. Care must be taken when using DEET on small children. Products containing DEET are available from retail outlets and through local and state health departments.
To control mosquito populations, drain all standing water left in containers around your home.
If you enter swiftly flowing water, you risk drowning - regardless of your ability to swim. Swiftly moving shallow water can be deadly, and even shallow standing water can be dangerous for small children. Cars or other vehicles do not provide adequate protection from flood waters. Cars can be swept away or may break down in moving water.
Many wild animals have been forced from their natural habitats by flooding, and many domestic animals are also without homes after the flood. Take care to avoid these animals, because come may carry rabies. Remember, most animals are disoriented and displaced, too. Do not corner an animal. If an animal must be removed, contact your local animal control authorities. Your local and state health department can provide information about the types of wild animals that carry rabies in your area.
Rats may be a problem during and after a flood. Take care to secure all food supplies, and remove any animal carcasses in the vicinity by contacting your local animal control authorities.
If you are bitten by any animal, seek immediate medical attention. If you are bitten by a snake, first try to accurately identify the type of snake so that, if poisonous, the correct anti-venom may be administered.
Use extreme caution when returning to your area after a flood. Be aware of potential chemical hazards you may encounter during flood recovery. Flood waters may have buried or moved hazardous chemical containers of solvent or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places.
If any propane tanks (whether 20 lb. tanks from a gas grill or household propane tanks) are discovered, do not attempt to move them yourself. These represent a very real danger of fire or explosion, and if they are found, police of fire departments or your State Fire Marshal's office should be contacted immediately.
Car batteries, even those in flood water, may still contain an electrical charge and should be removed with extreme caution by using insulated gloves. Avoid coming in contact with any acid that may have spilled from a damaged car battery.
- If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician. Never enter flooded areas or touch electrical equipment if the ground is wet, unless you are certain that the power is off. NEVER handle a downed power line.
- When using gasoline and diesel generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the "off" position prior to starting the generator. This will prevent inadvertent energization of power lines from backfeed electrical energy from the generators, and help to protect utility line workers from possible electrocution.
- If clearing or other work must be performed near a downed power line, contact the utility company to discuss de-energizing and grounding or shielding of power lines to avoid inadvertent contact.
- Flood cleanup activities may involve the use of gasoline or diesel powered pumps, generators, and pressure washers. Because these devices release carbon monoxide, a deadly, colorless, odorless gas, operate all gasoline-powered devices outdoors and never bring them indoors. It is virtually impossible to assess adequate ventilation.
- Cleanup workers are at risk for developing serious musculoskeletal injuries to the hands, back, knees, and shoulders. Special attention is needed to avoid back injuries associated with manual lifting and handling of debris and building materials. To help prevent injury, use teams of two or more to move bulky objects, avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds (per person), and use proper automated-assist lifting devices.
- Heat: Cleanup workers are at serious risk for developing heat stress. Excessive exposure to hot environments can cause a variety of heat-related problems, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and fainting. To reduce the potential for heat stress, drink a glass of fluid every 15 - 20 minutes and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Additionally, incorporate work-rest cycles into work routines, work during the cooler hours of the day, when possible, or distribute the workload evenly throughout the day. When air conditioning is unavailable, open windows and use fans.
- Cold: Standing or working in water which is cooler than 75° F (24° C) will remove body heat more rapidly than it can be replaced, resulting in hypothermia. To reduce the risk of hypothermia, wear high rubber boots, ensuring that clothing and boots have adequate insulation, avoid working alone, take frequent breaks out of the water, and change into dry clothing when possible.
- Only those properly trained should operate heavy equipment such as bulldozers, backhoes, and tractors. If you are operating this type of equipment, turn it off and block it against motion prior to dismounting for any reason.
- Flood waters can rearrange and damage natural walkways, as well as sidewalks, parking lots, roads, buildings, and open fields. Never assume that water-damaged structures or ground are stable. Buildings that have been submerged or have withstood rushing flood waters may have suffered structural damage and could be dangerous. Don't work in or around any flood-damaged building until it has been examined and certified as safe for work by a registered professional engineer or architect. Assume all stairs, floors, and roofs are unsafe until they are inspected. Leave immediately if shifting or unusual noises signal a possible collapse.
- Flood waters can dislodge tanks, drums, pipes, and equipment, which may contain hazardous materials such as pesticides or propane. Do not attempt to move unidentified dislodged containers without first contacting the local fire department or hazardous material team. If working potentially contaminated areas, avoid skin contact or inhalation of vapors by wearing appropriate protective clothing and respirators. Frequently and thoroughly wash skin areas that may have been exposed to pesticides and other hazardous chemicals.
- Fire can pose a major threat to an already damaged flood area for several reasons:
- inoperative fire protection systems
- hampered fire department response
- inoperable firefighting water supplies
- flood-damaged fire protection systems
- Workers and employees must therefore take extra precautions. At least 2 fire extinguishers, each with a UL rating of at least 10A, should be provided at each cleanup job.
- When entering moving water, you are at risk for drowning, regardless of your ability to swim. Because those in vehicles are at greatest risk of drowning, it is important to comply with all hazard warnings on roadways and to avoid driving vehicles or heavy equipment into water of an unknown depth. Avoid working alone and wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when working in or near flood waters.
- First aid, even for minor cuts and burns is extremely important when exposure to waters potentially contaminated with human, animal, or toxic wastes exists. Immediately clean out all open wounds and cuts with soap and clean water. Most cuts, except minor scratches, sustained during flood cleanup activities will warrant treatment to prevent tetanus. If you are injured, contact a physician to determine the necessary type of treatment.
- For most work in flooded areas, you will need the following personal protective equipment:
- hard hats,
- heavy work gloves, and
- watertight boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank).
- Excessive noise from equipment such as chain saws, backhoes, tractors, pavement breakers, blowers, and dryers may cause ringing in the ears and subsequent hearing damage. If working with any noise that you must shout over to be heard, you should wear earplugs or other hearing protection devices.
Working in Confined Spaces
- If you are required to work in a boiler, furnace, pipeline, pit, pumping station, septic tank, sewage digester, storage tank, utility vault, well, or similar enclosure, you should be aware of the hazards of working in confined spaces. A confined space has one or more of the following characteristics:
- limited openings for entry or exit;
- unfavorable natural ventilation; or
- is not designed for continuous worker occupancy
- Toxic gases, a lack of oxygen, or explosive conditions may exist in the confined area, resulting in a potentially deadly atmosphere. Because many toxic gases and vapors cannot be seen or smelled, never trust your senses to determine if safe entry is possible. Never enter a confined space unless you have been properly trained, even to rescue a fellow worker! If you need to enter a confined space and do not have the proper training and equipment, contact your local fire department for assistance.
Stress, Long Hours, and Fatigue May Increase the Risks for Injury and Illness
- Continued long hours of work, combined with emotional and physical exhaustion and losses from damaged homes and temporary job layoffs can create a highly stressful situation for flood cleanup workers. Workers exposed to these stressful conditions have an increased risk of injury and emotional crisis, and are more vulnerable to stress-induced illness.
- Emotional support from family members, neighbors, and local mental health professionals can help to prevent more serious stress-related problems in the difficult months ahead.
- People working in all phases of flood cleanup can reduce their risks of injury and illness in several ways:
- Set priorities for cleanup tasks and pace the work over several days (or weeks). Avoid physical exhaustion.
- Resume a normal sleep schedule as quickly as possible. Get plenty of rest and take frequent rest breaks BEFORE exhaustion builds up.
- Take advantage of disaster relief programs and services in your community.
- Be alert to emotional exhaustion or strain. When family members and neighbors are unavailable for emotional support, consult professionals at community health and mental health centers.