How to stay healthy and safe during disaster cleanup

Risk SignNow that the water has receded, communities are busy cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Harvey. Take a look below at our tips to stay safe during disaster cleanup, with specific tips for different safety hazards you may face. You can also refer to our blog post, 5 steps to prepare for an emergency, to shape your disaster preparedness.

Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE)

Flood waters are known to carry many contaminants and if water entered your home or business, it may have brought toxins with it, including untreated sewage and industrial chemicals. Flood water can also bring the rapid growth of dangerous mold that can cause respiratory problems. For these reasons, PPE is crucial for cleaning up flood-damaged structures. According to the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), sufficient PPE includes respiratory masks, long sleeve shirts, pants, work boots, gloves and protective eye wear. This will protect against bacteria, spores and debris.

Know how to dispose of trash and debris

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has shared details on what to do with trash and debris from the storm. The TCEQ has also approved 118 waste management sites to help with the cleanup. Certain types of waste and debris can be recycled or safely burned onsite, so it’s important to know what options are available. Click here for guidance on managing debris from the TCEQ.

Take caution with food and water

A natural disaster can leave homes and businesses without power, which interferes with kitchen refrigeration, and flood waters that enter a property can spoil food. Don’t take any chances. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises discarding any food that may have come in contact with storm water. When in doubt, throw it out.

Be sure to follow guidance from the EPA on the safety of your drinking water and boil it if necessary. The EPA is continuing to monitor the safety and health of water sources and wastewater treatment plants after Harvey.

Think about the health of emergency responders

Being the first on the scene, emergency responders brave the unknown to help others to safety. It’s important to monitor emergency responders’ health following a disaster. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a new free app to help monitor the health of emergency responders following a natural disaster or public health emergency. With the app, emergency responders can be monitored during and after a response to determine if they need medical attention or further health surveillance.

Find more resources below on staying safe when cleaning up after a disaster:

Visit the Safety Resource Center of your account for more than 2,000 free resources including emergency and disaster planning videos and presentations to keep your employees safe. If your business has been significantly affected by Hurricane Harvey, visit to see what Texas Mutual is doing to help and to find resources for your business.

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