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RED CROSS TIPS TO AVOID WATER DANGER, DAMAGE

Nov. 18, 2003 – The American Red Cross of the Virgin Islands has provided services to more than 20 families affected by the recent weather conditions and has issued the guidelines below for residents to mitigate danger and damage due to flooding.
Red Cross shelters were opened temporarily last Thursday evening on St. Thomas and St. Croix but subsequently closed due to the lack of need, the local organization reported on Monday.
Family service teams have been seeking to determine social service and mental health needs of residents experiencing flooding and damage to their homes, and staff and volunteer teams have been assessing property damages upon request, a release stated.
The local Red Cross is continuing to provide cleaning kits to persons with a verified need throughout the territory.
For more information, call the local Red Cross office for St. Thomas/St. John at 774-0375 or for St. Croix at 771-5104.
Safety guidelines
– Seek necessary medical care at the nearest hospital or clinic. Contaminated flood waters increase the possibility of infection. Severe injuries require medical attention.
– Help neighbors who may require special assistance — infants, elderly people and persons with disabilities. People who care for the elderly or disabled or who have large families may need additional assistance.
– Avoid disaster areas. The presence of onlookers could hamper rescue and other emergency operations and also put the onlookers at further risk from residual effects of floods, such as contaminated waters, crumbled roads, landslides and mudslides.
– Continue to listen to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio or to the weather reports on local radio or television stations; if you have been evacuated, return home only when authorities say it is safe to do so. Flood dangers do not end when the water begins to recede; if there are flood-related hazards within your community, you could hear about them from local broadcasts.
– Stay out of any building still surrounded by flood waters. Flood waters often undermine foundations, causing sinking; floors can crack or break, and buildings can collapse.
– Avoid entering any building (home, business or other) before local officials have said it is safe to do so. Buildings may have unseen damage that makes them unsafe. Gas leaks or electric or waterline damage can create additional problems.
– Report broken utility lines to the Water and Power Authority. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury.
– Avoid smoking inside buildings. Smoking in confined areas can cause fires.
– When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Building damage may have occurred where you least expect it. Watch carefully every step you take.
– Wear sturdy shoes. The most common injury following a disaster is cut feet.
– Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. Battery-powered lighting is the safest and easiest, preventing fire hazard for the user, occupants and building.
– Examine walls, floors, doors, staircases and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
– Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. Such damage to a foundation can render a building uninhabitable.
– Look for fire hazards. There may be broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical circuits or submerged electrical appliances. Flammable or explosive materials may travel from upstream. Fire is the most frequent hazard following floods.
– Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside tank valve if you can and call the gas company from another location.
– Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Do not step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker; call an electrician for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
– Check for sewage and waterline damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If potable water pipes are damaged, contact WAPA and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.
– Watch out for animals that may have come into buildings with the flood waters. Use a stick to poke through debris. Flood waters flush many animals out of their homes.
– Watch for loose plaster, drywall and ceilings that could fall.
– Take photographs of the damage to your property, both the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
– Throw away food that has come in contact with flood waters. Some canned foods may be salvageable. If the cans are dented or damaged, however, throw them away. Food contaminated by flood waters can cause severe infections.
– If water is of questionable purity, boil it or add bleach. Distill drinking water before using. Wells or cisterns inundated by flood waters should be pumped out and the water should be tested for purity before it is used for drinking. If in doubt, call the Health Department. Ill health effects often occur when people drink water contaminated with bacteria and germs.
– Pump out flooded subsurface rooms gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage. If the water is all pumped out at once, pressure from water-saturated soil on the outside could cause underground walls to collapse.
– Have damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems serviced as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are health hazards.

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