Re-entry, clean-up Safety Precautions List

[This is important.  Health hazards (injury, respiratory illness, etc.) are being reported among people clearing fire debris. Cleanup is hazardous work: Don't bring kids, WEAR A MASK, fitted well, plus long pants/sleeves, and follow these:
Safety Precautions for Re-entry and Clean-up after Fire

by Texas Department of Public Safety (9/22/11)

Personal safety: When returning to an area affected by fire, protect yourself and your family from wildfire ash and injury from nails and other sharp objects. Spend as little time as possible at burned properties.   

• Children, individuals with pre-existing lung or cardiovascular problems, pregnant women, elderly, and smokers are especially vulnerable to environmental hazards such as smoke. Children are in critical period of development when toxic exposures can have profound effects, and their exploratory behavior often places them in direct contact with materials that adults would avoid. Children should not be in the area with ash and damaged structures until cleanup is completed. Do not leave children unattended at burned properties.

• Watch for repeated coughing, nausea, unusual fatigue or dizziness, particularly if there is a medical history of chronic lung disease (like asthma or COPD) or heart disease. Contact your healthcare providers if you have questions or 911 for emergencies.

• Ash: Adults should use a protective mask (N-95 or P-100) while in areas where ash particles cannot be controlled. Ash and dust from burned buildings may contain toxic and cancer-causing chemicals including asbestos, arsenic and lead. If properly fitted, the N-95 mask blocks at least 95% of very small particles. N-95 masks are not designed for children or people with facial hair, subsequently they will not provide full protection.

• Protective clothing is important: wear goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank), long sleeves, and long pants to avoid skin contact.

• Cleaning: Avoid activity that stirs the ash. Do not use leaf blowers or take other actions that will put ash in the air. Gentle sweeping of indoor or outdoor surfaces in the best procedure in most cases. Use a wet cloth to clean items and a wet mop to clean floors and decks using the least amount of water necessary. Avoid items that may contain chemicals including: batteries, paints, pesticides, plastics, melted metal and electric wire.

• Debris: Broken glass and exposed: wires, nails, wood, metal, plastic, as well as other debris can cause puncture wounds, cuts and burns. Falling trees and tree limbs while using chain saws can cause severe injuries.

• Watch for Ash Pits and mark them for safety. Ash pits are holes of hot ashes, created by burned trees and stumps. Falling into the ash pits or landing in them with your hands or feet can cause serious burns.

• Get a tetanus shot if you have not had a booster in 10 years or cannot remember when your last shot was, and be careful. For those people who are uninsured or under-insured, you may receive a tetanus shot at the Department of State Health Service clinic at 104 Loop 150, Suite #2 in Bastrop from 9am-noon and 1:00pm-4:00pm. Please call the health department office for an appointment at 512-321-3982.

• Food:  Discard food that may have spoiled, thawed or come into contact with hazardous materials like fire retardant or ash. Loss of power to refrigeration and freezer units can cause food to spoil. If you are not certain food is safe, throw it out.

• Electricity: Avoid downed or damaged electrical lines. Electrical repairs should be done by a qualified technician.

• Propane: If a home propane tank is damaged and leaking, call 9-1-1 and the propane service provider. Do not transport leaking propane tanks in a car or dispose of them in the trash.

• Chemicals: Ash and debris inside burned structures may contain more toxic substances than forest fire ash because of the many chemicals and other materials present in buildings. Older buildings in particular may contain asbestos and lead. A more cautious approach should be taken in the removal of ash and other debris form inside burned structures. Household chemicals can be dangerous. Use protective clothing, gloves and caution when cleaning areas that may be contaminated with bleach, pesticides, herbicides, Drano, ammonia, gasoline and other flammable or toxic chemicals.

• Water: To ensure destruction of all harmful bacteria and other microbes, water for drinking, cooking, and ice making should be boiled and cooled prior to consumption. The water should be brought to a vigorous boil and then boiled for two minutes. For more information visit: http://aquawsc.com/news/2011/09/09/updated-boil-water-notice1.

Restoration Services:
• To obtain information on fire damage clean up, visit the FEMA website http://www.fema.gov/rebuild/recover/resources.shtm   for a link to Rebuilding Resources, or go directly to the Better Business Bureau at http://www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/  and search “Fire Damage Restoration” for a local contractor.

• Disposal of Domestic or Exotic Livestock Carcasses: Depending on the situation, there are several options including on-site burial, composting, or sending the carcass to a landfill, renderer, or commercial waste incinerator. Contact the TCEQ Austin Region Office 512-339-2929 or visit the “Texas Wildfire Link” at www.tceq.state.tx.us for disposal regulations.

• On-Site Sewage Facilities: If the septic system is malfunctioning or inoperable consider contacting a licensed professional to repair/install your septic system. If you have questions contact the Bastrop County Authorized Agent, Phillip Merino, at 512-581-7176 or the TCEQ OSSF Program at 512-239-3799.

• Debris Management: At the writing of this guidance, Bastrop County was identifying potential locations to be utilized as debris management sites. The site(s) will serve as debris staging areas where debris can be dropped off, sorted, and sent for appropriate disposal. Visit the“Texas Wildfire Link” at www.tceq.state.tx.us for debris management guidance.     <check BastropRelief.org/cleanup>

Mental Health: Mental health is also a concern as people deal with the traumatic events that surround a fire. Common feelings after a wildfire include fear, sadness and guilt. People can have trouble sleeping or feel anxious, irritable, or numb. These symptoms are normal, for assistance to cope with these recent traumatic events visit these resources:

• For mental health assistance or additional information, dial 2-1-1.

• For online information, go to www.dshs.state.tx.us  or www.TexasPrepares.org

For more public health information about protecting yourself and your family or to learn how to get your family prepared in the event of an emergency go to  www.dshs.state.tx.us/region7 and select the “wildfires” and “important public health information”.  <direct link here>