In my last column, I wrote about the importance of preparing for winter. I didn't expect the floods.
We all know the risks associated with flash flooding, but not to this extent - not standing water in neighborhoods, and even towns, for days.
This disaster unfortunately reinforces one of my main messages: Prepare for the unexpected as well as the expected. That means having an evacuation plan and a bug-out bag (packed with emergency supplies) ready to grab in a moment's notice no matter the reason. Store adequate food, water and medical supplies at home as well.
But preparedness isn't only for the disaster; it's also for the aftermath. And no matter the disaster, remember that oftentimes as many people get hurt after it as during it.
Floodwater - We've seen the damage it can cause initially, but it also poses many risks during the cleanup. Floodwater will be contaminated with bacteria, viruses and chemicals. Surface and underground pollution mixes through most floodwaters.
Stay out of the water as much as you can, or at least wear rubber boots high enough to keep the water from splashing inside. Wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when you get back inside. If running water isn't available, use one of the numerous waterless hand sanitizers on the market.
Electricity - Never assume a downed power line is not live. Avoid it and the water around it, even if you're wearing rubber boots. The same applies to your house. A little bit of water can connect an electric current from the source to you very efficiently.
West Nile virus - Mosquito bites are how you contract West Nile, and mosquitoes are going to love this stagnant water. Cover up, wear insect repellent and try to avoid being outside around dusk.
Carbon monoxide - For anyone using a generator, carbon monoxide poisoning is a risk. Never operate the generator inside. If it's outside, keep it away from windows, doors and vents.
Chainsaws - Don't use one if you don't know how. And if you do, don't get cocky. A doctor friend suffered a really bad cut to his forehead while using one, and a construction-worker friend ended up in the hospital after a deep cut to his leg.
I suture up veteran users all the time who claim they can't understand how the injury happened.
It can happen to anyone, especially with a lapse in concentration. Wear safety goggles, use chainsaw-resistant gloves and consider chaps.
Hypothermia - If you're wet, heat transfers from your body about 30 times more effectively than if you're dry. People in water, or whose clothes are soaked, can get hypothermic even when the temperature is in the 50s.
The bottom line is think before you act. The dangers don't stop because the rain has. You can learn more about West Nile, carbon monoxide and hypothermia online at TheSurvivalDoctor.com.
Family doctor James Hubbard teaches how to survive during disasters or any time you can't get expert medical help at TheSurvivalDoctor.com.