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Healthline Connects

So You Think You Want to Volunteer as a Disaster Responder?

That is wonderful news to the people who need help, but organizations like the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) want you to be prepared. Flood waters are often contaminated with sewage, chemicals, and pesticides; physical hazards may be submerged or floating and displaced animals, reptiles and even insects represent dangers to the relief worker. It is important to be equipped with the right personal protection equipment (PPE) and clothing to protect yourself from hazards of the job. NIOSH recommends:

  • Electrically insulated, waterproof boots with a steel shank toe and insole. Sneakers are not acceptable as they transfer contamination and do not protect against puncture, bites or crush injuries. Hip waders offer further protection against contaminated floodwaters.
  • Safety glasses with face shields
  • Protective head gear - a hardhat may be required in some settings
  • Hearing protection
  • Heavy, waterproof cut-resistant gloves
  • Long pants and long-sleeved shirts or coveralls
  • NIOSH approved respirators (breathing protection) may be required in some circumstances
Other recommendations: wash hands with soap and clean water before eating and drinking. Drink bottled water and take frequent rest breaks. Use insect repellent and sun block. Wear waterproof gloves and dressings to protect any open abrasions or wounds.

Be Prepared: Call your local Fire Department and sign up for Certified Emergency Response Team (CERT) training in your community today. Children as young as 14 years old may participate with an adult. This activity will serve as the required Community Service hours for Middle and High School students.

Thank you soldiersmediacenter for use of photo Iowa Flood 2008
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