Over the past week, KwaZulu-Natal has experienced heavy rainfall which Officials have called one of the worst weather storms in South Africa's history. Local and international news channels are broadcasting scenes of the destruction and flooding in the area. It is daunting. How would you prepare for an unexpected event like this?
There are a few more obvious things to mention upfront, like keeping a first aid kit stocked and making sure you have candles, torches and spare batteries. And then there are a few things that may not jump to mind immediately - like putting important paperwork and documents in a waterproof bag. I don’t want to sound too negative, but I would encourage you to do some research on your own. The Western Cape Government had a good Flood Preparation summary to get you started.
The thing that continues to play on my mind is how you maintain hygiene during a flood. Healthy habits are always important but during a natural disaster may become a secondary concern. Although you are surrounded by water, the water is more than likely contaminated with sewage, chemicals and other pollutants. Your first priority should be to stock up on clean, safe water.
During a flood, clean water will be one of your most prized possessions and needs to be used sparingly but I would urge you not to skimp on the essentials.
Do I continue to wash my hands?
During any natural disaster, including flooding, you really need to continue washing your hands properly to limit the spread of germs. I would recommend avoiding tap water until the local authorities have deemed it safe for use, so consider washing your hands with disinfected - or boiled - water when possible. If you need a refresher on the correct hand washing technique download our handwashing guide.
Remember to compliment your handwashing practices with a hand sanitiser during this time, especially if you are worried about water quality and water scarcity.
What water do I use to brush my teeth?
It is recommended that you only use safe drinking water to brush your teeth so that you limit the risk of ingesting contaminated water.
Can I bath?
The CDC recommends that clean, safe water is used for bathing and that it is important to check in with your local authorities to confirm if your water is safe to bathe in. If the water is safe for bathing but not for consumption it is advisable to avoid swallowing the water or getting it into your eyes.
How do I clean my house?
It is recommended that you filter and boil all water before using it for cleaning as you will still come into contact with those surfaces. It is best to contact the local authorities to check on the severity of water contamination in your area.
During a flood it is important to save water. Your behaviour during this time is very similar to that of your behaviour during a drought. Your primary goal is to save clean, safe water and to maximise the usage of safe water during this time. For more ideas on how you can save water, take a look at a blog post related to the Cape Town drought we published.
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