HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi Red Cross is providing disaster relief to flood victims across the Pine Belt.
"We are really focusing on our damage assessment to make sure that we're verifying where the damage is, so we know where the people are that are going to need assistance," said Angie Grajeda, Red Cross Disaster program manager for Southeast Mississippi. "We have our casework teams coming in, and they're getting set up to do casework to understand better what people need and how we can help refer them to other agencies that are coming to town, talk to them about their recovery plan and how they can get back to sort of a state of 'normal' to some degree."
Christy Allen's home was completely flooded.
"When I got right there to the living room, couches and beds were just floating out," Allen said. "I'm crying because we've lost everything, and I've worked so hard just to get what we do have."
Grajeda said the Red Cross has been providing basic necessities, like food and shelter, for days, and now that the waters are receding, they are also focusing on clean up efforts.
"We have a lot of items that we're just sort of pushing out to help with clean up," Grajeda said. "Different things like bleach and clean up kits and tarps and rakes and shovels and gloves. We're going various communities that we know have been flooded, but the water is now receding. We're making sure people have access to those items."
According to the American Institute of Architects, there are guidelines that should be followed when cleaning a home after a flood:
- style="text-align: justify;">First, the institute recommends cross ventilation to speed up the drying process. Fans and air conditioning can also be used, but AIA said do not use heaters. Heaters can increase humidity and help mildew and bacteria grow.
- style="text-align: justify;">When you do start cleaning, AIA said disinfecting is essential. It recommends using household bleach mixed with water to prevent the growth of mildew and mold. "It is recommended that the bleach be mixed at a ratio of 5 to 1 (five parts water to one part bleach). Use of a standard garden type sprayer will help with thorough application of the bleach mixture. Wash down all surfaces, being sure to wear appropriate gear such as rubber gloves. Face-masks and goggles are also recommended."
- style="text-align: justify;">Be sure the power is turned off to the building that was flooded.
- style="text-align: justify;">Check that mortar has not been washed away from the building's foundation.
- style="text-align: justify;">Remove all carpet. If floors are vinyl, AIA said edges may curl, and removal will likely be necessary. Woods floors will also likely be damaged and need removal.
- style="text-align: justify;">Sheetrock exposed or in contact with water for longer than two hours will require replacement. It should be cut horizontally at least 12 inches above the high water line and completely remove it all the way back down to the floor.
- style="text-align: justify;">Ductwork systems also need to be flushed thoroughly and disinfected, as water that has filled the ductwork will deposit bacteria and germs that can introduce illnesses into the structure when the system is utilized.
- style="text-align: justify;">Water can collect in gas lines, so that system needs to be checked. Appliances also need to be checked that they are working properly.
- style="text-align: justify;">Electrical systems should be thoroughly checked, especially if the water rose above the wall outlets. Be sure to call a professional if you have concerns about your electrical system.
- style="text-align: justify;">Cover any water stain with white shellac or other paint type materials before you repaint.
"We are using bleach at this point because it hasn't really set in hopefully, but if there's a big issue with mold, there's usually some groups that come into town that do mold remediation," Grajeda said.
Allen said, "Bleach mainly. We're just sweeping everything out trying to get most of the water off of the floor. We're just basically going through the house getting what we can save and salvage, drying it out, and what we can't, we're just throwing away slowly, but surely."
She said kits also include items to keep homeowners safe as they clean.
"We do have some masks, so when they are cleaning, they're able to not breathe all of that stuff," she said. "We have some work gloves, so they don't hurt themselves as well."
Grajeda said along with physical health services, the Red Cross is also providing mental health services to anyone feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the floods or clean up process.
If you need assistance from the Red Cross, you can call the Hattiesburg office at (601) 582-8151. If you would like to volunteer, Grajeda said to visit their Hattiesburg office at 2020 Hardy Street.