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ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PREPAREDNESS FOR EL NIÑO

Weather experts predict that strong El Niño conditions will have an impact on our winter storm patterns. Long Beach should be prepared for frequent and powerful storms from December 2015 through March 2016. The City’s Disaster Preparedness Department provides information and resources to assist residents in developing plans for what to do before, during, and after these storms. (Visit their El Niño page for more information.)

Additionally, there are steps you can take to keep your family healthy during a heavy storm season. What things can you do to protect your health?

Flooding

Keep Food Safe When Flooding Occurs 

  • Do not eat any food that may have come in contact with flood water.
  • Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. 
  • Thoroughly wash pans, dishes, utensils (including can openers) and plates with soap and hot water if available. Rinse, and then sanitize by boiling in clean water or placing in a bleach and water solution (More information here on making a bleach/water solution).
  • Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water, rinse, and then sanitize with a bleach and water solution.
  • Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and Retort pouches can be saved if this procedure is followed:
    • Remove labels, brush or wipe away soil, and thoroughly wash cans or pouches with soap and safe water.
    • Sterilize cans or pouches by boiling for 2 minutes or placing in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water for 15 minutes.
    • Air dry and re-label, including the expiration date if available.   
     

Wash Your Hands to Prevent the Spread of Germs

  • If you come into contact with flood water, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water. 
  • If your tap water is not safe to use, wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected. A temporary hand washing station can be created by using a large water jug that contains clean water. 
Hand Washing Station 
  • If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty.

Mold After a Disaster

  • When returning to a home that has been flooded, be aware that mold may be present and may be a health risk for your family. Clean up and dry out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours)
  • Open doors and windows, use fans, and remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. To prevent mold growth clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water. To remove mold growth from hard surfaces use a solution of no more than 1 cup of household laundry bleach in 1 gallon of water. 
    • Open windows and doors to provide fresh air
    • Never mix bleach with ammonia
    • Wear non-porous gloves and protective eye wear 
    • Refer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home for additional resources and guidelines.
     

Power Outage

Keep Food Safe During a Power Outage

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperatures.
    • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is not opened.
    • A full freezer will keep the temperatures for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.  
  • Buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator cold if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time.
  • Thoroughly cook food to the proper temperature to assure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present is destroyed.
  • If at any point food is above 40⁰F for 2 hours or more discard it.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with safe drinking water before eating.
  • Use prepared, canned baby formula or powered formula with bottled water.

Food Safety Once Power is Restored

  • If the freezer thermometer reads 40⁰F or below the food is safe to refreeze or cook. Check each package. Discard any food that does not still contain ice crystals.
  • Refrigerated food should be safe if the refrigerator was out for less than 4 hours and the door was kept shut.
  • Discard all perishable food including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers that have been above 40⁰F for two hours or more.

Contaminated Drinking Water Supply

Drink Safe Water

  • The City’s Water Department will provide guidance (on our website, on social media, and through other announcements) on the status of the City’s drinking water supply. 
    • Boil water if instructed. Boil it for at least 1 minute (start counting when the water comes to a constant boil). Let the water cool sufficiently before drinking. Boiling kills germs in the water.
    • Use bottled water if instructed. Sometimes after a disaster, there may be chemicals in the water that boiling cannot remove. 
    • More information on safe water is available from Disaster Preparedness.
     

Safe Water - Things You Should Never Do

Never drink the water unless you know it is safe.
Never wash or clean dishes, utensils, toys, or other objects in the water unless you know it is safe.
Never bathe in the water unless you know it is safe.
Never cook with the water unless you know it is safe.
Never brush your teeth with the water unless you know it is safe.
Never use the water to make ice unless you know it is safe.

Special Information for Food Facilities

Food facilities, such as restaurants, bars, markets, snack stands, or other businesses that serve or prepare food to the public should follow these guidelines on what to do during a disaster. Food facilities should temporarily close their business if the following conditions exist, until corrective action has been completed: lack of power, lack of hot and cold safe drinking water, flooding, or any other immediate risk to public health such as structural damage to the building, inoperable/ damaged food equipment, vermin issues, plumbing backups, etc.

For additional information for on food facility requirements, please call the Bureau of Environmental Health at (562) 570-4132.