hurricane swaying palm trees, flooding with road closed sign, firefighter equipment

Storm, Flood, and Hurricane Response

Storm and flood cleanup activities can be hazardous. Workers and volunteers involved with flood cleanup should be aware of the potential dangers involved, and the proper safety precautions. Work-related hazards that could be encountered include: electrical hazards, Carbon Monoxide, musculoskeletal hazards, heat stress, motor vehicles, hazardous materials, fire, confined spaces and falls. Links to information about hazards associated with storm and flood cleanup can be found below. This information is intended to help employers and workers prepare in advance for anticipated response activities, and to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the field once rescue, recovery, and clean-up begin.

What Services Can CDC/NIOSH Provide to Employers and Employees Involved in Hurricane Recovery?

Describes the type of services available for workers and provides information regarding the worksite hazard evaluation program available to workers affected by hurricane recovery.

CDC/NIOSH Hurricane Key Messages

This document focuses on key messages to prevent diseases, injuries and fatalities of employers, workers, and volunteers responding to hurricanes.

CDC/NIOSH Hurricane Key MessagesCdc-pdf
Español (Spanish)Cdc-pdf
中文 (Chinese)Cdc-pdf
Việt (Vietnamese)Cdc-pdf

NIOSH Interim Guidance for Pre-exposure Medical Screening of Workers Deployed for Hurricane Disaster Work
This document provides interim guidance on medical screening for workers before beginning disaster response activities. It will be updated or revised as appropriate, as additional information becomes available. These materials were developed for Hurricane Katrina but may be applicable for other hurricane responses.

NIOSH Interim Post exposure Medical Screening of Workers Leaving Hurricane Disaster Recovery Areas
Provides Information on working in physically demanding, unclean, or unstable work environments, such as hurricane recovery areas.

CDC Immunization Recommendations for Disaster Responders
Provides information on required immunizations for hurricane responders.

These interim forms were developed by NIOSH as survey tools for occupational safety and health purposes in the response to Hurricane Katrina but may be applicable for other hurricane responses. The interim forms are posted here to provide information to occupational safety and health professionals who are interested in NIOSH efforts to prevent injuries and illnesses among hospital, shelter, and health department employees involved in a hurricane response, and who may be looking for tools to ensure health and safety in their own operations.

The interim forms are key to critical information for assessing the potential occupational safety and health impacts of hurricane response on health care, health department, and shelter employees. The interim forms are being used by NIOSH and its colleagues in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to assess occupational safety and health status and needs for employees in those facilities.

Occupational Health and Safety Survey Tool – Hospitals and Medical Care FacilitiesCdc-pdf

Occupational Health and Safety Survey Tool – ROC/JFO/Health Dept/FieldCdc-pdf

Occupational Health and Safety Survey Tool – SheltersCdc-pdf

American Industrial Hygiene Association Mold Resource CenterExternal

Provides recommendations to prevent exposures when there is contamination from mold. The site offers a list of resources related to mold response from different agencies and organizations.

NIOSH Interim Recommendations for the Cleaning and Remediation of Flood-Contaminated HVAC Systems: A Guide for Building Owners and Managers
During flooding, systems for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) can become submerged in flood waters. The following recommendations will help ensure that HVAC systems contaminated with flood water are properly cleaned and remediated to provide healthy indoor environments.

Mold Prevention Strategies and Possible Health Effects in the Aftermath of Hurricanes and Major Floods
Extensive water damage after major hurricanes and floods increases the likelihood of mold contamination in buildings. This report provides information on how to limit exposure to mold and how to identify and prevent mold-related health effects.

NIOSH Indoor Environmental Quality Topic Page
“Indoor Environmental Quality,” as the name implies, simply refers to the quality of the air in an office or other building environments. Workers are often concerned that they have symptoms or health conditions from exposures to contaminants in the buildings where they work.

NIOSH Alert: Preventing Occupational Respiratory Disease from Exposures Caused by Dampness in Office Buildings, Schools, and Other Nonindustrial Buildings
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2013-102 (November 2012)
Office buildings, schools, and other nonindustrial buildings may develop moisture and dampness problems from roof and window leaks, high indoor humidity, and flooding events, among other things. For this Alert, we define “dampness” as the presence of unwanted and excessive moisture in buildings.

OSHA Fact Sheet – Fungi Hazards and Flood CleanupCdc-pdfExternal

Fact Sheet describing the type of conditions that contribute to the growth of fungi and how to manage it. The factsheet provides specific recommendations on the use of respirators for clean-up workers in different settings that may be exposed to mold and fungi.

University of Connecticut Health, Center for Indoor Environments and Health – Hurricanes and MoldExternal

List of recommendations for workers on how to protect themselves from exposures related to mold and moistures. There are basic risk messages and recovery recommendations for workers, volunteers and residents regarding storms.

NIOSH Carbon Monoxide Hazards from Small Gasoline Powered Engines Topic Page
Small gasoline-powered engines, such as generators, can pose a serious health hazard following natural disasters. They produce high concentrations of CO–a poisonous gas that can cause illness, permanent neurological damage, and death. This web page provides recommendations for employers, equipment users, tool rental agencies, and tool manufacturers for preventing CO poisoning.

CDC Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Topic Page
This web page contains reports detailing the problems associated with carbon monoxide from portable generators, motorboats, fires, and other emission sources.

CDC Hurricanes – Health and Safety
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resource for Hurricane recovery and preparedness. Includes key facts, food and water safety, Mental Health, Electrical Hazards among other resources.

NIOSH Warns of Hazards of Flood Cleanup Work
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-123 (1994)
En Español
Overview of hazards flood workers face during cleanup operations. The website provides recommendations on how to prevent injury and illness while performing cleanup activities.

NIOSH Emergency Response Resources – Natural Disasters
A sub-page of the NIOSH Emergency Response Resources Area containing links to information about natural disasters, flood and hurricane response, and personal protective equipment.

NIOSH Confined Spaces Topic Page
“Confined Space” refers to a space which by design has limited openings for entry and exit, unfavorable natural ventilation which could contain or produce dangerous air contaminants, and which is not intended for continuous employee occupancy.

NIOSH Interim Guidance: Working Safely in Confined Spaces
This document provides NIOSH interim guidelines regarding work in confined spaces in response to a hurricane. Flooding and hazardous materials spills or releases may create dangerous confined spaces in basements and enclosed rooms. Similarly, building damage and collapses may create confined space hazards by restricting entry and exit and exposing workers to physical or environmental hazards.

NIOSH Cold Stress Topic Page
Workers who are exposed to extreme cold or work in cold environments may be at risk of cold stress. This topic page explains the types of cold stress and the effects each has on workers and provides recommendations for employers and for workers on how to prevent cold stress.

NIOSH Emergency Response Disaster Site Management Page
Provides links to general information on Disaster Site Management such as work plan essentials, site safety and team leader checklists. Also includes links to information on potential hazards (e.g. Silica, Asbestos, Carbon Monoxide, Electrocution, Falls, Confined Spaces, and Chemical, Structural, and Mechanical Hazards) and recommendations.

NIOSH Traumatic Injury: Electrical Safety Topic Page
Extensive list of NIOSH publications on electrical safety/electrocution.

NIOSH Alert: Request for Assistance in Preventing Fatalities of Workers Who Contact Electrical Energy 
DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No. 87-103
Includes recommendations that can be used to help save the lives of workers who contact electrical energy. Recent incidents have shown that electrocution victims can be revived if immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or defibrillation is provided.

OSHA Electrical Topic PageExternal
Addresses such questions as: What OSHA standards apply? What information is available for the construction industry? What information is available about silica and its health effects? How are silica exposures evaluated in the workplace? What are some examples of possible solutions for workplace hazards? And What additional information is available?

Falls from Elevations Topic Page
Falls from elevation hazards are present at most every jobsite, and many workers are exposed to these hazards daily. Any walking/working surface could be a potential fall hazard.

NIOSH Interim Guidance on Health and Safety Issues Among Clean-Up Workers Involved with Burning of Hurricane Debris
The large amounts of debris caused by hurricanes can lead to an extended clean-up involving many methods of debris disposal. Clean-up workers who may be less familiar with fire safety than are firefighters may use burning as a method of debris disposal. This document contains guidelines for preventing injury and illness during burning activities.

NIOSH Interim Guidelines for Fire Fighting Operations in a Hurricane Response
This document provides recommendations for preventing injury, illness, and death among fire fighters working in response to a hurricane.

NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program
NIOSH conducts independent investigations of fire fighter line of duty deaths. This web page provides access to complete lists of NIOSH investigation reports and other fire fighter safety publications and resources.

NIOSH Emergency Response Chemical Hazards Page
Chemical agent information is needed for workers to appropriately plan for risks resulting from possible chemical incidents. Several organizations have developed information databases, including short-term and long-term criteria, each with specific purposes, exposure scenarios, and severity of adverse health effects considered in their development.

Health Care Workers Topic Page
Health care workers face a wide range of hazards on the job, including needle stick injuries, back injuries, latex allergy, violence, and stress.

NIOSH Bloodborne Infectious Diseases HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B Virus, and Hepatitis C Virus Topic Page 
Exposures to blood and other body fluids occur across a wide variety of occupations. Health care workers, emergency response and public safety personnel, and other workers can be exposed to blood through needle stick and other sharps injuries, mucous membrane and skin exposures.

NIOSH Heat Stress Topic Page
Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. This topic page explains the types of heat stress and the effects each has on workers and provides recommendations for employers and for workers on how to prevent heat stress.

Health Concerns Associated with Disaster Victim Identification After a Tsunami
MMWR Vol 54, No 14;349 04/15/2005
Gives techniques for victim identification in a disaster area, and provides information on health concerns and the establishment of temporary morgues.

Interim Health Recommendations for Workers who Handle Human Remains
Provides recommendations for individuals who must have direct contact with human remains.

PAHO Management of Dead Bodies in Disaster SituationsCdc-pdfExternal
This manual provides the technical information needed to support State authorities in the proper management of dead bodies

NIOSH Motor Vehicles Topic Page
Motor vehicle-related highway crashes are consistently the leading cause of work-related fatalities.

NIOSH Machine Safety Topic Page
Machinery-related hazards are present in virtually every industry. Workers are exposed to these hazards daily in construction, farming, and manufacturing.

NIOSH Alert: Preventing Injuries and Deaths from Skid Steer Loaders
En Español
DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No. 98-117
Describes six deaths involving skid steer loaders and recommends methods for preventing similar incidents.

NIOSH Hazard-Based Interim Guidelines: Protective Equipment For Workers In Hurricane Flood Response
Provides general guidance for personal protective equipment for workers responding in hurricane flood zones.

NIOSH Interim Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing for Flood Response Workers
Provides information on hazards to flood cleanup workers, and guidance for selecting clothing and protective equipment.

NIOSH Emergency Response Personal Protective Equipment Page
Personal protective equipment is very important for any emergency responder. There are five main types of PPE that are covered on this page: respirators and protective clothing (selection, proper use, etc.), skin exposures and eye and hearing protection.

OSHA Fact Sheet – Hand hygiene and Protective Gloves in Hurricane-Affected AreasCdc-pdfExternal

Factsheet describing the importance of taking precautions to minimize the exposure to contaminated flood waters emphasizing proper hand hygiene and the use of protective gloves.

OSHA fact Sheet – Hurricane Sandy PPE MatrixExternal

Table that recommends the use of specific personal protective equipment based on the type of activity the worker performs.

Worker Information

Archive page containing general information for workers that may be exposed to radioactivity as a result of radiation dispersal from the Fukushima radioactive incident.

NIOSH Traumatic Incident Stress Topic Page
Provides NIOSH recommendations for workers to reduce the risk of experiencing stress during and after a traumatic event.

Guidance for managing worker fatigue during disaster operationsCdc-pdf
This document is intended to serve as a hands-on manual to assist organizations with the development of programs and plans to address fatigue issues among disaster workers.

Traumatic Incident Stress: Information For Emergency Response Workers
En Español
NIOSH Publication No. 2002-107
Describes the dangers and symptoms of Traumatic Incident Stress and includes resources for coping.

CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response: Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event
This web page provides general information for individuals, parents, and families for coping during and after a disaster or traumatic event.

Other Stress and Fatigue Resources

Interactive Online Course for Psychological First Aid TrainingExternal
This 6-hour interactive course puts the participant in the role of a provider in a post-disaster setting. This professionally-narrated course is for individuals new to disaster response and who want to learn the core action of PFA, as well as for seasoned practitioners who want a review. This project was funded by SAMHSA, NCPTSD, NACCHO, and HHS Office of the Surgeon General, Office of the Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps.

Psychological First Aid (Japanese Version)External
NCTSN partners at the Hyogo Institute for Traumatic Stress in Kobe Japan translated the entire field guide. The guide can be accessed from the home page of the NCTSN website (www.NCTSN.orgExternal) in the What’s New box.

Materials on the Impact of Earthquakes and Tsunamis on Children and FamiliesExternal
The NCTSN website (www.nctsn.org) has dedicated web pages on the readiness, response, and recovery after various natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis. The NCTSN also has additional information on the impact of tsunamis and earthquakes. To get to these additional materials, go to the What’s New box of the home pageExternal and click on the word earthquake or tsunami. Some of these resources include:

  • Psychological Impacts of Tsunamis (long and brief version)
  • Talking with Children about Tsunamis
  • Parent Guidelines for Helping Children after an Earthquake
  • Teacher Guidelines for Helping Students after an Earthquake
  • Tips for Parents on Media Coverage of the Earthquake
  • Guidance for Caregivers: Children or Teens who had a Loved One Die in the Earthquake
  • Guidance for School Personnel: Students Who had a Loved One Die in the Earthquake

Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a Disaster
Chain saws are widely used to remove fallen trees and tree branches after hurricanes and other natural disasters. This CDC fact sheet provides information on chain saw safety and tips on avoiding injury from the release of bent trees or branches.

Preventing Falls and Electrocutions During Tree Trimming
DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No. 92-106
Many tree trimmers and their employers may lack training and knowledge of OSHA standards and/or may be unaware of the risk posed by inadequate or improper safety procedures and equipment. This Alert describes eight incidents involving five electrocutions and three fatal falls of tree trimmers.

NIOSH West Nile Virus Topic Page
Provides detailed information and FAQs about West Nile Virus and the potential occupational hazards and risks of WNV exposure and infection.

NIOSH Recommendations for Protecting Outdoor Workers from West Nile Virus Exposure
En Español
This brochure contains answers to questions relevant to outdoor workers regarding West Nile Virus, as well as recommendations for the prevention of exposure to West Nile Virus by outdoor workers.

Interim Guidance on Health and Safety Hazards When Working with Displaced Domestic Animals
Provides information on preventing bites and scratches, rabies, dermatologic conditions, sharps injuries, more…

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hurricane PageCdc-pdfExternal
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is an independent agency reporting to the President and tasked with responding to, planning for, recovering from and mitigating against disaster.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) – Hurricane ResponseExternal
Includes a Geographic Information System, Environmental Health Resources for Medical Responders, Clean-up and Emergency Response Activities, Q & A, more…recognition, control, equipment, and planning.

Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS): Hurricane Harvey 2017 External
Presents links to information about how to get help, health and safety, what HHS and other federal agencies are doing, donating and volunteering, locating people, and key state government agencies in the region

CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response- “Key Facts About Hurricane Readiness”Cdc-pdf
Essential tips to help you prepare for hurricanes and cope with their aftermath.

CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response- “Tsunamis”
General information about health concerns after a tsunami. Covered information includes tsunami basic information, infectious disease concerns, food & water safety and information for specific groups.

OSHA Quick Cards for Cleanup/RecoveryExternal

List of OSHA factsheets available for cleanup and recovery workers covering different potential hazards workers may face.

Safety Guidelines for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction Operations Recovery ManualCdc-pdfExternal

Safety guidelines developed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln providing guidance on the management and approach to the development of post-disaster activities.

Guidelines for Protecting Mortuary Affairs Personnel from Potentially Infectious MaterialsCdc-pdfExternal

Describes the potential risks associated with contact with human remains. The technical guide is designed to provide guidance regarding safety measures to protect workers against blood borne pathogens and other microbiological agents associated with handling human remains.

Page last reviewed: November 27, 2018