Be safe in your recovery process.
These resources are not designed for first responders or those industrial hygienists (IHs) involved in emergency planning or the immediate response phase of a given disaster. For industrial hygienists, AIHA has developed several technical resources for the IH/OEHS’s role and responsibilities in emergency preparedness and the incident command system.
AIHA strongly encourages IHs and business owners to prepare and plan before disasters and work closely with local emergency operations both before and after disasters strike.
This collection of resources is intended to help guide consumers and IHs through the seemingly endless maze of government agencies and private industry references addressing potential hazards that you may encounter after a disaster occurs. The identified resources provide general guidance on the hazards that you may encounter after a disaster. The majority of health consequences for major weather-related disasters are injuries associated with evacuation and clean-up, carbon monoxide poisoning (related to the indoor use of gasoline-powered generators), hypothermia, electrocution, wound infections, respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, hypothermia, and exacerbation of chronic illnesses. Wildfires are associated with significant increases in hospital admissions for respiratory distress, asthma, and shortness of breath.
It is important to understand that anyone who ventures into these areas is potentially at risk for exposure to hazards not covered in detail in this document. Some trained responders to Hurricane Katrina experienced symptoms from mold exposure and sinus infection, carbon monoxide and confusion, lack of sleep, slips and falls, and depression. Therefore, many recovery efforts should be handled with professional assistance, particularly when they pose significant risk. Understanding the hazards associated with a disaster enables specially trained IHs to assess the risk, develop and implement controls, and reevaluate residual risk as recovery operations continue.
AIHA strongly recommends that the clean-up of hazardous materials be performed or overseen by professionals knowledgeable of the hazards and methods to protect occupants and the environment. AIHA members consist of health and safety professionals dedicated to protecting workers and public health. A consultant list is available to reach out to AIHA safety and health consultants for professional assistance beyond these guidelines.