Disaster Relief in Florida

It’s been a rough week for many Florida residents because of Tropical Storm Debby. Our thoughts go out to everyone that has been affected by Debby. Debby brought more than 10 inches of rain to the northern part of Florida and as much as 20 inches of water to the Tampa Bay area. Thousands of Floridians have been left without power and many without homes.

Thanks to our national food bank disaster network, Feeding America Disaster Services, nearby Food Banks that were not affected by the storm have been able to quickly provide disaster relief to Florida disaster areas.

Every morning Second Harvest Food Bank communicates with Feeding America and Florida Association of Food Banks to see how we can help out with Florida disaster relief.

On Tuesday, we delivered over 1,100 disaster response boxes to Bread of the Mighty Food Bank and Florida Gateway Food Bank. Each disaster box contains enough food to feed a family of four for 3 days.

On Wednesday, Feeding America Disaster Services arranged transportation of 1 truckload of donated water from Second Harvest of South Georgia to 3 Florida food banks (America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend, Florida Gateway Food Bank and Bread of the Mighty).

More distributions are being confirmed later today. We are thankful that we are able to help out our fellow food bankers in Florida. This would not be possible without the collaboration of Feeding America, Florida Association of Food Banks and our state government.

Below are some flood warning and safety tips sent to us by Rebecca Brislain, Executive Director of Florida Association of Food Banks:

Flood Warning: Flood Warnings are in effect for several North Florida and West Central Florida rivers, as well as land areas in eastern Franklin, Wakulla, southwestern Jefferson, southeastern Liberty, northern Dixie, Lafayette, and Taylor Counties. The St. Mary’s River reached 24.28 feet and broke the previous record of 23.2 feet and Black Creek crested just below the record level at 25.11 feet. The upper Suwannee River at White Springs crested this afternoon, while the rest of the Upper Suwannee River and Upper Santa Fe Rivers are forecast to crest in major flood stage between Friday and Sunday. The Santa Fe River will be slower to recede and many areas will stay in major or moderate flood stage through next week.

Flood Safety and Post Flood Clean-up

  • Do not drive through flooded roadways.
  • Look before you step, as the ground and floors may be covered with debris, including bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can be very slippery.
  • Avoid contact with downed power lines and electrical wires.
  • Do not open manhole covers.
  • Clean up debris to avoid injury and contamination.
  • Operate chainsaws only in safe conditions (not in water soaked areas) if experienced in proper use.
  • Lift heavy debris by bending knees and using legs to help lift.
  • Wear shoes to avoid injury to the feet from glass, nails or other sharp objects.
  • Be alert to wildlife (snakes, alligators, etc.) that may have been displaced as a result of flooding.

Sanitation and Hygiene: Preventing waterborne illness

  • Basic hygiene is very important during this emergency period. Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before eating, after toilet use, after participating in cleanup activities and after handling articles contaminated by floodwater or sewage.
  • Flood water may contain fecal matter from sewage systems, agricultural and industrial waste and septic tanks. If you have open cuts or sores exposed to the floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and disinfected or boiled water.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection. If a wound or sore develops redness, swelling or drainage, see a physician.
  • Do not allow children to play in floodwater. They can be exposed to water contaminated with fecal matter. Do not allow children to play with toys that have been in floodwater until the toys have been disinfected. Use ¼ cup of bleach in one gallon of water to disinfect toys and other items.

Food safety: Preventing food-borne diseases

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with contaminated water from floods or tidal surges.
  • Commercially prepared cans of food should not be eaten if there is a bulging or opening on the can or the screw caps, soda pop bottle tops or twist-caps.
  • Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the labels and then disinfect the cans in a bleach solution. Use ¼ cup of bleach in one gallon of water; re-label the cans including expiration date and type of food. Assume that home-canned food is unsafe.
  • Infants should be fed only pre-mixed canned baby formula. Do not use powdered formulas prepared with treated water. Use boiled water when preparing formula.
  • Frozen and refrigerated foods can be unsafe after a flood. When the power is out, refrigerators will keep foods cool for only about four hours. Thawed and refrigerated foods should be thrown out after four hours.

Water Supply, Water Conservation and Septic Systems

  • Flooding can contaminate the public water supply. Water treatment plants may not be operating or water lines may be contaminated. Individuals cannot assume water in the affected area is safe to drink.
  • Listen for public announcements about the safety of the public water supply, and take action if a boil water notice has been issued. Drinking contaminated water may cause illness. If your well has been flooded, it needs to be disinfected and tested after the storm passes and floodwaters recede. Questions about testing should be directed to your county health department.
  • Heed posted signage near affected area waterways.
  • If you are on a septic system and pluming is slow or sluggish, conserve water as much as possible; the less water used, the less sewage the septic tank must process. Minimize toilet flushing. Rental of a portable toilet for a temporary period may be another option.
  • Do not have your septic tank pumped out. Exceptionally high water tables might crush a septic tank that was pumped dry. If the problem is high ground water because of the rains and flooding, pumping the tank will not solve the problem.
  • If you cannot use your plumbing without creating a sanitary nuisance, such as discharging sewage on the ground, consider moving temporarily to a new location until conditions improve.
  • · Do not have your septic tank and drain field repaired until the ground has had an opportunity to dry. Often systems are completely functional when unsaturated conditions return. Any repair must be permitted and inspected by your county health department.
  • Minimize use of your washing machine. Consider utilizing a Laundromat.
  • Turn off sprinkler / irrigation systems.


Photo Credit: Times staff, AP

Author: Maria Shanley

Senior Digital Marketing Manager Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.