When Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25th, no one could have anticipated the unprecedented flooding that he would leave behind.  The winds were bad, but the storm surge was initially underwhelming.  No one knew that days later, much of the Houston metro area would be reeling from a historic influx of floodwater.
As we’ve been reminded this week, sometimes the water that comes along with a major hurricane can be even more devastating than the most destructive high-speed winds.  Floodwater brings with it an assortment of serious risks and dangers.  In addition to the obvious threat of drowning, there is disease, contamination, electrocution, and more.  Unfortunately, these threats have all become realities this week in Houston and southeast Texas.

The Hidden Dangers of Flood Water

When floodwaters rise above towns and cities, the contents of sewers, septic tanks, and water treatment facilities can be suddenly released and distributed throughout the entire area.  In this environment, the risk of infectious disease skyrockets as harmful organisms and bacteria abound.  Germs including E. coli, salmonella, shigella, hepatitis, typhoid, and tetanus can flourish and become abundant in tepid floodwater.
In addition to these biological threats, harmful manmade chemicals can also escape their storage tanks and enter the floodwater.  Chemicals from industrial plants and agricultural operations present dangers ranging from chemical burns to deadly explosions.  We saw this first-hand this week when the loss of power at a chemical plant in Crosby, TX resulted in the combustion of volatile organic chemicals that must be stored in refrigerated tanks.
While most floods don’t cause widespread outbreaks of disease or chemical poisoning – the danger is very real for first responders and clean-up crews who are exposed to floodwaters for prolonged periods.  Disaster relief workers are prone to all the dangers that come along with floodwater.  In the aftermath of a major natural disaster, they are the first people in – and the last people out.  For relief workers, avoiding contact with floodwater isn’t a viable option.  Instead, they rely on soap, solvents, and environmental decon trailers to decontaminate their bodies, clothing, and equipment.

How an Environmental Decon Trailers Work

Environmental decon trailers are designed to facilitate decontamination of people who have been exposed to hazardous materials and infectious organisms.  Decon trailers consist of a series of compartments, and a person is decontaminated as they progress through these compartments.  Each compartment is separated from the next by airlock curtains, and each compartment has an independent air filtration system to ensure that any contaminants do not pass through the curtains to the next compartment.
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The decontamination process starts outside the trailer, where oversized utility sinks are available to wash off any tools and gear that cannot be washed in laundry machines.  After cleaning their gear, workers step up into the trailer to clean themselves.
The first compartment in environmental decon trailers is often called the “dirty room.”  When a worker steps up into the dirty room, they remove all contaminated gear and clothing.  Contaminated items are placed inside a bin that uses negative air filtration to contain microscopic particles and organisms.  Next, workers step forward through an airlock curtain into the shower room.
The shower room has several private shower stalls where workers can cleanse their bodies and hair.  Each stall drains into a water filtration system and the filtered water is stored in a waste tank for controlled disposal in accordance with government regulations.  Some decon trailers have multiple shower compartments to create a two-stage showering process.
After showering, workers move forward through another airlock curtain into the “clean room.”  The clean room is essentially a locker room, where workers change back into their street clothes and exit the trailer free of any harmful chemicals and germs.

Decon Trailers for Disaster Relief Efforts

Portable Restroom Trailers carries an extensive inventory of decon trailers that can be deployed to keep first responders and emergency workers safe in the aftermath of a major natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey.
Our lineup includes decon trailers designed for mass casualty disasters, decon trailers for mobile response teams, and decon trailers designed for general and commercial use.   In conjunction with our portable laundry trailers and portable restroom trailers – they can provide all the basic services needed to keep a response team operational during a major disaster.
We have delivered several decon trailers to assist teams working to respond to Hurricane Harvey this week throughout southeast Texas.  We are very proud of our small contribution to the relief effort, and we will continue to keep these units in our inventory to assist with natural disasters in the future.  If your organization needs to provide decontamination services to protect relief workers now, or in the future, please get in touch with us right away at (877) 600-8645.  We’ll be happy to walk you through your options and help you find the best solution to meet your needs.