In New York City (NYC) mold damage and other flood-related contamination has been a significant concern among the public, homeowners, and public health agencies. Following the storm, lay persons, who had no previous experience remediating homes with damage from environmental hazards, began ad hoc reparations to residential buildings and were exposed to mold, asbestos, and other contaminants. Due to the overwhelming demand for restoration of water damage in homes, many non-professionals took on environmental remediation roles in an effort to make homes inhabitable just prior to the beginning of winter in the Northeast. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) saw the immediate need to educate the """"""""do-it-yourself"""""""" public, along with volunteers, in proper safe work practices for handling contaminated debris and using basic personal protective equipment. Over 70 1 hour and 3 hour trainings were conducted with DOHMH officials and over 1,000 persons received training. Little is known about the effectiveness of an environmental and occupational hazards education program for a lay workforce following a disaster. The impact of this training program as a public health intervention to minimize excess morbidity from environmental hazards is a model that could be used by any health department in the US. It is essential to the science of public and environmental health to understand how this training could serve as a prevention strategy for occupational illness following a disaster.
Specific Aim 1 : Characterize the specific distribution and determinants of illness and injury among laypersons and volunteers assisting in the remediation of homes flooded and damaged during Superstorm Sandy.
Specific Aim 2 : Evaluate the effectiveness of health department worker safety training to lay persons and volunteers in reducing the incidence of illness and injury due to exposure to environmental hazards.
These aims will be accomplished through a combination of in person surveys with training participants, detailed personal exposure histories, evaluation of the use of personal protective equipment, and the determination of indicators of physical and mental illness experienced within the past year following Superstorm Sandy. We anticipate that this pilot study will lead to further application of these methods of safe work practices training for lay audiences under a variety of different conditions to better understand how these occupational health interventions may be implemented following natural disasters. The products of this research will be standardized educational programs for training the lay public on how to safely work in the post-disaster environment when remediating residential property. These courses could be delivered by health departments nationwide in response to a sudden disaster.

Public Health Relevance

Hurricanes, floods, and coastal storms can expose the general public and vulnerable populations to environmental hazards such as mold, asbestos, and various other toxic materials. The proposed research evaluates the effectiveness of a worker safety training program provided by the New York City Department of Health to approximately 1,000 lay persons and volunteers who assisted with remediating flooded and damaged properties in residential neighborhoods following Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Evaluating this worker safety training program as a public health intervention designed to reduce occupational illness and injury in non-professional recovery workers may lead to the development of a model curriculum that could be rolled out by health departments across the country following a natural disaster, to protect the health and safety of the lay and volunteer workforce.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZOH1-JFK (51))
Program Officer
Inserra, Steve
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
New York Medical College
United States
Zip Code
Petkova, Elisaveta P; Beedasy, Jaishree; Oh, Eun Jeong et al. (2018) Long-term Recovery From Hurricane Sandy: Evidence From a Survey in New York City. Disaster Med Public Health Prep 12:172-175