Floods, big or small, can have devastating effects on your home and your family. Floods can contaminate food and water, which can cause illness. Floods can lead to other dangers as well, like carbon monoxide poisoning, mold growth, electrical and fire hazards and more.
Sanitation and hygiene are very important during and after a flood because infections are likely to spread. Illness and outbreaks can occur long after a flood is cleaned up due to spoiled food, contaminated water, power outage or exposure to mold.
This guide addresses the main hazards associated with a flood.
During and after a flood, water can become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, sewage, fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals.
If your well has been covered with flood water, bacteria can enter your well through the cap or vent, and contaminate your drinking water. If this happens, your well will need to be disinfected by a licensed well driller. A list of licensed well drillers in your area can be found Here.
If your well has been flooded, it’s important to:
Flooded Interior and mold
Exposure to mold can cause stuffy nose, irritated eyes, skin irritation, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
When flood water recedes from your home/basement you should:
If your efforts to clean up mold are unsuccessful, you will need to contact a mold remediation specialist.
Local authorities will let residents know if public drinking water is not safe and if you should use bottled or boiled water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, washing hands, brushing teeth, making baby formula and bathing infants and toddlers. (See boil water instructions below).
Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood water, including any canned foods that are bulging, opened or damaged. Throw away food with an unusual odor, color or texture. Throw away perishable food (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that has been above 41 degrees for two hours or more. If cans have come in contact with floodwater or storm water, remove the labels, wash the cans and dip them in a solution of one cup of bleach in five gallons of water. Re-label the cans with a marker.
While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Add block ice or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity is expected to be off longer than four hours. Wear heavy gloves when handling ice.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas produced by many types of equipment and is poisonous to breathe. When power outages occur, people sometimes use alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling, or cooking. These alternative sources can cause carbon monoxide to build up in a home, garage, or camper and poison the people and animals inside.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Exposure to Carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness and death.
Important carbon monoxide poisoning prevention tips:
If a carbon monoxide detector sounds, leave the home immediately and call 9-1-1. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.
Electrical and fire hazards
Never touch a fallen power line. Instead, contact the utility company. If electrical circuits and equipment have gotten wet or are in or near water, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician. Do not burn candles near flammable items or leave a candle unattended. If possible, use flashlights or other battery-operated lights instead of candles.
Wash your hands
If you come in contact with flood water, make sure to wash your hands with soap and clean water. If water isn’t available, you can use hand sanitizer.
Clean all open wounds and cuts with soap and clean water. Apply an antibiotic ointment. If a wound gets red, swells or drains, contact your doctor.
Do not drive through floodwater, no matter how shallow it may seem. The average automobile can be swept off the road in 12 inches of moving water, and roads covered by water are prone to collapse. Attempting to drive through water also may stall your engine, with the potential to cause irreparable damage if you try to restart the engine. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route.
Avoid mosquito bites
Flooded areas are prime breeding grounds for mosquitos, known carriers of West Nile Virus and other mosquito borne diseases. Mosquito borne diseases can cause serious illness in people, so it’s important to protect yourself. Prevent mosquito bites by wearing long pants, socks, and long-sleeved shirt and by using insect repellent that contains DEET.
If under a flood watch or warning:
When a flood watch is issued, you should:
Boil Water Instructions
Boiling water kills microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses that can cause disease. Simply bring tap water to a full rolling boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using.
Boiling tap water is the preferred method for making sure it is safe to drink. If you can’t boil your water, you should:
Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, cleaning, cooking, washing hands, brushing teeth, making formula and bathing infants and toddlers. Use boiled or bottled water in coffee machines. Do not use water or ice from your refrigerator’s dispenser. Water treatment devices do not remove harmful microorganisms from tap water, so be sure to use bottled or boiled water.
You do not need to boil water for: