Floodwater can contain harmful contaminants, including bacteria and parasites. Try
to avoid coming into direct contact with floodwater. When a flood occurs:
- Keep all children and pets out of the floodwater.
- Check in on elderly or chronically ill neighbors to make sure that they
If you must come into contact with the floodwater you should follow these precautions:
- Wear waterproof boots, gloves, eye protection and clothes that are either
water resistant or disposable.
- Make sure all gas and electric utilities to the affected area are turned
off by appropriate persons before you enter.
- Keep contact time with flood waters to a minimum and avoid splashing. It
is especially important to keep the water out of your mouth, eyes and nose.
- Bathe or shower thoroughly with soap and water and wash all contaminated
clothing in hot water and a detergent after you come in contact with floodwater.
- Make sure tetanus immunizations are up to date for any person who is exposed
to flood waters. For most adults, if you received a tetanus booster within
the past 10 years you are protected. For children, your pediatrician will
be able to tell you if the tetanus vaccination is up to date.
- Vaccination for hepatitis A or hepatitis B after contact with floodwater
is not usually recommended. However, if you are on chemotherapy for cancer,
or if you have HIV or some other disease that weakens the immune system you
should consult with your primary health care provider.
- If you become ill with fever, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea after exposure
to possibly contaminated flood waters, you should contact your health care
Homes and buildings
- Flooded buildings should be pumped out, disinfected and dried as quickly
- After the water is pumped out, remove materials and furnishings that are
wet and may become contaminated with mold growth and place them in sealed
impermeable bags or closed containers. Large items with heavy mold growth
should be covered with polyethylene sheeting and sealed with duct tape before
being removed from the area.
- Remove and discard porous organic materials that have become wet or are
visibly contaminated with mold.
- Carpeting, mattresses and upholstered furniture should be disposed of or
cleaned and disinfected by a professional cleaner.
- Use extreme caution when handling containers holding unknown substances
or known toxic substances (for example floating containers of household or
industrial chemicals). Contact the Environmental Protection Agency for information
on disposal at the National Response Center (1-800-424-8802).
- All flooded floor and wall surfaces should be washed with a solution of
two capfuls of household bleach for each gallon of water. Any household articles
affected by floodwaters should be washed with the same solution.
A home that’s been flooded can provide ideal conditions for the growth
and proliferation of mold. The most important thing you can do to prevent
mold growth is to identify and remove the source of water and then dry out
your home within 48 hours.
Cleanup and removal of mold:
- Yards that have been contaminated by flooded sewage systems should be disinfected
by a liberal application of lime.
- Children and animals should be kept away from limed areas until the lime
is no longer visible.
- Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water.
- Discard any food without a waterproof container if there is any chance
that it has come into contact with flood water.
- Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the can
labels, thoroughly wash the cans, and then disinfect them with a solution
consisting of one cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Re label your cans,
including expiration date, with a marker.
- Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles),
twist caps, flip tops, and home canned foods should be discarded if they
have come into contact with flood water because they cannot be disinfected.
- For infants, use only pre-prepared canned baby formula that requires no
added water, rather than powdered formulas prepared with treated water.
Hazards of floods continue to exist after the water recedes as workers, volunteers
and homeowners begin to clean up. There are many hazards besides drowning which
may cause serious injury. Some basic cautions should be taken as follows:
- Electrical hazards: When entering flooded areas, be aware of electrical
hazards. Don’t touch any electrical equipment unless you are absolutely
sure it is properly grounded or that the power is off. Also, don’t
operate any electrical equipment that is not specifically designed for use
in wet locations. The water in which you are standing will provide a path
for the electricity if you touch any equipment that is not properly grounded.
That path will go through you too.
- Never handle a downed power line. If clearing or other work must be performed
near a downed power line, contact the utility company. Extreme caution is
necessary when moving ladders and other equipment near overhead power lines
to avoid inadvertent contact.
- Carbon Monoxide:Flood cleanup activities may involve the use of gasoline-
or diesel-powered pumps, generators, and pressure washers. Because these
devices release carbon monoxide, a deadly, colorless, odorless gas, operate
all gasoline-powered devices outdoors and never bring them indoors.
- Back Injuries: Get help to move heavy objects. Working on slippery surfaces
can also cause injuries. Make sure you have a firm footing before lifting.
Make sure you have a clear path for carrying heavy objects.
- Structural Instability: Never assume that water-damaged structures or ground
are stable. Soil is also easily destabilized in wet conditions and may collapse
CAUTION: Chlorine Bleach can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and damage
clothing and shoes as well. Make sure the working area is well ventilated.