After flooding has occurred
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What to do when you return
Communicable disease precautions
How to make sure your food is safe
How to make sure your water is safe
How to handle animals and mosquitoes
How to deal with chemical hazards
How to clean-up
Inspecting utilities in a damaged home
How to deal with gas and utilities
What to do when you return:
- If your home has suffered damage, call the agent who handles your flood insurance to file a claim. If you are unable to stay in your home, make sure to say where you can be reached
- To make filing your claim easier, take photos of any water in the house and save damaged personal property. If necessary, place these items outside the home. An insurance adjuster will need to see what's been damaged in order to process your claim
- Check for structural damage before re-entering your home. Don't go in if there is a chance of the building collapsing
- Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety
- Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect damage, avoid using the toilets and the tap and call a plumber
- Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed
- Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area
- Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill
- Have your onsite wastewater system professionally inspected and serviced if you suspect damage
Frequent hand washing with antibacterial soap and clean water is advised. If you don’t have clean water to wash your hands, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Td (tetanus diphtheria toxoid vaccinations) are generally not necessary for persons who are walking or working in flood waters. Tetanus cases rarely occur in persons who have had at least three or more doses of a tetanus-toxoid-containing vaccine. Persons with wounds that are neither clean nor minor should consult with their physician to determine if additional Td vaccination is necessary.
If you develop any of the following symptoms: fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting, after being exposed to flooded areas, you should call your doctor.
Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. For infants, use only pre-prepared canned baby formula that requires no added water. If using formula that requires water to be added, use bottled water or pre-treated water.
Perishable foods can be maintained
in an unopened refrigerator for up to four hours. Refrigerated foods should be
disposed of after four hours without electricity.
Potentially hazardous foods at
temperatures above 41ºF will allow bacteria to rapidly multiply to unsafe levels
which can cause illness if eaten.
If food has been in a refrigerator
less than four hours without power, it may be placed in a cooler to protect it
from animals and other environmental hazards. The cooler can then be placed
outside or in an un-insulated garage, provided that the temperature stays below
Frozen foods in unopened freezers
can generally maintain safe temperatures for up to 24 hours if the freezer is
half-full and up to 48 hours if completely full.
A food thermometer should be used
to determine the temperature of food items to be sure they are safe.
When in doubt, perishable foods
that may have been out of the safe temperature range should be disposed of to
Fresh fruits and vegetables are
safe as long as they are still firm and have no mold or slimy feel.
Anytime power is out, open your refrigerator as infrequently as possible to maintain cold temperature of foods. You can also wrap food with blankets to help hold in coolness by acting as an insulator.
Listen for public announcements on the safety of the municipal water supply. Wells affected by flood waters should be disinfected and the water should be tested prior to use for drinking, bathing, cooking or personal hygiene. Questions about testing should be directed to
the Health Department’s Environmental Services division, at 859.341.4151.Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. The Health Department can make specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area.
Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice or make baby formula. If possible, use baby formula that does not need to have water added. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands.
If property has been affected with flood water, well or cistern water should be boiled for at least five minutes before it is safe to drink or use for any house hold purposes, including washing dishes. Wells can be sanitized by adding liquid chlorine bleach. For a typical well which is four inches in diameter and 100 feet, three cups of liquid bleach should be mixed with 10 gallons of water, and should then be poured into the well. The water should not be used until 12-hours later.
Individual cisterns that have been covered by flood water should be drained, cleaned and disinfected. There are companies that can provide this service, but cisterns can be disinfected with 1 pint of bleach for every 3,000 gallons of cistern water.
The individual subsurface sewage systems that were exposed to flood waters should be left to dry out. The septic tanks should be pumped to allow the drain field to dry out.
Many wild animals have been forced from their natural habitats by flooding, and many domestic animals are also without homes after the flood. Take care to avoid these animals. Do not corner an animal. If an animal must be removed, contact your local animal control authorities.
If you are bitten by any animal, seek immediate medical attention. If you are bitten by a snake, first try to accurately identify the type of snake so that, if poisonous, the correct anti-venom may be administered.
Contact local or state health and agricultural officials for state guidelines on disposal of dead animals. Protect yourself from mosquitoes: use screens on dwellings, wear long-sleeved and long-legged clothing, and use insect repellents that contain DEET.
Be aware of potential chemical hazards you may encounter during flood recovery. Flood waters may have buried or moved hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places. If any propane tanks are discovered, do not attempt to move them yourself. These represent a very real danger of fire or explosion, and if any are found, police or fire departments or the Fire Marshal's office should be contacted immediately. Car batteries, even those in floodwater, may still contain an electrical charge and should be removed with extreme caution by using insulated gloves. Avoid coming in contact with any acid that may have spilled from a damaged car battery.
Electrical power and natural gas or propane tanks should be shut off to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions until it is safe to use them. Use battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, rather than candles, gas lanterns or torches. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company or the police or fire departments, and do not turn on the lights or do anything that could cause a spark. Avoid any downed power lines, particularly those in water. All electrical equipment and appliances must be completely dry before returning them to service. It is advisable to have a certified electrician check these items if there is any question. Also, remember not to operate any gas-powered equipment indoors.
Walls, hard-surfaced floors, and many other household surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of 1 cup of bleach to five gallons of water. Wash all linens and clothing in hot water, or dry clean them. Flood soaked furnishings such as upholstered couches, chairs or carpeting should be discarded. If there has been a backflow of sewage into the house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup. Remove and discard contaminated household materials that cannot be disinfected, such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs, and drywall.
Mold may be present in homes that were flooded.
An air conditioner or dehumidifier may be used to lower the level of humidity to
prevent mold growth. Use exhaust fans when showering and cooking. When cleaning
up small areas affected by mold, make sure the area has enough air by opening
doors or windows. Use protective glasses or goggles, rubber boots and waterproof
gloves. Wash clothing afterwards. If there is heavy mold growth, use a
respirator or suitable mask to prevent breathing the mold.
Remove all wet items that have been wet for more
than 48 hours and are not able to be cleaned and dried.
If mold is growing in your home, you will need to
clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. Mold growth can be removed from
hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of
no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Severe mold cases may require
an expert to clean up.
Inspecting utilities in a damaged home
Check for gas leaks--If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, a professional must turn it back on.
Look for electrical system damage--If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician for advice.
Check for sewage and water line damage--If you suspect sewage lines are damaged avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid the water from the tap.
For more information on preparing for a flood:
FEMA: Are You Ready? Floods
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Floods