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Flood Recovery

After the water stop rushing and you are cleared to return to your homes, the danagers are not over with yet. Recovering from a flood is just as dangerous as the flod itself. 

  • Flood dangers do not end when the water begins to recede. 
  • Listen to a radio or television and don't return home until authorities indicate that doing it so is safe. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistanceTrapped woman on a car roof during flash flooding in Toowoomba 2--infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.
  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage and may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Avoid moving water. Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the  weight of a car.
  • Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
  • Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters. Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.
  • Once the water has subsided it is not prudent to enter your house right away, it could collapse, check it first.
  • Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. Stay out of buildings if flood waters remain around the building.
  • When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Wear sturdy shoes and use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings.
  • Examine walls, floors, doors, and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
  • Watch out for animals, especially snakes, that may have come into your home with the flood waters.  
  • Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Watch for loose plaster and ceilings that could fall.
  • Take pictures of the damage--both to the house and its contents for insurance claims.
  • Look for fire hazards. Broken or leaking gas lines flooded electrical circuits submerged furnaces or electrical appliances flammable or explosive materials coming from upstream
  • throw away food--including canned goods--that has come in contact with flood waters.
  • Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are health hazards.


  • 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, it must be turned back on by a professional.
  •  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 lines 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.  You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.

Prevent illness from food

Identify and throw away food that may not be safe to eat

Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water. Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened, or damaged. Throw away food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. Throw away perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been above 40°F for 2 hours or more. Thawed food that contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below can be refrozen or cooked. If cans have come in contact with floodwater or storm water, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup (240 milliliters) of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Re-label the cans with a marker.

Store food safely

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 4 hours. Wear heavy gloves when handling ice.

Prevent illness from water

Listen to and follow public announcements

Local authorities will tell you if tap water is safe to drink or to use for cooking or bathing. If the water is not safe to use, follow local instructions to use bottled water or to boil or disinfect water for cooking, cleaning, or bathing.

Correctly boil or disinfect water

Hold water at a rolling boil for 1 minute to kill bacteria. If you can't boil water, add 1/8 teaspoon (approximately 0.75 mL) of newly purchased, unscented liquid household bleach per gallon of water. Stir the water well, and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. You can use water-purifying tablets instead of boiling water or using bleach. For infants, use only pre-prepared canned baby formula. Do not use powdered formulas prepared with treated water. Disinfect children's toys that have come in contact with water. Use a solution of 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water to disinfect the toys. Let toys air dry after cleaning. Some toys, such as stuffed animals and baby toys, cannot be disinfected; they should be discarded.

Clean Up Procedures AFTER THE FLOOD

Flood waters often contain very high levels of bacteria, which is why disinfecting surfaces that have come in contact with flood waters is so important.  The Clorox Company offers the following information from its disinfecting experts.

Disinfecting Contaminated Surfaces

Disinfect hard surfaces -- floors, walls and counters -- that may have been contaminated by flood waters.  Use this same solution for dishes, glass, and plastic ware. 

Disinfection Guidelines:

Remove loose dirt and debris from surfaces; Wash down area with a solution of 3/4 cup Clorox liquid bleach per gallon of water; Keep wet for 2 minutes and rinse. Clorox household liquid bleach is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a disinfectant that kills common bacteria.

In the Bathroom

To reduce odors that may result from sewage backup: Flush toilet; pour 1 cup Clorox liquid bleach into the bowl; Brush entire bowl and let solution stand for 10 minutes; flush again Bleach eliminates odors and kills germs.  


Washable, colorfast clothing and linens should be washed as soon as possible to prevent mold and mildew and to disinfect laundry. 

Exterior Cleanup

Excessive mold and mildew growth is common after flooding.  To remove mold and mildew from washable and colorfast exterior surfaces that may have been saturated by flood waters, follow these directions:

Outdoor Cleaning instructions

Remove loose dirt and debris from affected surface with a power hose; Keep surface wet with a solution of 3/4 cup Clorox liquid bleach per gallon of water for 5-15 minutes; Rinse thoroughly with power hose to remove any residue, Children's toys, play equipment and outdoor furniture in contact with flood waters also should be disinfected before use.    

   Food Handling

Be sure to dispose of any food items that may have come in contact with flood waters, even canned goods. Household liquid bleach is a safe, inexpensive and effective product that can be used in a variety of areas around the home to clean up after flood contamination.  And used according to label directions, Clorox liquid bleach is safe for the environment, breaking down primarily into salt and water. For more information contact Sandy Sullivan at 510-271-7732, or Melanie Miller at 202-638-1200, both for Clorox.   You may also write to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), P.O. Box 70274, Washington, DC 20024 and request a copy of "Your Family Disaster Plan" and "Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit."  Your local American Red Cross chapter also has disaster preparedness information available. 12/6/95