Flood Aftermath: Avoid These Safety Hazards
The aftermath of a flood can cause safety hazards long after the storm has passed. Standing water can harbor bacteria and electricity, and vehicles can still be swept away in a swiftly flowing current. Keep these crucial after-flood safety hazard tips in mind if you encounter flooding:
Addressing Home Hazards
- Turn off all electrical and gas lines. Only use flashlights and battery-operated light sources until you confirm your electrical system has not been damaged. Return to your home during daylight hours to make existing hazards visible. If you did not switch off the breakers and gas lines before the flooding began, do so immediately after returning home. You may need to contact your gas company, fire department, or the police if you notice an unusual smell or you cannot safely turn off your power because of standing water.
- Mold and damage. Hazards in the home can continue to affect it long after the home has been cleaned. Take photos before, during, and after the cleaning process for your records. Mold remediation and restoration specialists, as well as your flood insurance agent, may rely on this information to adequately address any future health hazards.
- Open the windows. If the rain has stopped, open all the windows in the home to start the airing out process and prevent the buildup of any gasses within the home. Do not remain in the home if you smell gas. Contact the proper authority and leave immediately.
- Avoid walking in standing water. Standing water may harbor broken glass, metal, or other injury causing debris.
- Generators. Many homeowners rely on generators during power outages, but they can become fire hazards if not used properly. Follow the instructions for your generator exactly and contact your utility company to learn more about running a generator when electricity is restored to the home.
- Cleaning. You will need to systematically clean your entire home if it was affected by flood waters. Use a bleach based disinfectant (diluted bleach in water will work fine) to clean all hard surfaces and remove the threat of dangerous microbes. Pay special attention to surfaces and appliances in the kitchen and bathrooms. Air out any fabrics in the sun, and use a fabric appropriate disinfectant before returning it to the home.
- Sewage. If sewage is present in the home, always wear waterproof gloves, masks, and rubber boots when cleaning. Throw away anything that can’t be thoroughly disinfected.
- Throw away contaminated food. If you have been without power for more than 4 hours, throw out all perishable items like thawed meat, eggs, dairy products, and any leftovers.
- Go to the doctor for an open wound. Traveling in flood water on foot is dangerous. If you have an open would or were injured while traveling, you may have been exposed to illness causing bacteria and germs. Contact your doctor for further instructions on immunization boosters, cleaning, and caring for your injury.
- Water contamination. Do not drink tap water until you hear that the water systems are clean. Flooding can affect an entire community’s water supply. Listen to the news and stick to bottled water until you hear that tap water is safe for consumption.
- Hypothermia, overheating, and exhaustion. Flooding can happen any time of the year and cause temperature related illness and exhaustion from traveling or working in flooded areas. Stay hydrated and rest when necessary to prevent these conditions. If the weather is cool, try to stay as dry as possible and wear protective clothing when traveling.
- Drowning. Never work alone in flooded areas. Wear a US Coast Guard approved life jacket around flooding. In flood conditions, even shallow water can lead to drowning accidents.
Extreme caution and common sense can help you stay safe and healthy after a flood. Always reach out to a local authority if you have any questions about returning home, helping with a rescue effort, or addressing a potential hazard.