3 Safety Tips to Follow After a Flood

After a flood, contamination is a real concern. Follow these tips from the CDC to keep yourself and your family safe.

Your Water Supply

Listen for public announcements on the safety of the municipal water supply.

Flooded, private water wells will need to be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede. Contact your local or state health departments or your local agriculture extension office with questions about testing and disinfection procedures.

WHN TIP – Safety First! Open cuts or sores can be contaminated by floodwater. Wash the area frequently with soap and clean or purified water, and wear rubber or latex gloves to provide additional protection. If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, or you experience any fever, seek immediate medical attention.

Your Food and Drinking Water Supply

When it comes to food and water, err on the side of contamination until you know better. (In other words, guilty until proven innocent.)

  • Drink only bottled, boiled or treated water until your supply is tested and found safe. If you use bottled water know where it came from – otherwise, water should be boiled or treated before use.
  • Boiling water kills harmful bacteria and parasites. Bringing water to a rolling boil for 2 minutes to kill most organisms.
  • Store your fresh and safe water in non-contaminated and thoroughly washed plastic or glass containers with tight lids.

WHN TIP – Only Use Clean Water: Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, or make ice.

Your Cleaning Process

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected: before preparing or eating food; after toilet use; after participating in flood cleanup activities; and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
  • Wear rubber gloves and a face mask when cleaning areas, and brush off mold or mildew spores on items outdoors before bringing them into the house.
  • For cleaning, disinfect water, pots, pans and containers with bleach. Here’s a formula from FEMA:
    • If the water is clear, use 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water.
    • If the water is cloudy, use 1/4 teaspoon of bleach to each gallon of water.
    • Mix thoroughly and allow to stand at least 30 minutes before use.

For More Information

Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Floods section — tips for preparing for a flood, staying safe during a flood, and protecting your health when you return home after a flood.