Floodwater Safety Tips


Floodwater Safety Tips

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) would like to remind California communities that the state is anticipating another round of storms, with potential for additional floods and mudslides.

It may look just like muddy rainwater but BEWARE! Floodwaters could be harmful.

Floodwater may contain:

  • Toilet waste
  • Harmful germs
  • Hazardous Chemicals
  • Heavy or sharp objects
  • Downed power lines
  • Live or dead animals

Stay safe! Stay out of floodwater!

Avoid contact with floodwater whenever possible. If dirty floodwater gets on or in your body, by mouth or by skin, it can give you diarrhea, rash, and serious infection.

If water does contact your skin, wash the area with hot soapy water as soon as possible. Use hand sanitizer when clean water is not available.

Wear rubber gloves and rubber boots if you must touch flood water. Prevent leaks with duct tape where tops of gloves and boots meet your clothes. Protect open cuts and wounds with waterproof bandages that seal on all 4 sides

If you water gets in your mouth, eyes, or open cuts, flush and area with water and soap if possible, ask a health care provider if you should get a tetanus shot to prevent serious infection. Seek medical care if you begin to fall ill or develop an infection.

Water Safety

Floods can make your water unsafe to use or drink. Listen for public notices provided by your city or town on the safety of your tap water.

Water authorities will tell you if you should not use tap water at all or how to make it safe by boiling. Usually, boiling for at least one minute will kill germs.

If you have a well that flooded, ask your local health department to help you test and disinfect it.

Floods can make your tap water dangerous. Water in unopened bottles that were not touched by flood water is safe for drinking, cooking, washing, and brushing your teeth. But if the sealed containers were touched by floodwater, you should boil the bottled water for one minute.

Keep kids safe:

  • Do not allow children to play in floodwaters.
  • Disinfect or throw away any toys, clothes, or household items that got wet by flood waters.
  • Wash your children wash their hands with soap and water often and always before meals.
  • Always wash your own hands after contact with floodwater or items touched by floodwater.

Power Safety
When returning home after a flood, do not enter your home until you are sure it is structurally safe to enter and know that the electricity is turned off. Standing water can create an electric shock hazard if outlets are wet.

If electrical sockets and equipment got wet or are close to water, turn off the power at the main breaker. Do not enter standing water to access the main power switch. Call an electrician to turn it off for you.

Food Safety
Flooding in your home can make your food unsafe to eat. Disinfect undamaged metal cans and pouches and throw away any food that flood water touched. To disinfect undamaged canned food and metal pouches that were touched by flood water:

  • Remove labels
  • Wipe off any dirt
  • Wash in hot, soapy water and rinse with clean water
  • Put in mix of 1 cup unscented bleach and 5 gallons water
  • Leave underwater for 15 minutes
  • Use a permanent marker to relabel them and use as soon as possible

Food surfaces like kitchen counters and plates touched by floodwater need to be disinfected with a mix of 1 tablespoon bleach in 1 gallon of water.

Animal Safety   

Flood waters may drive wild animals, livestock, and lost pets toward your home or neighborhood.

  • Don’t try to trap an animal yourself. Call Animal Control.
  • If you are bitten by an animal, get medical help right away.
  • If you are bitten by a snake, remember what it looked like.
    • Find out if it is poisonous and what anti-venom you need.

Flood Clean Up

Before you start any cleanup activities in your home after a flood, take pictures and videos of damage to your home and your belongings for your insurer. After taking photos, you should safely throw away flooded items that pose a health risk and start the cleanup process.

Cleaning after a flood is different from normal cleaning. Flood water is polluted and full of germs. Take steps to keep yourself and your family safe. Disinfect hard surfaces touched by flood water:

  1. Wash with soap and warm, clean water
  2. Rinse with clean water
  3. Wipe surfaces with bleach water
  4. Don’t rinse, let the surface air dry
  5. Never mix ammonia and bleach

After a flood, drying your home and removing water-damaged items is the most important step for preventing mold. You should assume you have mold growth if you were not able to dry your home (including furniture and other items) within 24-48 hours.

Wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, boots, and goggles, to dispose of moldy belongings and remove mold growth on hard surfaces like floors, countertops, sinks, and dishes, with a mix of 1 cup bleach in 1 gallon of water. But you may want to get the help of a professional to inspect and repair mold damage before you return home.