Storm Season Safety: After a Flood  


As the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) reacts and responses to the winter weather impacting California, we encourage Californians to be prepared for what follows disasters. 

Californians pride themselves on being “ready.” But knowing what to do AFTER a disaster strike is also very important.   

When it comes to a flood, receding water can leave behind a trail of hidden perils. Visual damage only tells part of the story. Multiple hazards may lurk beneath the surface, including contaminated water with sewage and chemicals, as well as concealed threats like gas leaks and live electrical lines – all imperceptible at first glance. 

In the aftermath of a flood, it’s crucial to prioritize safety and take necessary precautions. Here are some vital tips to keep in mind: 

Stay Informed: 

  • Listen to local authorities for updated information and road conditions and check your local utility provider for updates on outages.  
  • Verify that tap water is safe for consumption, cooking and cleaning after a flood. A drinking water emergency is more likely to occur following floods. 

Avoid Flood Waters: 

  • Standing water conceals numerous hazards, including toxins and sharp objects. Roads may have suffered structural damage.  
  • If it’s likely your home will flood, don’t wait for an evacuation order. Act early and consider emergency plans for yourself and your pets.  
  • Still water can be deceptive and can conceal strong currents underneath.   
  • Do not venture into disaster zones. Your presence may hinder rescue and emergency operations.  

Wait for the All Clear: 

  • Refrain from entering a flood-damaged building until authorities confirm it’s safe. Exercise extreme caution when doing so. Ensure the electrical system has been deactivated before re-entering.  
  • Respect road closures and cautionary signs. They’re in place for your safety.  

After Returning Home:  

  • Return to your home only after local authorities have declared it safe.  
  • Do not consume flood water or use it for any household tasks like cleaning or bathing.  
  • Use only bottled, boiled or treated water for various purposes during a water advisory.  
  • Toss out food and bottled water that may have come into contact with floodwater or remained unrefrigerated for more than two hours.  
  • Dispose of drywall and insulation exposed to floodwater or sewage.  
  • Avoid using items like mattresses, pillows, carpeting and stuffed toys that can’t be adequately cleaned with bleach.  

Flood Clean Up 

Before you start any cleanup activities in your home after a flood, take pictures and video of damage to your home and your belongings for your insurer.  

Afterward safely throw away flood-soaked items that pose a health risk and start the cleanup process. 

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

  • Wash with soap and warm, clean water. 
  • Rinse with clean water 
  • Wipe surfaces with a bleach and water mix (1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.) 
  • Don’t rinse and let the surface air dry. 
  • Never mix ammonia and bleach 

After a flood, drying your home and removing water-damaged items is the most important step for preventing dangerous mold growth. You should assume you have mold 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. Remove mold growth on hard surfaces like floors, countertops, sinks, and dishes with a mix of 1 cup bleach in 1 gallon of water. Consider hiring the help of a professional to inspect and repair mold damage before you return home. 

How to tell if your home has a mold problem?  

Mold growth can be visible, or it may be concealed underneath or behind water-damaged surfaces like furniture, baseboards, or inside walls, floors, or ceilings. Mold can be hard to detect if you do not know where to look or what the signs are:  

  • Areas on floors, ceilings, walls, or furniture that look stained or discolored. 
  • An earthy or musty smell 
  • Water stains on walls or ceilings 
  • Water damage such as warped floors, peeling or bubbling paint. 

To avoid having mold in your home, make sure you are getting air flow into your house after water exposure. Make sure your sprinklers are not pointing directly at your house and that you repair all damage to your roof. 

Then, cleaning up any standing water or debris first. Use caution when removing standing water from your home. For more information on removing standing water check out: Flooded Homes: Removing Standing Water & Mucking Out – YouTube 

According to the California Department of Public Health, if these items have been damaged by flooding, try to dry them out first if there is no visible mold present. If mold is visible, the below items should be thrown out immediately: 

  • Carpet 
  • Drywall 
  • Ceiling tile 
  • Fabric 
  • Foam  
  • Cardboard  
  • Paper 
  • Particle board 

Taking these precautions seriously can make a significant difference in safeguarding yourself and your loved ones after a flood. Your safety should always be the top priority.  


For more information please visit: 

Cal OES: Floodwater Safety Tips 

CDPH: Mold or Moisture in My Home: What Do I Do?  

CDPH: Mold and Dampness  

CDC: Reentering Your Flooded Home   

FEMA: Cleaning Up Mold Safely Video