What to do AFTER a Flood 


As the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) recognizes September as Emergency Preparedness Month, we encourage Californians to be prepared for what follows disasters.

Californians pride themselves on being “ready.” But knowing what to do AFTER a disaster strikes 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. 

Addressing Mold and Sewage Contamination: 

  • Ensure the house is thoroughly dried to prevent mold growth. 
  • Use appropriate equipment and follow safety guidelines.  
  • Assume your home has mold if it’s been flooded. Exercise caution during re-entry. 
  • If sewage contamination is suspected, take necessary precautions. 

Gas Leak Safety Measures: 

  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, ventilate the area and leave immediately. Seek guidance on generator and propane safety before re-entering. 
  • Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning by using generators and pressure washers outdoors, at least 20 feet from doors, windows and vents. 

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. 

Find more flood safety tips from Cal OES here