Flooded Homes

Safety & Sanitation Instructions

In the event of flood damage to a home, it is important to document everything. Take pictures or video before and during the flood if possible, immediately after the flood, and both during and after clean-up. This will help you receive the insurance reimbursement to which you may be entitled.

Vacated

If the home has been vacated, do not move the family back until there is:

  • Electricity
  • An adequate water supply
  • Toilet facilities available
  • Heating system in working order
  • Clean, dry bedding available

Note: Do not bring children into the flood area during cleanup!

Not Vacated

If the home has not been vacated during the flood period, wash or flush down walls and floors as fast as the flood waters recede.

Drinking Water

In order to clean up a flooded home, adults (no children) may return but should take a supply of safe drinking water with them in clean bottles or jugs. If possible, get water from a safe municipal source or use bottled water. Local authorities will let residents know if public water is not safe and if you should use bottled or boiled water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, washing hands, brushing teeth, making baby formula, and bathing infants and toddlers.

Private Wells

Water from wells located in the flooded areas is not safe to use. Do not use the well water for drinking or washing of any kind, unless it is an emergency and the water has been treated first by boiling or chlorine bleach purification. 

Boiling: Boil vigorously for 1 minute. To improve taste, pour from one clean container to another several times to aerate. Allow water to cool before using.

Bleach Purification: If you are unable to boil water, liquid household bleach can be used for water disinfection. The label may say that the active ingredient contains 6 or 8.25% of sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented, color safe, or bleaches with added cleaners. Add 8 drops of 6% bleach, or 6 drops of 8.25% bleach, to each gallon of water. Double the amount of bleach if the water is cloudy, colored, or very cold. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor, and it may taste a bit like chlorine.

If floodwater comes anywhere near the well head, disinfect the well and water supply system and then test the water for coliform bacteria before using the water. 

Contact our Environmental Health Division at 734-222-3800 with any questions regarding your water well.

Sewage Disposal & Plumbing

While a basement or home is still flooded, avoid flushing toilets or using other plumbing fixtures whose discharge would increase the hazard or make the basement or home more difficult to clean.

Septic Systems

If you have a septic system, it can be impacted by flooding. Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house. After flood waters recede, have your septic tank professionally inspected and serviced if you suspect damage, or if flood waters have washed away soil and part of your septic system is exposed. Signs of damage can include settling or an inability to accept wastewater.  

Follow these guidelines on what to do after your septic system area is flooded.

Contact our Environmental Health Division at 734-222-3800 with any questions regarding your septic system.

Electric & Gas Utilities

Be cautious when entering a flooded basement or home. Electrical outlets and gas lines can be very dangerous. Have the utility service shut off the electricity and gas lines if possible.

  • Do not handle any connected electrical cords or appliances if the current is still on. Get assistance before attempting to disconnect cords or open the fuse box.
  • Do not light a match in an enclosed area where gas could be present. Check all affected pilot lights or burners on gas-fired or oil-fired appliances before placing them back in service.
  • If electricity is connected to an appliance which has had the motor controls submerged, do not attempt to start in until you have consulted your appliance service company or dealer.

Carbon Monoxide Safety

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas produced by many types of equipment. When power outages occur, people sometimes use alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling, or cooking. These alternative sources can cause carbon monoxide to build up in a home, garage, or camper - poisoning the people and animals inside.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness and death.

Important carbon monoxide poisoning prevention tips:

  • Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home (including basement and garage), tent, or camper or near a window, door or vent.
  • Never run a generator or gasoline-powered engine inside a home, basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless professionally installed and vented.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator or any gasoline-powered engine outside an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
  • Never leave a vehicle’s motor running when parked in a garage, even if the doors are open.
  • If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or family or at a shelter.

If a carbon monoxide detector sounds, leave the home immediately and call 9-1-1. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.

Food Safety

When in doubt, throw it out. Foods exposed to flood waters should be discarded.

  • Discard all bottled goods sealed with crimped caps that were in the flood. Destroy the contents to make certain that no one else will use the bottled goods.
  • Discard all canned or jarred foods that came into contact with flood waters.
  • Discard all vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, and others which were in contact with the flood water.
  • Food stored in a refrigerator where the electricity has been off for more than 24 hours or where flood waters have risen above the door opening should be discarded.
  • Food stored in a deep freeze unit where the electricity has been off for more than 72 hours should be examined carefully. Food that has not reached a temperature of 40F or above could be refrozen and used without endangering health. However, the flavor and texture might be damaged. Frozen food with a temperature above 40F should be discarded. Food in a freezer where the door or lid has been submerged in flood water should be discarded if there is evidence that water has entered the freezer compartment.
  • Any discarded food should be placed in a covered, vermin proof receptacle until final pick-up or disposal.

Clean Up

Flood waters are likely to be contaminated with bacteria, viruses and/or parasites. Protect yourself by wearing shoes/waders, gloves and a mask when cleaning flooded items.

  • Use flashlights or other battery-operated lights to enter basements or flooded areas. Do not use matches, lighters, or candles. The flooding may have caused gas fumes to build up in the home.
  • During the clean-up period of flooded areas, provide as much ventilation as possible by opening windows, and use fans if electricity is available.
  • After the flood waters recede, flood waters may be removed through natural drainage or by pumping. Pumping water should be directed away from septic fields, lakes and streams, storm sewers, play areas, and your neighbor’s property. Draining flood water in the septic field could flood your septic system and cause toilets to back up.
  • Remove damaged carpeting, furniture, dishes, wall board, appliances, etc., from the flooded area.
  • Flooded areas must be scrubbed with soapy water. Use hot or warm water if available. Wash all walls up to two feet (24 inches) above the level of where the flood water stopped. Wash all floors. Be sure to scrub food contact surfaces (counter tops, pantry shelves, refrigerators, stoves, cutting boards, etc.) and areas where children play. Allow washed surfaces to dry. Discard wash water outside.
  • Next, disinfect all surfaces (floors, walls, counters, etc.) with a solution made of ½ cup household bleach in one gallon of clean water. Allow surfaces to dry. Remember to vent the basement while cleaning up with bleach. There may be fumes from the bleach. Caution: Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products - the fumes are toxic!
  • Wash all linens and clothing which were exposed to flood water in HOT soapy water, or dry clean.
  • Clothing, carpets, upholstered furniture, toys, bedding, and similar items should be appropriately discarded unless they are cleaned and disinfected. Some salvage companies are equipped to process contaminated materials. Discarded items should not be left accessible to unauthorized scavengers.
  •  Steam clean all carpeting. Clothing, toys, furniture, bedding and similar objects should be cleaned and disinfected properly. If items cannot be thoroughly cleaned they should be discarded.
  • Movable objects should be put outdoors to dry and be exposed to sunlight.
  • After cleaning the flooded areas, the make sure that all clothing and parts of your body which come in contact with the floodwaters/sewage are thoroughly washed. Prevent tracking flood residue into the living quarters of the house.
  • Monitor areas that were flooded for mold growth. Visit our mold page for more information.
  • Once the area has been properly cleaned, inspect all power outlets and replace any that are damaged or damp. Contact the utility companies and request that service be turned back on. Relight all pilot lights for the furnace and hot water tank following manufacturer’s directions. Replace furnace filters and air filters.

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