Flooding - Be Prepared
Floods can have serious impacts to the health and safety of the public. You can take steps to reduce the harm caused by flooding. Learn how to prepare for a flood, stay safe during a flood, and protect your health when you return home after a flood.
Stay informed by self-registering for alerts through your County Emergency Operations Center.
- Make a flood emergency plan for evacuation routes, warning signals, and locations of emergency shelters. Include yourself, household members, and any animals.
- Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit and include:
- Cooking equipment
- Drinking water
- Food/Pet Food
- Medicine/First aid supplies
- Ensure you vehicle has a full tank of gas and if possible create an emergency kit for your vehicle if possible with the above items.
- Purchase flood insurance form FEMA.
- Stay informed of reports of flood danger and follow evacuation directions.
Home Flood Preparation
- Identify potential home hazards and know how to secure or protect them, such as moving outdoor furniture indoors and moving the most important indoor items to the highest possible floor.
- Evaluate the furnace, water heather and electrical panel in your home.
- Disconnect electrical appliances. To prevent electrocution do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
- If instructed, turn off gas and electricity at the main switch or valve to help prevent fires and explosions.
Drinking Water Well Flood Preparation
- Check that the well has a tight-fitting, waterproof cap. Wrap the cap and well casing with durable sheet plastic and duct tape, then place sand bags around the well.
- Ensure the backflow prevention valves are in place.
- Turn the electricity off to your well pump just prior to the flood. Do not turn the electricity back on until the floodwaters recede.
- If the well is not used during the flood, plug the vent holes. Remember to unplug the vent wholes after threat of flood has passed.
Septic System Flood Preparation
- If you have a septic system, ensure all access points to the system (lids, risers, cleanouts and inspection ports) are properly covered to prevent the flow of floodwaters into the system.
- Install a backflow preventer (check valve) on the building sewer so sewage cannot back up into your home during a flooding event.
- If your septic system requires electricity, turn off the pump and alarms at the circuit box before the areas floods. Discontinue use of the system once the power supply has been shut off.
- Limit water use during and after flooding. The drain field may not accept effluent until the area dries. Normal water use should not continue until the area is unsaturated and the septic system has been inspected to identify problems and any necessary repairs have been made.
- Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.
- Make sure the freezer is at 0°F or below and the refrigerator is at 41°F or below.
- Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.
- Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
- Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
- Check the National Weather Service for updates.
- Follow flood watches and warnings
- Flood Watch: "Be Aware" as conditions are just right for flooding to occur in the area.
- Flood Warning: "Take Action!" a flood is either occurring or will happen shortly.
- Never ignore evacuation orders. If ordered to evacuate:
- Gather emergency supplies you previously stocked in your home and stay tuned to local radio, television, or Emergency Alert systems for updates.
- Do not try to walk or drive through flooded areas.
- Follow emergency evacuation routes. If your car stalls in floodwater, get out quickly and move to higher ground.
- Stay away from moving water.
- Stay away from disaster areas unless authorities ask for volunteers.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
Stay Out of Floodwater
Floodwaters contain many things that may harm your health. Floodwater can contain:
- Human and livestock waste
- Household, medical, and industrial hazardous waste (chemical, biological, and radiological).
- Coal ash waste that can contain carcinogenic compounds such as arsenic, chromium, and mercury.
- Other contaminants that can lead to illness.
- Physical objects such as lumber, vehicles, and debris.
- Wild or stray animals such as rodents and snakes.
It is important to protect yourself from exposure to floodwater regardless of the source of contamination. Information on preventing injuries can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.
When returning to your home after a flood, be aware that flood water is likely contaminated and presents risks. Protect yourself and your family by following these steps:
- Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.
- Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.
- Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).
- Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
- Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.
- Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.
- After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).
- Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of ⅛ teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of ¼ teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
- Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
- Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent. It is recommended that a laundromat be used for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until your onsite waste-water system has been professionally inspected and serviced.
- Have your onsite waste-water system professionally serviced if you suspect damage.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
- The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.
- Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items if the food temperature if above 41 degrees F. for more than 4 hours.
- Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 41°F or below when checked with a food thermometer.
- Never taste a food to determine its safety!
- Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time.
- If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40°F or below, the food is safe to refreeze.
- If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
- Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
- Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
- Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved.
- Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters. If bottled water is not available, tap water can be boiled for safety.