Returning after a flood advice from the Environment Agency
Health advice following flooding from the Health Protection Agency
Advice on chemical and environmental hazards after flooding from the Health Protection Agency
REMEMBER TO STAY SAFE
It is recommended that you only fully reoccupy your home once it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and allowed to dry out.
Be careful walking through floodwater, there may be debris, open manholes or other hazards you cannot see and sediments may be slippery. Always move slowly and carefully.
Never enter flooded areas or touch electrical equipment if the ground is wet, unless you are certain that the power is off.
Do not assume that any part of a flooded electrical installation/appliance is safe.
If your home or business has been flooded, electrical hazards may exist long after the water dissipates.
If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel.
Do not turn the power back on.
Do not turn on any electrical equipment if it has been under water until it has been inspected by a qualified electrician. These items may work and appear safe but once they have been under water, they could cause electrocution or fire.
Turn of the gas supply to appliances that have been flooded and do not use until they have been checked by a CORGI registered engineer.
A Gloucester City Council Building Inspector will visit you’re property, if you have been flooded, to confirm there is no structural damage.
The main health hazard following flooding comes from the stress and strain of the event, not from infections. Take some time to consider your mental health and approach the clean up without overexerting yourself and in this way you will avoid additional physical stress.
The safe use of emergency generators
Remember that petrol or diesel generators, dehumidifiers and pressure washers should never be used indoors without adequate ventilation. The exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide which can quickly build up to poisonous levels without proper ventilation.
STAYING SAFE WHEN RETURNING HOME AND CLEANING-UP
It is recommended that you only fully reoccupy your home once it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and allowed to dry out. Remember your power supplies may have been affected. Turn off the power and get advice from your supplier/s before use.
Some basic precautions are all that is necessary to protect your health - infection problems arising from floods in the UK are rare. If you follow the advice in this leaflet, you should be able to avoid any additional health problems for you and your family as a result of clearing up.
Reducing the Risk of Infection
Floodwater affecting your property may have been contaminated with sewage. Although any bugs in floodwater will have been very diluted and present a low risk you should always:
Wear protective clothing - waterproof boots, apron and gloves - while cleaning up. Cover any open cuts with waterproof plasters.
Wash your hands with soap and water after being in contact with floodwater or items that have been contaminated and always wash your hands before eating or preparing food.
Health risks can be minimised by taking general hygiene precautions and by the use of protective clothing (waterproof boots and gloves) whilst cleaning up.
You should also always wash your hands with soap and clean water:
after you go to the toilet,
when you eat or prepare food,
after being in contact with flood water, sewage or items that have been contaminated by flood water, and
after participating in flood cleanup activities.
Don't allow children to play in floodwater areas and wash children's hands frequently (always before meals). Wash floodwater-contaminated toys with hot water and disinfectant before allowing them to be used again.
Keep any open cuts or sores clean and prevent them being exposed to flood water. Wear waterproof plasters.
Harmful bacteria may be present in sewage and animal slurry, and this can pass into flood water, although it is likely to be extremely diluted. If you or anyone in your family gets symptoms such as sickness, diarrhoea, or tummy cramps, or if you become ill after accidentally swallowing mud or contaminated water speak with your GP or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 for advice.
In inaccessible areas such as under floorboards it may smell but is not necessarily a health hazard. Get further advice from the environmental health department if the smell persists or if you are particularly concerned about it for other reasons.
As your property continues to dry out, vacuum any loose material and dust on a regular basis.
Very young children should avoid playing directly on timber floorboards or any damaged tiled floors if possible - be aware of the risk of injury from sharp edges on tiles or raised nails in the floorboards until these have been repaired.
Gardens and play areas
Do not let children or pets play on affected grassed or paved areas until they have been cleaned.
Replace any manhole covers dislodged by the flood.
Remove any toilet waste from affected areas and after the grass has grown and been cut once, there should be no further risk.
Sunlight and soil will help destroy harmful bacteria and outdoor areas will be safe to use within a week or so after flooding.
Garden Vegetable Produce
Don't eat garden or allotment vegetables that have been covered by sewerage or floodwater.
Although any health risk may be small, it is better to dispose of any contaminated produce and start again.
Be aware of potential chemical hazards you may encounter during flood recovery.
Floodwaters may have buried or moved hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places. If you are worried about major chemical contamination, contact the fire and rescue service for advice in the first instance.
If the floodwater contained oil, petrol or diesel it should go away with the floodwater and silt. Any remaining oil, diesel or petrol contamination can be removed by using a detergent solution and washing the surface down after initial cleaning has been carried out.
Car batteries, even those immersed in floodwater may still contain an electric charge and should only be removed with extreme caution by using insulated gloves. Avoid coming into contact with any acid that may have been spilt from the battery.
In general you should avoid contact with contaminated water and materials, but if it becomes necessary to do so, you should wear protective clothing and gloves. You should also avoid enclosed areas that may be chemically contaminated, such as garages and cellars, where hazardous fumes may build up.
Be aware that flood waters may have soaked into containers of chemicals, solvents and other industrial items or moved them from their normal storage place. However the risk of chemical exposure is likely to be limited as the volume of flood water has been so significant that there is likely to be considerable dilution of any chemical hazard that may have been released. In general avoid contact with flood water and wear protective clothing and waterproof gloves whilst cleaning up.
Special care should be taken when opening cupboards that may contain household or garden chemicals that have become wet, especially those in bags or cardboard packaging. In general avoid contact with these products if wet and wear protective clothing (including eye protection) and waterproof gloves whilst cleaning up.
Petrol or oil films may be seen floating on the flood waters both inside buildings and surrounding areas. It is recommended that these petrol films should not be disturbed. Flood waters should be allowed to subside and on contact with the ground the petrol allowed to evaporate. Avoid exposure to petrol films where possible. As is normal practice people are reminded not to smoke or have fire sources such as matches in the vicinity of petrol films.
Avoid enclosed areas that may be chemically contaminated, such as garages and cellars where hazardous fumes may build up. Ensure such confined areas are adequately ventilated before entering and are not accessible to children and animals.
Following potential chemical contamination, residents should not return home without seeking advice from your Local Authority.
Water and mud may enter gas systems during a flood. Even if appliances appear to be working normally, the flue or ventilation systems may be affected. For safety reasons it is most important to have appliances inspected by a CORGI registered engineer before they are used for the first time after flooding.
It is recommended that you only fully reoccupy your home once it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and allowed to dry out. This will also reduce any risk from any chemical hazard.
Reducing the risk of mould
Flooding can contribute to the growth of mould in homes, which can present a health risk, especially to people with asthma, allergies, other breathing conditions and those with a suppressed immune system.
If Your Drinking Water becomes Contaminated
If your water comes through a mains supply, follow the advice of the local water company regarding the safety of the water supply.
Water companies have a duty to take all necessary steps to protect public health. If a water treatment works becomes flooded alternative supplies are normally available but consumers may be advised to boil water before drinking or temporarily refrain from using water for domestic purposes.
If you notice a change in water quality, such as the water becoming discoloured or there is a change in taste or smell, or if you are unsure, ring your local water company. If in doubt boil all water intended for drinking or use bottled water.
If you have been advised to boil your water, then boil all water for drinking, brushing teeth, washing food and making ice.
If your water is a private supply such as a well or spring, then check that it has not been affected by the floodwater. If a private well or spring has been covered by floodwater, if the water changes colour or taste, or you believe the supply has been affected by the flood then boil the water before you use it.
Continue to boil the water until the supply has been tested and shown to be safe. Boiling water kills pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites that may be present in water. Bring the water to the boil and then allow it to cool before drinking. It can be stored in a clean jug covered by a saucer in a cool place (preferably in the fridge). Ice should be made from water prepared for drinking.
Use a bleach solution to rinse containers before reusing them after flooding. Use water storage tanks and other types of containers with caution. This applies particularly to pans and utensils used in cooking or food preparation.
Links to Latest Flood and Water Supply Information
Last Updated: 30/07/07