After a Flood
Following a flood, it is important to restore your home to good order as soon as possible to protect your health and prevent further damage to your house and its contents.
Before You Begin
Exercise caution when re-entering your home. Avoid electrical shock by wearing rubber boots in an area flooded with more than 5 centimeters (2 inches) of standing water. Make sure the building is structurally safe. Look for buckled walls or floors. Watch for holes in the floor, broken glass and other potentially dangerous debris.
Keep extension cords out of the water. If the power is on in the flooded area, shut it off immediately at the breaker box. If conditions are wet around the breaker box, stand on a dry board and use a dry stick to turn off the switch. Consult with your local electrical utility if you require assistance.
Flood water can be heavily contaminated with sewage and other pollutants, and pose a serious health hazard. If through taste, colour or odour you suspect that your drinking water has been contaminated, purify it before drinking either by boiling it for 10 minutes or adding purification tablets. If you choose to chlorinate your water with a non-perfumed bleaching compound, add one drop per litre of water, or three drops per litre of cloudy water, and allow it to stand for 30 minutes before consuming.
Household items that have been flood-damaged will have to be bagged, tagged and discarded according to local regulations.
Assemble equipment and supplies, which should include:
- gloves, masks and other protective gear
- pails, mops, squeegees and plastic garbage bags
- chlorine bleach and non-ammonia dish washing detergent (Note: Never mix bleach with ammonia since the fumes produced together are toxic)
- large containers for soaking bedding and clothing, and lines to hang them until they are dry
Remember to store all valuable papers that have been damaged in a freezer until they are needed.
Record details of flood damage, by photograph or video if possible. Register the amount of damage to your home with both your insurance agent and local municipality immediately.
Before Moving Back In
Once the flood waters have receded, you must not live in your house until several steps have been followed:
- the regular water supply has been inspected and officially declared safe for use
- every flood-contaminated room has been thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and surface-dried
- all contaminated dishes and utensils have been thoroughly washed and disinfected either by using boiling water or by using a sterilizing solution of one part chlorine bleach to four parts water, then rinse dishes and utensils thoroughly
- adequate toilet facilities are available
Heating Systems and Appliances
Do not heat your home to more than 4 degrees Celsius (about 40 degrees Fahrenheit) until all water is removed.
Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse-breaker panels until they have been checked by your local utility.
Whether you use a wood, gas or electrical heating system, ensure that you have it thoroughly inspected by a qualified technician before using it again. If they have been soaked, replace the furnace blower motor, switches and controls. Flooded forced-air heating ducts and return-duct pans should be either cleaned or replaced.
Replace filters and insulation inside furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators and freezers if they have been wet. However, it is often cheaper to replace this equipment.
Flush and disinfect floor drains and sump pumps using undiluted chlorine bleach. Scrub them to remove greasy dirt and grime. Clean or replace footing drains outside the foundation when they are clogged. Consult a professional for advice or service.
Any of the following food items exposed to flood waters must be disposed of:
- the contents of your freezer or refrigerator
- all meats
- all fresh fruit and vegetables
- all boxed foods
- all bottled drinks and products in jars, including home preserves – since the area under the seal of jars and bottles cannot be properly disinfected
- all medicines, cosmetics and other toiletries
- all undamaged canned goods must be thoroughly washed and disinfected. Any cans with large dents or that reveals seepage must also be disposed of
What to Keep or Discard
Remove and replace all insulation materials and other articles that have been soaked, including particleboard furniture, mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys, pillows, as well as furniture coverings, paddings and cushions.
Frames on high-quality furniture can often by salvaged. However, they must first be cleaned, disinfected and rinsed, then dried by ventilation away from direct sunlight or heat. Drying too quickly can cause warping and cracking.
Scrape heavy dirt from washable clothes. Rinse and wash them several times in cold water treated with one cup of chlorine bleach per washer load, and dry quickly.
The yard area should also be cleared of all debris and refuse, which can provide a breeding ground for bacteria and mould.
Keep children away from contaminated areas during clean-up operations.