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Flood Safety Checklist

Preparing For a Flood

Gather the emergency supplies you previously stocked in your home and stay tuned to local radio or television station for updates.

Turn off gas, electricity, and water at the main switch if evacuation appears necessary. Disconnect appliances to prevent electrical shock when power is restored.

Have your immunization records handy or be aware of your last tetanus shot, in case you should receive a puncture wound or a wound becomes contaminated during or after the flood.

Fill bathtubs, sinks and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach. Rinse and fill with clean water.

Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills and trash cans inside or tie them down securely.

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When Returning To Your Flooded Home or Building

If not done before the flood, electrical power and natural gas or propane tanks should be shut off to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions. NEVER turn power on or off while standing in water.

If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company.

Have an electrician check the house’s electrical system before turning the power on again.

If the house has been closed up for several days, enter briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for awhile (at least 30 minutes) before you stay for any length of time.

Enter carefully. If the door sticks at the top, it could mean your ceiling is ready to fall. If you force the door open, wait outside the doorway in case debris falls.

Check the ceiling for signs of sagging. Wind, rain, or deep flooding may wet plaster or wallboard. It is very heavy and dangerous if it falls.

Check your home before you go in. Carefully check outside your home for loose power lines, gas leaks, foundation cracks or other damage. See if porch roofs and overhangs still have all their supports. If you see damage, a building inspector or contractor should check the building before you enter.

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Clean Up

If you are cut or receive a puncture wound during clean up, check that your tetanus protection is up to date. Tetanus shots are good for 10 years. If you have not had one or are unsure, contact your health care provider or the Health Department at 419-352-8402 or 866-861-9338.

If you have electricity and an electrician has determined that it’s safe to turn it on, use a “wet-dry” shop vacuum (or the vacuum function of a carpet steam cleaner), an electric-powered water transfer pump, or sump pump to remove standing water. If you are operating equipment in wet areas, be sure to wear rubber boots. NEVER use an electric appliance or tool while standing in water.

If you do not have electricity, or it is not safe to turn it on, you can use a portable generator to power equipment to remove standing water. Note: If you must use a gasoline-powered pump, generator, pressure washer, or any other gasoline-powered tools to clean your home, never operate the gasoline engine inside a home, basement, garage, carport, porch, or other enclosed or partially enclosed structures, even if the windows and doors are open. Such improper use can create dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

If weather permits, open windows and doors of the house to aid in the drying-out process.

Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture.

Ensure that crawl spaces in basements have proper drainage to limit water seepage. Ventilate to allow the area to dry out.

Walls, hard-surfaced floors, and many other household surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of 1 cup of bleach to five gallons of water. Be particularly careful to thoroughly disinfect surfaces that may come in contact with food and areas where small children play.

Wash all linens and clothing in hot water or dry clean them.

For items that cannot be washed or dry cleaned, such as mattresses and upholstered furniture, air dry them in the sun and then spray them thoroughly with a disinfectant.

Steam clean all carpeting.

If there has been a backflow of sewage into the house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup.

Remove and discard contaminated household materials that cannot be disinfected, such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs, and drywall.

Your heating and air conditioning system should be checked by a professional before you use them to make sure they are not damaged.

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Water Supply Safety

If there is water at or over the well cap, your well has been flooded and the water supply contaminated. Your well will have to be decontaminated and your water tested prior to using the water for cooking or drinking. You should use bottled water until your water test results indicate that the water is safe. If you choose not to use bottled water, boil your water. If you are not sure whether or not your well has been flooded, contact the Health Department for an inspection.

If you still have pressure in your water supply system, the water can be used to flush toilets but should not be used to wash dishes, cook, or drink. Due to the risk of swallowing water, do not bathe young children in contaminated water.

Water can be purified by boiling. Bring the water to a rapid boil and hold the boil for at least one (1) minute. Water can also be purified by using 8 drops of bleach to one gallon of clear water or 16 drops of bleach to one gallon of cloudy water and mix thoroughly. If the water does not smell like chlorine, discard the water. Allow the solution to stand for thirty minutes before using. Halozine tablets release chlorine and can be purchased at drug stores. Follow the directions on the label.

After the flood water recedes and the emergency has passed, you may need to disinfect your water supply if you have a private well.

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To Disinfect Your Well

To disinfect your well you will need:

2 gallons of unscented bleach (5.25% chlorine)

a garden hose that will reach from an outside spigot to your well cap

tools to remove your well cap

What to do:

Remove the well cap, vent pipe or plug, if the well is equipped with a sanitary well seal.

Pour one gallon of household bleach (5.25% chlorine) directly into the well.

Connect a hose to an outside water spigot and run water directly into the well casing until chlorine odor is present in the water, then continue to run the water into the well for 15 minutes.

Shut the spigot off but do not close the well yet.

Next, turn on all the spigots in the house – hot and cold. Run the water until you can smell the bleach, then turn them all off.

Pour the second gallon of bleach into the well.

Recap the well or replace the vent pipe or plug.

Leave all faucets turned off for at least 12 hours. You can flush toilets if needed, but do not use the water for bathing, showering, drinking or food preparation.

After 12 hours, open the outdoor spigot and run the water onto the ground or into a drainage ditch until you cannot smell the bleach.

Then, open every household water spigot again and let the water run until the chlorine odor is gone.

The well should now be properly disinfected, but the Health Department recommends that the water test be done. To test your water, obtain directions and water sample bottle from the Health Departmentt.

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Food Safety

Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water.

Thawed food can usually be eaten or refrozen if it is still "refrigerator cold," or if it still contains ice crystals.

Discard any refrigerated or frozen food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.

To be safe, remember, "When in doubt, throw it out."

Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the can labels, thoroughly wash the cans, and then disinfect them with a solution consisting of one cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Relabel your cans, including expiration date, with a marker.

Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with flood water because they cannot be disinfected.

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Home Sewage Treatment Systems

If have a septic tank or other home sewage treatment system and your yard is flooded, here are some things you can do to keep you and your family safe.

First, if the septic tank, leachfield, sandfilter or other home sewage treatment system that is underwater, plug any drains in the basement and avoid using water in the house. Also, do not let children or animals play in floodwaters as they may be contaminated with sewage.

After the flood waters recede, you may need to have the septic tank pumped to remove silt and debris. Do not do this while the tank is flooded or the soil is heavily saturated. This could cause your septic tank to move. Saturated soil is more susceptible to compaction so avoid driving over the septic tank, leachfield, sandfilter or other soil absorption areas of your system.

If sewage has backed up into the home, clean the area thoroughly. Afterwards, disinfect the area with 1 cup bleach added to 1 gallon of water. Remember, with bleach, more is not always better.

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For More Information

Click here for a more in-depth Flood Recovery Resource Packet.>> (pdf)

Contact the Wood County Health Department if you have questions about food safety, flood cleanup, or water supply safety at 419-352-8402.

You can also contact the American Red Cross and ask for a copy of the booklet “Repairing Your Flooded Home.

Emergency Preparedness Contact information

William Bryant-Bey
Phone: 419-352-8402 ext. 3267

Other Resources

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Center for Disease Control

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Ohio Department of Health's Flood Recovery Manual