Flood Safety, Fact Sheet
The American Red Cross wants you to know what to do after the flood. This information has been prepared to help you and your family be safe.
Contaminated floodwaters lead to a greater possibility of infection. Severe injuries that
have come into contact with floodwaters will require medical attention.
Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency
operations, and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods, such as
contaminated waters, crumbled roads, landslides, mudflows, and other hazards.
Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or television stations and
return home only when authorities indicate it is safe to do so. Flood dangers do not end
when the water begins to recede; there may be flood-related hazards within your
community, which you could hear about from local broadcasts.
Stay out of any building if floodwaters remain around the building. Floodwaters often
undermine foundations, causing sinking, floors can crack or break and buildings can
Avoid entering ANY building (home, business, or other) before local officials have said it
is safe to do so. Buildings may have hidden damage that makes them unsafe. Gas leaks
or electric or waterline damage can create additional problems.
Report broken utility lines to the appropriate authorities. Reporting potential hazards will
get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury.
Check with your utility company now about where broken lines should be reported.
Avoid smoking inside buildings. Smoking in confined areas can cause fires.
When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Building damage may have occurred
where you least expect it. Watch carefully every step you take.
Wear sturdy shoes. The most common injury following a disaster is cut feet.
Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. Battery-powered
lighting is the safest and easiest, preventing fire hazard for the user, occupants, and
Examine walls, floors, doors, staircases, and windows to make sure that the building is
not in danger of collapsing.
Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. Cracks and damage to a foundation can
render a building uninhabitable.
Look for fire hazards. There may be broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical
circuits, or submerged furnaces or electrical appliances. Flammable or explosive
materials may travel from upstream. Fire is the most frequent hazard following floods.
Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window
and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and
call the Gas Company from a neighbor’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it
must be turned back on by a professional.
Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you
smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If
you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first
for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to
Check for sewage and waterline damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged,
avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the Water
Company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from
undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.
Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes that may have come into buildings
with the floodwaters. Use a stick to poke through debris. Flood waters flush snakes and
many animals out of their homes.
Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that could fall.
Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
After returning home:
Throw away food that has come in contact with floodwaters. Some canned foods may
be salvageable. If the cans are dented or damaged, throw them away. Food
contaminated by floodwaters can cause severe infections.
b. If water is of questionable purity, boil or add bleach, and distill drinking water before
using. Wells inundated by floodwaters should be pumped out and the water tested for
purity before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authority. Ill health
effects often occur when people drink water contaminated with bacteria and germs.
Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid
structural damage. If the water is pumped completely in a short period of time,
pressure from water-saturated soil on the outside could cause basement walls to
d. Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as
possible. Damaged sewage systems are health hazards.
Tips from the National Disaster Education Coalition