Flooding in Homes

If the home has been vacated, do not move the family back until there is:

  • Electricity
  • An adequate water supply
  • Toilet facilities available
  • Heating system in working order
  • Clean, dry bedding available 


In order to rehabilitate a home, adults (no children) may return but should TAKE A SUPPLY OF SAFE DRINKING WATER WITH THEM in clean bottles or jugs. If possible, obtain water from a municipal source. In the event that municipal water cannot be obtained, locate a water supply outside the flood area.

Water from wells located in the flooded areas may be unsafe and should not be used for drinking or cooking, brushing teeth, dishwashing or clothes washing UNLESS BOILED FOR TEN MINUTES OR TREATED WITH CHLORINE (be sure to disinfect it with one of the common liquid chlorine laundry bleaches, such as Clorox or Roman Cleanser, etc. Add three or four drops (eye dropper) to each one gallon of water and mix and let stand for thirty minutes. This treatment will make the water safe, however, a chlorine taste may be noticed).

If you suspect your well has been contaminated, contact the health department immediately for guidance.

  • Be cautious in entering a flooded basement relative to electric outlets and gas lines. Have the Utility Service Department shut off the electricity and gas lines if possible. Do not handle any connected electrical cords or appliances if the current is still on. Get assistance before attempting to disconnect cords or open the fuse box in a flooded basement. Do not light a match in an enclosed area where gas could be present. Check all affected pilot lights or burners on gas fired or oil fired appliances before placing them back in service. If electricity is connected to an appliance which has had the motor controls submerged, do not attempt to start it until you have consulted your appliance service company or dealer. 
  • While a basement is still flooded, avoid flushing toilets or using other plumbing fixtures whose discharge would increase the hazard or make the basement more difficult to clean. 
  • Drain surface pools by trenching or pumping as soon as possible after the flood waters/sewage recede. Basements need to be completely drained. Wash or flush down walls and floors if possible during the draining process. As a final clean up of walls, floors, cupboards, dishes, etc., use plenty of soap or dishwashing compound. Use warm or hot water if possible. Areas may be disinfected by use of 8 tablespoons of Clorox or Roman Cleanser laundry bleach per gallon of warm water. Wear personal protective equipment such as rubber gloves, boots, aprons, or old clothes to prevent exposure to any harmful organisms. 
  • During cleanup for a recent flood event, air the basement or other enclosed areas by cross ventilation (open windows on opposite walls) to assist in drying. Use fans if electricity is available. Quick drying of flood soaked areas can prevent future mold growth. Use of fans and other forced ventilation may not be appropriate in areas of heavy mold growth that has already occurred. Contact the health department for further assistance if you encounter areas of heavy mold growth. 
  • Discard all bottled goods sealed with crimped caps that were in the flood. Destroy the contents to make certain no one else will use such bottled goods. 

Discard all vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions and others which were in contact with the flood water/sewage. Canned fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed. Wash the outside of the can with soap and hot water, using a brush around the covers and rubber rings. The cans and jars should then be immersed in chlorinated water for at least 15 minutes using a solution of about one ounce of bleach to 3 gallons of water.

Food stored in a refrigerator where the electricity has been off for more than 12 hours or where flood waters/sewage have risen above the door opening should be discarded.

Food stored in a deep freeze unit where the electricity has been off for more than 72 hours should be examined carefully. If the food has not reached a temperature of 45 degrees F or above, it could be re frozen and used without endangering health, however, the flavor and texture might be damaged. Food with a temperature of above 45 degrees F should be discarded. Food in a freezer where the door or lid has been submerged in flood water should be discarded if there is evidence that water has entered the freezer compartment.

Any discarded food or vegetables should be placed in a covered trash can with a lid until final pickup or disposal.

  • Soft items and fabrics which cannot be thoroughly washed and sanitized will have to be discarded, such as, carpets, upholstered furniture, mattresses, and similar items. Some salvage agencies or companies are equipped to process contaminated material without hazard to employees or eventual customers. Discarded clothing should not be left accessible to unauthorized scavengers pending pick-up. 
  • Any open cuts or sores should be protected during the clean up procedures. Cleanse the wound with soap and water as soon as the clean up is completed. Make sure you are up to date on your tetanus shot or consider getting one. 

For further information contact the Environmental Health Division of your local Health department. For Ingham County, call (517) 887-4312.