Flood: Returning Home After the Flood

Scene from the 1987 flood.

There are potential hazards that need to be considered when entering your home: gas leaks, electrical hazards, structural damage, and unsafe drinking water.

First, open windows and doors to allow foul odors and leaking gas to escape. Then inspect your home.

Gas Leaks:

Use your sense of smell. Do not turn on any light switches; instead, use a flashlight to check damages. Lanterns, torches, electrical sparks, and cigarettes could cause an explosive fire if there is a gas leak. If you find a leak, call the gas company for help.

Electrical Hazards:

Wear rubber gloves and rubber-soled shoes to avoid electrocution. If the house has been flooded, do not turn on any lights or appliances. Do not operate flooded electrical appliances until they have been reconditioned. Call an electrical contractor or repair shop for further information. Turn off the electricity when checking electrical circuits and equipment or when checking a flooded basement. If the circuit breaker is in a flooded basement, the power company will need to turn off the electricity from outside the house. Make sure the circuits are dry before turning on the power.

Structural Damage:

Watch for falling debris and check for possible damage to floors and walls. Knock down any hanging plaster. If you are not sure of the dangers the structural damage presents, call the city building inspector or engineer.

There is a danger of foundation walls collapsing, especially if the basement is flooded. Keep an eye on the foundation walls as the water is removed. This causes a change in pressure and could cause the walls to cave in. To prevent radical changes in pressure, pump about a third of the water out each day. The water pressure needs a chance to equalize. Use a gas sump pump if the electricity has to remain off.

Report broken utility lines to the authorities.

Drinking Water:

Supplies from any source suspected of being affected by flood conditions may be treated by one of the following methods:

  • Mix teaspoonful of commercial laundry bleach with 2 gallons of water. Let stand five minutes before drinking.
  • Bring water to a boil for ten minutes in a clean container. Eliminate the flat taste by shaking the water in a bottle, by pouring from one container to another, or by adding a pinch of salt. If the water is from a public supply, local authorities will tell you if boiling is necessary.
  • Add five drops of tincture of iodine solution to one quart of water. Mix thoroughly and allow to stand for 30 minutes before drinking.
  • Use water purifying tablets, available in drug stores or camping equipment outlets.

Food Safety:

Do not use fresh food that has come in contact with flood waters.

Record Keeping

Keep records of all flood-related expenses. See sheet on After the Flood: Record Keeping for details.

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