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Flooding: Re-entering Your Home After a Flood

A home that is flooded might be contaminated with mold or sewage, which can cause health risks for your family. There might also be safety risks if your gas and electric service was interrupted. For additional information, contact your local health department.

The following tips will help you avoid or reduce safety and health risks as you re-enter your home. 

Natural Gas Safety

  • If you notice a natural gas odor when entering your home, do NOT enter. Immediately call your local utility company or your fire department.
  • Have furnace or gas appliance inspected by a professional repair person, and then have them re-light the appliance or furnace.
  • While waiting for your furnace to be re-lighted, do NOT use other heating sources such as gas space heaters, grills, or other appliances that can give off dangerous fumes. Carbon Monoxide produced by gas appliances is dangerous and can be fatal.

Electrical Safety

  • Have your electrical system inspected by a electrical contractor or building inspector
  • Any electrical outlets that were submerged, MUST be inspected for safety
  • If you have electrical problems, call the your local utility company.
  • Electrical appliances that were exposed to the water, must be completely dry before use. Note: electrical motors that were submerged probably will not work (e.g. refrigerator motor)
  • If you decide to use electric heaters, be careful to place them away from items that can burn. Because of possible fire hazards, do not leave heaters unattended.

Water Damage

  • Buildings that have been flooded should be inspected by a building inspector for structural damage before re-occupancy
  • Broken water pipes may have created puddles in your home. Using electrical appliances while standing in water can cause electric shock or electrocution.
  • If you receive a cut or puncture wound while cleaning your home, tetanus shots are available through your local public health department.
  • If you are on municipal water, turn on and run faucets for at least five minutes before using water for drinking or food preparation. If a "boil water" notice is issued, follow any directions given by the Department of Natural Resources, the local utility company, or your local health department.  More information about drinking water is available.
  • Damaged or wet flooring, carpeting, furniture, drywall, insulation, etc. should be removed and disposed of to prevent mold growth.
  • In case of water damage, contact your local public health department for a list of plumbers and a flood brochure.

Food after Flooding

  • For infants, use ONLY pre-prepared canned baby formula that requires no added water, rather than powdered formulas prepared with treated water. 
  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. Throw out any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. 
  • We recommend that canned foods that have come in contact with contaminated water be disposed of as a precautionary measure. However, undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the can labels, wash the cans, and then disinfect them with a solution consisting of one cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Re-label your cans, including the 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. 
  • If your refrigerator or freezer is without power for a period of time, all stored items should be carefully checked. Double check (by odor and appearance) all meats, seafood, milk, produce and leftovers. Perishable food left at room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown out. Frozen food that has thawed should be thrown out if not eaten right away or kept refrigerated. When in doubt, throw it out. 
  • FDA has a printable fact sheet about food handling after a flood. (PDF)
  • Produce from Flooded Gardens-is it safe? UW Extension
Last revised December 30, 2019