August 22, 2018
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683
Sarah Mattes, Public Health Madison-Dane County, 608-243-0482

After the Flood: Take Precautions to Keep Your Family Safe

Health dangers after a flood can be present for weeks or months

State health officials are urging Wisconsin residents who live in flooded areas to be cautious even after the water begins to recede. Parts of the greater Madison area, including Middleton, Cross Plains, Mazomanie, and Belleville experienced record rainfall and subsequent flooding beginning Monday, August 20. Governor Scott Walker has declared a State of Emergency in Dane County.

Today the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is reminding people that the effects of standing water can create health hazards that can last weeks, months, or even years. For those in the areas impacted by the floods, here are some precautions you should take:

  • Avoid going into flood waters as they may contain raw sewage, chemicals, and debris.
  • Make sure buildings are structurally sound before re-entry.
  • Do not enter if you notice the smell of natural gas.
  • Have electrical systems inspected, including outlets that may have been under water.
  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. That includes canned foods. When in doubt, throw it out.

Flood water damage can lead to mold growth. Mold may be seen or smelled within a few days, but the problems may take longer to show up. The best advice is to talk to a professional cleaning service to determine how serious the mold problem is and the safest way to get rid of it. Within a few days you may see or smell mold, but sometimes problems take longer to show up.

Other clean up tips include:

  • Using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers to help the drying process.
  • Hard surfaces that have been in contact with flood waters should be washed with a non-ammonia household cleaner and water then disinfected with a mixture of bleach and water and allowed to air dry. (Use caution when using bleach and never mix bleach with ammonia or acids, as this can create toxic gasses that are dangerous.)
  • Wash any clothes contaminated with flood water, including clothes worn for cleanup, in hot water and laundry detergent. Wash contaminated clothes and linen separately from laundry that isn’t contaminated.

After flood waters recede, residents with wells that were submerged are advised to have the well checked. Well water should be sampled for coliform bacteria, whose presence indicates contamination and requires disinfection of the well and water system.

Natural disasters can cause stress, anxiety, sadness, and depression. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a free, confidential Disaster Distress Helpline. Affected residents can call 1-800-985-5990 or text TALKWITHUS to 66746.