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Flooding

ALWAYS CALL 911 if you are in immediate danger and need emergency help.

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Prepare for flooding

For communities, companies, or water and wastewater facilities:

During flooding

State and local response agencies are the primary responders for people who are concerned about or were affected by flooding. Find your state emergency office or agency from FEMA.

Avoid contact with flood water due to potentially elevated levels of contamination associated with raw sewage and other hazardous or toxic substances that may be in the flood water. EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services urge everyone in contact with flood waters to follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid or limit direct contact with contaminated flood water.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap, especially before drinking and eating.
  • Do not allow children to play in flood water, or play with toys contaminated with flood water.
  • Report cuts or open wounds, and report all symptoms of illness. Keep vaccinations current.
  • More about health risks from flood waters.

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Recover after flooding

graphic version of flood cleanup information on this pageALERT: Generator exhaust is toxic. Always put generators outside well away from doors, windows, and vents. Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly, can build up quickly, and linger for hours. More information.

Limit contact with flood water.

Flood water may have high levels of raw sewage or other hazardous substances. Early symptoms from exposure to contaminated flood water may include upset stomach, intestinal problems, headache and other flu-like discomfort. Anyone experiencing these and any other problems should immediately seek medical attention.

What do I do with my home septic system after a flood? Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house. If you have a home-based or small business and your septic system has received chemicals, take extra precautions to prevent contact with water or inhaling fumes. Proper clean-up depends on the kinds of chemicals in the wastewater. Read more

Children: Protect children after a flood. Be sure children are protected from chemicals and diseases in flood water. Behavior such as crawling or placing objects in their mouths can increase a child's risk of exposure and sickness.

Drinking water and food:

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Managing debris

Disasters can generate tons of debris, including building rubble, soil and sediments, green waste (e.g.., trees and shrubs), personal property, ash, and charred wood. How a community manages disaster debris depends on the debris generated and the waste management options available. Burying or burning is no longer acceptable, except when permission or a waiver has been granted, because of the side effects of smoke and fire from burning, and potential water and soil contamination from burial. Typical methods of recycling and solid waste disposal in sanitary landfills often cannot be applied to disaster debris because of the large volume of waste and reluctance to overburden existing disposal capacity.

Eliminate standing water where mosquitos can breed

Mosquitos can sharply increase after a flood, due to the sudden availability of standing water which they require for breeding -- even very small amounts of water. As flood waters recede be sure to drain, overturn, or empty areas -- no matter how small -- to reduce mosquito breeding areas and help reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

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For water and wastewater facilities:

For water and wastewater facilitiesSuggested post-hurricane activities to help facilities recover.

Renovation and rebuilding

Lead-safe work: By law, contractors need to use lead-safe work practices on emergency renovations on homes or buildings built before 1978. Activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition can create lead-based paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust is harmful to adults, particularly pregnant women, and children.

Asbestos: Anyone working on demolition, removal, and cleanup of building debris needs be aware of any asbestos and to handle asbestos materials properly. People exposed to asbestos dust can develop serious lung health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although the use of asbestos has dramatically decreased in recent years, it is still found in many residential and commercial buildings and can pose a serious health risk.

Underground Storage Tanks

During a flood, underground storage tank (UST) systems may become displaced or damaged and release their
contents into the environment, causing soil, surface water, and groundwater contamination.

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