After the Flood

Flood waters can contain disease causing organisms and the following precautions should be observed to minimize the health risk.

Home Safety

  • Never enter a flooded basement if the electricity or gas is still on. Have the electricity and gas shut off before entering the basement.
  • Never light a match or use an electrical appliance (including the phone) in an area where gas could be present. If you smell gas or if any of your gas or oil appliances were flooded, open doors and windows and turn off the valve serving them. Call the gas company by use of a neighbor's phone and have the system checked by a professional.
  • Never handle any connected electrical cords or appliances that are submerged if electricity is still on. Electrical appliances that have been submerged should not be used until you have consulted with the appliance service company. Some appliances such as TV sets and radios can be a shock hazard even when unplugged. Check the back for a warning label.
  • While the basement is still flooded, avoid flushing toilets or using other plumbing fixtures because the resulting discharge will make the basement more difficult to clean. If you have a private septic system, it should not be used until the flood waters subside.
  • Never use gasoline powered pumps or generators indoors. Gasoline engines create deadly carbon monoxide exhaust fumes.

Personal Health

Maintaining good personal health involves washing hands frequently and keeping clothes clean. Hand washing should be done with clean safe drinking water. When this is not available, use bottled, boiled or chemically disinfected water. If a person active in the clean-up process has an open sore, precautions should be taken to prevent contact with contaminated waters. If contact is made, disinfect the wound or sore immediately with soap, clean water and a disinfectant. DO NOT allow children to play in floodwater or areas that have been flooded.


Items that have come in contact with flood water should be dried, cleaned with soap or dish washing compound and should be sanitized with a chlorine-water solution (mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water, appropriate to the potential level of contamination). Clothing, carpets, upholstered furniture, toys, bedding, and similar items should be discarded unless they can be cleaned and sanitized immediately. The assistance of a professional may be needed to properly clean certain items. After clean-up, make sure that all clothing and parts of the body which came in contact with the flood waters are thoroughly washed. Prevent tracking of flood water into other areas of the home.

Water Supplies

Public and private water supplies may be contaminated in a flood situation. If on a public water supply, listen for public announcements on the safety of your area's water supply. If your home is served by a private well, the DuPage County Health Department will test your well for bacterial contamination. If uncertain about the safety of your water supply, we recommend using bottled water, boiling all water for 5 minutes before drinking, or adding 5 drops of unscented household bleach to 1 gallon of water, mix and let stand for 30 minutes before drinking.


Any food items, including cans, bottles and jars that come in contact with flood waters should be discarded immediately. Food stored in refrigerators or freezers that have not been subjected to flood water should be held below 41 °F. at all times. You may want to transfer refrigerated perishable foods to an insulated cooler filled with ice. Food with a temperature above 41 °F. should be discarded. Never taste food to determine safety.