Be Careful in Flood Clean-Up

Main Content
Release date: 
August 9, 1999
Release Number: 

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Emergency management officials of both the Iowa Emergency Management Division (IEMD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warn owners of flood-damaged homes to proceed cautiously and take extra precautions when returning to their flood-damaged homes, apartments or businesses.

Check The Outside of the Building:
Check for downed power lines and gas leaks. Look for cracks in the foundation, and sagging roofs. For obvious damage, ask a building inspector to check the house before you go inside.

Enter the Building Carefully:
If the door sticks at the top as it opens, it could mean the ceiling is ready to cave in. If you decide to force the door open, stand outside the doorway to avoid being hit by falling debris

Look Before You Step:
Floors and stairs may be covered with debris and be very slippery. Watch out for broken bottles, nails and other hazards. Before beginning clean-up, get a tetanus shot.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out:
Homeowners should assume that anything touched by floodwater is contaminated. Mud left by floodwater can contain chemicals from sources as varied as your garden chemicals to a neighbor's septic tank to the oven cleaner you stored in the kitchen. Many flooded items, such as wallboard, mattresses, and carpeting will hold mud and contamination forever. Spoiled food, soaked cosmetics and medicine are health hazards. Get rid of them.

Hose the House:
Shovel as much mud as possible out of the house, then hose it down, inside and out. It's best to use an attachment that sprays soap to wash and rinse the walls, floors, furniture, and other major items that got muddy.

In addition, homes that have flood damage are likely to have damp areas where molds, mildews and other fungal organisms thrive. Since molds and related organisms may cause respiratory problems, it is important to use proper procedures in cleaning flood-damaged homes. A combination of household bleach and soap or detergent can be used to wash down walls, floors and other mold-contaminated areas. This will eliminate fungal problems and their inherent dangers. Follow directions on containers and pay attention to label warnings.

Turn Off the Electricity:
Before beginning to work on flooded homes, make sure the electricity is turned off. Unplug appliances and lamps, remove light bulbs and remove the cover plates of wall switches and outlets that got wet. If local building inspection code allows you to disconnect wiring from switches and outlets, do so and throw away the switches and outlets. If your building inspector says that you cannot disconnect the wiring, pull them forward, away from the wall, and leave them connected.

Don't Let Floodwater Sit For Long
Use a mop, squeegee or wet/dry vacuum cleaner to remove standing water. Always wash your hands with soap and clean water after working in the area.

For more information, a joint publication of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross is available. For a free copy of "Repairing Your Flooded Home," write FEMA Publications, P.O. Box 70274, Washington, DC 20024.

All homeowners, renters and business owners affected by the severe storms and flooding that began July 2, are urged to call the toll-free registration number, 1-800-462-9029, to apply for assistance. People with hearing or speech impairments may call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 for assistance. Applications can be made between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
State/Tribal Government or Region: 
Back to Top