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revised April 01, 2020

Health Protection

At Home

After a Flood

After a flood, clean up as soon as it is safe to do so to prevent further damage to your home and belongings. Building structure, personal safety, and food and drinking water safety are of a concern. Your house and furnishings are less likely to grow mould if they are dried within 48 hours.

If you have suffered flood damage, contact your insurance company and follow the tips on this site to help with the clean-up. You may want to contact a professional cleaning company if flood damage is extensive or if mould problems have developed. Please remember to keep children and pets away from the area until the clean-up is complete.

To reduce the likelihood of future basement flooding for homeowners, check out Peel’s Basement Remediation Program.

Is the building safe to enter?

Building structure
Before entering a building after a flood, make sure it is structurally sound. Check the foundation for cracks, shifted stairs, slanted walls or other damage. If you are not sure that it is safe, do not enter the building. Contact your insurance company, local building inspector or structural engineer for advice.

To prevent electrical shock, shut off the power at the electrical service panel before entering the flooded area. Contact the local electrical utility to disconnect the power supply if the water level is at, or close to, your service panel. Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets or fuse/breaker panels until they have been examined by a licensed electrician or your local electrical utility.

Natural gas
If your home has gas appliances or a gas furnace that may have been flooded, make sure that the gas is turned off before entering the home. Do not use matches, cigarette lighters or any other open flames in case there is a gas leak. Do not use natural gas/propane appliances and heating equipment that may have been in contact with flood waters until they are inspected by a qualified professional.

Natural gas is colourless, odourless and non-poisonous. An additive has been added to the gas, smell like rotten eggs, it was added for your safety by the gas company. The smell is added to ensure that the smallest traces of escaped natural gas can be detected. If you smell this odour, do not enter your home. Call the gas company from a safe place not affected by the flood.

Cleaning up flooded areas

Protect yourself
Flood water can be contaminated with sewage and other pollutants that could be harmful to your health. If you are working in flooded areas, wear protective clothing, such as:

  • rubber boots
  • protective eyeglasses
  • a mask (N95 respirator)
  • gloves
  • overalls

Make sure to ventilate the area while you work in it. It is important to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and treated/bottled water after working in flooded areas and after handling articles contaminated with flood water.

Remove standing water
Use a pump and/or pails to remove standing water. It is important to remove the water slowly (e.g., in stages) to prevent the walls and floors from buckling. After removing the standing water, go over the area with a mop or wet/dry vacuum.

Remove wet material
Discard all insulation materials and items such as mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys, pillows, particleboard furniture and books. Contact the Region of Peel Waste Management Department at 905-791-9499 for information on how to dispose of furniture and bulky items.

Discard wet drywall, ceiling tiles and wood panelling. If the water has been standing for a long period of time, it is recommended that you remove and dispose of materials at least 50 cm (20 inches) above the high-water line to help prevent mould growth.

For other items, use the following guidelines:

  • Bed linens, towels, clothing, bedspreads, curtains and draperies can be washed with very hot water and detergents or can be professionally dry-cleaned.
  • Carpets and rugs can be cleaned if they have been wet for less than 48 hours. Remove loose dirt, shampoo and dry. A qualified professional should be called to clean large areas of soaked carpets. Discard any sewage-soaked carpets and rugs.
  • Store valuable papers that have been damaged in the freezer until you have time to go through them. A lawyer should be consulted after clean-up to determine whether the damaged documents or its contents must be retained. Books should be loosely wrapped in a freezer bag and papers should be separated with wax paper.
  • Frames of wood furniture can sometimes be saved. To see if a piece can be salvaged, contact a furniture restoration specialist.

Clean and sanitize

  • Clean all affected surfaces, including surfaces affected by mould, with detergent and water.
  • Then rinse the surfaces with clean water.
  • Surfaces contaminated by sewage or drain water should be sanitized after rinsing.
  • Make an effective sanitizer by adding 15 mL (1 tablespoon) of household bleach to 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of clean water. Do not mix bleach with any other cleaning products, especially ammonia or toilet bowl cleaners.
  • Make sure that there is adequate ventilation when using cleaning and sanitizing products.
  • Remember to flush and disinfect all the floor drains and sump pits.

Dry out and ventilate the area
After cleaning surfaces, ventilate or dehumidify the area until it is completely dry. Rapid drying will help prevent mould growth.

Is my food safe to eat?

Food that has come into contact with flood waters should be thrown out with the exception of some canned goods. Washing or cooking the food will not make it safe for eating. When in doubt, throw it out!

  • Dispose of any food that has an unusual odour, colour or texture.
  • Canned foods should be thrown out if the seal is damaged, if the can is bloated or if it looks like the contents may be leaking out. If a sealed can has been in contact with contaminated waters, make sure you thoroughly wash and sanitize the can before opening it.
  • Opened bottles of food and drink should be thrown out as there is a risk that the contaminated water may have entered under the cap. Unopened bottles should be discarded if the contents show sign of leakage.
  • All utensils, dishes and food contact surfaces that may have come into contact with contaminated flood water should be thoroughly washed and sanitized. Make a sanitizing solution by combining 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of household bleach (5 to 6 per cent sodium hypochlorite) with 750 mL (3 cups) of water .

Eating unsafe foods may cause food-borne illnesses. Throw out perishable foods, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and leftovers, that have been at temperatures above 4°C (40°F) for more than two hours.

During a flood there can be a prolonged power failure, so there will be no power to operator your refrigerator and freezer. There is a risk that perishable foods could spoil, putting you and your family at risk of getting food-borne illnesses. Check the guidelines for food safety during a power failure.

Is my water safe to drink?

Do not drink the water if you suspect that your drinking water source has been contaminated by flood water. Use bottled water if the drinking water source is heavily polluted or if it is chemically contaminated. Water that is not contaminated with sewage or chemicals can be made safe for drinking by bringing it to a rapid boil for at least one minute.

If necessary, Peel Public Health will issue a “boil water advisory.”

If you rely on well water and your well has been flooded, you may need to pump out the contaminated water and shock chlorinate the well prior to using it. Do not drink the water or use it for food preparation until laboratory testing shows that it is safe for drinking. For more information, speak to a Public Health Inspector.

If there has been a power failure, check the guidelines for clean water during a power failure.

The information on this website is general in nature and is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. For more information, call Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700. Caledon residents can call toll-free at 905-584-2216.

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Revised: April 01, 2020

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