Major flooding can be devastating, causing lasting damage to both homes and the health of the people living in them.
Rainwater can become contaminated by sewerage, household chemicals, petrol,oil, and other hazardous substances – especially if flooding has been severe, storm water or sewerage pipes back up or rivers and lakes overflow.
Here’s how to keep your home and family safe after flooding and while re-entering and cleaning your home.
Before you go in:
- Make sure you have the all-clear from safety officials as water can impact a home or building’s integrity.
- Check for frayed wires, sparks, or other electrical system damage and turn off power at the mains box. If you see any sign of damage or have to step into water to reach the fuse box, call an electrician.
- Keep children and pets away from flooded areas and debris.
- Ensure you’re wearing a quality respirator or mask, goggles and long clothes. Wear sturdy shoes or boots – the most common injury after disaster is cut feet.
- Be conscious of health – flood waters make homes mouldy and can make the air unhealthy. If you or any member of your family suffers from asthma or other respiratory problems, avoid the home or contact your doctor.
- Look before you step – water can hide sharp objects and other debris.
After and cleaning:
- If any cooking, eating and other kitchen utensils have been in contact with flood waters, rinse them thoroughly and disinfect them in a mixture of unperfumed household bleach and water. Use 500ml of bleach to 10 litres of water, then rinse again in clean water. Alternatively, boil utensils for 1 minute and let cool.
- Discard wooden spoons, baby bottle teats and dummies if they’ve been in contact with any flood water.
- If anyone experiences a cut or open wound while cleaning, and the wound is because of or comes into contact with contaminated material, a tetanus vaccination may be required if they have not had one in the last five years.
The difference between clean, grey and black water
Clean water comes from a source you know does not contain significant microbial content and does not pose any harm, i.e. is not contaminated by chemicals.
Grey water has a significant level of contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if someone accidentally consumes or is exposed to it. Examples include sump pump failures, broken aquariums or overflows from washing machines or dishwashers.
Black water is highly contaminated and extremely unhygienic. This includes water contaminated by silt or sewerage. Toilet backflows that originate from beyond the toilet trap and contaminated floodwaters are often considered black water contamination, regardless of the physical content or colour of the water.
Both black and grey water can contain chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, oil and petrol, as well as human and animal waste. Flood water from lakes and rivers are also considered as black water.
If it is suspected that the water in your home is black or grey water, ensure you wear a suitable respirator (at least an N-95 disposable dust mask), heavy duty rubber gloves, and protective eyewear. Wash hands after handling contaminated water, and again before eating, drinking or any other ‘hand-to-mouth’ actions.
AMI is here to help. If you need to make a claim, please contact us immediately either on 0800 100 200, or online.