The Importance of Decontamination AFTER a Flood; Am I Ready & What Should I Store?


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One thing many people do not think about when it comes to preparedness is how to decontaminate the area of disease and other very unpleasant things such as bodies or carcass’ of dead animals.  These are very important things to consider when it comes to maintaining a healthy body during a time when you may not be getting the appropriate nutrition which leaves your immune system weak.

Floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States. According to


Ninety percent of all natural disasters in the United States involve flooding.  Each year, an average of
100 people lose their lives in floods, with damage averaging more than $2 billion.  Flash floods are the
number one weather-related killer in the United States.  They can occur within a few minutes or hours
of excessive rainfall, a dam or levee failure, or a sudden release of water held by an ice jam.

There are serious health risks involved in floods.  Drowning, electrocution, and starvation are just a few things to consider.  With floods comes disease and if not addressed properly can contaminate the land and surrounding area’s for a long time after the flood occurs.   It is safe to say that in any major flood setting that the water is contaminated with sewage, animal carcass’ and many other human disease/decay.

Some general tips found at Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health on how to clean up after a flood are found below;

  • Protect yourself from flood waters as much as possible being extra careful in covering up open wounds/cuts with water proof dressings.
  • Use rubber gloves to cover and protect your hands and a mask to cover your nose and mouth.  Goggles for your eyes.  It takes a long time for water to dry out after a flood and mold is likely to form before it is completely cleaned up.
  • Wear rubber boots if sewage is backed up into the home.
  • Wash your hands frequently or use alcohol-gel-hand sanitizer.
  • Remove and bury any fecal matter from animals and humans as soon as possible.  Application of bleach to the surface will help prevent the spread of fecal matter germs.
  • Transfer all waste to secure plastic bags or sealed containers as soon as possible to prevent the spread of germs and disease until they can be hauled away.
  • Remove as much mud and water away from the home as possible.  Good ventilation will speed up the drying of the home.
  • Porous items that have been under water for more than 2 days should be removed and thrown away.  Items like upholstery, carpet, wood, and clothing.

Safety tips for business owners

Mobile home flooding

EXCELLENT material on rebuilding your home after a flood and all the Do’s and Don’ts involved with decontamination after a flood or disaster.

Here is a chart that has some examples of what you should do with waste found in or around your home;

Recycle Dispose at Collection Site Landfill Burn
Household appliances,
Lawn chemicals
Drain cleaner
Motor oil
Metal polishes
Insect poisons
Air fresheners & deodorizers
Carpet and rug cleaners
Disinfectants and germicides
Floor wax and stripper
Wood preservatives
Furniture polish
Moth balls
Oven cleaner
Toilet bowl cleaner
Pool chemicals
Aerosol products
Sand, sandbags
Animal carcasses
Animal feed
Household appliances**
Metal debris
Tree limbs
Natural wood or plant debris
Agricultural waste-bags or cartons
Dry bedding
Crop residue

When you are burning waste, please follow these guidelines

  • Coordinate the burn with the local fire department
  • Try to burn when there is no heavy winds
  • Be sure there is no burn bans in effect
  • Have sufficient means to put out the fire if it gets out of control such as a fire extinguisher or water hose.
  • Do not burn asbestos containing materials, used tires, shingles, insulation, plastic, plastic sheeting, wood painted with lead paint, household chemicals or containers, or hazardous materials.

Drinking water after a flood:

Listen on your emergency radios to see if there is a *boil order* in place. If the local water supply becomes contaminated the city will issue this order. You will be told to boil your water at a rolling boil for at least 3 minutes. Boiling the water will generally rid the water of dangerous micro-organisms but not things such as nitrate, nitrite or agrichemicals. Water used to brush your teeth, wash your dishes, or make ice must also be boiled. Private water wells should be pumped out and treated with bleach then allowed to recharge naturally. Test your water before drinking or using to cook with.

Things and information you should keep on hand to prepare for clean up after a flood;

  • Plenty of drinking water.  At least a gallon a day per person for two weeks.  Extra water in barrels for cleaning big areas with bleach.
  • Response action plan for animal carcass removal.
  • Sturdy leather work gloves as well as rubber gloves.
  • Protective eye wear
  • Face respirator mask/dust mask to protect against mold spores or other toxic germs.
  • Plenty of bleach and cleaning disinfectants.
  • Plastic Sheeting 4 – 6 mil
  • Tools; Hammer, saws (gas or hand powered) screw drivers etc.
  • Wheel barrel or wagon of some sort to haul debris.
  • Rubber boots
  • CDC Disaster clean up guide.

There are many other things you can do that I have not covered here.  It would be impossible for me to cover them all in one article, so I hope this will help you begin to prepare for disaster cleanup once it is all over.  The important thing to remember in everything you do is to research and educate yourself as much as possible.  If you have taken care of everything you need in your home and surrounding area, or there is no damage to your home, then reach out a hand to your neighbor or people in your community and offer your services.  One last thing to remember is that as a community, we can conquer anything.

Keeping It Spicy,

Jalapeño Gal


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