Contacts to help residents
Reducing the risk of infection
Health risks can be minimised by taking general hygiene precautions and by the use of protective clothing (waterproof boots and gloves) whilst cleaning up.
You should also always wash your hands with soap and clean water:
- after you go to the toilet,
- when you eat or prepare food,
- after being in contact with flood water, sewage or items that have been contaminated by flood water, and
- after participating in flood cleanup activities.
Don't allow children to play in floodwater areas and wash children's hands frequently (always before meals). Wash floodwater-contaminated toys with hot water and disinfectant before allowing them to be used again.
Keep any open cuts or sores clean and prevent them being exposed to flood water. Wear waterproof plasters.
Harmful bacteria may be present in sewage and animal slurry, and this can pass into flood water, although it is likely to be extremely diluted. If you or anyone in your family gets symptoms such as sickness, diarrhoea, or tummy cramps, or if you become ill after accidentally swallowing mud or contaminated water speak with your GP, call NHS Direct on 111 or visit the NHS Direct website for advice.
In inaccessible areas such as under floorboards it may smell but is not necessarily a health hazard. Get further advice from the environmental health department if the smell persists or if you are particularly concerned about it for other reasons.
As your property continues to dry out, vacuum any loose material and dust on a regular basis.
Very young children should avoid playing directly on timber floorboards or any damaged tiled floors if possible - be aware of the risk of injury from sharp edges on tiles or raised nails in the floorboards until these have been repaired.
Cleaning up inside your home
When returning to your home after a flood, be aware that floodwater may contain sewage. Protect yourself and your family by following these steps:
- If there has been a backflow of sewage into the house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup.
- Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.
- Clean walls, hard-surfaced floors, and other household surfaces with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water.
- Wash all linen and clothing in hot water, or dry-clean. Air dry items that cannot be washed or dry cleaned, such as mattresses and upholstered furniture, in the sun. Then spray them thoroughly with a disinfectant. Steam clean all carpeting if you can.
- Remove and discard all soft furnishings, fittings, wall coverings, cloth, rugs, and drywall (also include mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products) that are damaged beyond repair.
- Remove dirty water and silt from the property including the space under the ground floor if you have wooden floors. This space may need pumping out.
- Wash down all hard surfaces with hot soapy water until they look clean.
- Allow to thoroughly dry - this will also help to destroy bacteria left behind.
Heating and good ventilation will assist the drying. You can also help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.
Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, mouldings, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent. Then disinfect with a solution of 1 cup of household bleach to 5 gallons of water (this solution should not be used for drinking, cooking, or personal hygiene).
After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and water.
Cleaning gardens and play areas
Do not let young children play on affected grassed or paved areas until they have been cleaned down and restored to their normal condition.
Sunlight and soil help destroy harmful bacteria and there should be no risk to health after a week or so. The best way to reduce these risks further is to always wash your hands before eating or preparing food.
Cleaning clothing and bedding
Clothing, bedding and other soft fabric items such as children's toys should be laundered on a hot wash (60C or the highest temperature indicated on manufacturer's instructions) which will destroy most bacteria that may be present.
Other soft furnishings that have been contaminated and cannot be put in a washing machine will have to be professionally cleaned. If this is not possible, they may have to be disposed of.
Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
It is best to wash clothes and linen elsewhere until your property's wastewater system has been checked.
Food preparation and storage
- Don't eat any food that has been covered by or come into contact with sewage or floodwater.
- Wash your hands before and after preparing food.
- Ensure all surfaces that food will come into contact with are sound and disinfected. If work tops and other areas show signs of damage, avoid food contact with these areas. Particularly make sure that the shelves including those in your refrigerator where food is stored are cleaned and disinfected.
- Use boiled water which has then been allowed to cool to wash food which is eaten raw. It is safe to use unboiled tap water in the preparation of food which is to be cooked. It is safe to use unboiled tap water for cooking if it will be boiled during the cooking process.
- Food preparation surfaces should be wiped down using hot unboiled tap water containing washing-up-liquid and disinfected, and dishes and other utensils should also be washed in hot unboiled tap water containing washing-up-liquid.
- Try to keep any opened food in an enclosed box or tin.
- All crockery, pots and pans should be thoroughly washed with hot soapy water before using. If any of these are badly chipped or damaged do not use. You could use a food safe disinfectant to sanitise them after cleaning.
- Frozen food that has been at room temperature for a few hours should be discarded. Put contaminated flood-damaged food in black plastic refuse sacks, seal and put out when your next refuse collection is due. Check with insurers before disposal.
Don't be tempted to try and salvage damaged food including tins as they may be contaminated with sewage and chemicals left from the floodwater.
If your drinking water becomes contaminated
If your water comes through a mains supply, follow the advice of the local water company regarding the safety of their water supply.
Water companies have a duty to take all necessary steps to protect public health. If a water treatment works becomes flooded alternative supplies are normally available but consumers may be advised to boil water before drinking or temporarily refrain from using water for domestic purposes.
- If you notice a change in water quality, such as the water becoming discoloured or there is a change in taste or smell, or if you are unsure, ring your local water company. If in doubt boil all water intended for drinking or use bottled water.
- If you have been advised to boil your water, then boil all water for drinking, brushing teeth, washing food and making ice.
- If your water is a private supply such as a well or spring, then check that it has not been affected by the floodwater. If a private well or spring has been covered by floodwater, if the water changes colour or taste, or you believe the supply has been affected by the flood then boil the water before you use it.
- Treatment systems on private supplies such as filter cartridges and UV may become ineffective and need replacing after the flood water has dispersed and the supply water has settled.
- It is also not advisable to use washing machines and dishwashers when the water is cloudy.
- Continue to boil the water until the supply has been tested and shown to be safe. Boiling water kills pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites that may be present in water. Bring the water to the boil and then allow it to cool before drinking. It can be stored in a clean jug covered by a saucer in a cool place (preferably in the fridge). Ice should be made from water prepared for drinking.
- Use a bleach solution to rinse containers before reusing them after flooding. Use water storage tanks and other types of containers with caution. This applies particularly to pans and utensils used in cooking or food preparation.
- Water from the hot tap is not suitable for drinking.
- Ensure the water taps are cleaned and disinfected before using them for the first time.
If there is a bottle-fed baby in the house make sure their water is boiled and do not use bottled water unless it is recommended by a doctor or health visitor. Some bottled water is unsuitable for babies.
Returning to your home
It is recommended that you only fully move back into your home once the above cleaning has been carried out. There may be additional works to be carried out eventually as advised by your insurance company, housing officer, landlord or builder.
If you decide to return to your home before this further work is completed you should:
- Try to have some heating on at all times. Consider the use of a dehumidifier. Ensure the property is well ventilated. Leave windows open as much as possible but be mindful of security.
- Ensure that if you have airbricks to any under floor spaces that these are unblocked to give cross ventilation to these areas.
- Replace manhole covers dislodged by the flood.
- Don't switch on electrical appliances, which have been in contact with floodwater unless a competent electrician has checked them. Your local Electricity Board will be checking main supplies.
- Ensure that your home is properly aired to encourage drying.
- Make sure that any mould growth is properly treated
How to deal with chemical hazards
Be aware of potential chemical hazards you may encounter during flood recovery. Floodwaters may have buried or moved hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places. If you are worried about major chemical contamination, contact the fire and rescue service for advice in the first instance.
- If the floodwater contained oil, petrol or diesel it should go away with the floodwater and silt. Any remaining oil, diesel or petrol contamination can be removed by using a detergent solution and washing the surface down after initial cleaning has been carried out.
- Car batteries, even those immersed in floodwater may still contain an electric charge and should only be removed with extreme caution by using insulated gloves. Avoid coming into contact with any acid that may have been spilt from the battery.
- In general you should avoid contact with contaminated water and materials, but if it becomes necessary to do so, you should wear protective clothing and gloves. You should also avoid enclosed areas that may be chemically contaminated, such as garages and cellars, where hazardous fumes may build up.
The safe use of emergency generators
Remember that petrol or diesel generators, dehumidifiers and pressure washers should never be used indoors without adequate ventilation. The exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide which can quickly build up to poisonous levels without proper ventilation.
Garden Vegetable Produce
Don't eat garden or allotment vegetables that have been covered by sewerage or floodwater.
Although any health risk may be small, it is better to dispose of any contaminated produce and start again.
Reducing the risk of mould
Flooding can contribute to the growth of mould in homes, which can present a health risk, especially to people with asthma, allergies, other breathing conditions and those with a suppressed immune system.
If you have any flood damaged bulky items e.g. furniture or white goods, please check with your insurance company before disposing of them as it may affect your claim.
If you are able to transport or arrange transport of your items, you can take them to your local household waste site at:
The trailer permit scheme has been waived for all flood damaged items.
If you have no means of transporting items to household waste site, please check with your insurance company to see if they can help, as costs of removal may be possible to be added to your claim. Please look under Waste in the Yellow Pages for details of companies.
If you are elderly or disabled, please phone 01386 565018 for help and advice.
Help with pets and animals
If you need help or advice concerning your pets and animals during this unsettled period, please contact our Environmental Services team.
As a general rule, residents should first of all have contacted their own insurance company to put right any damage or losses. Take photos of your damaged belongings.
Have been approached by someone offering to help you fill out your insurance claim? If so, read these advice information sheets.
Flooding advice from:
- Flooding advice leaflet
- Health protection agency
- NHS direct website
- Environment agency
- Flooding and historic buildings
- National flood forum
For more information contact:
This advice is provided by Wychavon District Councils Environmental Services and incorporates information provided by NHS Direct.
All Licensing and Environmental Health Matters are now dealt with by Worcestershire Regulatory Services.
For direct public enquiries and referrals:
General Customer Enquiries
Worcestershire Hub on: 01905-822799 (Mon to Fri 8am - 8pm, Sat 9am-5pm)
Fax: 01905 617132
Licensing: 01527 881454