Flooding information and advice for residents, staff & councillors
Check the Environment Agency’s website at www.environment-agency.gov.uk
The latest information is on the news section of Severn Trent Water’s website at www.stwater.co.uk.
Health and safety advice
People affected by flooding should take precautions to protect their health. Floodwater is likely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria, sewage and other chemical hazards such as oil, diesel and petrol. Health risks can be minimised by taking general hygiene precautions and using protective clothing (waterproof boots and gloves) whilst cleaning up.
There is detailed health and safety advice on the flooding advice pages of our website.
In particularly people affected by flooding should:
- Always wash their hands with soap and clean water after going to the toilet, when eating or preparing food, after being in contact with flood water, and after participating in flood cleanup activities.
- Do now allow children to play in floodwater, sewage or items that have been contaminated by flood water.
- Wash children’s hands frequently and 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. Drinking water may also be contaminated. Affected residents should follow advice from Severn Trent Water regarding the safety of their water supply. If in doubt they should boil all water intended for drinking or use bottled water. If anyone affected by flooding gets symptoms such as sickness, diarrhoea, or tummy cramps, they should talk to GP or call NHS Direct on 111.
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.
Help for affected households
Residents whose homes have been flooded should contact their insurance company as soon as possible as failure to notify them will jeopardise any future claims. Insurance companies many arrange clean up, disinfectant and replacement of damaged property. People should take photos of damaged belongings and shouldn’t throw any way that don’t pose a health risk away until their insurance company gives the go ahead.
People may be approached by someone offering to help them fill out their insurance claim. If this is the case please refer them to the insurance advice sheet on our website which gives advice on such circumstances.
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 clean-up.
- Keep children and pets out of the affected area until clean-up 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 a hot wash (60C or the highest temperature indicated on manufacturer’s instructions), or dry-clean which will destroy most bacteria that may be present. 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 covering 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 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 clean-up, wash your hands with soap and water.
Wash all clothes worn during the clean-up 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.
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.
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 fridge 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 foodincluding 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 ater 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 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.
- 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 check them. Your local Electricity Board will be checking main supplied.
- 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 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 split from the battery.
- You should also avoid enclosed areas that may be chemically contaminated, such as garaged 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 build up to poisonous levels without proper ventilation.
Garden Vegetable produce
- Do not 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.
Help with pets and animals
If you need help or advice concerning your pets and animals during flooding please contact our Environmental Services team.
We hope to provide some skips at specific points during flooding. These are for rotting meat, dead pets and other animals only. They are not for domestic waste or damaged furniture. Residents should leave damaged furniture in their gardens/where it is for the time being.
As far as possible refuse collections will resume as normal this week. Residents whose waste wasn’t collected on Friday should put it out on Monday instead. Residents should not put flood damaged furniture and bulky items out with their household waste.
Worcestershire Regulatory Services Tel: 01905 822799