Floodwater After a Disaster or Emergency
Don't drive in flooded areas - Turn Around, Don't Drown
Floodwater can pose a drowning risk for everyone— regardless of their ability to swim. Swiftly moving shallow water can be deadly, and even shallow standing water can be dangerous for small children.
- Always follow warnings about flooded roads.
- Don’t drive in flooded areas—cars or other vehicles won’t protect you from floodwaters. They can be swept away or may stall in moving water.
Stay out of floodwater
Floodwaters contain many things that may harm health. We don’t know exactly what is in floodwater at any given point in time. Floodwater can contain:
- Downed power lines
- Human and livestock waste
- Household, medical, and industrial hazardous waste (chemical, biological, and radiological)
- Coal ash waste that can contain carcinogenic compounds such as arsenic, chromium, and mercury
- Other contaminants that can lead to illness
- Physical objects such as lumber, vehicles, and debris
- Wild or stray animals such as rodents and snakes.
Exposure to contaminated floodwater can cause:
- Wound infections
- Skin rash
- Gastrointestinal illness
- Leptospirosis (not common)
It is important to protect yourself from exposure to floodwater regardless of the source of contamination. The best way to protect yourself is to stay out of the water.
If you come in contact with floodwater:
- Wash the area with soap and clean water as soon as possible. If you don’t have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer.
- Take care of wounds and seek medical attention if necessary.
- Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent before reusing them.
If you must enter floodwater, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles.
Floodwater may contain sharp objects, such as glass or metal fragments, that can cause injury and lead to infection. Prompt first aid can help heal small wounds and prevent infection.
If you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with feces, soil, or saliva, have a health care professional determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary based on individual records.
For more information, visit: Emergency Wound Care After a Natural Disaster
Avoid electrical hazards inside and outside your home
After a flood you need to be careful to avoid electrical hazards both in your home and elsewhere.
- Shut off electrical power and natural gas or propane tanks in your home to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions.
- NEVER touch a fallen power line. Call the power company to report fallen power lines. Avoid contact with overhead power lines during cleanup and other activities.
- Do not drive through standing water if downed power lines are in the water.
- If you believe someone has been electrocuted, call or have someone else call 911 or emergency medical help.
For more information, visit: Protect Yourself and Others From Electrical Hazards After a Disaster