Flood Recovery

06 November 2019

Recovering from a Flood

Where to begin?

  • Heed the safety warnings below – your safety is first and foremost.
  • Do not re-occupy your home until you’ve had the electric and heating systems inspected by professionals. It may also be advisable to have your structure inspected by a professional contractor.
  • Take photos of damage for insurance and aid purposes.
  • Contact your insurance company to determine what losses are covered.
  • Report your damages to Vermont 2-1-1, this will guide the state in seeking federal aid or steering volunteer efforts.
  • Make repairs to your home.

When returning home after a flood

  • Look to see if any combustible liquids like gasoline, lighter fluid, or paint thinner have spilled. Use battery-powered lights - Do not use lighters or other open flames
  • If you are without power and use a generator, never use it indoors. Only operate it outside away from windows, doors, or vents. Exhaust from a generator can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide in the home – which can be deadly.
  • Test your fire and carbon monoxide detectors.

Drinking Water Safety

During and after flooding, water can become contaminated with bacteria, sewage, heating oil, agricultural or industrial waste, chemicals, and other substances that can cause serious illness. Private drinking water wells that have been flooded should be tested before use.

Until a test confirms it is safe, people with private drinking water wells in flooded areas should assume their water is contaminated.

  • If your private drinking water source flooded, do not use that water for baby formula until a water test confirms it is safe.
  • Don’t use the water if smells of petroleum or fuel.
  • If you are on a public water system, follow your town’s drinking water recommendations.
  • Call the Drinking Water Program at 802-863-7220 or 800-439-8550, or go to healthvermont.gov/health-environment/drinking-water/floods for guidance and to order a test kit.

Food Safety

Though the growing season is nearly over, garden produce that has contacted flood water should be discarded. Refrigerated foods are good only up a few hours during a power outage. When it doubt, throw it out!

  • Don’t eat or drink anything that touched flood water.
  • Throw away any fruit, vegetables – including root vegetables, that have been in contact with flood waters. High growing fruit, such as apples and pears, can be consumed after being washed with water from a safe source.
  • Throw away food that has not been refrigerated properly due to power outages. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours, a half­full freezer will keep the temperature for about 24 hours.
  • Do not cook and eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs or other refrigerated foods that have been above 40 degrees F for two hours or more.
  • If you touch flood water, wash your hands with soap and hot water before touching food.

Avoid Injuries During Cleanup

Cleanup work can be strenuous and potential injury risk compounded by the stress of the situation. The number one health risk comes from injuries during cleanup.

  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup is done.
  • Wear study footwear, long­-sleeved shirts and pants. Protect open wounds from flood water.
  • Wear goggles and an N95 respirator (mask) when cleaning up dust, sand, silt, dirt and mold that can get into the air.
  • Be careful when using power tools.
  • Take care to avoid slips, trips and falls.
  • To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, never use gas-­powered tools, generators or heaters inside or within a confined area.
  • Wash hands often and well, especially before handling food.
  • Be careful to not overexert. Take rests and drink plenty of liquids.

More information, guidance and resources in multiple languages is at healthvermont.gov/flood


Contact Information

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Waterbury, VT 05671-1300
(800) 347-0488
(802) 244-8721
(888) 545-7598 (TTY)

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