April 1, 2011  //  



Virginia Department of Emergency Management
10501 Trade Court, Richmond, VA 23236
CONTACT: Janet L. Clements (804) 897-6510




RICHMOND, VA — As floodwaters recede in Southwest Virginia, citizens in affected localities should be aware that disaster cleanup presents its own unique set of hazards. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management urges flood victims to heed the following safety tips when returning to their homes:

Vehicle Hazards. Don’t drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else during floods. Don’t drive around road barriers. Turn around and find another route if you encounter rapidly rising waters. If your car stalls, get out and climb to higher ground immediately. Car batteries may contain an electrical charge. Wear insulated gloves when removing car batteries and avoid coming into contact with any acid that may have spilled.

Environmental Hazards. Avoid walking through flowing water and stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Electrical current can travel through water, so electrocution is a major killer in flooded areas. Report downed power lines to your utility company or local emergency manager. Be aware of potential chemical hazards during repair and recovery efforts. Floodwaters may have buried or moved hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage areas.

Turn off your electricity when you return to your home or business. Look before you step to avoid debris. Be alert for gas leaks. Use a flashlight rather than candles, lanterns or open flames to inspect damage. Do not attempt to remove any propane tanks. These present a very real danger of fire or explosion. Call the police or fire department in your area to report the locations of these tanks.

Water Supply Safety. If you are unsure about the safety of your water supply, use it only to hose down your home or flush your commode. Buy bottled water for drinking, whenever possible. Water pumped from wells that have been submerged in floodwater should be disinfected before being used for drinking, cooking or washing cooking utensils. If a well is flooded, check for silt accumulations. If the water is cloudy, the system should be flushed until the water clears. Have your local health department test a water sample from your well to ensure it is safe to drink.

Sanitation and Hygiene. During an emergency, basic hygiene is essential to avert disease and illness due to disruption of normal handling of sewage and other pollution. Small children, pregnant women and people with health problems should stay out of affected areas until cleanup is complete. Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before preparing or eating food or after any activity involved with personal hygiene or the cleanup effort. Avoid eating or drinking anything contaminated with floodwater and DO NOT allow your children to play in floodwaters.

Clean everything that got wet. Floodwaters may have picked up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories and storage buildings. The mud these floodwaters leave behind may also contain many health hazards. It is important to get rid of this mud as soon as possible. Protect your eyes, mouth and hands. When cleaning, wear rubber gloves and, if possible, a face mask.

Inspect any food left in the house after a flood. Spoiled food, flooded cosmetics and medicines are health hazards. Undamaged commercially canned goods are generally safe if you wash and sanitize containers before use. For infants, use only prepackaged, canned baby formula that doesn’t require added water, unless you are absolutely sure your water is safe to drink. When in doubt, throw it out.

Recovery Planning. Flood insurance is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself reduce future risks. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers policies that protect homes, condominiums and nonresidential buildings, including farm and commercial structures in participating communities. Contact your local insurance agent or call (800) 427-4661 for more information on NFIP.

For more information on emergency preparedness and recovery, visit the VDEM Web site at http://www.vaemergency.com/ or contact the VDEM Public Affairs Office at (804) 897-6510.


Be ready. Be willing to help.

Virginia Disaster Relief Fund