Flood Safety Information

HEALTH AND SAFETY GUIDELINES FOR PEOPLE RETURNING TO FLOODED AREAS

The Santa Clara County Health Officer released a statement on February 22nd, 2017, regarding the potential risks in coming in contact with flood waters.

The Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health is providing the following tips for people returning to homes and businesses which have been flooded.

The following tips are for those going back into previously flooded areas:

GENERAL PRECAUTIONS:

  • Wear boots and gloves when working in areas which have been flooded.

  • Be sure the main electrical switch is off before entering a structure.  Do not turn it back on until you are certain there has been no damage to wires or appliances connected to the system.
  • Do not use electrical appliances which have been in contact with floodwaters.
  • Look carefully for structural damage which could cause injury, i.e., weakened floors, walls or ceilings which might fall or collapse.  Watch for exposed nails and other sharp objects.
  • Check for wild animals, reptiles and snakes which may have taken up residence to escape the floodwaters.  Open all windows and doors to allow them to escape, and avoid trapping or cornering them.  Snakes can get inside walls.  Be cautious when removing drywall.
  • Be especially cautious when approaching sick or injured animals - even household pets.
  • Ensure household pets are properly taken care of during recovery operations by providing clean potable water and food to pets. Do not use food that has come into contact with floodwaters.
  • Dispose of any small dead animals using gloves and a plastic bag.
  • If you smell gas or suspect a gas leak, leave immediately, call 911 and notify the gas company.  Warn neighbors of the potential problem.
  • Be sure sewer lines are intact before turning on the water or using the toilet.
  • Wash hands with soap and water that has been disinfected or boiled.  Frequent and thorough handwashing is one of the best and easiest precautions.  Don’t forget to have children wash, too.


WATER QUALITY:

  • Most drinking water in the affected areas is provided by a water retailer. Contact your water retailer for more specific information on water quality in your area and follow guidance from that supplier. In the absence of this information be extremely careful of drinking water.  Allow water to run for at least 5 minutes. If water is clear, bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute or disinfect it with 10 drops (1/2 teaspoon) of liquid household bleach to each gallon.  Do not use bleaching solutions which contain other additives.  Mix well and let it stand for 30 minutes.  If the water is cloudy, filter it with a clean cloth before boiling or treating with bleach and disinfect with 16 drops per gallon of water.  Commercial disinfectant tablets may also be used.

  • Boil or disinfect any water which comes in contact with food preparation tools, containers or surfaces, and water which is used for brushing teeth or washing dishes.
  • If you are uncertain about the quality of water, use bottled water.  As an alternative, you can use other liquid sources-such as, bottled beverages, the water from the hot water heater tank, the toilet reservoir tank (not the toilet bowl), etc. as long as they did not come into contact with flood waters. 

WATER QUALITY (CONTINUED...)

  • If your water is supplied directly by a private well, and you suspect your well has been contaminated, contact the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental before using the water or visit the following link for more information on disinfecting your well.
  • If you swallow floodwater, you should contact your healthcare provider for more information and guidance.


FOOD SAFETY:

  • Do not eat any food which may have come in contact with floodwaters.  Discard any food not in a waterproof container if there is any chance it has come in contact with contaminated floodwater.

  • Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the can labels, thoroughly wash the cans, then disinfect them with a solution consisting of one tablespoon of bleach in one gallon of water. Don’t forget to label the can with the contents.
  • Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, snap-open, and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with floodwaters because they cannot be disinfected.
  •  For infants, do not use powdered formulas prepared with treated water.  Use only pre-prepared baby formula that isn’t condensed and doesn’t require added water.
  • If the power was off, throw away all discolored or foul-smelling food, especially meat, poultry and fish in the refrigerator.
  • Freezer foods may last from 48 to 72 hours if the freezer is full and the door remained closed.  If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Thawed food can usually be eaten if it is still “refrigerator” cold or refrozen if it still contains ice crystals.  Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two (2) hours or more and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture or that came into contact with floodwaters.
  • Discard any garden produce which has come in contact with floodwaters.


CLOTHING AND UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE:

  • Wash all clothing, bedding and linens in hot water or dry clean them.

  • For mattresses and upholstered furniture which cannot be dry cleaned or washed, air dry them in the sun and spray thoroughly with disinfectant.


BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES:

  •  Clean walls, hard surfaced floors and other surfaces with soap and water.  Disinfect with a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water.  Be especially careful to disinfect areas in which food is stored or prepared, such as countertops, pantry shelves, refrigerator walls and shelves.

  • Thoroughly wash and disinfect all dishes, utensils, and food preparation equipment.
  • Steam clean any carpeting which can be saved.
  • If you suspect floodwaters were contaminated with sewage or animal wastes, remove and discard contaminated materials including wall coverings, carpets, rugs, and drywall.
  • Careless cleanup can do more harm than good by distributing mold, fungus and bacteria which can grow on wet materials to other areas of the building and into heating and ventilation systems.  For more information about mold, please visit our Mold Information webpage.

 

RETAIL FOOD FACILITIES: 

Restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail establishments who have been flooded must self-close until the appropriate steps have been taken to ensure proper cleanup of the facility. More information and guidelines on cleanup is available at the links listed below.


HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTE:

Floodwaters can create problems with common chemicals stored around the house. Protect yourself first and during cleanup, know that there are free services available to assist with proper disposal. Common household chemicals such as paints, petroleum based products, polishes, gasoline, acids, bases, batteries, poisons, pesticides, gardening chemicals, ammonia, solvents, pool chemicals, propane, helium and small oxygen tanks, smoke detectors, fluorescent lamps, medications, sharps, batteries, or flood damaged electronic waste, as examples, should be safely collected and taken to a free drive-through drop off at an HHW event by calling (408) 299-7300 or by signing up online at hhw.org.

For more information please refer to www.hhw.org or call (408) 299-7300 during business hours.
 

SWIMMING POOL & SPA SAFETY:

Public swimming pools and spa facilities must immediately close if you have a flood or any circumstance that may endanger the public's health, including lack of electricity or potable water. Floodwaters will carry many contaminants that are potentially hazardous to your health. If you own or operate a swimming pool/spa that has been impacted by floodwater, it is strongly recommended that a pool professional be contacted for assistance with the pool/spa inspection and remediation of any damage. Permanent damage to the pool structure, plumbing and wiring can occur if proper precautions are not taken during repairs. Commercial facilities (open to the public) that have been impacted by the effects of flooding cannot operate until the Department of Environmental Health grants approval. Please contact us at 408-918-3400.

Residential pools and spas should also contact a professional pool company for service and repair. Pools and spas should not be used until appropriate steps have been taken to ensure they are safe. This is likely to include complete draining of a pool or hot tub and appropriate disinfection.

 

MOSQUITO AND VECTOR CONTROL:

After floodwaters recede, one of the concerns in the coming weeks is that any remaining water may be a source of mosquito breeding. Keep an eye out for conditions such as water in basements, crawl-spaces underneath homes, swimming pools contaminated by floodwater or lacking proper maintenance, and containers filled with water.

  • The Santa Clara County Vector Control District encourages residents to report mosquitoes or mosquito-breeding sources and take preventive measures, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and applying repellent when outdoors where mosquitoes are biting.
  •  Drain, remove, or turn over anything that can hold water: flowerpots, planter bases, bird baths, toys, cans, rain gutters, pet dishes, buckets, and old tires.
  • For more information about mosquito prevention, go to SCCvector.org or call (408) 918-4770.
  • For free assistance on mosquito control or other issues such as rodents or wildlife, residents can contact the District office by calling (408) 918-4770, fill out a service request online at SCCvector.org or use the SCCvector app, downloadable at SCCvector.org/app.​​​

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