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Flood Safety–Before and After

Baltimore County Department of Health
6401 York Road, Third Floor
Baltimore, Maryland 21212-2130

Phone: 410-887-BCHD (2243)
TTY users call Maryland Relay

Floods are a common hazard in our region that impacts homes, businesses and entire communities. Learn what to do before and after the next major storm comes our way.

Flood Safety

Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. Conditions that cause floods include heavy or steady rain for several hours or days that saturates the ground. Flash floods occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low ­lying area.

Before a flood:

  • Make sure your flood insurance policy is up-to-date
  • Check supplies in your 72-hour kit
  • Keep you car fueled
  • Purchase a weather alert radio

During and after a flood:

  • Follow all emergency instructions given by local authorities regarding evacuation.
  • Never drive through standing water–"Turn Around, Don't Drown."
  • Do not let children play in floodwaters; they are dangerous and polluted.
  • If fresh food has come in contact with floodwater, throw it out.
  • Boil drinking water before using it.
  • Test wells for contamination after a flood.

Food and Water Safety

Power outages, floods and other emergencies can make food and water supplies unsafe. Be sure your family has enough water in case of an emergency.

Food safety during a power outage:

  • An unopened refrigerator will keep food for at least four hours.
  • Food in an unopened freezer will stay frozen for 24 to 48 hours.
  • You may not be able to tell if food is safe by its taste or smell. When in doubt, throw it out!

How to disinfect water:

Bottled water is your best option when there is a water outage. If you have no other option, there are two ways to disinfect contaminated water:

  • Option 1: Boil water for all uses for at least one minute and let cool.
  • Option 2: Mix one-fourth teaspoon of bleach (unscented) for each gallon of water. Let stand for 30 minutes before use.

Well water that has been contaminated should be tested and disinfected after floodwaters recede. Do not drink muddy, cloudy, or discolored water.

Well and Septic Systems

After a flood, there are important steps to take if your home has a well or septic system.

Cleaning Mold and Mildew

After storms, floods and hurricanes, mold and mildew spores may be present in large amounts. These spores may cause allergic reactions and damage homes and household goods. Extensive mold in your home is a significant concern–most everyone will be affected if enough spores are inhaled.

Some tips for effective cleaning of mold and mildew:

  • Clean, disinfect and dry all affected areas. Use a non-ammonia soap (ammonia plus bleach will result in toxic fumes) or detergent and hot water to scrub contaminated areas.
  • Bag and dispose of materials with moldy residue, such as rags, paper, leaves and debris. Hard-surfaced materials can be kept once they are cleaned and disinfected.
  • Ventilate the area well before, during and after entering work area.
  • Turn off utilities.
  • Wear a paper mask, coveralls, waterproof gloves and goggles while cleaning.
  • Clean yourself with disinfectant soap when you are done.
  • Call in a licensed contractor for assistance if wall interiors and sub-flooring have extensive damage.
Revised April 27, 2017         


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