After a flood
When returning to a flooded home you should take care with the electricity and gas supplies and ensure you clean up properly to avoid contamination. Do not use a naked flame when entering the building.
You may be feeling tired, anxious or have trouble sleeping as the flood will have had a mental impact on you. Remember to take care of your own wellbeing and don't try to tackle everything at once.
After a flood do not turn back on gas supplies until they have been checked by a qualified technician.
Gas leaks and damaged appliances are not only a fire hazard, they can also result in carbon monoxide poisoning, the symptoms of which are:
- loss of consciousness.
Be wary of damage to gas appliances long after flooding, including central heating systems, radiators and hot water systems. For more information on gas safety, see the Gas Safe Register website.
If flood water has entered your property, switch off the electricity at the mains, if it is safe to do so. Do not touch any electrical equipment, switches or sockets when standing in water or if the electrical equipment is wet, damp or has been flooded and the electricity is on.
If your fuse or meter has been under water, please keep away from the equipment and call your Power Distributor.
- In Egham and Egham Hythe, this is usually Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution and you can call their emergency number to arrange a safety visit on 0800 072 7282.
- In parts of Chertsey it is covered by UK Power Networks, please call 0800 783 8866 or 01243 508866 if you're using a mobile.
- If you are unsure who to call, or in the event of a power cut, call 105.
Please note that the power distribution company's responsibility only covers the incoming supply cable and service 'cut out'. The meter and internal wiring are the responsibility of your power provider (the company who you pay your electricity bills).
- make sure the property is safe before you enter
- switch off the electricity supply at the fuse box, if it is safe to do so. If there is evidence of water inside the fuse box or if there are signs of arcing or overheating, seek professional advice
- unplug damaged electrical appliances and move all portable ones away from the area affected by flooding
- arrange for other services, such as gas, to be switched off. Electricity and gas supplies should not be turned back on until you have had professional advice that it is safe to do so. The main switch normally cuts off all the power to the circuit breakers / fuses
- use a registered electrician to assess the condition and damage to electrical wiring, equipment and appliances that have been affected by the flood
- use candles to guide you when entering the property
- assume the electricity in a flooded property is off
- touch any electrical appliances, cable or equipment if you are standing in flood water or if they are sitting in water
- use any mains powered electrical appliances in areas affected by flooding until advised by a registered electrician that it is safe to do so
- go near any exposed wiring. It may still be live
- start to clean up or carry out repairs until you are sure it is safe to do so
Cleaning up inside
Before cleaning up after a flood talk to your insurance company, they will tell you the next steps to take.
Wear protective clothing when cleaning up, including rubber boots, waterproof gloves and an apron. A face mask or goggles will protect your face and eyes from contaminated splashes.
Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after each cleaning session, and keep any open cuts or sores clean. Use waterproof plasters to prevent them from being exposed to flood water.
Place any soft furnishings or objects that have been damaged beyond repair outside, to prevent the spread of bacteria. All other soft items should be laundered on a hot wash (60°C and above) or cleaned professionally. In order to destroy bacteria, allow everything to dry thoroughly.
If items cannot be cleaned they should be disposed of.
All hard surfaces should be washed thoroughly using a mild detergent or disinfectant, following manufacturers' instructions. When using disinfectant, apply it to the surface and leave for a period of time - avoid wiping it away immediately as this will reduce its effectiveness.
Heating, dehumidifiers and good ventilation are all very effective in drying out your home. Do not use petrol or diesel generators indoors because the exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, which can kill.
If using portable heating appliances to dry out your home, ensure that they are well ventilated and monitored carefully.
If you have gas or oil central heating, switch this on and keep at between 20°C and 22°C for steady drying (after your heating system has been checked by an engineer). Any mould should disappear as your home dries out, although if it persists contact a specialist cleaner.
Remove dirty water and silt from your property. If you have wooden floors this may be below the floor and will need pumping out. Air bricks providing ventilation to under flood spaces may also need unblocking and loose material and dust will need vacuumed up regularly throughout the drying out process.
Your insurance company will normally cover the cost of the removing damaged items. Keep a record of all damaged items, with pictures if possible, as this help when making an insurance claim.
Flood damaged items such as carpets and furniture can be taken to any recycling centres in Surrey.
Any food which has come into contact with flood water should be disposed of immediately, preferably in plastic refuse sacks (double bagged if possible) put out for your next refuse collection. Similarly, any wooden kitchen utensils such as wooden spoons and chopping boards, should also be disposed of.
Even if your home was not directly flooded, you may have lost power to your fridge and freezer.
- If your fridge has lost power for more than four hours, throw away the food.
- If your freezer has lost power, throw away any meat, fish or dairy (or foods containing these), if they have started to get soft. Also throw away any food that you would eat frozen, such as ice cream.
If you own a catering business that has been affected by flooding, remember to check with your insurers before throwing supplies away as food may be insured.
If you need to prepare formula feed for a baby you must be careful with the water you use.
- Ideally use bottled water or water from a bowser (a tank provided by water companies), brought to a 'rolling' boil and left covered to cool for no more than half an hour, then follow the manufacturer's instructions on making up the feed. Do not use unboiled bowser water.
- Used cooled boiled water or cooled boiled bottled water for cooling the feed once it has been made up.
- Ready-to-feed liquid formula could be used instead.
- If boiling is not possible and ready-to-feed liquid formula is not available, bottled water (table, spring or mineral) can be used without boiling, but the prepared feed should then be used immediately.
- Wash your hands before preparing formula and before feeding an infant. You can use alcohol-based sanitizer for washing your hands if the water supply is limited or contaminated.
More information about food safety following flooding can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.
Cleaning up outside
The outside of your property is just as important to clean up after as flood as the inside.
Hard surfaces such as paths and driveways should be washed down and disinfected. Leave the disinfectant untouched for at least three hours to be most effective.
Do not apply disinfectant to lawns and borders as it is likely to kill plants and do more harm than good. The best solution is to allow the sun's ultra violet rays to naturally break down the bacteria left by flooding. The time taken for this process is dependent on climatic conditions:
- Approximately 9 days during warm, dry summer conditions
- Approximately 20 days during damper, cooler spring/autumnal conditions
- Approximately 25 days during wet, cold winter conditions
Don't dig or rake the affected area as this will spread the contamination further into the soil or turf.