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After a Flood: How Families Can Stay Safe

A lot can change after a flood. Your home and your child’s daycare, school, and playground may be damaged or off limits. The whole neighborhood may look different.

But parents can help keep kids safe during this time. Here are some tips.

What Are Some Dangers After a Flood?

After floodwaters are gone, there can be many possible dangers in and around your home, like:

Standing Water

This is water that isn’t flowing, like a puddle. Standing water in your home and on your property could be hiding things like:

  • downed power lines
  • glass, wood, and other debris (broken objects)
  • chemical waste and human or animal waste
  • rats, snakes, and other animals

Mosquitos may lay their eggs in standing water too. These pests can do more than cause itchy bites — they can also cause disease.

Drowning is also a concern, so it's important to always keep an eye on babies and kids. They can drown quickly in even very shallow water. Don't let your child play in or even be near floodwater.

Contaminated Water

Contaminated floodwater has germs in it. Someone who touches the water could get things like rashes and a disease called tetanus. Contaminated water that gets into wounds could make them infected. If the germs get into a person’s mouth, they could become sick (with diarrhea, for example). 

Floods can also cause tap water to become contaminated. If you think your tap water could have germs in it, use only bottled water for drinking, cooking, making baby formula, and bathing. Watch for local alerts so you know when it’s safe to use tap water again.

Mold

Moisture in your home’s walls, furniture, carpets, and other items after a flood can make mold grow. This can cause problems for anyone, but especially for kids who have breathing problems. Mold can trigger asthma flare-ups and make allergies worse. If there’s a lot of mold in your home, you may need a professional cleaner.

Carbon Monoxide

If you lose power after a flood and use a gas generator, keep it outside — at least 20 feet (about 6 meters) away from your home. The generator can release a deadly gas called carbon monoxide that you can’t see or smell. If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector already, consider getting one.

What Should I Do After a Flood?

After a flood, leave your kids with family or friends. Don't let kids play in floodwaters or try to help clean up. Also, seeing any damage could upset them. Only you and other adults should handle cleaning up (but no one who is pregnant or has breathing problems). Reassure kids that you'll see them as soon as you can.

Throw out things like stuffed animals, rugs, mattresses, papers, and books that were damaged by floodwater. To learn what to do with other items, see the CDC's clean-up tips

Make sure utilities like plumbing and electricity are working before kids come back. This will make caring for them easier.

What Else Should I Know?

As your family recovers from a flood, it can be helpful for kids to understand the cause. Weather events like rainstorms and hurricanes are often to blame. Learn how to talk with kids about storms and ease any fears.

It’s a good idea to be prepared for flooding. Flash floods happen with no warning, but sometimes weather forecasts can predict flooding. To be ready, here’s what to know before a flood happens.

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