Health and Safety Tips for New Yorkers Hit by Floods

"Think Safety First" After a Flood

ALBANY, April 18, 2007 - New Yorkers should "think safety first" and use common sense to ensure their health in the aftermath of recent flooding in the state, advised New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., and State Emergency Management Office Director John R. Gibb today.

"Water damage in your home caused by floods can create serious health concerns. You can protect your family from developing illnesses associated with contaminated water and food after a flood by ensuring that your food and water are safe." said Dr. Daines. "Follow your local health department's advice about drinking water safety and discard any food that may be spoiled after a flood."

"We urge people returning to their homes in a flood-impacted area to think safety first," said Director Gibb. "Be alert to possible hazards. Use caution and common sense. When first entering a home, use a battery-operated flashlight. Never use an open flame as a source of light. And above all, heed the advice from local emergency officials."

The State Health Department and the Emergency Management Office continue to work with Federal, State and local officials to ensure the health and safety of New Yorkers affected by the floods. As part of the State's Emergency Preparedness effort, the State Health Department continues to contact and monitor healthcare facilities, water districts, and local health departments to evaluate needs and identify necessary resources to assist New Yorkers. Several hundred people have been displaced from their homes due to flooding and power outages.

Drinking Water Safety

Public or municipal drinking water systems are being evaluated by the state and county health departments to determine whether boil water advisories or other actions are needed to ensure safe drinking water. Public health agencies have issued boil water orders for 12 small drinking water systems due to flooding and power outages in Clinton (2), Dutchess (1), Orange (6) and Ulster (3) counties. If a boil water order has been issued for your community, bring the water to a full rolling boil and maintain the full boil for at least one minute to disinfect it. Anytime your drinking water appears cloudy, muddy, or even slightly discolored it should not be used for drinking or cooking until it is disinfected.

Private drinking water wells that have been flooded should be tested before they are used. Contact your local health department for information about residential well testing and disinfection. For additional information on drinking water and private drinking water wells please call the Department's Environmental Health information line at 1-800-458-1158.

Food Safety Tips:

To safeguard against food-borne illness discard any foods that may be contaminated after a flood including:

  • Frozen foods that have been thawed, if not kept refrigerated at 45 degrees F. or lower or consumed immediately.
  • Any foods exposed to flood waters because of possible contamination.
  • Food that is packed in cardboard containers, screw top jars, or bottles.
  • Canned foods when swelling, rusting or serious denting is visible.

Returning Home After the Flood:

  • Stay informed! Listen to the radio or TV for instructions from local officials.
  • Wait until an area has been declared safe before entering it. Be careful driving; roads may be damaged and power lines may be down.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Before entering a building, check for structural damage. Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank. Let the building air out to remove foul odors or gases.
  • When entering the building, use a battery-powered flashlight. Do not use an open flame as a source of light. Gas may be trapped inside the structure.
  • When inspecting the building, wear rubber boots and gloves. Watch for electrical shorts and live wires before making certain the main power switch is off.
  • Do not turn on electrical appliances until an electrician has checked the system.

Contact your local health department or visit the State Health Department's Web page at www.health.ny.gov/environmental/emergency/flood/index.htm for additional health precautions you can take. For additional safety information please visit the State Emergency Management Office Web site at www.semo.state.ny.us.