State Health Department Advises New Yorkers to Take Precautions Against the Impacts of Flooding

Health and Safety Tips Can Help Prevent Injury and Illness

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 28, 2013) – Heavy rains and flash floods have inundated the Mohawk Valley, prompting New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., to urge New Yorkers to take measures to make health and safety their top priorities.

"While flooding is certainly a threat to property, people should know there are significant potential health and safety risks as well," Commissioner Shah said. "It is important that people in areas affected by flooding closely follow the advice of their local health officials and emergency personnel. If you are told to shelter in place, stay where you are if it is safe and dry. New Yorkers should also avoid water and food that may have been contaminated by flooding, as there is potential for serious illnesses if consumed". The New York State Department of Health (DOH) works closely with federal, state and local officials to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers affected by flooding. As part of the State's Emergency Preparedness effort, DOH contacts and monitors healthcare facilities, water districts, and local health departments to evaluate community needs and identify necessary resources to assist New Yorkers.

DOH offers the following tips to help people stay healthy and safe:

Driving Safety

  • Do not drive around barricades.
  • Turn around if you come to a flooded road, whether driving or walking.
  • If your car stalls in rapidly rising water, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.

Drinking Water Safety

Listen for local advisories about drinking water. Public or municipal drinking water systems are evaluated by the State and county health departments to determine whether boil water advisories or other actions are needed to ensure safe drinking water. If a boil water order is issued for your community, bring the water to a full rolling boil and maintain the full boil for at least one minute. Any time 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 covered with floodwaters need to be disinfected and tested before they are used. Contact your local health department for information about residential well testing and disinfection. For additional information on food and drinking water safety, call DOH's Environmental Health information line at 1-800-458-1158.

Food Safety

  • Discard food without a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with floodwaters.
  • Commercially canned food:
    • Remove labels thoroughly.
    • Wash cans.
    • Disinfect with solution of ¼ cup unscented household bleach per one gallon of water and air dry.
    • Re-label cans, including expiration date.
    • Discard food containers with screwcaps, snap lids, and home canned foods if they have come in contact with floodwaters.

Loss of Power

  • Never run generators in indoor spaces, such as garages, basements, porches, crawlspaces or sheds, or in partlyenclosed spaces such as carports or breezeways. Generators should only be operated outside, far away from and downwind of buildings.
  • Never use a charcoal grill or a barbecue grill in your home or garage. Using a grill indoors will cause a buildup of toxic Carbon Monoxide (CO).
  • Open the refrigerator and freezer as little as possible; food in the refrigerator will remain cold for four to six hours if the door isn't opened.
  • Eat the most perishable items first, such as leftovers, meat, poultry and foods containing milk, cream, sour cream, or soft cheese.

Returning Home After a 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. Do not step into standing water. 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.

For additional details on health precautions visit DOH's web site at: