Flood Cleanup and Food Safety
For more information, please check out the following documents
After a Flood
What to do first
- Report your flood to City of Brantford. City staff will advise you of what actions you should take.
- Call your insurance company as soon as possible. Report any damage caused by the flooding. They will also advise you on how to proceed.
- Call in professionals such as a damage restoration company to have the area cleaned properly.
- Where possible, take measures to dry your home quickly to prevent further damage and mould growth. Use fans and dehumidifiers.
Initial safety precautions
- Flooding can affect your safety and your health. Take precautions to prevent illness and injury.
- If you had to evacuate your home, stay tuned to your local radio or television station to find out when it is safe to return home. You can also visit BCHU.org for updates.
- You will be notified if the municipal drinking water is unsafe to drink.
- When you do return home, go with someone else and carry a cell phone.
- Don’t drive or walk through floodwaters.
- Stay away from downed powerlines.
- Assume that everything touched by floodwaters is contaminated.
- Keep children and pets away from flooded areas and contaminated items.
Before re-entering your home after a flood
- Check for foundation and structural damage. Check that all porch roofs and overhangs are supported.
- If you are unsure about the safety of your home, do not go inside.
- Contact a building inspector or structural engineer for advice.
- Do not attempt to reconnect the electricity, natural gas, telephone or TV cable yourself. Call your service provider for assistance.
Back to Top
Before you clean up
Flood waters can contain sewage, chemicals and debris like broken glass.
Wear clothing that covers your skin along with appropriate personal protective equipment including
- hard hat
- protective eyewear
- rubber boots (puncture-proof and waterproof are best)
If it is safe to do so, turn off the electricity at the main breaker or fuse box using a dry piece of wood. If you cannot, do not enter the space and contact your hydro company for assistance.
Do not use electrical appliances that are wet or may have been affected byflood water until a qualified electrician has inspected them.
Do not use anything requiring water in your home (e.g. toilets, showers, washing machine and sinks) until the flood water from your house has been removed.
Cleaning up a home that has experienced extensive water damage or has been flooded with sewage-contaminated waters may require a qualified flood damage restoration company.
Take measures to prevent further damage to your home and belongings:
- Remove standing water. Remove standing water with pumps or pails, a wet/dry vacuum and rags and/or towels. If you experience severe water levels in your basement, contact a professional damage restoration company to help drain the water slowly to prevent structural damage.
- Make decisions about what to keep and what to throw away. Remove as much as you can out of the rooms that were flooded as quickly as possible to help prevent water damage and mould. Some belongings, especially those that are contaminated with sewage, or those that cannot be quickly dried and effectively cleaned, may not be salvageable.
- Remove soaked and dirty building materials and debris, including wet insulation and drywall.
- Quickly and thoroughly dry and dehumidify your home. Ventilating the area with outdoor air and fans will help. A dehumidifier will work to remove moisture from the home.
- Clean all surfaces and belongings. Wipe or scrub away dirt and debris using a solution of unscented detergent and water.
- Disinfect all surfaces and belongings. Be sure they have already been thoroughly cleaned. Use a disinfectant such as household bleach and carefully follow the directions for use on the product label. Be sure to wear appropriate personal protective equipment and ventilate the area.
What to do with household items
Items that have been contaminated by sewage or that have been wet for a long time and cannot be washed and disinfected should be discarded.
Carpets and upholstered furniture that can be salvaged may need to be professionally cleaned and dried. If these items are sewage-soaked, they should be discarded.
Wet drywall and insulation should be removed to allow studding to dry.
Washable clothes can be salvaged.
- A qualified service technician should verify the safety of any appliance that has been affected by flood water before it is used.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect appliances that can be salvaged.
- Appliances that cannot be salvaged should be discarded.
Medicines, cosmetics and other toiletries
Discard these items if they have been in contact with flood water.
- Store all valuable papers that have been damaged in a freezer until they are needed. After your clean-up, consult your lawyer to determine whether flood-damaged documents, or just the information in them,
- must be retained.
- Record details of flood damage by photograph or video if possible.
- Register the amount of damage to your home with your insurance agent.
- Salvage books, photographs and papers by slow, careful drying.
Back to Top
The following foods should be considered unsafe and discarded:
- Food in boxes, bags, paper and plastic wrap
- Food and drinks in bottles, plastic containers and jars, including home preserves (the area beneath the lid cannot be properly cleaned and disinfected)
- Fresh foods such as meats, fruits, vegetables, and eggs
Commercially canned food without dents, leaks and bulges are considered safe if properly cleaned and disinfected.
Thoroughly clean and then disinfect dishes, eating and cooking utensils and food contact surfaces. Use a disinfectant that is non-toxic and safe for food contact surfaces. Follow the directions for use on the product label.
Discard any eating utensils, cutting boards and other food contact surfaces that cannot be properly cleaned and disinfected.
If you have been without power, food in your refrigerator and freezer may be at risk. Follow these tips to reduce the risk of food-borne illness:
- Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer doors. If the door is kept closed, refrigerators will normally keep foods cool for four hours. A full freezer without power will normally keep food frozen for approximately two days, and a half-full freezer will normally keep food frozen for one day.
- Add bags of ice or ice packs to help keep the food cooler for a longer period of time.
- Consider using coolers or ice chests with a supply of ice for food storage.
- Throw out perishable foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and leftovers that have been at temperatures above 4°C (40°F) for more than two hours.
- Throw out food items that have come into contact with raw meat juices.
Back to Top
Discarding of Materials
- Dispose of non-salvageable items and building materials.
- Bag items that are considered regular waste and place at the curb on your regularly scheduled waste collection day. Enhanced garbage pick up will be provided by the Municipality. Special announcements will indicate dates of service.
- Flooring, including carpet and underpadding, must be bundled in maximum two-by-four foot lengths.
- Contaminated boxes, cans, bottles and paper should be placed in a garbage bag at the curb. Do not place these items in the Blue Box as they no longer meet recycling standards.
Items NOT accepted as regular waste and bulk waste
The following items are not accepted as regular waste.
- Household hazardous waste, e.g. solvents, garden chemicals, home cleaning products
- Metal and appliances
Back to Top
Mould can grow on wet surfaces in as little as 48 hours and any growth over time indicates a continuing moisture problem. If you begin to notice mould growth anywhere in your home after the flood, it is important to remove the source of moisture and clean the affected area.
Getting rid of mould
The size of the affected area will determine whether you should clean and remediate the area yourself or hire a professional:
- Yourself: small areas no more than one square metre in overall size.
- Professional: large areas greater than one square metre in size
Protect yourself and others when cleaning mould
- Wear a disposable particulate mask (available at your local hardware store), unvented safety goggles and household rubber gloves.
- Consider isolating the room to protect infants, pregnant women, the elderly or those with existing health problems such as respiratory disease or a weakened immune system.
- Use an exhaust fan blowing to the outside to help prevent contamination of other areas of the house, as well as to provide ventilation.
Cleaning mould from building materials, furnishings and other items
Washable surfaces, such as tile or glass
- Wipe or scrub surfaces using a damp cloth and a solution of water and unscented detergent.
- Sponge with a clean damp cloth.
- Dry quickly and thoroughly.
- Once dry, vacuum the cleaned surfaces as well as surrounding surfaces with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaner.
- Wipe the surface of the wall using a damp cloth and a solution of
- water and unscented detergent.
- Dry quickly and vacuum with a HEPA vacuum cleaner.
- If you are unable to wipe away the mould, it is best to replace
- the drywall.
Carpets and upholstered furniture
- If these materials were affected by flood water and mould is visible, they will likely need to be professionally cleaned or discarded.
Any mouldy material or item that cannot be effectively cleaned should be sealed in plastic and disposed of.
Replacing Documents and Money
- Birth, marriage and death certificates, Health card, Driver’s licence, and vehicle registration
- Employment Insurance, Social Insurance (SIN) card, Canada Pension Plan papers, and Old Age Security
- Insurance policies
- Citizenship papers
- Citizenship and Immigration Canada
- Permanent Resident Card
- Citizenship and Immigration Canada
- Local passport office
- Income tax records
- Medical records
- Land titles
- Provincial Land Titles office
- Animal permits/licences
- City of Brantford
- County of Brant
- Bank books
- Money (partially or completely destroyed)
- Canada Savings Bonds (partially or completely destroyed)
- Credit cards
- Divorce papers
- Court office where the divorce was filed
- Issuing company or your lawyer
- Military discharge papers
- Library and Archives Canada
Back to Top
Stay safe while addressing a flood in your home. Below is some important health information, along with tips and considerations to keep in mind whileyou are managing clean up and repairs.
First and foremost, wear appropriate personal protective equipment, wash hands frequently with soap and clean water and protect open sores with waterproof coverings.
Potential health risks
Contaminated flood waters can pose a risk to your health
- Ingestion of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and other germs found in sewage can cause gastrointestinal (GI) illness. Ingestion occurs from eating contaminated foods, drinking contaminated water or accidentally touching your mouth with contaminated hands. Vomiting and diarrhea are common symptoms of GI illness.
- Skin contact with contaminated flood water can cause skin rashes and infection in open sores.
Indoor air quality
During clean up and over time, indoor air quality can be affected, such as:
- Dust created during clean-up activities can become airborne. Close off the flooded areas during clean up and repair to prevent dust spreading to other rooms in the house. Also, keep rooms well ventilated while working.
- Use of cleaners and disinfectants can release vapours. Keep rooms well ventilated. Wear protective clothing such as gloves and masks and keep children away from the area when using these cleaning solutions.
- Mould can grow on wet building materials and belongings. Discard contaminated items and dry remaining items as quickly as possible (i.e. within 48 hours).
- Moulds are found both outdoors and in homes and buildings, and can grow on practically anything that collects dust and holds moisture.
- Excessive dampness and mould growth on building materials and belongings can pose potential health risks.
- Most types of mould are not a health concern for healthy individuals, but some individuals may experience respiratory symptoms such as asthma, sore throat and allergy-like symptoms.
- Indoor air testing for mould is generally not recommended as results can be difficult to interpret.
Health effects related to mould depend on:
- the type of mould
- the amount of mould
- the production of certain substances by the mould
- the degree of exposure
- the health condition of the person exposed
- Some people who may be more at risk of having health effects when
- exposed to mould include:
- pregnant women
- the elderly
- those with existing health problems such as respiratory disease or a weakened immune system
Back to Top
Coping after a Crisis
You may experience strong feelings of stress immediately or weeks after a flood or significant weather-related event. Stress can change how you feel and act. Acknowledging how you feel can help you manage stress. It is normal to have feelings of anxiety, grief, sadness, helplessness and anger after a significant event. Everyone has different methods of coping, and it will take time before you start to feel better.
Stress is a normal response to good and bad life events but can become a problem when it affects how you cope or manage in daily life.
Some tips to help cope:
- Talk about your feelings with family, friends, neighbours and co-workers.
- Set a schedule and follow a normal routine as much as possible. It will take time before your life returns to normal.
- Eat healthy meals.
- Try to get regular sleep.
- Exercise and stay active.
- Accept help from your community.
- Offer to help in your community.
- Establish a family emergency plan in case of future events.
- Be compassionate with yourself and others.
Talking to children
It is important to be aware of your children’s reactions in the aftermath of a significant event. Changes in their behaviour may indicate they are under significant stress. For example, young children might start thumbsucking or bed-wetting, develop aches and pain, become clingy or fearful. Children might withdraw and try to be brave, when they really need your reassurance.
Some suggestions when talking to children
- Encourage children to express themselves and ask questions. They may want to do this by drawing or playing instead of talking.
- Take their fears seriously. Reassure them and give them additional attention.
- Let children know they are not to blame when bad things happen.
- Admit to them that you also felt afraid and may still be experiencing some feelings of fear or anxiety, but that with time and possibly some outside help you will work it out together.
- Tell children what you know about the situation. Be honest but gentle. Talk to them about the disaster.
- Keep children with you whenever it is possible, even if it seems easier to look for housing or help on your own. At a time like this, it’s important
- for the whole family to stay together.
- Expect regressive behaviour and be tolerant of it.
- Give them a real task to do, something that gets the family back on its feet and let them help in planning something to remember the loss.
- Watch for health problems and signs of stress, such as nightmares and depression, in you or your family. Seek help if you need it. Many organizations in your community can provide counselling and other
- Model self-care and continue with regular routines (teeth brushing, bedtime stories) and chores (picking out their own clothes to wear, etc.). Get enough sleep and exercise.
- Avoid or minimize watching news reports of frightening events.
Back to Top
Repairing your home
Tips and considerations when you are repairing your home
- Do not attempt to reconnect the electricity, natural gas, telephone or TV cable yourself. Contact your service provider to reconnect it for you.
- A qualified service technician should verify the safety of any electrical system or appliance that has been affected by flood water before it is used.
- Contact your local heating repair company to inspect your furnace and chimney.
- Professional companies can help you with cleaning and repairing your home. If you are making an insurance claim, your insurance adjuster may help you find a contractor.
- Arrange for any necessary inspections and building permits. Your contractor may take care of these for you. If not, contact your Local Municipality to find out what steps you need to take.
- Consider installing basement flooding prevention devices such as a backwater valve or sump pump.
Back to Top
Food Safety Q&A
I’ve been without hydro – is my food safe to eat?
If your fridge has been without power for more than 4-6 hours, throw everything inside out.
If your freezer has been without power:
- Throw out any food that has thawed.
- If there is food that has ice-crystals you can refreeze and keep, or cook and freeze the cooked food.
Floodwater got into my pantry and touched my food – is it safe to eat?
Any food any food that’s been in contact with floodwater should be thrown out, except for food in sealed, airtight metal cans.
- Food in sealed, airtight metal cans is safe to eat once the can has been properly disinfected.
- Bottles and jars, including home preserves, are not safe because the area under the seal of jars and bottles cannot be properly disinfected.
There was floodwater in my kitchen. What should I do to clean it?
Clean all surfaces and objects that have come in contact with floodwater with soap and water. Then use a mild bleach solution (5 ml of bleach per 1 L of water) to disinfect everything.
Please note that bleach can be potentially toxic. Use with caution and do not add to other chemicals.
Back to Top
After a Power Outage or Flood