First and foremost, life safety issues such as avoiding electrical shock and carbon monoxide poisoning must be considered before any cleanup or response is initiated.

General guidance on some of these hazards for the home and business owner is provided in the resources identified below. However, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) strongly recommends that cleanup of hazardous materials be performed or overseen by professionals knowledgeable​ about the hazards and methods to protect occupants and the environment. AIHA members are health and safety professionals dedicated to protecting worker and public health. A consultant list is available to reach out to AIHA safety and health consultants for professional assistance beyond these guidelines.

An AIHA guidance document, "Health and Safety Issues in Natural Disasters" (PDF), provides consumers and industrial hygienists a list of resources for addressing potential hazards during and after floods, tornados, and wildfires. The document is intended to enable recovery efforts while minimizing potential exposures to hazardous materials and conditions.

Before Entering Your Home

Hazards in and around flooded buildings include the risk of structural collapse, electrical hazards, sewage contamination, trip, fall injury hazards, fire and explosion hazards where natural gas or bottled gas are present, loose or broken gas piping and gas leaks, and other hazards. Guidance for preparing to enter and entering your home may be found at these resources:

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Indoor Air Quality Association

Health Canada


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Services

  • Protecting Yourself While Removing Post-Disaster Debris from your Home or Business (PDF)

Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials and conditions may be present due to damaged building materials containing lead or asbestos, sewage-contaminated items, or hazardous materials such as chemicals or cleaning products present in floodwater. Heat and cold stress may be present when working long hours. Fire and carbon monoxide poisoning from combustion sources may also be a concern. Here are some useful resources to recognize and address these kinds of hazards:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Services

  • Safety Awareness for Responders to Hurricanes: Protecting Yourself While Helping Others (PDF) addresses heat and cold stress, noise, dust, chemicals, carbon monoxide, and many others

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Disaster Recovery addresses mold, lead, asbestos, drinking water, and natural gas concerns

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  • Flood Cleanup: Avoiding Indoor Air Quality Problems Fact Sheet (PDF) addresses microbial growth, carbon monoxide, lead, and asbestos
  • Natural Disaster: Flooding addresses carbon monoxide, mold, lead, asbestos, and underground storage tanks

Mold and Other Microbial Growth

Wet building materials and contents should be dried as soon as possible (preferably within 24–48 hours) to prevent mold growth. However, if significant mold or other sewage contamination has occurred, it is recommended that businesses and homeowners seek professional guidance before attempting to clean large amounts of contaminated materials. Industrial hygienists and other safety and health professionals can anticipate health and safety concerns and design solutions to prevent exposures using guidelines established by governmental agencies and institutions, such as the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification. Additional guidance related to flood and mold response can be found below:

American Industrial Hygiene Association

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Federal Emergency Management Agency

  • After the Flood
  • Dealing with Mold & Mildew in Your Flood-Damaged Home (PDF)
  • Mold & Mildew: Cleaning Up Your Flood-Damaged Home (PDF)

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration

  • Fungi Hazards and Flood Cleanup (PDF)

Food and Drinking Water

Guidelines for food and drinking water are available on these websites:

Texas Department of State Health Services

U. S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Services

U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Personal Protective Equipment

If you choose to perform cleanup activities on your own, protect yourself during the process and wear appropriate protective equipment. You can find guidelines for protective equipment at the following sites:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  • Flood Cleanup and the Air in Your Home (PDF)

General Disaster Relief Information

General disaster relief assistance information is available on these websites:

Disaster Assistance is a general website for applying for disaster aid, funding eligibility, and finding various assisting agencies.

Contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) directly for disaster aid.

  • FEMA lists the following emergency phone numbers for current flood victims of Hurricane Harvey:
    • Only call 911 if you have an immediate need for medical attention or evacuation assistance.
      • If you can't get through to 911 on the first try, keep calling.
    • Another option is to place a call to one of five numbers for the United States Coast Guard's Houston Command Center. The numbers are:
      • 281-464-4851
      • 281-464-4852
      • 281-464-4853
      • 281-464-4854
      • 282-464-4855
      • 202-372-2100
    • When you call, please provide:
      • Name
      • Number of people trapped
      • Number of pets
      • Address
      • Phone number

American Red Cross