Flood Response Resources

Persons entering areas and buildings subject to flooding face a variety of potential hazards, including but not limited to electrical hazards, structural hazards, displacement of wildlife, exposure to chemicals and sewage in contaminated floodwater, and mold growth from water-impacted building materials. 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 knowledgable 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. To reach out to AIHA safety and health consultants for professional assistance beyond these guidelines, a consultants list is available

An AIHA guidance document published in 2017, "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 risk of structural collapse, electrical hazards, sewage contamination, trip and 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

Health Canada

InspectAPedia

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 as a result of 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. If significant mold or other sewage contamination has occurred, however, it is recommended that business 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 do choose to perform cleanup activities on your own, protect yourself during the process and wear appropriate protective equipment. Guidelines for protective equipment can be found 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, finding if you are eligible, 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 first try, keep calling.
    • Another option is to place a call to one of five numbers for the Houston Command Center of the United States Coast Guard. 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