Recovering from a flood

This page is intended to provide you with the information needed to get back on track if your home or business has been flooded. It is important though to remember that flooding is likely to have had a mental impact on you - feeling tired, anxious and/or having difficulty sleeping are all normal after being flooded. Make sure you take care of your own wellbeing - don't try to tackle every issue all at once or on your own.

Returning to a flooded home

Do NOT use a naked flame for light when entering a flooded building - gas supplies may have been damaged in the flood. 

Electricity

If it is safe to do so, turn off your electricity at the mains. Do not touch any electrical equipment, switches or sockets whilst standing in water. Do not touch flooded electrical equipment if it is wet, damp or the electricity is still switched on. If your fuse or meter has been under water, please keep away from the equipment and call your power distributor.

Please note that the power distribution company's responsibility only covers the incoming supply cable and service 'cut out'. The meter and internal wiring are the responsibility of your power provider (the company to whom you pay your electricity bills).

Electrical Safety First have a useful page providing more information on electrical safety in a flood, including a list of do's and don'ts.

Gas

Do not turn back on gas supplies until they have been checked by a qualified technician. Gas leaks and damaged appliances are not only a fire hazard, they can also result in carbon monoxide poisoning, the symptoms of which are headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse or loss of consciousness.

Be wary of damage to gas appliances for a while after flooding, including central heating systems, radiators and hot water systems. For more information on gas safety, visit the Gas Safety Register website.

Cleaning up

Inside

Talk to your insurance company first, they will tell you the next steps to take for cleaning up your home. Make sure you wear protective clothing for cleaning up, including rubber boots, waterproof gloves and an apron - a face mask or goggles will protect your face and eyes from contaminated splashes.

Place any soft furnishings or objects that have been heavily soiled and/or damaged beyond repair outside, to prevent the spread of bacteria. All other soft items should be laundered on a hot wash (60°C and above), or if necessary cleaned professionally - if items cannot be cleaned they should be disposed of. In order to destroy bacteria, allow everything to dry thoroughly - moderate heating and good ventilation will help with this.

All hard surfaces should be washed down thoroughly using a mild detergent or disinfectant, although be careful to follow all manufacturers instructions. When using disinfectant, apply it to the surface and leave for a period of time - avoid wiping it away immediately as this will reduce its effectiveness.

Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after each cleaning session, and keep any open cuts or sores clean - use waterproof plasters to prevent them from being exposed to flood water.

Public Health England produce a 'Floods - how to clean up your home safely' leaflet which provides a useful summary of important information when cleaning up a flood damaged home.

Outside

The exterior of your property is just as important to clean up as the interior. Hard surfaces such as paths and driveways should be washed down and disinfected, with the disinfectant left untouched for at least three hours in order to be most effective.

Be careful not to apply disinfectant to lawns and borders, as it is likely to kill plants and do more harm than good. The best long term solution is to allow the sun's ultra violet rays to naturally break down the bacteria left by flooding. It is important to note though that the time taken for this process is dependent on climatic conditions, although a rough guide is provided below:

9 days - during warm, dry summer conditions
20 days - during damper, cooler spring/autumnal conditions
25 days - during wet, cold winter conditions.

Don't attempt to dig or rake the affected area, as doing so will only spread the contamination further into the soil or turf.

Spelthorne Borough Council will work with Surrey County Council to ensure that public roads and open spaces are cleaned up following a flood. If you have any enquiries, please contact Streetscene on 01784 446 411.

Sandbags

Any unused sandbags can be stored in a dry place in case they are needed in the future. We recommend that you keep at least 6 per household if possible. It is important to stress though that used sandbags must not be kept and reused, as they may have been contaminated by the flood water.

Used sandbags can be taken to any Community Recycling Centre (tip) in Surrey, we recommend when doing this you wear gloves and don't split the bags open. Filled sandbags MUST NOT be disposed of in household wheelie bins.

There are two centres where you can exchange used sandbags for new ones. These are Martyrs Lane in Woking and Charlton Lane in Shepperton.

Flood damaged furniture

Before removing any damaged items, please contact your insurance company as they will normally cover the cost of the removal of damaged items, depending on your policy. You should make sure that you keep a record, with pictures if possible, of all damaged items as this will assist in any claim you submit to your insurance company.

Flood damaged items such as carpets and furniture can be taken to any Community Recycling Centres in Surrey - if you are unable to do this yourself, or know of somebody in need of assistance, please contact Streetscene on 01784 446 411.

Food Safety

Any food which has come into contact with flood water should be disposed of immediately, preferably in plastic refuse sacks (double bagged if possible) put out for your next refuse collection. Similarly, any wooden kitchen utensils such as wooden spoons and chopping boards, should also be disposed of.

Even if your home was not directly flooded, you may have suffered a loss of power affecting your fridge and freezer. If there is any possibility that your fridge has suffered a loss of power of 4 or more hours, throw away the food stored inside. If your freezer has suffered a loss of power, throw away any meat, fish or dairy (or foods containing these), if they have started to get soft. Also throw away any food that you would eat frozen, such as ice cream.

If you own a catering business that has been affected by flooding, remember to check with your insurers before throwing supplies away as food may be insured. Contact Spelthorne Borough Council Environmental Health department for advice on 01784 446 291.

If you have been affected by flooding and you need to prepare formula feed for a baby, it is important to be careful with the water you use. Here are some tips on preparing formula safely:

  • ideally use bottled water or water from a bowser (a tank provided by water companies), brought to a 'rolling' boil and left covered to cool for no more than half an hour, then follow the manufacturer's instructions on making up the feed. The use of unboiled bowser water should be avoided
  • use cooled boiled water or cooled boiled bottled water for cooling the feed once it has been made up
  • ready-to-feed liquid formula could be used instead
  • if boiling is not possible (due to utility outage) and ready-to-feed liquid formula is not available, bottled water (table, spring or mineral) can be used without boiling to prepare baby feeds - but the prepared feed should then be used immediately
  • wash your hands before preparing formula and before feeding an infant. You can use alcohol-based sanitizer for washing your hands if the water supply is limited or contaminated

More information about food safety following flooding can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

Drying out

DO NOT use petrol or diesel generators or other similar fuel-driven equipment indoors: the exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, which can kill.

Heating, dehumidifiers and good ventilation are all very effective in drying out your home - air bricks providing ventilation to under flood spaces may need unblocking and loose material and dust will need vacuumed up regularly throughout the drying out process. If using portable heating appliances to dry out your home, ensure that they are well ventilated and monitored carefully.

If you have gas or oil central heating, switch this on and keep at between 20°C and 22°C for steady drying - however, only do this once your heating system has been checked by an engineer. As your home dries out, any mould should disappear, although if it persists contact a specialist cleaner.

Rogue tradesmen

Never deal with cold calling doorstep traders, always ask them to leave.

If you have home insurance, contact your insurance company and follow their advice on how to get repairs to your home carried out.

Some rogue traders may offer to help with any damages to your property, but you should speak to Trading Standards for advice on finding reputable traders if you need one - do this by sending an email to trading.standards@surreycc.gov.uk. State the subject of your email as 'Flood Advice' and include your name, address and contact telephone numbers. A Trading Standards Officer will aim to contact you within four hours.