Floods damage, disrupt and isolate households and communities.
When you return home after a flood, you may be shaken to discover the level of damage to your home. Essential services that you once relied on such as power, water, sewage and gas services may not be working.
There could also be road and rail damage, no public transport, airport closures and loss of telecommunications such as telephone and Automatic Teller Services (ATM).
You may require emergency accommodation, welfare support services, money, food or water.
Getting back to normal as quickly as possible is the best thing you can do after an emergency.
Tips for returning home
- Wait for the ‘all clear’ from emergency services before going into an affected area
- Before entering your property ask authorities if it is safe to do so
- Be prepared for a slow journey as road conditions may have changed and closures may be in place
- Stock up on basic items such as non-perishable food, bottled water, medications, torch and batteries
- Withdraw cash as ATMs in your area may not be working or banks may be closed
- Fill up your fuel tank
- Keep listening to your radio for information about the emergency
- If your property is badly damaged, stay out until a building inspector or engineer has checked it
- Before cleaning up make sure all gas and electricity supplies are turned off
- Get all electrical appliances checked by an electrician before using.
- After entering watch for potential dangers such as snake, spiders and other animals. If wildlife has entered your home contact your local council or wildlife rescue to arrange for their care
- Use a torch when entering a building, never use matches, cigarette lighters or naked flames due to the potential of flammable gas
- Throw away all food or medication that may be contaminated through contact with floodwater
- Wear rubber soled shoes and rubber or leather gloves.
- Check to see if your neighbours are safe.
- Check whereabouts of pets and animals
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- Encourage your family to talk about their experience with friends and neighbours.
- Rely on official information from the authorities.
- If required seek support from local welfare agencies.
- If your home has sustained serious damage and you need help call the SES on 132 500 for assistance.
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If you are insured, it is important to contact your insurer, request an assessment and specific advice relating to your policy before discarding, authorising repairs or cleaning any damaged or flood affected property.
It is best to take photographs, video footage and make an inventory of your property and contents to assist with the claims process
For further information and advice contact the Insurance Council of Australia on 1300 728 228 or visit www.insurancecouncil.com.au
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Health and safety advice
Protect yourself from possible contamination from bacteria in remaining floodwaters by covering any open wounds before you start cleaning and wearing protective clothing.
What to wear during the cleanup
- Rubber gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes from splashing water
- Water resistant clothing, preferably long trousers to protect cover legs from sharp objects
- Protective shoes for example, gum boots and closed in footwear
Mosquitoes and snakes
Flood waters attract increased activity from wildlife including mosquitoes and snakes bringing associated health risks. Mosquitoes can spread human disease easily and after flooding the presence of mosquitoes is very common.
Health risks can be avoided by following a few simple steps
- Cover up as much as possible with loose fitting clothing and enclosed footwear
- Use an effective repellent on exposed skin areas and vigilantly reapply often
- Use repellents that contain Diethyl Toluamide of DEET less than 20 percent
- Light mosquito coils or use vaporising mats
- Do not attempt to handle or approach snakes that may have entered your property
- If you find snakes in your home contact the police who will help coordinate removal and relocation
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Cleaning and salvage
It is important to thoroughly wash and disinfect every part of your home that has been inundated by floodwaters.
- Wash all surfaces that have been inundated to reduce the danger of flood related infections
- Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water only until supplies have been declared safe by health authorities.
- Discard medication that may be contaminated through contact with floodwater.
- Discard all foods exposed to flood waters except those in sealed airtight cans
- Use disinfectant when cleaning
- Wash your hands thoroughly with a disinfectant soap after handling contaminated articles and before eating or drinking
- Shower thoroughly after the clean-up and use antiseptic soaps
- Disinfect any cuts quickly and cover with a waterproof dressing
- Remove, burn or bury rubbish, decaying vegetation and driftwood
- Bury any faecal matter or sewage
- Mattresses soaked with flood water are difficult to salvage and should be discarded
- Place pieces of wood or aluminium foil under furniture with castors or metal caps to avoid staining carpets
- Remove the backs of the furniture piece to let air circulate through it
- Do not force open swollen doors, windows or drawers
- Use wood alcohol or turpentine to remove mildew spots
- Upholstered furniture is rarely recoverable and should be disposed of
- Check all drawers and cupboards for valuable or sentimental personal contents before disposing
- If carpeting is left on the floor it is at risk of mould, decay, mildew and warping and removing carpets can cause shrinkage
- If linoleum is broken, brittle and cannot be salvaged; remove it and be sure to let the underfloor thoroughly dry before laying any type of floor covering
- Do not use any electricity until you have had the power supply reconnected and have appliances checked by a qualified licensed electrician
- Ensure sewerage and drainage lines are safe before using dishwashers and washing machines
- Clean and disinfect dishwashers, washing machines and dryers prior to use
- Check and professionally clean refrigerators and freezers prior to use
- Disinfect refrigerators, freezers and dishwashers after they have been checked by an electrician
- Dispose of soft, porous plastic and wooden items that have been in contact with floodwater
- Hand wash dishes and pots that have been in contact with floodwater using disinfectant
- Air dry disinfected dishes, do not use a tea towel
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Looking after your valuables
- Shake out mud and dirt, and hose off muddy items before washing
- Add chlorine bleach to the wash cycle to remove mildew. Be aware that bleach can damage some fabrics
- Run the washing machine through one full cycle before washing clothes, use hot water and disinfectant or sanitiser
- Check clothing labels and wash in warm water if possible
- Take 'dry clean only' and leather items to a professional cleaner
- Freeze photos to slow down damage
- Place wet or frozen photos in cold, clear water and separate those stuck together
- Do not let photos come into direct contact with running water
- Lay images face up on a kitchen towel
- Never wipe photos when wet
Paper and books
- Rinse and freeze valuable documents in a frost free freezer
- Dry as soon as they are thawed using a blow dryer
- Place blotting paper between pages
- Do not force paper sheets apart dry them until they come apart easily
- Photocopy valuable documents as soon as you can
- Use baking soda to absorb odours (do not allow baking soda to come into contact with the paper)
Discs and tapes
- Rinse in clear water and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
- Later you can take disks or tapes to a professional drying centre and have the data transferred.
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Drying your home
It may take several weeks, even longer in winter, to completely dry out your home. To avoid trapping moisture inside the home, everything that is wet and able to be moved should be taken outside to dry.
- In dry weather, open all doors and windows
- On wet days, leave windows partly open as the inside of the house will only dry when moisture can get out
- If you have heaters, turn them on in as many rooms as possible and leave windows open
- Do not use more than one heater per room as too much heat may warp and crack wood
- Apply commercial grade cleaner
- After cleaning surfaces, go over the entire room with disinfectant
- Clean walls from the bottom up
- If you have taped the windows, remove tape and use glass cleaner to remove adhesive
- Look for trapped mud in less obvious places for example under shower trays, baths, benches, bottom shelves)
- Hose or pump out mud or water, then dry as quickly as possible
- Ignore any mould growing until drying is complete, then remove with household bleach, seek advice if you or your family suffer from asthma or respiratory diseases
- It is important that wood and particle board dries quickly
- To assist drying, cut back or remove plants obstructing vents
- Remove foundation cladding such as baseboards or sheet materials for ventilation
- Dig a drainage pit or pump out water that collects under or around your home
- Where you cannot access water in walls or under floorboards, cut a trap door
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