It may take time to get everything back to normal after an emergency.
- Contact your doctor if you are unwell.
- Let the authorities know of any conditions that could be dangerous or could encourage the spread of diseases.
- Flush your water pipes, if on town supply, by turning the taps on and running until the water is clear.
- If you collect water from your roof and it is contaminated, eg, from volcanic ash fallout, smoke or wind-blown debris, disconnect the tank at the downpipe and wash the roof.
- If your water tank is affected by floodwater or contaminated from fallout on the roof, get rid of the water (it may be polluted), clean the tank out and disinfect it. Boil water before drinking.
- If you use bore water that may have been affected by floodwater or surface water runoff, pump the bore to waste for 24 hours. If the bore is under water, do not pump.
- If your water comes from a well that may have been affected by floodwater or surface water runoff, mix 2.5 litres of plain, unperfumed household bleach with 45 litres of water and pour down the well. Replace the well cover and turn on each tap until there is a smell of chlorine in the water. Turn off the tap, but do not use the water for 8 hours. Then open all taps and flush out the chlorine.
Follow the same food safety procedures as during the emergency and also:
- Protect food from heat, dirt, insects, pests and pets.
- Get rid of food which is smelly, slimy, mouldy or discoloured.
- Cover pots to save fuel and cook food thoroughly.
- Wash dishes immediately after eating and keep clean ones covered.
- Throw out any food contaminated with glass, dirt, chemicals or sewage.
- Do not eat garden produce if the soil has been flooded. Clean up and remove debris and sprinkle gardens with lime.
- Do not eat shellfish from the river mouth or harbour after an earthquake or flood.
- Do not use any tinned food with split or swollen seams.
- Always wash your hands before and after handling food.
Getting rid of rubbish
- Listen for Civil Defence or the local council’s instructions on getting rid of rubbish.
- Sort perishable and non-perishable rubbish and flatten any bulky items.
- Bury rubbish away from any water course, such as a stream or river. Cover each layer with soil and add lime or disinfectant to reduce smells. Mark all sites.
- Compost all organic refuse if possible.
- Store rubbish that cannot be buried or burnt in covered containers or tightly tied plastic bags, ready for collection.
- Report any rubbish contaminated by hazardous substances to Civil Defence.
- Tell your insurance company about any condemned item of property before getting rid of it. If you are not insured, make a list of any items being dumped. Have it checked and signed by a responsible person in case you are eligible for a relief grant. Take photos if necessary to record what you are getting rid of.
Disposing of sewage
- Use makeshift toilets until advised by authorities that it is safe to use flush toilets.
- Use disinfectant or garden lime to reduce smells. Mark all toilet sites.
- Get your septic tank pumped out to remove all silt and sludge if it has been covered by flood water.
Note that septic tanks may not work properly until the level of the water underground has gone down.
Before you return to your house:
- Contact an electrician or the electrical supply authority before switching power on again if water has reached under-floor wiring or wall sockets or the structure has been damaged by an earthquake.
- Contact gas supply authorities if the gas meter has been affected by water.
- Make sure that the local authority health or plumbing officers have checked that the water supply and sewerage systems are safe and working properly.
Soon after heavy rains have stopped and waters have drained off the ground surface, sewers will generally return to normal function. It is important to clean up, drain and dry out the house as quickly as possible. Go to Floods and health for advice on restoring a house and cleaning out your basement after flooding.
Looking after yourself
- Make sure all those helping with the clean-up wear rubber gloves and wash their hands thoroughly before eating, drinking or smoking.
- Disinfect any cuts and cover with a waterproof dressing.
- Keep small children away during the clean-up phase.
- Take precautions against insect bites by using repellents and wearing trousers and long-sleeved tops.
- Wash any clothing, bedding and other contaminated materials, such as curtains, using detergent. Rinse in clean water with added household bleach to kill any bacteria.
- Get rid of contaminated clothing so that people do not find it and put it on.
- Go back to normal showering, bathing and clothes washing as soon as there is spare clean water.
- Do not move explosives that have been wet. Contact Civil Defence.
- Do not go near or handle any drums or containers of chemicals you find without having protective clothing and equipment. Report them to the authorities.
- Wear rubber boots and rubber gloves during cleanup procedures so your skin is not exposed to any contamination.
Go to Keeping safe from volcanic ash to find out how to clean up after ashfall.
To get rid of pests:
- Use pesticide sprays, dusts, fogs or aerosols. Refer to Pest control for control and treatment of pests.
- Take care when using pesticides to prevent chemical contamination of air, water, food and soil. Follow instructions carefully.
- Call on the services of a skilled, trained professional for safe, effective, large-scale operations.
- Put down poison baits for the control of rats and mice. Make sure they are out of reach of young children and pets.
Based on the HealthEd resource Protecting Your Health in an Emergency, which can be ordered or downloaded from the HealthEd website.