Prevent Illness From Food and Water After a Hurricane or Flood
HURRICANE AND FLOOD RECOVERY
- Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water.
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible and add block ice or dry ice if the electricity is expected to be off longer than 4 hours.
- Local authorities will tell you if tap water is safe to drink or use for cooking or bathing.
- If the water is unsafe, follow the directions of local authorities to safely disinfect the water.
Prevent illness from food
Identify and throw away food that may not be safe to eat
Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water. Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened, or damaged. Throw away food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. Throw away perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been above 40°F for 2 hours or more. Thawed food that contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below can be refrozen or cooked. If cans have come in contact with floodwater or storm water, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup (240 milliliters) of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Relabel the cans with a marker.
Store food safely
While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Add block ice or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity is expected to be off longer than 4 hours. Wear heavy gloves when handling ice.
For more information, see Keep Food and Water Safe after a Natural Disaster or Power Outage and Prevent Illness after a Natural Disaster .
Prevent illness from water
Listen to and follow public announcements
Local authorities will tell you if tap water is safe to drink or to use for cooking or bathing. If the water is not safe to use, follow local instructions to use bottled water or to boil or disinfect water for cooking, cleaning, or bathing.
Correctly boil or disinfect water
Hold water at a rolling boil for 1 minute to kill bacteria. If you can't boil water, add 1/8 teaspoon (approximately 0.75 mL) of newly purchased, unscented liquid household bleach per gallon of water. Stir the water well, and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. You can use water-purifying tablets instead of boiling water or using bleach. For infants, use only pre-prepared canned baby formula. Do not use powdered formulas prepared with treated water. Disinfect children's toys that have come in contact with water. Use a solution of 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water to disinfect the toys. Let toys air dry after cleaning. Some toys, such as stuffed animals and baby toys, cannot be disinfected; they should be discarded.
- Page last reviewed: April 26, 2012
- Page last updated: January 10, 2014
- Content source:
- National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH); Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR); Office of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury, and Environmental Health (ONDIEH); National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP); National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD)