Storm & Flood Cleanup

Avoiding Injury
Downed power lines, broken glass, and exposed nails are some of the dangers people can encounter while assessing damage or cleaning up after a storm. Residents should also avoid entering any structure that has been damaged until it has been checked by their gas and electric utility and a licensed contractor or building inspector to make sure it is safe for re-entry.

Other ways to avoid injury during cleanup include:
  • If the power is out, use battery-powered lanterns to light homes rather than candles. Candles could trigger an explosion if there is a gas leak.
  • In general, if you suspect any damage to your home, even if the damage isn’t readily apparent, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions.
  • Never use gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices like camp stoves or generators inside the home, or even outside near an open window, door, or vent. Carbon monoxide from these sources can build up and cause illness or death.
  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
Even with so much to think about, it’s also a good time for people to make sure tetanus shots are up-to-date. Tetanus is caused by bacteria and often enters the body through puncture wounds, like those caused by nails.

Besides tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, another risk is heavy rains leading to flooding. Health and safety risks abound during the flood and afterward. To avoid injury or death during a flood:
  • Disconnect electrical appliances, but do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Do not drive in flooded areas.
  • Do not walk through moving water.
  • If you must evacuate, first secure your home and turn off utilities at main switches or valves.
  • Move to higher ground, especially if the threat is imminent. Don’t wait for instructions to move.
To avoid injury after a flood:
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Avoid driving or walking through areas that were flooded. Flood waters often erode roads and walkways.
  • Use extreme caution when entering buildings as there may be hidden damage, particularly to foundations.
Flood Cleanup
Once flood cleanup begins, remember that water damage can often lead to unhealthy mold growth within days after flood waters have receded. It is wise to consult a professional with flood cleanup experience to assess how serious a mold problem is, and the best way to remove it.

Private Wells
Private well owners whose well has been submerged by flood waters should wait until flood waters recede before testing the well for contamination. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides guidance on how to cope with a flooded well.

Food Safety
Finally, keep food safety in mind. Refrigerated and frozen foods should be inspected, especially if there was a power outage. Check the smell and appearance of all meats, seafood, milk, produce and leftovers and when in doubt, throw it out. Also, any food that was touched by flood waters, even if it was stored in a waterproof container, should be thrown out.