What to Do Before, During and After a Flood

There are steps you can take to help prevent mold in your home or business.  Learn how to safely clean and fix a mold problem

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Flood Drinking Water Test Kits

If you received a free drinking water test kit, be sure to return it for testing! Nearly half of water tests from Vermont's floods have shown bacteria contamination.

If you've already tested your water, learn how to understand your results and what to do next.

Tips to Stay Safe

Learn about the steps you can take to stay safe before, during and after a flood.

Preparing for a Flood
  • Prepare a family emergency kit. Check out a list of personal items from the CDC for tips on what to include.

  • Keep your cell phone charged.

  • Move important things to the upper floors of your home.

  • Bring outdoor equipment like trash cans or lawn furniture inside or tie them down securely.

  • Fill bathtubs, sinks and jugs with clean water. This water can be used for drinking, washing and cleaning the toilet.

  • Inform local authorities about any special needs that could affect someone’s well-being in a flood, for example, a person confined to bed, or someone with a disability that affects mobility.

  • Gather your emergency supplies and stay tuned to local radio or television station for updates.

  • Flood Watch means a flood is possible in your area.

  • Flood Warning means a flood is about to happen or is happening in your area.

Staying Safe During a Flood

In a Car

  • Do not drive around barriers.

  • Do not use roads that are marked as closed. Follow detours.

  • Listen to public safety officials.

  • Do not drive through flood water. Even water that is not deep can float a car.

  • If your car stops in water, get out of the car and move to higher ground.

  • If possible, avoid driving at night when it is hard to see.

At Home

  • If there is water coming near your house, don’t wait – get out and move to higher ground.

  • If you need to find a shelter, dial 2-1-1 on your phone to find Vermont resources near you.

  • If you touch flood water, wash your hands with soap and clean hot water.

  • Do not eat or drink anything that has touched flood water.


  • Stay away from flood water. Water can be very deep and can rise quickly.

  • Do not walk through flood water. Even water that is not deep can move quickly and be dangerous.

  • Stay away from fallen electricity lines. Electricity can travel through water and hurt or kill you.

  • Do not go into a home that is flooded unless you are sure that the power has been turned off.

Preparing to Evacuate
  • Know where your electrical breaker box is and turn off electrical power when there is standing water, fallen power lines, or before you evacuate.

  • Know where your gas and water shutoff valves are and turn off gas and water before you evacuate.

  • Fill your vehicle’s gas tank and make sure the emergency kit for your car is ready.

  • Gather essential documents like medical records, insurance cards and ID cards and put in a waterproof bag or container to carry with you during evacuation.

  • If you have pets, identify a shelter that will let you bring them with you.

  • Tune into the radio or television for weather updates.

  • Listen for disaster sirens and warning signals.

  • Put livestock in a safe area.

  • Turn the thermostat on refrigerators and freezers to the coldest temperature possible to help protect your food from spoiling.

Returning to Your Home or Business

Floodwaters in and around your home can cause injuries and health problems. Do not return to your home until officials from your city or town say it is safe and the water has gone down.

Look around outside your home

  • Stay away from downed power lines, gas leaks or damaged fuel tanks.

  • Do not enter your home if you see damage to the structure such as new cracks, roof problems or walls that have shifted.

  • If you smell natural gas (like rotten eggs) or hear hissing leave the area immediately and call your local utility.

  • Learn more about floodwater after a disaster and reentering your flooded home.

Turn off the power

  • If there is standing water in your home and you can turn off the main power from a dry location, then go ahead and turn off the power.

  • Call an electrician to turn it off. NEVER turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.  

  • Never use a generator or any gasoline-powered engine inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.

  • Learn more about protecting yourself and others from electrical hazards.

Make sure water & food are safe

  • Follow notices from your town or city on whether your water is safe to drink.

  • If you get water from a well or spring, do not use the water until you have it tested. Use bottled water or boil water for at least one minute to use for drinking and cooking. If your water smells sweet or like fuel or chemicals, do not drink it. Learn more about what to do if you have a private well or spring.

  • Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water and foods that have not been refrigerated properly. Learn more about food safety.

Video Resources

Here are some helpful videos from the EPA. Each video is 2-3 minutes long.

Guidance for Food & Lodging Businesses

Cleaning Up Your Home or Business

There are lots of things to consider when you're cleaning up your home to make sure you and your family are safe. Below are tips and resources. You can also download these guides:

What to Know About Mold After a Flood

Mold and mildew are general terms used to describe kinds of fungus. There are hundreds of different types of molds that vary in color and appearance. Mold is common in nature, and can also be found indoors. Mold can grow on foods, building materials, upholstery, clothes and other surfaces.

If your home or building has been flooded and you were not able to dry it out within 24 to 48 hours, assume you have mold growth.

Mold and your health

How you may react to mold depends on several factors including the type of mold, the amount of mold, the amount of time you are exposed, and your overall health.

Exposure to mold can lead to asthma attacks, eye and skin irritation and allergic reactions. You may have more severe reactions if you have mold allergies. If you have a weakened immune system or breathing problems, you may get a serious lung infection when you are around mold. Although rare, it is possible to get a respiratory fungal infection, which means the fungus grows on or in your body tissue.

Talk to your health care provider if you have health concerns or questions.

Testing for mold

Testing for mold is not necessary or recommended. Understanding the results can be difficult because there are no standards to compare the results to. Test results cannot be used to say a building is “safe” or “unsafe.” No matter how much or what kind of mold is in your home or building, the action steps to fix the problem are the same: dry it out and clean it up.

Protect yourself from mold

Protect yourself from mold by wearing protective clothing, such as pants and long sleeves, waterproof work boots, rubber gloves, goggles, and an N95 respirator. Children, people with breathing problems and people with weakened immune systems should not help clean up after a flood.
Use portable air cleaners with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters to reduce your exposure to mold in the air. Learn how to select the right air cleaner for your home or building in the EPA’s Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home.

Have your heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system checked and cleaned by a professional who is experienced in mold clean-up before you turn it on to prevent spreading mold throughout your home or building.  

Fixing a mold problem

To fix a mold problem, you must completely dry out your home or building first. Mold will come back if your home or building is not completely dry.

Dry your home or building by:

  • Opening all doors and windows including interior and attic access to allow air flow.

  • Using dehumidifiers and fans (when the electricity is safe) placed at a window or door to blow the air out rather than into your home to avoid spreading the mold.

Once dry and clean, remove mold by following these steps:

  • Clean moldy items that do not absorb water (like glass, plastic, marble, granite, ceramic tile, metal) by using soap and water. Disinfect any surfaces that came in contact with floodwater after cleaning them.

  • Throw away and replace materials that easily absorb water (cushions, mattresses, drywall, carpet, insulation, and ceiling tiles). If your child car seat was exposed to floodwater and cannot be machine washed, throw it away. Never launder car seat harnesses.

  • Wash clothes and other fabrics. Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent, and keep them separate from uncontaminated items.

  • Vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum.

Hiring a contractor

Flooding can cause significant mold growth. If mold is covering more than 100 square feet, you will probably want to get help from a contractor that specializes in mold cleanup. As with any contractor, get references to assess the contractor’s experience, past work success, and if other clients liked their work. Please note there are no federal or Vermont certifications or licenses for mold remediation.

A contractor is not needed for a small mold problem of less than 10 square feet. For areas between 10 and 100 square feet, use your judgment to decide.

No “black mold” species

No species of mold is named “black mold.” Many kinds of mold may be black, and the color of mold does not describe what type it is or how hazardous it is. Stachybotrys chartarum (S. chartarum) is a mold species that often is incorrectly called “black mold.” It has also been featured in news reports as more toxic than other molds. Currently, it is not known whether exposure to S. chartarum causes more illness than exposure to other mold species.

Information for renters and employees

If you are a renter or employee, talk with your landlord or employer about mold problems. If the problem is serious and conditions persist, renters may want to call their Town Health Officer, and employees may wish to contact the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA).

Frequently asked questions about mold

Should I test for mold if my home or building was flooded?

No, testing for mold is not necessary or recommended. If your home or building has been flooded and you were not able to dry it out within 24 to 48 hours, assume you have mold growth.

Why should I use soap and water?

Soap and water are safe and effective. Using a disinfectant to kill mold is not usually recommended. Dead mold can still cause health effects in some people. Mold ultimately needs to be removed. First, wipe surfaces with soap and water to remove mold. Then, vacuum surfaces with a HEPA filter vacuum.

When should I disinfect surfaces in my home or building?

Using a disinfectant to kill mold is not usually recommended. However, you need to disinfect surfaces that have come in contact with floodwater. You may also need to disinfect porous foundation materials or foundation materials with cracks and crevices (for example, stone, block wall or concrete) to kill mold you cannot remove by cleaning alone. First, clean surfaces with soap and water. Then disinfect them by following the steps in the next question.

If I need to disinfect surfaces, what type of disinfectant should I use?

When possible, choose a disinfectant that uses a safer active ingredient, like hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, ethanol or lactic acid, rather than using bleach. Make sure to follow all the instructions on the product label and wear protective clothing, including N-95 masks, gloves and goggles. Find out more about safer disinfectants.

How can I prevent future mold growth if my basement is often wet?

Preventing water and moisture problems in your home or building is the key to preventing future mold growth. In humid basements, running a dehumidifier set between 30 and 50% relative humidity can help. Basements that are very damp or wet may need a water or drainage system installed. Talk to a professional to discuss the best system for your home or building.

Download mold information in a PDF

Helpful EPA videos on mold & moisture

Each video is 2-3 minutes long.

If you have questions about mold, call 800-439-8550 or 802-863-7220.

Frequently Asked Questions
Is my drinking water (from a well or spring) contaminated by the flooding?

If you are on a private well or spring and floodwater has reached your well or spring, assume your water is contaminated. Do not use the water from your well or spring until you have it tested and results indicate that the water is free of contamination.

Get water from a known safe source (for example, from a public building served by town or city water that is not on a boil water notice or from friends or family not impacted by the flood), or use bottled water until you have your water tested. 

If you are on public water (for example, you pay a water bill), check the boil water and do not drink list to stay informed about your water quality.

Learn more about drinking water testing

How do I use my drinking water test kit? (video)
When is it safe to swim in lakes, rivers and swimming holes again?

The Health Department advises to stay out of rivers and streams until the water is clear and calm and to use extra caution when swimming in lakes and ponds that have been affected by flooding.

Heavy rainfalls can create potentially dangerous conditions in swim holes, streams, rivers, and waterfalls. These conditions of high water or strong undercurrents can linger several days after a storm, so be sure to assess the water depth and flow before swimming or boating.

Generally, you should stay out of any body of water for at least 48 hours following a significant rain event. If there is major flooding, it will take extra time for waterbodies to recover. This is because flooding can cause combined sewer overflows (raw sewage dumped into waterbodies) as well as extra debris and fuel and other chemicals to flow into waterbodies.

Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams are always susceptible to disease-causing microorganisms and chemicals from stormwater runoff and are especially susceptible after the widespread rainfall and flooding. Swimming in these waters may result in health effects such as minor skin rashes, sore throats, diarrhea or more serious problems.

Additionally, after major flooding, extra nutrients from the floodwater may cause cyanobacteria blooms a few weeks after. Be sure to watch for cyanobacteria.

Learn more about recreational water safety after a flood.

What do I need to know about mold in my home or business?

If your home or building has been flooded and you were not able to dry it out within 24 to 48 hours, assume you have mold growth. Testing for mold is not necessary or recommended.

To fix a mold problem, you must completely dry out your home or building first. Mold will come back if your home or building is not completely dry. Learn more about what to do about mold after a flood.

Can I eat vegetables from my garden if it was flooded?

Do not eat vegetables or fruit that have come into direct contact with floodwater. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets recommends waiting at least 30 days before replanting to allow the soil to dry out and allow for the natural die-off of any disease-causing bacteria or microorganisms that may have soaked into the soil from the floodwater.

How can I use baby formula safely after a flood?

For families who have been affected by flooding and use formula, ready-to-feed infant formula is the safest option.

After a flood, tap water may not be safe to mix with powdered infant formula. Ready-to-feed infant formula is a sterile liquid infant formula that is ready to feed without adding water.

There may be times when powdered infant formula is the only option. If you need to use powdered infant formula when tap water is unsafe to drink, learn more about how to prepare and store it safely and correctly.

You can also find local resources on breastfeeding/chestfeeding.

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Translated Information

Before & After the Flood in: العربية (Arabic) | မြန်မာစာ (Burmese) | 中文 (Chinese)English | Français (French) | नेपाली (Nepali) | Русский (Russian)Serbo-Croatian | Soomaali (Somali) | Español (Spanish) | Kiswahili (Swahili) | Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)

Staying Safe During a Flood and Very Heavy Rainfall (video) in: العربية (Arabic) | မြန်မာစာ (Burmese) | دری (Dari) | English | Français (French) | Kirundi | Maay Maay | 中文 (Chinese - Mandarin) | नेपाली (Nepali) | پښتو (Pashto) | Soomaali (Somali) | Español (Spanish) | Kiswahili (Swahili) | Tigrinia | Українська (Ukrainian) | Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)

Returning Home After a Flood in: العربية (Arabic) | မြန်မာစာ (Burmese) | دری (Dari) | 中文 (Chinese - Mandarin) | English Français (French)Kirundi | Pashto | Soomaali (Somali) | Español (Spanish)

Flooding Can Contaminate Your Drinking Water (video) in:  中文 (Chinese - Mandarin)English |  Español (Spanish)

Flood water on fruit and vegetables can make you very sick if you eat them (video) in:မြန်မာစာ (Burmese) | English | Kirundi | Maay Maay | नेपाली (Nepali) | Soomaali (Somali) | Español (Spanish) | Kiswahili (Swahili)  | Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)

How to Prepare Infant Formula During an Emergency in: العربية (Arabic) | မြန်မာစာ (Burmese) | دری (Dari) | English | Français (French) | Kirundi  | नेपाली (Nepali) | Soomaali (Somali) | Español (Spanish)

Mold After a Flood in: العربية (Arabic) | မြန်မာစာ (Burmese) | ری (Dari) | English | Français (French) | Kirundi | پښتو (Pashto) | नेपाली (Nepali) | Soomaali (Somali) | Español (Spanish)

Recreational Water Safety After a Flood in: العربية (Arabic) | မြန်မာစာ (Burmese) | دری (Dari) | Français (French) | Kirundi |  नेपाली (Nepali) | پښتو (Pashto) | Soomaali (Somali) | Español (Spanish)  | Watch videos in more languages from Vermont Language Justice Project. 

Protect Yourself Cleaning Up Outside After a Flood in: العربية (Arabic) | မြန်မာစာ (Burmese) | دری (Dari) | Français (French) | Kirundi | नेपाली (Nepali)  | پښتو (Pashto) | Soomaali (Somali) | Español (Spanish)


Find more videos from Vermont Language Justice Project

Call 1-800-985-5990 to connect to free, confidential crisis counseling and support. Wait for a person to answer and tell them your language.

More Information
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Flood Recovery Resources (Agency of Natural Resources)
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Vermont 211
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Road Conditions and Closures (New England 511)
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Vermont Emergency Management
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National Weather Service
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Flood Information (CDC)
Last Updated: October 2, 2023