What to Do Before, During and After a Flood

After floodwater has gone down, find out how to safely return to your home or business, test your water and clean up after a flood. 

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If you are on a private well or spring, assume your water is contaminated if floodwater has reached your well or spring. Do not use it for drinking until you have it tested and know it's safe.

Free drinking water test kits available for flood impacted wells and springs. Order your test kit online

If you can't order online, call 802-338-4724 or 800-660-9997 (toll-free in Vermont) or contact your local health office.

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.
  • Confirm with New England 511 to make sure that any road travel will be accessible. New England 511 will be regularly updated with road closures and route changes.
  • Listen to public safety officials.
  • Do not drive through floodwater. 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 floodwater, wash your hands with soap and clean hot water.
  • Do not eat or drink anything that has touched floodwater.


  • Stay away from floodwater. Water can be very deep and can rise quickly.
  • Do not walk through floodwater. 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

Floodwater 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.
  • NEVER turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water. Call an electrician to turn it off.
  • 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 and 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
  • Free bacteria testing kits are available to households whose wells/springs have been impacted by flooding. Order a free test kit online. 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 is a general term used to describe certain types of fungi. Wherever there is moisture, mold can grow. It can grow on food, building materials, upholstery, clothes and other surfaces. There are many different types of molds that vary in color and appearance. No species of mold is named “black mold.” Exposure to mold can impact your health.

Assume there is mold in your home or building if it has been flooded and it has not been dried out within 24 to 48 hours.

Testing for mold

Testing for mold is not necessary or recommended. This is because:

  • 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: remove the moldy items, dry out the space, and fix the source of water intrusion.

Protecting yourself from mold

  • Wear protective clothing, such as pants and long sleeves, waterproof work boots, rubber gloves, goggles, and a disposable N95 respirator.
  • Do not let children, people with breathing problems and people with weakened immune systems help clean up after a flood.
  • Use portable air cleaners with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters.
  • See the EPA’s Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home.
  • Minimize spreading dust, debris and mold to other areas of your home or building by using plastic sheeting to separate the moldy area. Learn more about containment from the EPA.
  • 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.

Fixing a mold problem

To fix a mold problem, remove moldy items and completely dry out your home or building. 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 mold.

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's car seat was exposed to floodwater and cannot be machine washed, throw it away. Never launder car seat harnesses.
  • Wash clothes and other fabrics, including clothes worn during the cleanup, in hot water and detergent. Keep them separate from uncontaminated items.
  • Vacuum with a HEPA vacuum.

Hiring a contractor

  • There are no federal or Vermont certifications or licenses for mold remediation.
  • If mold is covering more than 10 square feet (roughly 3 feet by 3 feet), you may want to hire a contractor that specializes in mold cleanup. A contractor is generally not needed for a small mold problem of less than 10 square feet.
  • Ask the contractor to follow cleanup guidance from organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency or the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).
  • As with any contractor, get references to assess the contractor’s experience, past work success, and if other clients liked their work.

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 file a complaint with the Division of Fire Safety, 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 physically removed. First, wipe surfaces with soap and water to remove mold. Then, vacuum surfaces with a HEPA 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 disposable 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 40 and 60% relative humidity can help. Basements that are very damp or wet may need a water or drainage system installed or changes may need to be made outside to direct water away from the home or building's foundation. 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

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 a safe option if you have refrigeration. 

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) | Kreyòl Ayisyen (Haitian Creole) | 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 Well or Spring in: العربية (Arabic) | မြန်မာစာ (Burmese) | دری (Dari) | English | Français (French) | Kirundi |  नेपाली (Nepali) | پښتو (Pashto) | Soomaali (Somali) | Español (Spanish)

Floodwater 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

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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)
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