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Flooding is not uncommon in Michigan. In 2013, historic flooding along the Grand Rapids River affected many homes and businesses. In 2014, severe flooding caused a great deal of damage in the city of Detroit. Heavy rains often cause flash flooding across the state. Flooding poses safety, health, and economic threats and could mean having to leave your home. It's is worth taking a little time to learn what to do if flooding occurs.

How to Stay Safe

Avoid Floodwater
You can prevent injuries by avoiding or minimizing your exposure to floodwater. Floodwater can be contaminated with chemicals and/or sewage, and can have dangerous pieces of floating or hidden metal and glass. Turn off main electrical breakers or fuse boxes and avoid downed power lines to prevent electrocution. Driving through floodwater is dangerous and should be avoided. Even six inches of water can easily cause a vehicle to lose control and two feet of water can sweep away a vehicle. Remember: Turn around, don't drown!

How to Stay Healthy

Drinking Water Safety
Listen to public announcements or contact your local health department to find out if your tap water is safe to use. Until the water is safe, use bottled water or boil or disinfect water. Make sure you are using safe drinking water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, prepare or wash food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula!

Food Safety
Make sure your food and water are safe before you consume them. Flood water can be contaminated with poisonous chemicals and even sewage, which can cause you and your family to become very ill if consumed.

To keep your food safe:

  • Throw away any food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water. This includes food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, snap-open, and home canned foods as these types of items cannot be disinfected.
  • Throw away any perishable food items in your refrigerator, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers, if the power has been out for 4 or hours or more.
  • Food items in unopened, store-bought cans that may have come in contact with flood or storm water must be washed and disinfected (see instructions below). If a canned good item is bulging, opened or damaged, throw it away, whether it has come in contact with flood water or not.
  • Throw away any food with an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!

Wash and disinfect food items in unopened, store-bought cans that may have come in contact with flood or storm water:

  1. Remove the label and wash the can well with soap and clean water.
  2. Prepare a solution of bleach and water by mixing one capful of unscented household chlorine bleach into one gallon of water.
  3. Disinfect the can by submerging it into the bleach water for one full minute. Do not rinse the can off. Allow the can to air dry before using it or storing it in a clean, dry place.
  4. Re-label the can with a sharpie or other permanent marker. Don't forget to include any expiration date that was listed on the original label.

For more information about food safety, visit

Mold begins to grow on items that were wet for two days or longer. You may not be able to see mold, but it can harm your health. Mold can cause asthma attacks or irritation to the eyes, nose, and skin. Getting rid of mold is important to staying healthy.

  • Protect yourself from mold and cleaning chemicals by using protective gear such as long pants, long- sleeved shirts, rubber boots, gloves, and goggles.
  • Wear an N-95 mask, available at hardware stores, to keep from breathing in mold. Do not use dust masks or handkerchiefs as the mold spores can pass through the very small holes in the material and get into your lungs. N- 95 masks are specially designed to keep tiny particles, like mold spores, from passing through the mask. Make sure the mask fits snugly around your nose and mouth.

For more information about mold, visit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services' Mold Website

How to Prepare

Make a Plan
Before any emergency, having a household emergency plan and emergency supplies to ensure you and your family stay safe and healthy. A flood can mean possible evacuations from your home or limited travel. Not being able to get to a store or being separated from your family are good reasons to plan with everyone ahead of time. Keeping your household emergency plan and important documents in plastic bags or waterproof containers will protect them from floodwaters and other water damage.

Additional Information

  • Flood Safety and Protecting Your Home Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness Website
  • Floods Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Emergency Preparedness
  • provides information on how to purchase a flood insurance policy. You can also contact your insurance agent for more information.