flooded road

Due to climate change and land use, the threat of flooding is increasing. The temperature of our atmosphere has increased, which means it can hold and then dump more water. We have also eliminated many natural landscape features that can help absorb water in order to develop roads, sidewalks, and buildings.

Our role

When there is a flood in our community we share information to support people staying safe and healthy. We also work with well owners to make sure their drinking water is still safe and help restaurants recover in a way that makes sure food stays safe to prevent food poisoning.

Be prepared for effects from flooding

  • Put together an emergency kit with food, water, and other supplies you’ll need for several days. Plan for your pets too!
  • Put together a family emergency communication plan with phone numbers, medical information, emergency meeting places, and more. You may not be together when an emergency happens!
  • Read up about emergency alerts. Some will go to your phone automatically, others you have to sign up for.
  • Make an evacuation plan: how you’ll leave, where you’ll go, places that take pets, and more.
  • Know what you’ll need to prepare if you have to shelter at home, at the place you’re in when an emergency happens, or at a mass care shelter.

During a flood

Floodwaters may contain things like sewage, fertilizer, manure, gas, and pesticides. These can harm your health. It is important to stay out of floodwaters and clean up carefully after floodwaters have receded.

  • Stay out of flood waters.
  • Don’t drive through flood waters. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a car. When you encounter flood water, turn around, don’t drown!
  • Shut off electrical power if you suspect damage to your home. Even if the damage isn’t easily seen, shut off electrical power, natural gas tanks, and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions.
  • Use battery-powered lanterns to light homes rather than candles. Candles could trigger an explosion if there is a gas leak.
  • Use generators at least 20 feet from your home. Generators create carbon monoxide. In enclosed spaces, the carbon monoxide can build up and cause sickness or death.


After a flood

Clean up properly

Drain basements slowly. Basements containing standing water should be emptied gradually - no more than 2-3 inches per day. If a basement is drained too quickly, the water pressure outside the walls will be greater than the pressure inside, which may cause the basement floor and walls to crack and collapse.

Look out for mold. Flooded homes and businesses can lead to the growth of mold, which can cause health concerns. It is important to stay safe and healthy while cleaning up after a flood.

Check Your Private Well

If you live in an area that flooded, pollutants from floodwaters might contaminate your private well. If you think your drinking water is contaminated:

  1. Stop drinking it or using it for preparing food immediately.
  2. Switch to a safe water source such as a neighbor’s well you know is safe, a community water supply, or buy bottled water. If you can’t find a convenient source of safe water, boil your well water for one minute at a rolling boil before using it.
  3. Disinfect your well, or get your water tested to check for contamination.
    1. If your water tests positive for bacteria, your water is unsafe. Read Bacterial Contamination of Private Wells for more information. Do not use the water unless boiled at a rolling boil for at least one minute.
    2. If your water tests negative for bacteria, consider the water safe to drink but re-test in another month.
  4. Learn more about how to protect your well from contamination in the future.
    1. Recommendations for Private Wells Inundated by Flooding, WI Department of Natural Resources
    2. Water Testing Information, Public Health Madison & Dane County
    3. Fixing Your Flooded Well Fact Sheet, WI Department of Health Services

Follow Food Safety Guidelines

A flood or loss of power could jeopardize the safety of your food. Throw out food if you can’t be sure it’s safe. Throw out any refrigerated food if your power was out for four hours or more. If frozen foods still have ice crystals, they can be refrozen. Any food that was touched by floodwaters - even canned food - should be thrown out.

Learn how to determine if your food is still safe.

Support Your Mental Health

Natural disasters can cause stress and depression. Call or text The Disaster Distress Helpline for free confidential support.

  • Call 1-800-985-5990
  • Text TALKWITHUS to 66746

Resources & Ways to Stay Informed About Flooding

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