Things to Know Before Re-entering Your Home

Take precautions before re-entering your home after a weather emergency. It is important to wear the right gear, remove standing water and not pump out flood waters containing fuel oil.

Before Re-entering Your Home

  • Wait for the water to go down.
  • Walk carefully around the outside of your home and check for damaged power lines and gas leaks. Call your utility company to report downed power lines or gas leaks. See Red Cross’s Checking Utilities and Major Systems for more on electrical safety issues.
  • Check for structural damage.
  • Open windows and doors to reduce odors and improve indoor air quality.

Wear the Right Gear

Be sure to wear proper gear that will prevent you from coming in contact with floodwaters, sewage, and hazardous substances while cleaning up: rubber boots, waterproof gloves, and an N95 dust mask. See How to Wear an N95 Mask.

Deal with Standing Water

As long as fuel oil is not an issue, standing water should be removed as soon as possible because it can contain bacteria and mold that can cause health problems. Floodwaters containing sewage or decaying dead animals can spread disease. Water that soaks or seeps into walls after a flood can also cause structural damage and enable the growth of bacteria and mold.

Standing water is also a breeding ground for insects and pests outside your home. When possible, drain the water that may have collected in areas around your home.

How to Remove Water and Moisture

  • Use a mop and pail, or a wet/dry vacuum (follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid electrical shock).
  • Open windows/doors if weather permits and use fans to evaporate remaining moisture.
  • Once visible moisture is gone, close the windows/doors and cover any sump pump wells. Then run a dehumidifier, if available, on the high setting.
  • Continue using a fan to circulate air in any damp rooms.
  • Run the dehumidifier until the water levels drop in the collection area of the unit.

Fuel Oil in Standing Water

If you see, smell, or suspect an oil spill, immediately report it to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) Spill Hotline at 800-457-7362. They will give you advice on next steps. DO NOT pump the water out into your yard because fuel oil can contaminate nearby wells, water bodies, and homes. If the oil is not removed first, your walls and floors will be coated with oil when the water is removed.

If the smell of oil is strong in your living space, make arrangements to stay somewhere else until the spill can be cleaned up. If you can’t relocate, place a fan near a window or doorway so it blows fresh, outdoor air into the living space. Have a second fan blowing air out of the contaminated area to the outdoors. If you have no fans, open windows and doors. Get more information from What Homeowners Need to Know about Fuel Oil Spills and Flooding.