Relief & Recovery

Returning home

Relief and recovery information for floods and storms June 2021

Floods and your health  

There are a lot of things to consider when returning home after a flood. 

Ensure your health and wellbeing is looked after.

  • Skin contact with floodwater and mud from floodwater can cause illness and skin infections.  
  • If you are injured or suffer a cut during your clean up, clean the wound and contact your doctor immediately.  

Flooding can cause sewage to overflow inside your home and impact your water.

  • Contact with sewage can make people sick, so contaminated areas must be cleaned and disinfected. And it is best to keep children and pets away until the area is cleaned up. 
  • People’s private water supplies may also be contaminated from floodwater, debris and chemicals.  
  • If your water supply tastes, looks or smells unusual, do not use it for drinking, preparing food, and do not give it to animals.  
  • Use bottled water. Boiling water will not make it safe to drink.  
  • Flooding can also cause excessive mould growth which must be cleaned up before moving back to your home. 

Some people are particularly vulnerable to mould:  

  • children (under 12 years, particularly babies) 
  • pregnant women 
  • people over 65 years of age 
  • and people with weakened immune systems, allergies, severe asthma or lung diseases. 

These people should not be present when you clean up. 

People should also be aware that wild animals like rodents, snakes or spiders may be trapped in your home, shed or garden.   

  • If you get bitten or injured by an animal or insect again speak with your doctor.  
  • Mosquitoes can also breed rapidly in stagnant waters. So drain any water from containers such as plant pots, tyres, buckets, and roof gutters to control mosquitos around your home. 

Wastewater systems including septic tanks and their absorption area can be weakened by a flood, so do not drive or walk over them.  

And damaged gas or electricity supplies need to be declared safe by a qualified electrician or plumber. 

Food safety should also be considered and ALL food that has been flood damaged should be thrown away – including canned and packaged foods. 

Medicines, stored at home and affected by flood water may now be unsafe and extreme caution should be taken in trying to salvage any medicines. 

We have a variety of printable factsheets, several are translated into multple languages:   

More information on www.healthtranslations.vic.gov.au

Pets and floods

  • Find out how to care for your pet during floods: Pets and Emergencies 
  • If your pets are injured, seek veterinary treatment immediately.
  • If your pets are lost, notify your local council, microchip registry, neighbours and nearby animal shelters. You can also check social media sources (often in emergencies a site is set up to list lost and found animals).

Ladder safety 

If you need to secure your property, check for storm damage, or make repairs, remember your own safety. Ladder falls can lead to serious injury or death, so avoid using ladders in stormy, windy or wet conditions when you or the ladder can slip or fall. Stay safe and call for help, or contact Victorian State Emergency Service Victoria on 132 500 for emergency flood or storm assistance.  

Power outages

Gas and electricity risks Victoria’s energy safety regulator, Energy Safe Victoria, provides the following advice for households who are without power as a severe weather event continues across Victoria.

If a power outage impacts your health or safety, or the health or safety of someone you live with, you can travel to accommodation like a hotel or a friend or family member's house, you can also travel to community relief services and community meetings. 

Using a generator

Portable generators can allow some normal activities to continue; however, it is important to use them with care as they pose safety risks including electrocution, fire risks or asphyxiation when not used correctly. Please follow this safety advice to manage the risks associated with the use of portable generators in power outage events:

  • Portable generators should never be used indoors or in enclosed areas. They emit carbon monoxide that you cannot see or smell, and may cause carbon monoxide poisoning and asphyxiation very quickly. If it builds up in a home, garage or caravan it can cause sudden illness, loss of consciousness and death. Think about your pets as well as your family. 
  • Ensure portable generators are operated in a well-ventilated outdoor area away from open windows and vents. 
  • Keep the generator: 
    • out of dry grass to prevent the exhaust from igniting the grass
    • dry and stored on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure
    • away from rain or wet conditions.
  • Make sure your hands are thoroughly dried before touching the generator
  • Only use heavy-duty outdoor rated extension cords that are in good condition and rated in watts or amps at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.
  • Never modify an extension cord to plug into household wiring.
  • Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall socket or connecting to the switchboard, as this may result in back-feed that can risk the safety of utility workers and neighbours i.e. those connected to the same local network.
  • Ensure fuel is stored in proper safety containers and away from ignition sources (e.g. natural gas water heater). Turn it off and allow the generator to cool down before refuelling.

More information can be found at Energy Safe Victoria and at Health Translations

Supply has been restored but I still have no power

  • If your house is still without power after electricity supply has been restored, check there is supply by looking at your smart meter. The smart meter will display lights and numbers if supply has been restored to your property.
  • If the smart meter isn’t displaying lights seek the help of your electricity distributor. Check the ESV website if you are unsure of your distributor www.esv.vic.gov.au/safety/education/emergencies/
  • The problem could be a fault in the supply line to your property, if your neighbour has electricity and you don’t there may be a problem with the supply to your property.
  • If the smart meter is displaying lights, ensure that the circuit breakers in the switchboard are in the ‘on’ position and if you have fuses check that the fuse wire is intact.
  • Once you have power available at your property, check that your appliances are all operating correctly. If something is not operating as normal, unplug the item or turn off the circuit breaker or remove the fuse.
  • If there are continuing power supply problems such as fuses blowing, circuit breakers and safety switches turning off, contact a registered electrical contractor. Only electricians licensed by Energy Safe Victoria can perform electrical work.

Fallen Powerlines

  • If there are fallen powerlines stay more than 8-to-10 metres away. Standing near fallen powerlines can be fatal.
  • Always treat fallen powerlines as live even when they are broken.

Appliances

  • Do not bring outdoor gas appliances inside your home, basement, garage, caravan or tent, or even outside near an open window. Appliances such as power generators, grills, camp stoves or other petrol, LP gas, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices should only be used as specified by the manufacturer. They can cause carbon monoxide poisoning or a fire. 
  • When there is a power cut, make sure heating and cooking appliances are turned off (there is a risk of fire if they come back on and there is no one at the property).
  • If you smell gas, call your gas distributor. You can find the number on your bill or go to www.esv.vic.gov.au 

Safely turning your power back on

If your property or home has suffered a power disruption, please ensure you follow these safety precautions:

  • Check that there is no damage to any electrical cables, wiring or other electrical equipment. If you identify any damaged electrical equipment or cables: 
    • do not turn on the power
    • do not touch the equipment or cable
    • call a licensed electrician to test and make it safe.
  • Unplug or turn off all electrical appliances and equipment before switching the power back on. 
    • This includes circuit breakers, RCDs (safety switches) or other switches on your switchboard. 
  • Turn on the main power switch.
  • Turn on each circuit breaker one at a time.
    • If you have an RCD, press and hold the test button for 5 seconds. This will turn the power off. The RCD must operate immediately on pressing the test button.
    • Reset the RCD and press the test button a second time. If the RCD operates correctly and turns off the power, reset it and you can begin switching on electrical equipment.
    • If the RCD fails the testing, it should be turned off and immediately replaced by a Registered Electrical Contractor (REC).

Solar Panel Installations

  • If you identify any damage to, or have concerns about any equipment or cables associated with a solar system – do not go near the equipment or cables, even if the power is turned off to the house.
  • Solar panels can produce energy during daylight hours and can pose a potential risk even if the power is turned off. Call a Registered Electrical Contractor (REC) to test and make it safe. In the case of emergencies, households are advised to contact their electricity or gas distributor.
  • Relevant contact details can be found on electricity bills or on the ESV website: www.esv.vic.gov.au/safety-education/emergencies/
  • ESV: 03 9203 9700 1800 800 158 (freecall) info@energysafe.vic.gov.a

Septic tanks

If you suspect your wastewater system has been affected by power outage, contact a licensed plumbing practitioner or service agent to have it assessed.  

Until you are certain your septic system is working properly, minimise your water use.  

Do not enter the pump chamber: gases from decaying sewage inside pump chambers are toxic and can be fatal.  

Further Information:

Food safety

Food safety is important during power outages. Once cold or frozen food is no longer cold to touch, it can be kept and eaten for up to four hours and then it must be thrown away.  

Foods such as poultry, meat and dairy products must be kept chilled. If you are without electricity and the use of your refrigerator, suggestions include:  

Try to keep cold and frozen food as cold as possible. If food is still cold to touch, less than 5°C, it is safe to use. Once cold or frozen food is no longer cold to touch, 5°C or above, it can be kept and eaten for up to four hours and then it must be thrown away.  

If you don’t know how long your food has been unfrozen or not cold to the touch, throw it away.  

Eat hot food within four hours of it being hot or throw it away.  

If available, put bagged ice under food packages and trays stored in freezers and fridges if power failure lasts more than 1 hour.  

Only open fridge and freezer doors when absolutely necessary, this will keep the food and air temperature colder for longer.   

Further information:

Road closures

For detailed road closure information, check the VicTraffic smartphone app, go to traffic.vicroads.vic.gov.au, or call VicRoads on 13 11 70.

Insurance

If you have property or contents insurance you should contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the storm or flood.

  • Ask your insurer for advice on actions you should take

  • Do not discard or throw away damaged items without first consulting your insurance company

  • Make a list of items that have been damaged and take photographs if possible

  • Keep receipts for any emergency repair work

For assistance with insurance contact the Insurance Council of Australia on 1800 734 621 (24 hour hotline). You can find information on lodging a claim following a disaster here:  www.disasters.org.au.

For further details on insurance advice see Understand Insurance

Australian Red Cross resources

Visit the Australian Red Cross for information on:

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