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Natural Disasters

General Information for Disaster Preparedness and Response

Public Service Announcements

Listen to or rebroadcast public service messages about flood safety and response. Topics include carbon monoxide, children's health, private wells contamination, mold cleanup, and many others.
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Always call 911 if you are in immediate danger and need emergency help.

This page lists general information for homeowners, communities, schools, and facilities, that can apply to many different disaster situations. Much of this information is repeated on pages about specific types of natural events or disasters.


General Info:

Report suspected spills, contamination or possible violations


Learn about government emergency messages before you need them:

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Individuals and homeowners:


People get sick or die each year from carbon monoxide or "CO" poisoning due to unsafe use of generators.


Drinking water and food preparation


Drinking water and food recovery

  • Boiling water information– To kill all major water-borne bacterial pathogens, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute. Boil 3 minutes at elevations above 5280 ft (1 mile or 1.6 km). Getting and disinfecting drinking water.
  • Dehydration danger for older adults – Make sure older adults have enough water to drink. Older adults may feel thirsty less, and dehydration can be life threatening to an elderly person.
  • What to do about water from household wells after a flood– Do not turn on the pump due to danger of electric shock. Do not drink or wash with water from the flooded well.
  • Keep food safe during an emergency Don't test spoiled food by tasting it!


Home or facilities wastewater

  • What do I do with my home septic system after a flood? Do not drink your well water until it is tested. Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house. If you have a home-based or small business and your septic system has received chemicals, take extra precautions to prevent contact with water or inhaling fumes. Proper clean-up depends on the kinds of chemicals in the wastewater.


Limit contact with flood water.

Flood water may have high levels of raw sewage or other hazardous substances. Early symptoms from exposure to contaminated flood water may include upset stomach, intestinal problems, headache and other flu-like discomfort. Anyone experiencing these and any other problems should immediately seek medical attention.




Renovation and rebuilding

Lead-safe work: By law, contractors need to use lead-safe work practices on emergency renovations on homes or buildings built before 1978. Activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition can create lead-based paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust is harmful to adults, particularly pregnant women, and children.

Asbestos: Anyone working on demolition, removal, and cleanup of building debris needs be aware of any asbestos and to handle asbestos materials properly. People exposed to asbestos dust can develop serious lung health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although the use of asbestos has dramatically decreased in recent years, it is still found in many residential and commercial buildings and can pose a serious health risk.

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Communities or businesses:

Water Infrastructure


Disaster Debris

Communities should plan ahead to handle exceptionally large amounts of disaster debris from damaged or destroyed buildings, supplies, trees or other green waste, carcasses, or other materials. Disposal problems can result from large amounts of debris but also from hazardous or toxic substances in the debris that can contaminate air, water, land, and food if not handled properly. Burning large amounts of debris to reduce volume may not be an option.More information on disaster debris.


Underground Storage Tanks

During a flood, underground storage tank (UST) systems may become displaced or damaged and release their
contents into the environment, causing soil, surface water, and groundwater contamination.


Pesticides, chemical and oil spills, hazardous waste

  • Call the National Response Center 800-424-8802 (24 hours a day every day). For those without 800 access, please call 202-267-2675.
  • Industries and businesses that encounter spills or discharges in the aftermath should contact the National Response Center immediately. You or your organization may have legal requirements for reporting or for taking other actions, depending on the spill.
  • National Pesticide Information Center: 1-800-858-7378. Pesticide contacts
  • Report spills or environmental violations

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