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Public health & wellbeing > Disaster management

Returning to a disaster-affected house or building

Returning home copyright
If you have been evacuated from your home as a result of a disaster, there are measures you should take on your return to ensure the safety and health of your family. Similar measures should be taken if you are entering a workplace or other building affected by a disaster such as storm, cyclone or flood.

Safety considerations

Protect yourself from injury and illness

The likelihood of illness and injury increases when entering premises that have been affected by storms or floods, and when cleaning up. Floodwater is often contaminated by sewage from overflowing sewerage or septic systems, and agricultural or industrial wastes and chemicals.

To stay safe and healthy:

Ensure safe drinking water

Only drink water that you know is safe, such as bottled water or water that has been boiled. Normal water supplies may be contaminated. Do not drink or use the town water supply until the local authorities confirm it is safe. Once the local authority confirms the safety of the water supply, take the following steps if floodwater has submerged the taps in your home:

  1. Run the taps for a few minutes to remove any contaminated water inside the tap.
  2. Remove any screens, flow regulators and aerators and thoroughly clean the tap and all parts with hot water and detergent. 
  3. Apply a mild disinfectant to the tap and its parts.
  4. Rinse, reassemble the tap and run it for a few minutes before use.

For cleaning purposes, use water from taps that have not been submerged or contaminated. For further information about safe drinking water and the restoration of rainwater and bore water tanks, refer to the following information:

Ensuring a safe food supply

Throw away the following:

Any home-grown fruits and vegetables that have been partially or completely submerged may be contaminated with harmful pathogens and should be thrown out. If in doubt about the safety of any food, throw it out. Find out more about food safety in an emergency.

Cleaning buildings and yards

Managing waste

During clean-up, large amounts of waste can be generated. Waste management services provided by your local council may be altered after a disaster-either deferred, or extra services provided. Waste that is not managed/stored appropriately may become a health hazard and may attract unwanted pests and vermin. To minimise the health risks, ensure that:

Further information

If you need health advice, contact:

The following information may assist you:

Last Updated: 14 December 2015
Last Reviewed: 29 October 2013

Key contacts

In an emergency, call 000 for police, fire or ambulance
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Call 13 HEALTH at any time for practical health advice and assistance following the disaster.
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