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News Release    

April 16, 2007      

For Further Information Contact:
William R. Steinhaus, County Executive
(845) 486-2000

Health and Safety in Flooding Emergencies

Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus advises residents to take the proper precautions when faced with flooding conditions.   “Residents throughout Dutchess County have been subjected to flooding conditions as a result of the major storm we are experiencing.  It is important that residents know what to do when there is a flood in order to protect their families’ health and safety.”

The following is a list of important guidelines when experiencing flood conditions:

  • Listen to the radio or television for the most up-to-date information and bulletins.
  • Be aware of streams, drainage channels, and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can quickly occur in these areas.
  • If your basement floods before you have a chance to shut off electric and natural gas service, do not enter the basement. There is the possibility of electric shock if any electrical wires are touching the water. Contact your electric company as soon as possible.
  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move items such as important papers, television sets, computers, stereo equipment and easily moveable appliances such as a microwave oven to the upper floors of your home.

If you need to evacuate your home due to flooding, take the following steps to minimize the amount of damage to your home while you are away:

  • Turn off all electrical appliances.
  • Turn off the electricity at the main fuse or circuit breaker.
  • Turn off water at the main valve.
  • Turn off propane gas service. Propane tanks can be dislodged in emergency situations.
  • Leave natural gas on unless officials advise otherwise.  You will need it for heating and cooking when you return home.

Important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:

  • Do not drive around barricades; they are there for your safety.
  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • If your car stalls in rapidly rising water, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles and two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.

Once the storm has passed, then the clean up from flood damage begins.   Dutchess County residents need to keep in mind that water damage in homes caused by flooding can create serious health and safety concerns.

“After a flood, it is important to take precautions to protect families from developing illnesses associated with contaminated water, food, and air and moisture problems. Discard frozen foods that may have thawed during a power outage. Begin as soon as possible to dry out and disinfect walls. Standing water and excessive moisture can lead to the growth of bacteria, mold and insects,” said Michael C. Caldwell, MD, MPH Dutchess County Health Commissioner.    He offered additional advice recommended by the New York State Department of Health to help keep families and homes healthy:


  • Raw foods exposed to flood waters should be avoided because of possible contamination.
  • Destroy the contents of crown-capped bottles and foods in glass jars as the food-safety seals may have been broken. Destroy canned foods when swelling, rusting or serious denting is visible.
  • Cook all foods thoroughly. Frozen foods that have been thawed should be discarded if not consumed immediately, or kept refrigerated at 45 degrees F. or lower.


  • Prior to flooding, power should have been turned off in cellars. If possible, wait for ground waters to drop below floor level. Otherwise, drain or pump water from flooded cellars. Wash down the walls, floors and other areas exposed to flood waters. Keep windows and doors open for ventilation. Disinfect the washed areas by applying a solution of bleach with a broom. The solution is prepared by adding four tablespoons of bleach to five gallons of water. Allow the solution to remain on the surface for approximately 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water as soon as possible to minimize staining. You may also use a commercial disinfectant.
  • Furniture - Clean and then wash metal and leather surfaces with mild soap and water and wipe dry immediately. Some upholstery may be washed on the surface with soap and water and wiped dry. Expose to open air and sunshine.
  • Floor Coverings: Flush rugs and carpets with a hose and squeegee, then wash with lukewarm water containing a detergent. Rinse and dry in sun.


  • Rubber gloves should be worn while scrubbing damaged interiors with a bleach solution.
  • Don't neglect supposedly minor cuts, scratches or other injuries or sickness experienced during the emergency.

County Executive Steinhaus concluded, “Mother Nature presents us with numerous challenges and this storm is no exception.   I encourage residents to take the proper steps to protect the health and well being of their families.”


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    Last Updated: 4/17/2007