Good afternoon

We understand that there is a lot going on in our communities at the moment and we wanted to provide you with some information that will hopefully assist in the event your business is impacted by flood waters.

In emergency situations, such as floods, natural disasters, and power failures, it is important that good hygiene practices are followed, to avoid disease and food poisoning. Council’s Environmental Health Officers are here to assist businesses on how to best do this.  Please contact us if you have any questions. 

Emergency power failures 

The most important thing is to try to keep cold and frozen food cold. If food is still cold to touch (less than 5 °C), it is safe to use.

If in doubt, throw it out. 

During a power failure, the following actions will keep frozen and cold food frozen or chilled for longer:

  • Move food from the fridge to the freezer.
  • If available, put bagged ice under food packages and trays stored in freezers and fridges if power failure lasts more than 1 hour.
  • Place an insulating blanket over cold or frozen food, where possible.
  • Only open fridge and freezer doors when absolutely necessary, this will keep the food and air temperature colder for longer.

Flood hazards- protecting your health and safety

Before going onto your property consider:

  • Damaged gas or electricity supplies – these hazards need to be declared safe by a qualified electrician or plumber.
  • The structural integrity of your home and structures may be affected – this needs to be declared safe by a qualified building surveyor
  • Food may be contaminated by the floodwater, or spoiled due to power failure.
  • Drinking water may be contaminated – do not drink any water unless you know it is safe (bottled, boiled or disinfected).
  • Wading or playing in floodwater is hazardous due to the risk of drowning and potential skin infection through open wounds
  • Flooding can cause excessive mould growth, which must be cleaned up before moving back to your premises/ home.
  • Flooding may cause sewage to overflow inside your premises/ home. Contaminated areas must be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Buildings with considerable flood damage may contain asbestos-containing material. Take all necessary precautions for handling asbestos containing  debris.

Personal hygiene is essential

 A number of infectious diseases, including gastrointestinal infections and hepatitis A, can spread through contact with contaminated surfaces.

The likelihood of illness increases when floodwater contains faecal material (poo) from overflowing sewage systems, agricultural or industrial wastes.

Never use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash your hands, wash and prepare food, make ice or make baby formula.

Always wash your hands with soap and safe water (that has been boiled or disinfected):

• before preparing or eating food

• after toilet use

• after participating in flood clean up activities

• after handling articles contaminated with floodwater or sewage.

If boiled or disinfected water is not available, you can use alcohol-based products to disinfect your hands.

If you have any open cut or sore that has been exposed to floodwater: 

• Keep it as clean as possible by washing with soap and covering with a plaster.

• Contact a doctor for further treatment advice (such as a tetanus shot).

• If redness, swelling or discharge occurs seek immediate medical attention.

Preventing illness from food

Floodwaters can affect food via direct contact or, indirectly during interrupted power supply.

Throw away:

• Food that has come into direct contact with floodwater.

• Any food that has an unusual odour, colour or texture.

• Perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that have been left above 5 °C for more than 4 hours.

• Canned food if the can is open, bulging or damaged.

• Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soft drink bottles), twist caps, flip top lids and home canned foods.

For cleaning cans that are sealed, not bulging and intact but have come into contact with floodwater:

• Remove the labels

• Wash the cans

• Dip them in a solution of 1.5 cups of household chlorine bleach in 10 Litres of cold water (a household bucket) for 2 minutes.

• Relabel the cans with a waterproof marker pen.

If the power is on – refreeze or cook:

• Thawed food that contains ice crystals and is below 4 °C but only if it has not come into direct contact with floodwater.

If the power is off – store food safely by:

  • Keeping the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
  • Adding block or dry ice to your refrigerator if the power is likely to be off longer than 4 hours.
  • Wear gloves when handling ice.

Councils Environmental Health Officers can provide the following education and advice to community members regarding:

–  Water Supply

–  Maintaining appropriate personal hygiene

–  Septic Tanks/Sewage Overflow

–  Mosquito Control

–  Prevention of illness from water and/or food

–  Cleaning around homes following a flood event

–  Discarding of refuse

Please find below some useful links-

Emergencies – floods – Better Health Channel

Food safety during power outages (

Floods (

Mould and your health – Better Health Channel

Mould removal at home – Better Health Channel

Sewage overflows at home – Better Health Channel

After a flood – animal and insect related hazards – Better Health Channel

Septic tanks in flood affected areas

Kind Regards

Safe and Healthy Environments

PO Box 733, Bendigo, VIC 3552
T +61 1300 002 642  
National Relay Service 133677 then quote +61 1300 002 642

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