Extreme Weather and Public Health

Flood Safety

flood scene

Arizona has a primarily arid climate; however, during the monsoon season of June-September, flooding is a real danger in Arizona. Injuries from flooding occur every year, and some people even lose their lives because they are taken off guard by storms or rushing floodwaters. Arizona's dry and rocky soil does not absorb water well, so flood conditions can develop very quickly and without warning after a heavy rain. Dry channels, slot canyons, ditches and lake beds can fill rapidly and the water can be strong and violent. In both rural and urban areas, water can also pond in roadways and low lying areas creating traffic hazards.

During A Flood

It is important to make sure that you are not endangering yourself while leaving your home during a flood. Also, flood water may contain harmful bacteria and other substances that can cause infection or illness.

Leaving Your Home
  • Secure your home. Move essential items to an upper floor. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Deploy flood barriers, such as a sandbag floodwall, to protect your home.
  • Do not walk through moving water - it is deceptively strong. Choose a route with still water if at all possible.
  • Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not allow children to play in flood water areas.
  • Bring essential items with you that can be damaged by flood water, such as important paperwork.
Sanitation & Hygiene

Flood waters may contain fecal matter; eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water can cause illness. Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected:

  • Before preparing or eating food
  • After toilet use
  • After flood cleanup activities

If clean water is not available, use alcohol-based products for washing hands (hand sanitizer). Clean any open cuts or sores to prevent infection from exposed flood water. Disinfect contaminated items:

  • Rinse with disinfected water, and follow with an EPA-registered disinfectant to kill germs. Follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants.
  • If an EPA-registered disinfectant is not available, use a household chlorine bleach solution. To make and use the solution: Add 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 quart (4 cups) of water, let stand for 3-5 minutes, then rinse the surface with clean water.
Safe Potable Water Supply
  • Do not drink or use contaminated water to wash and prepare food, wash dishes, prepare baby formula, or brush your teeth. Only use water that you know is safe (bottled, boiled, or treated) until your supply is tested and found safe.
  • Boiling water, when practical, is the preferred way to kill harmful bacteria and parasites. Bringing water to a rolling boil for 1 minute will kill most organisms.
  • When boiling water is not practical, you can treat water with chlorine tablets, iodine tablets, or unscented household chlorine bleach. Note: Treating water with chlorine tablets, iodine tablets, or liquid bleach will not kill parasitic organisms.
  • Emergency disinfection of drinking water using household bleach method: If the water is cloudy, filter through clean cloths or allow to settle, then draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of regular unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir mixture and let stand for 30 minutes before use. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.
  • Listen for public announcements on the safety of the municipal water supply.
Food Safety
  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water, been at room temperature for more than two hours, or has an unusual odor, color, or smell.
  • For infants, use only pre-prepared canned baby formula that requires no added water, rather than powdered formulas prepared with treated water.
  • If your refrigerator or freezer may be without power for a long period:
    • Seek freezer space in a friend's freezer, store, church, school, or commercial freezer that has electrical service.
    • Use dry ice - 25 pounds of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for 3-4 days. Wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury when handling dry ice because it freezes anything it contacts.
  • Thawed food can usually be eaten or refrozen if it is still "refrigerator cold (41° F or less)" or if it still contains ice crystals.
  • Your refrigerator will keep foods cool for about 4 hours without power if it is unopened. Use block or dry ice if the electricity will be off longer than 4 hours.