Remember that if you have been evacuated, it may not be safe to return home even when the floodwaters have receded. Listen to emergency services and local Civil Defence authorities and don’t return home until they tell you it is safe to do so.
Stay up to date with the latest weather information from MetService, Te Ratonga Tirorangi, New Zealand’s National Weather Service. Check to see if further severe weather or flooding is possible.
Stay away from damaged areas so that rescue and emergency operations can continue. You will also avoid further risk from the residual effects of floods, such as contaminated water, damaged roads, landslides, mudflows, and other hazards.
Look before you step. After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris, including broken bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can be very slippery.
Take photos and videos of the damage and anything that needs to be thrown away before starting the clean-up, for insurance purposes.
Clean up, drain, and dry inside as quickly as possible. Take out everything that is wet and that can be moved – floor coverings, furniture, bedding, clothing, etc., and put them outside to dry when the weather is fine.
Check for trapped water and mud in wall cavities, as well as under shower trays, baths, benches and bottom shelves. You may have to chisel out some bricks at the bottom of brick veneer walls.
Do not light fires in brick fireplaces for at least 2 weeks, and then use only small fires until the firebricks have dried out.
Consult an engineer if there are signs that the house has moved on its foundations. Signs can include buckled floors, new cracks in walls, or out-of-shape door frames.
Remove skirting, if necessary, and cut out softened plaster board in damaged areas. Consult an expert such as an insurance assessor or builder.
Replace wall linings and floor coverings only after the building is completely dry.
Leave redecorating for at least 3 months after finishing the repairs, to prevent risk of mould, blistering, and peeling.
If you have insurance, contact your insurer to lodge a claim and understand how they can help. They may undertake some of these steps for you as part of your claim.
In the kitchen
Discard wooden items such as chopping boards and spoons, plastic utensils, and baby bottle teats and dummies, if they have come into contact with floodwater. There is no way to safely clean them.
Clean any other cooking, eating and kitchen utensils that have come into contact with floodwater:
Wash in hot soapy water.
Rinse thoroughly in safe water, then disinfect by immersing for 1 minute in a solution of 500 ml (about 2 cups) of plain, unperfumed, household bleach in 10 litres of water.
Rinse again in safe water.
Alternatively, boil all utensils for 1 minute and let cool.
In bedrooms and living rooms
You will need to throw away mattresses and other large items that have been soaked with floodwater. Foam rubber mattress or pillows may be able to be washed, disinfected and dried in the open air.
Get rid of contaminated clothing, carpets, upholstered furniture, toys and bedding, unless they can be cleaned and disinfected.
First clear the access to the building – the rest of the section can come later. It’s easier to clean up outside once the outside has dried naturally, too.
Use a shovel to remove surface contamination. Place it at the edge of your section, ensuring it doesn’t block drainage channels. If you need assistance with disposing of flood debris, check with your local council to see if they have arrangements for flood debris disposal.
The best way to make your outside areas safer is to rely on natural processes such as sunlight, drying and wind. Leave garden surfaces and lawns exposed to the air and sunshine to dry out naturally. Make drainage holes with a fork to aerate.
If the outside area is heavily contaminated with sewage, use garden lime to disinfect the area. Garden lime can be bought from a garden shop. Follow the instructions on the label.
Hard surfaces, such as driveways, can be cleaned and disinfected with 1 litre of household chlorine bleach in 10 litres of cold water (a household bucket). Leave the disinfectant on for 30 minutes, then rinse with clean water.
Floodwater can carry bacteria that can contaminate food.
Throw away all food and drinking water that has come in contact with floodwater, including things stored in containers. It is impossible to know if containers have been damaged and the seals compromised.
Do not eat garden produce if the soil has been flooded. Clean up and remove debris and sprinkle gardens with lime.
Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are certain it is not contaminated. Follow any boil water notice instructions from your local authorities.