After an emergency

It may take time to get everything back to normal after an emergency.

If you are sick

Keep your water supply safe after an emergency

If you are on town supply

Flush your water pipes by turning the taps on and running until the water is clear. 

If you collect water from your roof and it is contaminated

If your water is contaminated, for example, from volcanic ash fallout, smoke or wind blown debris, disconnect the tank at the downpipe and wash the roof. 

If your water tank is affected by floodwater or contaminated from fallout on the roof

Get rid of the water — it may be polluted. Clean the tank and disinfect it. Boil water before drinking. 

If you use bore water that may have been affected by floodwater or surface water runoff

Pump the bore to waste for 24 hours. If the bore is underwater, do not pump. 

If your water comes from a well that may have been affected by floodwater or surface water runoff

Mix 2.5 litres of plain, unperfumed household bleach with 45 litres of water and pour down the well. Replace the well cover and turn on each tap until there is a chlorine smell in the water. Turn off the tap but do not use the water for 8 hours. Then open all taps and flush out the chlorine.

Food safety after an emergency

Follow the same food safety advice as during the emergency. You should also:

  • protect food from heat, dirt, insects, pests and pets
  • get rid of food which is smelly, slimy, mouldy or discoloured
  • cover pots to save fuel and cook food thoroughly 
  • wash dishes immediately after eating and keep clean ones covered
  • throw out any food contaminated with glass, dirt, chemicals or sewage
  • no eat garden produce if the soil has been flooded — clean up and remove debris and sprinkle gardens with lime
  • not eat shellfish from the river mouth or harbour after an earthquake or flood
  • not use any tinned food with split or swollen seams 
  • always wash your hands before and after handling food.

Waste management after an emergency

Getting rid of rubbish

  • Listen for Civil Defence o the local council's instructions on getting rid of rubbish.
  • Sort perishable and non-perishable rubbish and flatten any bulky items. 
  • bury rubbish away from any water course, such as a stream or river. Cover each layer with soil and add lime or disinfectant to reduce smells. Mark all sites. 
  • Compost all organic refuse if possible. 
  • Store rubbish that cannot be buried or burnt in covered in containers or tightly tied rubbish bags, ready for collection. 
  • Report any rubbish contaminated by hazardous substances to Civil Defence.
  • Tell your insurance company about any condemned item of property before getting rid of it. If you do not have insurance, make a list of any items being dumped. Have it checked and signed by a responsible person in case you are eligible for a relief grant. Take photos if necessary to record what you are getting rid of. 

Disposing of sewerage

  • Use makeshift toilets until you are told by authorities that it is safe to use flush toilets. 
  • Use disinfectant or garden lime to reduce smells. Mark all toilet sites. 
  • Get your septic tank pumped out to remove all silt and sludge if it has been covered by flood water. Septic tanks may not work properly until the level of water underground has gone down.

Looking after yourself after an emergency

Keeping yourself healthy

  • Make sure everyone helping with cleanup wear rubber gloves and wash their hands thoroughly before eating, drinking or smoking.
  • Disinfect any cuts and cover with a waterproof dressing. 
  • Keep tamariki (children) away during the cleanup phase. 
  • Take precautions against insect bites by using repellants and wearing trousers and long-sleeved tops. 
  • Wash any clothing, bedding and contaminated materials, such as curtains, using detergent. Rinse in clean water with added household bleach to kill any bacteria. 
  • Get rid of contaminated clothing so that people do not find it and put it on. 
  • Go back to normal showering, bathing and clothes washing as soon as there is spare clean water.


If you had to leave your house during an emergency, before you return:

  • contact an electrician or the electrical supply authority before switching water back on again if water has reached underfloor wiring, wall sockets, or the structure has been damaged by an earthquake
  • contact gas supply authorities if the gas meter has been affected by water 
  • make sure the local authority health and plumbing officers have checked that the water supply and sewerage systems are safe and working properly. 

Soon after heavy rains have stopped and waters have drained off the ground surface, sewers will generally return to normal function. It is important to clean up drains and dry out the house as quickly as possible. 

'Floods and health' has advice on restoring a house and cleaning out your basement after flooding.

Floods and health

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