Water Safety After a Disaster

After a flood, water may be contaminated or unsafe for cooking, drinking, or personal hygiene. Dana Robison from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains how to make sure water is safe in American Sign Language (ASL).

Preparedness information and resources can be found in the Preparedness section. Information on emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities or access/functional needs is on the ADA/FNSS page.


Hi, my name is Dana Robison, and I'm from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as the CDC. I'm here today to talk about water safety after a disaster.

Water in a disaster affected area may be unsafe. If your water is contaminated, use bottled water, if possible. Bottled water will be the safest choice for drinking and all other uses. If you have been told or think your water is not safe, do not use that water for drinking, washing dishes, brushing your teeth, bathing, washing or preparing food, making ice, or making baby formula. Check with your local emergency officials to find out the status of your water, and to find out if boiling or disinfecting water will make it safe to use. Local officials can also tell you how to boil or disinfect water to make it safe.

If water is contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals, it cannot be made safe by boiling or disinfecting it. Until you know the water is safe, use bottled water or some other safe supply of water.

Contaminated water that does not have toxic chemicals in it can usually be made safe by boiling, disinfecting, or filtering it. Use bottled water if you have some available.

Boiling is the best way to make sure your water is safe from germs in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter or allow it to settle before boiling it. When boiling water, bring clear water to a rolling boil, when water appears to be bubbling, for one minute. Let the boiled water cool. Store it in clean sanitized containers with tight covers.

If boiling water is not possible, you can use unscented household chlorine bleach to make your water safe. The amount of bleach to use depends on how strong your bleach is. Visit CDC's web site at www.cdc.gov/disasters for directions on how many drops of bleach to use.

Throw away any food that was prepared with contaminated water. Use boiled or bottled water to cook food.

Keeping your hands clean during a disaster helps prevent the spread of germs. Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. If your tap water is not safe to use, wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected.

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for 20 seconds.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

If you do not have soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This can quickly reduce the number of germs on your hands, but it does not get rid of all the germs. If your hands are clearly dirty, do not use hand sanitizers because they will not work as well as soap and water.