Step 4) Food, Medicine, Utilities, Water & Sewage


The motto to remember is: IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT. Contamination from water, heat, smoke and fumes can spoil foods and medicines, making them dangerous to consume.

Refrigerated food: Refrigerators keep food at 4 degrees C. If the temperature inside the fridge has gone above that level, discard all the food. If your fridge was exposed to floodwaters, throw out all the food.

Frozen Foods: Frozen food is probably safe, unless the freezer was exposed to heat from a fire, floodwater or has been without power for an extended period.

If the electricity is off, keep the freezer closed. It has enough insulation to keep food frozen for up to three days without power. It is considered safe to refreeze food that has partially thawed, if it still has visible ice crystals. Discard anything that has completely thawed.

Canned Food: Tinned goods are good for consumption unless the can has bulged, badly dented or rusted. Any undamaged cans should be washed and disinfected if they were exposed to flood water or smoke.

Medicine: Check with a doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine that may have been damaged or exposed to flood waters.


Water very quickly becomes a precious and rare commodity following major disasters. It is a good idea to shut off the water supply until you hear from the proper authorities that it is safe for drinking. If you are on a well and it has been flooded or damaged, assume that the water in your home is not safe to drink. You will need to disinfect your well.

Water Purification

  • Alternative water supply: Bottled water or another safe source
  • Boiling water: Keep at a rolling boil for at least 6 minutes
  • Chlorination: Disinfect water with unscented liquid chlorine bleach. Add bleach to water using an eyedropper bottle. Thoroughly mix the bleach with the water and allow it to stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight chlorine odour. If it doesn’t, repeat the process and allow it to stand for another 30 minutes. You can also purchase chlorine tablets anywhere camping gear is sold.
    • 4.5 Litres (1 Gallon) of clear water to be treated | 8 drops of Unscented Liquid Chlorine Bleach
    • 4.5 Litres (1 Gallon) of cloudy water to be treated | 16 drops of Unscented Liquid Chlorine Bleach
Utilities Safety: Do you know how to turn off the major utilities?

Sewage Safety: Do not use your sewage system until you know it is safe. Here are some tips for sewage safety.