Returning to affected buildings

In most cases people will want to return to their homes as soon as possible after a disaster and undertake repairs to their home, but for your safety you should wait until hazards have been cleared, basic needs are available and the site is declared safe.

Before returning to disaster affected areas, ensure it is safe to do so, and you are prepared to stay safe and healthy during recovery.

  • Check all power and gas supplies have been turned off if the building has sustained any damage.
  • Only use a generator in a well-ventilated area.
  • Watch out for dangerous wildlife, such as spiders and snakes, which may have entered your property.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeves, long pants, gloves, and rubber boots.
  • Treat and cover any wounds.
  • Wear sunscreen and a hat when working outdoors.
  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and drinking quality water. Use alcohol hand rub after cleaning, particularly if water is not clean.
  • Protect yourself against mosquito bites.
  • Ensure you have a first aid kit onsite.

Drinking water

Water pipes and storage may be damaged in a disaster. Before using any water:

  • check with your local council that supplies are safe
  • run the taps for a few minutes to remove any contaminated water inside the tap
  • remove any screens, flow regulators, and aerators
  • thoroughly clean tap and its parts with hot water and detergent
  • apply a mild disinfectant to the tap and its parts
  • rinse, reassemble the tap, and run the water for a few minutes before use.

If you are unsure of the quality of the water, use bottled water or boil water before use. However, boiling water will not remove chemical contamination.

Food safety

Throw away:

  • food that has been in contact with floodwater
  • refrigerated food that has been left unrefrigerated (or above 5oC) for more than 4 hours
  • frozen food after 48 hours (if the freezer is full), or 24 hours (if the freezer is only half full)
  • canned food if the can is open, swollen or damaged
  • food in containers with screw or twist caps, snap-lips, and flip tops
  • food that has an unusual odour, colour or texture.

Cleaning up

If benchtops, food utensils, kitchen equipment or cupboards have been in contact with floodwater:

  • throw away damaged or cracked items, and items such as wood, plastic or rubber
  • wash utensils and surfaces in hot, soapy, drinking quality water.

Sanitise all utensils, equipment and surfaces:

  • place metal products in boiling water for at least 3 minutes
  • if it cannot safely be placed in boiling water, immerse in a disinfection solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per 2 litres of warm water
  • rinse benches and cupboards with a solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per 2 litres of warm water
  • rinse sanitised surfaces with drinking quality water
  • allow surfaces to air dry.

Managing waste

To minimise health risks:

  • contact your local council about any changes to normal waste collection, and for specific disposal advice
  • store perishable wastes in a sealed bag for collection (e.g. foods and other organic waste that may decompose)
  • do not leave hazardous wastes on the kerbside (e.g. chemicals, medicines, gas tanks, asbestos)
  • make sure you wear protective clothing when cleaning up and take the necessary precautions when handling asbestos cement debris.

Fallen trees

Prior to a disaster you are responsible for your home’s general maintenance and upkeep. If you are unable to do the work, you should employ a contractor to make sure your property is prepared.

Removing green debris and trees that are not causing a danger to life or property is your responsibility however, following an event, SES can chainsaw trees that have already fallen if they are endangering people or property.

Insurance claim preparation

There are a number of things you need to do to meet the requirements of your insurers, and then there is the process of calling quotes and having the repairs undertaken.

The Queensland Building and Construction Commission provides information about how to rebuild after a natural disaster.

You can also phone them on 139 333 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), or contact them online.