Flooding on Monument Creek, June 2023


Flooding can happen quickly in El Paso County, leaving normally dry areas overflowing with water. To lower the risk of serious emergencies related to floods, it is important to understand your risk and to have a plan to stay safe.

Know Your Risk

No matter where you work or live, some risk of flooding exists. However, some areas are more prone to flooding such as homes built near large bodies of water. Find out if you live in a flood zone and what the relative risk is by visiting floodsmart.gov and typing in your address.

Have a Plan

Designate an area of higher ground you can evacuate to quickly and keep watch on weather-related news during sudden downpours to get warnings about flash flooding in your area. Be sure to follow all evacuation orders for your area to avoid being caught in an emergent situation. Flooding can happen quickly in El Paso County, leaving normally dry areas overflowing with water. To lower the risk of serious emergencies related to floods, it is important to understand your risk and to have a plan to stay safe. Tips on how to reenter your home after flooding has occurred are below.

Flood Safety and Cleanup

When returning to your home after a flood, be aware that flood water and debris may contain sewage and other hazardous items. Take steps to protect yourself and your family during the cleanup process.

Flood Cleanup and Reentry Guidance

  • If you have standing water in your home and can turn off the main power from a dry location, then go ahead and turn off the power.
  • If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off.  NEVER turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • Have an electrician check the house’s electrical system before turning the power on again.
  • If the house has been closed for several days, enter briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for a while (at least 30 minutes) before you stay for any length of time.
  • After a flood, excess moisture and standing water contribute to the growth of mold in homes and other buildings. Learn more about mold detection and cleanup at www.cdc.gov/disasters/mold/.

Follow these steps to stay safe and healthy during the reentry and cleanup after a flood:

  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.
  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.
  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam/ rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or floodwaters.
  • Have your on-site waste water treatment system (OWTS) professionally inspected and serviced if you suspect damage.
    • EPCPH maintains a list of Certified Inspectors for OWTS which can be found on our website, in addition to system cleaners who are qualified to perform inspections.
  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.
  • Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens, which should also be washed.

After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. It’s also important to wash hands each time gloves are removed or changed.

  • Use water that has been boiled for one minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).
  • You may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of 1/8 teaspoon of household bleach per one gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach per one gallon of water.

Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

Food:  Identify and throw away food that may not be safe to eat, such as foods have come in contact with flood or storm water; perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages; and those with an unusual odor, color, or texture. Unsafe food can make you sick even if it looks, smells, and tastes normal. When in doubt, throw it out.

Throw away the following foods:

  • Food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.
  • Perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) in your refrigerator when the power has been off for four hours or more.
  • Food not in packages or cans.
  • Canned foods or food containers that are bulging, opened, or damaged. Throw away the food if the container spurts liquid or foam when you open it or the food inside is discolored, is moldy, or smells bad.
  • Packaged food: Throw away food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps, twist caps, flip tops, and snap-open, and home-canned foods because they cannot be disinfected. Throw away food in cardboard containers, including juice/milk/baby formula boxes.

How to reuse commercially prepared cans and retort pouches (such as flexible, shelf-stable juice and seafood packages):

  • Remove labels if they are removable.
  • Brush or wipe away dirt or silt.
  • Wash cans and pouches with soap and water, using hot water if available.
  • Rinse cans and pouches with water that is safe for drinking, if available.
  • Sanitize cans and pouches in one of two ways:
    1) Place them in a solution of one cup (eight oz/240 mL) of unscented household bleach in five gallons of water for 15 minutes. OR
    2) Submerge in a pot of water, bring to a boil, and continue boiling for two minutes.
  • Re-label cans or pouches with a marker. Include the expiration date.
  • Use food in reconditioned cans or pouches as soon as possible.

Freezers, if left unopened and full during a power outage, will keep food safe for 48 hours (24 hours if half full). While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.

Clean and sanitize where food is prepared:

Throw out wooden cutting boards, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers if they have come into contact with flood waters because they cannot be properly sanitized. Clean and sanitize surfaces where food is prepared in a four-step process:

  • Wash with soap and hot, clean water.
  • Rinse with clean water.
  • Sanitize by immersing for 1 minute in a solution of 1 cup (8 oz/240 mL) of unscented household chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of clean water.
  • Allow to air dry.

Water:  Do not use water you suspect, or have been told, is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Your state, local, or tribal health department can make specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area.

Properties provided water via domestic well should inspect the well head for any signs of obvious damage or hazards. Turn electricity off prior to inspecting. Well hazards include but are not limited to: powerlines on the ground, sharp metal, glass, or wood debris, open holes, gasses/vapors in well pits, or damage to any electrical components. A well professional can assist with inspection and repairs to well heads. Once well repairs have been made, start pump and run water until clear. Wells can be disinfected using standard unscented household bleach with concentrations of 5 to 9 percent.

Flood waters and standing waters pose various risks, including infectious diseases, chemical hazards, and injuries. Eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water can cause diarrheal disease. To protect yourself and your family:

  • Practice good and frequent handwashing after contact with flood waters or debris.
  • Do not allow children to play in flood water areas or near debris.
  • Wash children’s hands frequently (always before meals).
  • Do not allow children to play with toys that have been contaminated by flood water or debris and have not been disinfected.

Tetanus is a concern for persons with both open and closed wounds, and a tetanus vaccination is recommended for all residents returning to the flooded area who have not had a documented dose within the past five years. Promptly clean wounds right after the injury.

Care for Minor Wounds

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water.
  • Apply direct pressure to any bleeding wound to control bleeding.
  • Clean the wound after bleeding has stopped.
  • Examine wounds for dirt or debris.
  • Gently flood the wound with clean water, then gently clean around the wound with soap and water.
  • Pat the wound dry and apply an adhesive bandage or dry clean cloth.
  • See a doctor if you can’t remove all debris in the wound.
  • Change the dressing. Do this at least once a day or whenever the bandage becomes wet or dirty.
  • Get a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one in the past five years and the wound is deep or dirty.
  • Puncture wounds can carry bits of clothing and dirt into wounds and result in infection.
  • Crush injuries are more likely to become infected than wounds from cuts.

Wound Complications

Seek medical attention if:

  • There is a foreign object embedded in the wound.
  • The wound is dirty (such as a dog bite or a puncture by a dirty object).
  • A wound shows signs of becoming infected such as worsening pain, redness, drainage, warmth, swelling, or fever).

Keep Food and Water Safe After a Disaster or Emergency: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/foodwater/facts.html

Preparing for a Flood, Floodwater Safety and Returning Home: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/index.html

Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach after an Emergency: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/bleach.html

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Recovery Guide: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/cdphe-disaster-recovery-guide-public

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene (WASH)