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Natural Disaster Preparedness

disaster warning sign

New York City does not generally have the kinds of natural disasters found in other areas, such as tornados, volcanoes, tsunamis, etc., but on very rare occasions there is a flood or earthquake and we need to be prepared for.

drop, cover and hold on

Earthquake Preparedness

- Drop to the floor.

- Take cover under a solid piece of furniture or next to an interior wall.

- Cover your head and neck with your arms.

- Hold on to a sturdy piece of furniture and be prepared to move with it.

- Stay where you are until the shaking stops.

After the Quake
  • Move carefully after the quake, watching for items that may have fallen or broken. Put on sturdy shoes before investigating further to prevent potential injuries from broken glass.

  • flashlight

  • If power is out, use a flashlight and turn on a battery-operated radio for more information. Do not use candles or open flame as a source of light.

  • If you smell gas, leave immediately and call 911. If gas is leaking and you know how, turn off the source of gas at the outside main, and call the gas company from outside your home.

  • Open closet and cabinet doors carefully, as items may have shifted inside.

  • Clean up spills of hazardous or flammable liquids immediately.

  • Be prepared for aftershocks, which often follow an earthquake.

Flood Preparedness
other languages: [
中文 PDF Document (Reader Required; Click to Download)] [Español]

Floods can cause damage to floors, walls, rugs and personal belongings.  After a flood, it is important to clean and dry affected items as quickly as possible to prevent mold growth.  If flood waters contain sewage, it is important to disinfect contaminated items and to keep yourself from coming into contact with the sewage while you clean.
How should I clean up after a flood?

cleaning supplies

  • Dry all affected areas and items quickly and thoroughly.
  • Wash and dry all clothing and other washable items, using detergent.
  • Clean floors, furniture and other surfaces with detergent and water.
  • Protect yourself from germs by disinfecting all contaminated items if the flood waters contain sewage. Go to What if the flood water contains sewage? for details.
How can I prevent mold growth?
  • Dry all affected areas and items quickly and thoroughly.
  • Open windows to let in fresh air (if it is not raining).
  • Use fans to help dry out your home and reduce odors.
  • Warning: Do not run any electrical equipment or appliances near standing water.

  • Use a dehumidifier to help dry out enclosed spaces.
  • Bring in professionals to clean and restore your home if there is extensive flood damage (you may not be able to do it all yourself).
  • Learn more about how to clean mold, about health effects related to mold: Healthy Homes: Mold Tear-Off PDF Document (Reader Required; Click to Download) [Español PDF Document (Reader Required; Click to Download)] [中文 PDF Document (Reader Required; Click to Download)]
What if the flood water contains sewage?

Take extra steps to protect your health if the flood water contains sewage. Sewage contains germs that may cause stomach or intestinal infections if swallowed. Contact with sewage may also cause infections in cuts, scrapes and eyes.

To prevent infection you should:

  • Keep children, pets and people with compromised immune systems away until the area has been cleaned and disinfected.
  • Throw away any food (including packaged food) that was touched by sewage water.
  • Follow the steps listed below to protect against infection during cleanup.

Unless there is a warning announcement, it is safe to drink tap water in an area with flooding. Sewage overflows usually do not affect water supplies in New York City. Call 311 if you have questions.

How can I protect myself when cleaning up water containing sewage?
  • Avoid direct contact with sewage. Be careful not to splash sewage on your face.
  • Wear waterproof gloves and boots.
  • Stay away from deep water. Extensive flooding damage may require cleanup and restoration by professionals.
  • When finished, disinfect your waterproof boots and gloves with a solution of one half cup household bleach in one gallon of water. Rinse with clear water and allow boots and gloves to dry.
  • Warning: Never mix bleach with ammonia or detergents containing ammonia products, since dangerous gases may be created.

  • Wash your hands, body and clothing with soap and water after cleanup.
What is the best way to clean floors, wooden furniture and other surfaces contaminated with sewage?
  • Remove visible contamination with detergent and water.
  • Disinfect by wiping surface with a bleach solution. Use a half cup of household bleach in a gallon of water. Non-bleach sanitizers can also be used.
    Bleach may damage some materials.
  • Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid mold growth
How should I clean clothing, bedding, other fabrics and paper items contaminated with sewage?
  • Pre-rinse fabrics with cold water to help prevent staining.
  • Launder with detergent. This will disinfect most items.
  • Dry thoroughly.
  • Dry clean items that cannot be laundered. This process will generally disinfect clothing.
  • Throw out soaked leather shoes, as it may be very difficult to disinfect them.
  • Speak to a professional trained in conservation methods about cleaning valuable papers and photographs.
How can sewage-contaminated rugs and carpeting be cleaned?
  • Clean small contaminated areas with detergents and disinfectants.
  • Dry thoroughly and quickly.
  • Hire a professional to clean larger areas.
  • Throw away soaked rug padding.

More Resources

Last Updated: January 15, 2012