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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Disaster Preparedness & Response

Resources for Storm & Flood Readiness, Cleanup & Recovery



Prepare for a Flood

Extensive plans and preventive measures have been taken by the State to reduce the disruption and damage caused by flooding, but the homeowner too can take action to prevent loss and environmental contamination. The following links provide suggested examples of activities the homeowner can take before the threat of flooding occurs.


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Report an Emergency


Important – For suspected contamination from oil or hazardous materials contact both:

Your Local Fire Department: 9-1-1
NHDES Spill Response: (603) 271-3899; or after hours: (603) 223-4381

  • Dam Emergency: (603) 271-3406 or after hours (800) 852-3411
  • Hazardous waste materials/waste spills: (603) 271-3899; or after hours: (603) 223-4381
  • Petroleum spills: (603) 271-3899; or after hours: (603) 223-4381
  • River Flood Damage and Hazards: (603) 271-2876
  • State’s Public Inquiry Line: 2-1-1


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Power Outages

If your power goes off for any reason, use alternative power/heating sources safely to avoid deadly accidents, including carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. The CO website includes information on safely using portable generators, symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure, and more.


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Safe Drinking Water – Wells and Public Water Systems

Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled or treated water. Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash hands or make baby formula. Disinfect and test flooded private water wells after flood waters recede.

To request a test container from the State's drinking water testing lab, or call (603) 271-3445.

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The Sewer line near my house is overflowing; what do I do?

During severe rainstorms and flooding events, underground sewer systems and sewage treatment plants can often become overloaded with rainwater or floodwaters. This excess water can lead to discharges of raw sewage onto the streets or private property by overflowing through manhole covers. Raw sewage can also back up into your home through low level toilets, sinks and floor drains. Untreated sewage contains potential high levels of disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Assume that all flood waters are contaminated and avoid direct contact as much as possible. If you notice sewer overflows, contact your sewage treatment plant or public works department immediately.

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Home is flooded

If your home becomes flooded be wary of contaminated flood water, which can cause serious threats to your health and to the structure of your house. It’s important to limit your contact with flood water; pump out flooded basements gradually; dry out the building; discard soaked items that can’t be thoroughly cleaned and dried; and service damaged septic systems as soon as possible. See below for more tips.


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Mold is a serious problem in flooded areas. The key to controlling mold growth is by controlling moisture – and doing it quickly.


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Fallen Trees, Brush and Other Vegetative Debris

Uprooted trees, broken tree limbs, stumps, brush and leaves must be dealt with as soon as possible when they pose an immediate threat or hazard. Cleanup requires specific actions when the vegetative debris is within a wetland area or protected shoreland (See second link below). Larger scale cleanup may require forestry and timbering permits. Please see page 2 of “Management of Collected Debris Following Severe Storm Events” concerning vegetative debris:

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Waste Debris – Hazardous and Non-hazardous (Solid) Waste Debris

Natural disasters and emergencies can create a myriad of waste debris of every description, including petroleum and chemical spills, dislodged propane tanks, demolition wastes, damaged white goods, dead animals, and more. Hazardous wastes should be reported immediately to both your local fire department at 9-1-1 and the NHDES Spill Response team at (603) 271-3899 or after hours at (603) 223-4381. The following fact sheets provide information on how to handle different kinds of waste debris.


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Propane Tanks

Oil tanks and propane tanks are frequently dislodged and moved considerable distances during floods and other disasters. When found they should be examined by trained personnel before removal. Large propane tanks should be off-loaded and removed by the propane company that owns them or by a hazardous waste contractor. Please see the bottom of page 1 of this fact sheet for more information:


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Septic System is flooded

Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.

If after a flood event you notice that your sinks and toilets are not draining properly, your septic system may be impaired or damaged. Have your septic tank pumped as soon as possible, and schedule a licensed septic system designer to assess your system for damage.

If, however, your septic system was in good shape prior to the flood event and you are not experiencing drainage problems indoors, wait for the flood waters to recede and for your yard to dry. Your system will self-correct if it has not been damaged.


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Shorefront, Beachfront or Wetland cleanup

Cleanup requires specific actions when the vegetative debris is within a wetland area or protected shoreland, including beachfronts.

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Municipalities and Public Drinking Water & Wastewater Systems

Safe and secure drinking water is the highest priority, and water systems are continuing to assess their vulnerabilities and taking action to maintain and improve emergency response and security. Community and non-community, non-transient water systems must notify the DES Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau within 24 hours of an emergency or security breach.


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Other Resources


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NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

copyright 2014. State of New Hampshire