Flooding is a disaster that can take on toll on those who experience its aftermath. Much of the stress comes from the damage that occurs to houses and buildings and the loss of personal belongings and family heirlooms. How you are prepared for a flood and respond to it after can make the difference between salvaging your items or experiencing a total loss.
If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, knowing the ins and outs of disaster preparedness and mitigation are strongly advised. However, because rainfall can happen just about anywhere at any time, so can flooding. Even if you don’t live in a flood-prone area, having some basic knowledge can help you make the right decisions about your actions during the first 48 hours after a flood event.
Unfortunately, 40% of homeowners have experienced loss due to water damage. Whether the flooding is minor or huge, some level of damage will almost certainly occur. Here are 10 tips to help you when dealing with water damage to your home or business.
Know Your Flood Risk
When you’re in the market for a new home or commercial property, as you weigh the pros and cons of each property that interests you, you should consider the potential for flooding. Some areas are at risk more often than others. There are entire cities, and even whole states, that are at a high risk of regular flooding.
Some obvious areas where flooding can happen often are coastal towns, valleys located below hills and mountains, and areas close to rivers, streams, and lakes. In the United States, homes and businesses located around the Mississippi River are vulnerable to seasonal floods.
Before you purchase a property that is located on a floodplain, you must be willing to accept that there is a risk of flooding. In addition, you’ll need to carry extra insurance for the property. If the risk is once every 100 years, your property may be fine during your lifetime, and you can take steps to lessen the severity should a flood happen.
Even if your property isn’t located in a floodplain, you can still purchase flood insurance at a lower premium. Flooding can happen in just about any location at any time, because rainfall, the most common cause of flooding, can’t be predicted or controlled.
Technology has allowed better solutions for structures to withstand the ravishes of flooding. Still, knowing your risk and always being prepared is your best protection against damages caused by flooding.
You should have various emergency plans for different situations. You likely have a plan for a fire or a tornado, and you also need a plan for floods. The more you plan, the better your outcome maybe if you do experience a flood.
At least once a year, inspect the perimeter of your house or building and see if any caulking needs to be replaced around windows or doors. Also, inspect the foundation for cracks that could benefit from being filled with masonry. This will help stop or slow the entry of water.
If you have a sump pump, test it at least twice a year as well as prior to an expected flood event. Even if you are only expecting heavy rains, it’s a good idea to make sure your sump pump is fully functional if needed.
Sandbags are one of the easiest solutions for stopping water from entering a building or a home. They are affordable enough that they can be purchased at your local building supply store, or you can make them yourself. The downsides to sandbags are the challenges of storage and the mess they leave behind.
There are many sandbag alternatives available online that are just as good as sandbags but less messy. Many are also reusable and easy to store. However, these options are typically also more expensive.
If you opt to use sandbags, be sure you know how to use them. If you make your own sandbags, be sure you place them with the opening folded over and touching the ground. You may have a good idea of how much flooding to expect, and if this is the case, you can layer your sandbags if needed.
Plastic tarps can be used in combination with sandbags to divert water away from your premises. You can also install flood skirts. These attach to your windows and doors to help further flood-proof your residence or place of business.
Take Caution When Entering Flooded Premises
Directly following a flood, the interior of a home or business can be an unsafe place. Don’t allow anyone to enter the premises until after everywhere has been thoroughly inspected. Look for electrical equipment that may have come into contact with the water. This presents a serious hazard to the health of anyone who may come near it. If your home appears crooked or the foundation appears to have shifted, don’t enter.
You also don’t know what may have come into the home with the floodwater. Floods displace all manner of living things, including insects, animals, and reptiles. If an animal has taken refuge in the interior, call animal control to remove it. Wild animals already perceive you to be a threat, and in this situation, they may be especially defensive.
Any floodwater is potentially dangerous. It can become mixed with sewage, chemicals, medical waste, and lead. Keep children away from flooded areas and always wash your hands after you’ve come into contact with floodwater. If sewage or livestock waste has become mixed in, avoid the area until the water has receded and experts have determined it is safe to enter. If you have to enter flooded areas before then, always wear rubber boots, long sleeves, rubber gloves, and goggles to protect your eyes.
Flooded homes and buildings are also dangerous because when there’s standing water you can’t see what’s beneath it. There could be broken glass or nails. The floors will also be slippery from mud and silt. Be especially cautious on slippery stairs.
Always listen to local authorities and health experts. It makes the process much easier and less stressful when everyone is working together.
Know What Needs To Be Shut Off or Moved
Before a flood, know where your shut-offs for water and power are located. If you are going to leave your property before flooding arrives, go ahead and disengage sources of water, gas, and power and unplug electronics. First, flip the switches on each individual circuit breaker, and then shut off the main circuit breaker.
If you didn’t have time to prepare for the flood, before entering your home or business, shut off the electrical or breaker box and meter panel. Never stand in water while shutting off electricity and never enter an area where the water level is higher than the electrical outlets. If you can’t safely shut the power off yourself, have the utility company shut the power off at the meter.
If you have time, you can disconnect and remove the furnace and water heater to relocate them to higher ground. You can also wrap your appliances in polyethylene film to keep debris from entering the motors and electronic parts. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to keep water out, however.
If you have a basement and it is expected to flood, opening the windows can prevent the water pressure from breaking them. You can also go ahead and remove drywall and carpeting before flooding happens, as it is easier to do so before a flood than after.
Work With a Restoration Company
It’s a good idea to start working with a restoration company as soon as possible after a flood event. Restoration professionals can help mitigate the situation safely. They have the knowledge and equipment to enter the premises ahead of you to determine the best next steps for salvaging building materials and personal belongings.
The restoration company will take a step-by-step approach. First, the experts will assess the situation and form a plan that meets your approval. The plan should include what will be kept and what will be discarded. They’ll plan for various stages of drying to keep mold and mildew out of your home.
After materials that can’t be restored are discarded, the restoration company will begin cleaning and sanitizing all areas of your home, including between nooks and crannies you wouldn’t normally look to clean. That’s because water can enter into every crack in your home, and any floodwater left behind is a potential health and hazard risk.
Many items in your home will not be salvageable. Wet carpet, carpet pads, drywall, and many other materials cannot be saved. During the restoration process, new materials will replace old materials.
Working with a restoration company ensures safety, prevents further damage and allows you to get back to normal life as quickly as possible. It can also lessen some of the stress, as the restoration company can work directly with your insurance company, allowing you more time to focus on getting back on track in the other areas of your life.
Before beginning the cleanup process, you should start documenting the damage. Even if the structure is in need of temporary repairs, documentation should be undertaken first to prove the need for those temporary repairs. Be sure you keep receipts for any expenses associated with your temporary repairs.
If you’re ever fortunate enough to know a flood is coming before it happens, taking photos before damage occurs can also be beneficial. It’s the best evidence you can give the adjuster as to the state of your home before the flood.
Your documentation, from before, during, and after the flood, will be useful to the insurance company as it processes your claim. You can begin by taking photos and videos on your smartphone, as long as it has good image quality. If it doesn’t, use a camera or borrow a phone from a friend or relative.
Your photos and videos should include damage that has occurred to the structure of your home or business as well as any personal property damage, both inside and outside the building. Don’t forget to get photos of the insides of closets, drawers, and cabinets. Also, get close-ups of damage that may be hard to see in a more distant photo. In this situation, you can’t have too many pictures.
For appliances and electronics, get photos of serial numbers. If you still have the purchase receipts for these items, give them to your adjuster along with your photos.
If you can get samples of the materials in your home, those will also help the adjuster determine the amount of your claim. Things like upholstery, wallpaper and window treatments can help the insurance company make a better estimate of your total loss.
Identify What Needs to be Salvaged
Unfortunately, following a flood, there will likely be a lot of loss of valuable items. Many of these documents or family heirlooms may be simply irreplaceable. As you find items that are valuable to you, work with your restoration company to see if anything can be done to save these items. Professionals have special equipment that may be able to prevent further damage and even restore some items to their pre-damage state.
As you locate items, be careful handling them, as they are more fragile when they are wet. Don’t try to blow-dry or iron your items to speed up dry times, as this can cause more damage. Air drying is always best.
Some items you may be able to restore yourself, including photographs. Rinse them with clean water, then allow them to dry on a screen or paper towel. You can also hang them to dry with clothespins.
It may seem like a race against time to save your items. If you can’t get to everything in the first 48 hours, you can freeze anything that still needs to be cleaned, including books, papers, photos, and fabrics. The first 48 hours are crucial because that’s the time you have to beat the formation of mold on your precious objects.
Isolate Damaged Areas
Obviously, if you’ve experienced a flood, your entire home is at risk. As you begin making your way through your home, be sure to open any windows that can be opened to increase airflow and slow the growth of mold and mildew.
Different areas of your home may be in different states of needing repairs. Make sure any dangerous areas or rooms are taped off so anyone entering your home for the first time doesn’t meet harm. People like FEMA agents, your insurance adjuster, or contractors may not be aware of potential hazards that you or a professional have already identified.
If the basement is still flooded, tape it off. If the ceilings in any rooms look like they could collapse at any moment, mark those as well.
If you’re working with a restoration company, those technicians can do this for you. They can also identify other hazards you might not have been able to identify, such as mold growth and the presence of other harmful bacteria.
Know Who To Contact
Following a flood, there are some important contacts you’ll need to make. One of the first calls should be your insurance company, as it can help guide you through your initial first steps. You should also reach out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Your insurance company likely won’t cover all the damage, and that’s where FEMA can help. For large areas affected by disasters such as flooding, FEMA has available grants and can provide assistance in many other ways. Every flood event is unique, but FEMA is usually there to help.
A restoration company should also be one of your early contacts, along with local utility companies to assist with turning the power on and off. Have the numbers you need to be saved on your phone for fast and easy access.
Once you’ve done everything you are able to do to mitigate the flood damage, you can begin restoration. As you see your home or business coming back together, you’ll also begin to feel less tense and can start relaxing again. Restoration doesn’t just include your home or building; it includes your life.
It’s likely the flood will have an impact on your well-being for some time to come. Everyone responds differently to a disaster, and there is no right or wrong way for you to be emotionally impacted. As you begin putting the pieces of your life back together, remember to catch your breath when needed, and to ask for help when it becomes too much.
Natural disasters are never easy to endure. If your home or business in the New York City area has been impacted by flooding, SOS Mitigation is here to help. We are a family-owned company with licensed professionals on call 24 hours a day to assist you during your emergency.