No one can forget the horrible pictures of flooding along the Texas Gulf Coast after Hurricane Harvey, where tens of thousands of homes flooded and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. Now the Carolinas are faced with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Do you know what to do if your home floods? Here’s how to weather one of life’s worst storms.
Be prepared for emergencies
Harvey was a once-every-500-year event. Your flood could be as mundane as a burst pipe in the basement or just enough rain for a few inches of water to seep inside your home. Whether or not it’s newsworthy, flooding happens, so it’s best to be prepared.
Every family member living in a home should have a “grab and go” backpack or plastic storage container in case an emergency requires you to evacuate. These emergency kits should contain items such as a flashlight, batteries, a light-duty first aid kit, a paper map, energy bars, bottles of water and more. Be sure to include your homeowners’ insurance contact information.
To help prevent damage in case the worst happens, store photos, important papers and other valuables in plastic tubs with snap lids rather than cardboard boxes that water can easily destroy.
The immediate aftermath of home floods
You can’t delay dealing with flood damage. Right after a flood, call your homeowners’ insurance company and report what has happened. It may be days before insurance adjusters arrive If flooding is widespread. Since they will be very busy, get on the list for a repair estimate immediately. The insurer needs to see the immediate aftermath of the flood, so If you can safely return to the house, take pictures before the water has receded completely and you begin cleaning up.
Be very cautious about going back into a house that is still flooded with more than a few inches of water. Two dangers may lurk inside. The first is the electricity. Your power may still be on, and the water may be electrified. If you can safely do so, go to the main breaker switches, step up on a dry piece of wood or something plastic, and with another dry piece of wood in hand, push the breaker switches off. Do this even if your whole neighborhood is without power since the electricity might return without warning while you are in the house. The second danger is coming into contact with water contaminated with chemicals, sewage, and nasty bacteria. Wear rubber gloves and boots or even waders to protect yourself.
It takes 24 to 48 hours for mold to begin growing on surfaces that water has permeated. The hotter and more humid the environment, the faster mold will appear. After contacting your insurance company and taking pictures, and when water has receded, begin cleaning up.
Cleaning out your house after a flood
Remove the last few inches of water with a wet vac, or rake it out of the house with floor squeegees. Throw away anything made of porous material, such as carpet, fabric upholstery and furniture made of composite materials. Water can wick upward in Sheetrock, so cut it away from the floor to at least two feet above the water line. Wet items will be soaked in mud, bacteria and mold spores, so wear gloves when dragging ruined materials to the curb for waste disposal services to pick up. Hard, non-porous surfaces such as glass, masonry, and plastic can be cleaned with a disinfecting solution.
When the experts arrive
If you hire a flood-remediation service, they’ll use truck-mounted machines to suck up any remaining water, then provide fans and dehumidifiers to dry the air inside.
If the federal government has declared your neighborhood a disaster area, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, will send representatives, first to look for flood victims and later to inspect houses in partnership with local authorities to determine the extent of the damage.
Is your flood loss covered by insurance?
Homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Only insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program will cover events such as flooding caused by rising water from a saturated yard or an overflowing lake or stream nearby. Nor will homeowners’ policies cover gradual water damage caused by a lack of maintenance, such as a leaky pipe or roof.
Homeowners’ insurance will cover water damage when the cause is sudden and accidental, such as where a pipe bursts and floods your basement or a storm blows away your roof and rain pours in.