Why You Need to Act Fast
- Mold grows quickly in damp environments. It can trigger a cough, itchy eyes, and throat irritation as well as worsen allergies and asthma.
- Water can damage walls, ceilings, and structural materials, ultimately compromising the structural integrity of your home.
- Water and electricity don’t mix. If your electrical system is damaged, you may lose power or you may have a fire on top of a flooded house.
- Wet environments are ideal for mosquitoes, ants, roaches, wasps, and termites among many other pests. They’ll likely be outside during floods and can easily come into your home if floors and walls are wet.
- The longer you wait, the greater the risk of irreparable property damage, additional incidents that lead to more flooding, and injury/disease (floodwaters can contain dangerous animals, fecal matter, and bacteria).
What You Need to Do
To start, you should make a plan and be prepared. This means maintaining your plumbing system, fixing small leaks, correcting irregular ground slope near your home, and clearing the gutters and spouts. Gutters should always direct water away from the base of your house. Check on sump pumps regularly. When snow piles up on the roof, remove it as soon as possible.
When a flood does occur:
1. Turn Off the Water
During a weather or natural event, such as a river flood, you may not be able to turn off the water. But if your plumbing is the source of trouble, turn off the main water valve (know where it is beforehand so you can address an emergency fast). You can use a local shut off valve if a bathroom fixture, washing machine, or other plumbing appliance is leaking.
2. Cut the Electricity
Turn off the power at the main electrical panel, if you can reach it without stepping through water, as soon as the flood starts. There’s electrical wiring everywhere in your home. If water contacts live wires, permanent damage can occur as well as electrocution. Contact an electrician to inspect your home once the flooding has subsided. Shut off your natural gas supply as well; the shut-off valve is usually outside your house next to the gas meter and supply pipe.
Find a safe, dry location outside your home. If the backyard is dry and someone can check out the property, stay there, but find the home of a friend or neighbor if your family needs to stay somewhere. During a natural disaster, temporary shelters should be set up in your area. Hazards such as wet insulation, rust, cracked wood, damaged foundations, and waterlogged electrical circuits are too dangerous to be around.
4. Keep Your Pets Safe
Know where your pet likes to hide. A flood is stressful even for our furry friends, and finding them quickly can help in evacuating faster. Buy a life jacket for your pet, especially if your area is flood-prone, so carrying them may not be necessary, and make an emergency go-bag. It should have food, water, treats, bowls, bedding, poop bags, medical supplies, identification, and a collar and leash. In case you get separate from your pet, updated tags, licenses, and chips will help find them.
5. Call the Landlord (Renters) or Insurance Company (Homeowners)
Call 911 first if anyone needs medical attention. Once everyone is safe, call the landlord if you rent your home (keep your landlord’s phone number handy just in case). If you own your home, contact your insurer to inform them water damage has occurred. Determine whether an adjuster should visit the property before starting cleanup and repairs.
6. Document the Extent of the Damage
Resist the impulse to start cleaning up. If there’s extensive damage, document it with your cellphone camera, while wearing protective gear like waterproof boots or waders, gloves, goggles, and masks. Photograph the damage and where the water is before it starts to recede (video footage helps as well). Leave all items in place so the insurer gets a complete perspective of the scope of damage.
7. Start the Cleanup
Wait until the insurance company has been contacted and/or gives the OK to start cleaning your flooded house. Ideally, start drying things out within 24 to 48 hours. Standing water can be removed using plastic buckets or a wet/dry vacuum. A vacuum is useful for removing water from carpets. If you can, find a commercial vacuum that can pump out up to 10 gallons at once.
Other key steps to take include:
- Use drying fans/dehumidifiers and open windows and doors to increase airflow.
- Look for remaining water in walls, flooring, and other structural cavities and remove it.
- Remove and discard of all wet items in your home; anything that’s been saturated for 48 hours or more should be thrown away.
- Gently dry any valuable keepsakes with gentle air, soft cloths, and brushes.
- Throw away any potentially contaminated food (floodwater can contain chemicals, sewage, and mud).
If porous material has become wet, such as drywall, carpet padding, or insulation, throw it away.
Once your home is dry, make sure it’s ventilated. Toxic chemicals may be present from cleaning solutions. Use bleach to clean nonporous hard surfaces (a 10% bleach/90% water mixture). Don’t rinse surfaces until they are completely dry, and then do so with warm water. If you need to clean concrete or other surfaces, use a stiff brush that can reach deep into cavities. Saturate fabrics in clean water and let them dry, and make sure to clean out any air ducts affected by flooding.
8. Meet with the Insurance Adjuster
The adjuster should set a time to meet soon after the flood. Don’t remove anything before they arrive and keep all receipts from emergency services. During your first meeting, you’ll sign an initial proof of loss statement; if you don’t remember everything, more items can be added later. The adjuster will then determine the cause of the event and how much coverage can be used.
It’s also important to know what kind of policy you have. Flooding may be covered by:
- Homeowners Policies: Usually cover damage caused by leaking plumbing fixtures/appliances, burst pipes, and other internal sources, rather than flooding from rivers or lakes.
- Government Policies: Many notable insurance companies offer flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Visit FEMA.GOV to learn more.
- Private Flood Insurance: Some private insurers have emerged that offer even more coverage than is available from the NFIP. Examples include Assurant and Flood Guard.
If a government authority has declared your region a disaster area, additional resources may be available. You may qualify for financial assistance while special public services may be available to protect you and help with water damage remediation.
9. Restore Your Home
Wait until you know the extent of your coverage before purchasing services or replacing items. Once you hire a professional flood restoration contractor, make sure they’re reputable and trustworthy. Ask for referrals or look online and compare different providers to get the best price. Ask for the contractor’s license number, see that they have liability and workers’ compensation insurance, and whether they’ve worked with clients’ insurance companies. Also, get every detail in writing and make sure all permits and regulations are accounted for.
Don’t buy any new furniture until your flooded house has been completed restored and renovated. Risking damage to new items will only add expenses.
Restorerz is an emergency restoration company serving Los Angeles and Southern California. Flood damage cleanup is our specialty. We use the latest tools and technologies to deal with the aftermath of catastrophic property damage and can respond to emergencies of any size. Our team of highly trained, certified professionals is available 24/7 to quickly address your situation. If you have a flooded house, we can help with water, sewage, and mold cleanup and also offer mold remediation and emergency plumbing services. We can help with home restoration as well and offer financing and payment plans.