Whether a flood’s caused by falling water, a malfunction in your home’s water system, or ground water, there are a few things that you should do in the 24 hours following a flood to make sure that your family and home is safe and provide you with the best possible outcome with the insurance company.
Avoid More Risks
Not the type you power wash on the outside of your house. If the problem was bad enough that you had to vacate the home, make sure you’re staying safe when you return. You should look for any kind of structural damage like cracked, warping or loosened elements in the foundation, holes, and cracks before you go into your house. If you think that electric, sewer, gas, or water lines have been damaged, contact your utility company.
Additionally, you should have a flashlight that works and turn off all electrical and water sources in your home. Even if the power isn’t working, you should go to the fuse box and turn off your main and all of your individual connections. This is so that when the power’s reactivated, you don’t have to worry about mixing electricity and standing water.
Before making repairs or removing any water, document your damage fully for the insurance company by taking a video or pictures. It’s best to use digital versions, because you can easily copy them and store them electronically. If you begin making repairs or removing water before photographing the damage, it’s possible you’ll decrease the amount you’ll receive for damages.
Safeguard Your Health
Your water might look like it’s clear, but it still might be contaminated with household chemicals or sewage. It’s a good idea to wear waist or hip high waterproof boots known as waders. You also should put on rubber gloves before removing water-damaged items so that you can avoid contaminants. Make sure that you’re throwing away food that might have had contact with the flood waters. It’s a good idea to boil water until your water supply’s declared safe.
Call the Insurance Company
Because it’s important to notify the insurance company quickly after a flood, keep the local agent and the company’s numbers inside your emergency bag. If the flood affected your entire community or region, it’s possible the agent is busy handling their personal flood issues. If that happens, contact the headquarters of the insurance company instead.
Because the damage from groundwater usually won’t be covered by a typical homeowner’s insurance policy, you’ll have to work with the insurer to figure out the reason for the flood and how much you’re covered.
Tell the representative of your home’s state and the repairs you are going to do immediately. Make sure that you’re following the directions from the insurance company on whether you have to wait for their adjustor to inspect your property before you make any repairs. Document conversations and damage at all stages of your process.
What are you able to expect when it comes to how long it will take before things are normal again? It might be just a week if your claim and cleanup’s normal. But if the damage is extensive and you have to hire a contractor and you’re working with your insurance company’s adjustor it can take anywhere from 5 to 6 months.
Determine if it’s a Disaster Area
After an area’s officially declared to be ‘disaster area’ by authorities from the government, you will have access to other resources, including many public services to remediate and protect the area. You also might be able to get financial assistance. The insurance company is going to have other information about this or you can also directly contact FEMA.
Remove the Water
After you’re received the go ahead from the insurance company to remove your water, use your sump pump. If you don’t have one, you can purchase one for $500 or less and a wet vacuum, which is $130 or less. Water will be heavy – just one cubic foot weighs 10 pounds, so make sure that you’re careful so you’re not hurting yourself. This is especially important if you’re carrying buckets of it on stairs. Open up the windows and doors to let fresh air in, if this won’t let more water in.
Mitigate Damage from Mold
Mold is able to develop 24-48 hours after a flood. So you want to remove anything that is wet, such as bedding and carpeting, quickly. If something’s been wet for under 48 hours, you may be able to salvage it. But you should decide whether it has enough sentimental or monetary value to save. Notify the insurance company before you remove items to make sure you aren’t affecting your coverage. You also should photograph the items that are soaked from the flood.
For example, rugs can be dried and professionally cleaned, which might cost anywhere from $100-$500 and up, based on the rug size and how many there are. Large furniture pieces which have been saturated are going to be hard to effectively dry and therefor often should be discarded.
You can control the growth of mold on the surfaces by cleaning using a detergent that doesn’t include ammonia or a cleaner that is made with pine oil before disinfecting using a solution with 10% bleach. You should never mix bleach and ammonia products, since the fumes that result can be very toxic. Always you’re your solution on a tiny area or part of your item to make sure it’s not going to fade or stain.
Take pictures before you remove wet baseboards and wallboards since insurers want to see the water damage height to your walls. Poke holes carefully in your drywall at the level of your floor to let any water that’s trapped behind the wall to come out.
It’s also possible you’ll want to hire a service that specializes in flood restoration. You can find one by searching online, in your phone book, or even by contacting the BBB. Look for contractors that have a certification with the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration.
Secure Your Property
You need to secure your property so that you can avoid additional damage. Place boards overtop of broken windows and use a tarp if you have damage to your roof. You should take pictures to provide proof to your insurance company that you’ve done everything you can to protect the house against any further damage.
If your home’s habitable, take the proper precautions to keep your family and yourself safe from being injured. Use flashlights so that you can move around rooms that are dark, for instance. If your home’s not habitable, you shouldn’t try staying there. Go to an alternate location or shelter. Contact the insurer to discover what provisions they’re going to make for a temporary housing solution while the house’s being repaired.
Audrey Lovell is the owner of Flood Masters. A native of Florida, she’s worked as a restoration specialist specialist since 2009. Servicing many areas of Southwest Florida including Punta Gorda, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, Bonita Springs, Estero, and Marco Island.