After the Flood
What to Do in the First 24 Hours After a Flood
Having flood waters enter your house is every homeowners nightmare. However, the fact that Deer Park is located close to the Gulf of Mexico and the fact that we have the Houston Ship Channel along our north city border and nearby Boggy Bayou and Patrick's Bayou to deal with, the threat of flooding is a very realistic fear.
Your Home Flooded, What Now?
If the flood was serious enough for you to evacuate your home, be sure you stay safe upon your return. Check for any structural damage, such as warping, loosened or cracked foundation elements, cracks and holes before entering the home and contact the utility companies if you suspect damage to water, gas, electric and sewer lines.
- SHUT DOWN THE POWER: Even if the power isn't working in your home, it is a good idea to go to your fuse box and turn off the main, plus all of the individual breakers. That way, if the power is reactivated, your not at risk for mixing standing water and electricity.
- TAKE PICTURES: Before you remove any water or make repairs, fully document the damage for your insurer by taking photos or video. If you start removing water or making repairs before you photograph the damage, you could potentially decrease the extent of your coverage.
- PROTECT YOUR HEALTH: Even if the water in your home is clear, it could be contaminated by sewage or household chemicals. Wear waders or waterproof boots as well as rubber gloves. Be sure to throw out any food that may have come into contact with flood waters. Visit our Sanitation Website on ways to properly dispose of flood debris and food.
- CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY: Since you should notify you insurer as soon as possible after the flood, it is a good idea to keep your insurance company and local agents, phone number in your always-ready emergency bag. Remember, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) works though private insurance companies, so you contact your insurer just as you would for any other type of claim. On larger scale flood events your agent may be busy handling his or her own flood issues. In that case, contact the insurance company's headquarters.
- FIND OUT IF YOUR IN A DISASTER AREA: One a region has officially been declared a "disaster area" by government authorities, property owners have access to increased resources, including public services to protect and remediate the area. In addition, you may have access to financial assistance.
- REMOVE THE WATER: Once you get the OK from your insurer to remove the water, use a sump pump, available from most hardware or home supply stores, and a wet vac to remove the water. Open doors and windows, if possible, to allow fresh air to circulate and aid in the drying process.
- MITIGATE MOLD DAMAGE: Mold can develop within 24 to 48 hours of a flood, says Ashley Small of FEMA, so remove wet contents, including carpeting and bedding, as soon as possible. If an item has been wet for less than 48 hours, it may be salvageable. However, you’ll need to decide whether it holds enough monetary or sentimental value to try to do so. And notify your insurance company before removing items to ensure that you’re not affecting coverage. Always photograph the flood-soaked items.
- Rugs, for example, may be dried and then cleaned professionally, which could cost $100 to $500 or more, depending on the size and number. Large pieces of furniture that are saturated will likely be difficult to dry effectively, and should often be discarded.
- Mold growth can be controlled on surfaces by cleaning with a non-ammonia detergent or pine oil cleaner and disinfecting with a 10% bleach solution. (Caution: Never mix ammonia and bleach products, as the resulting fumes can be highly toxic.) Always test this solution on a small area of the item or area you’re cleaning to be sure it doesn’t cause staining or fading.
- Take photographs before removing wet wallboards and baseboards because insurers will want to see the height of any water damage to walls. Carefully poke holes at floor level in the drywall to allow water trapped behind it to escape.
- You may also wish to hire a flood restoration service—you can find pros under “Flood” or “Disaster recovery” in your local phone book, or check with the Better Business Bureau, local Chamber of Commerce, or contractor recommendation sites, such asAngieslist.com or MerchantCircle.com. Look for those with Institute of Inspection , Cleaning and Restoration Certification.
- SECURE THE PROPERTY: As the homeowner, it’s your responsibility to secure the property so that no additional damage occurs. Put boards over broken windows and secure a tarp as protection if the roof has been damaged. Again, take photographs to prove to the insurance company that you have done everything possible to protect your home against further damage.
- If the home is habitable, take precautions to keep yourself and your family safe from injury. Use flashlights to move around dark rooms, for example. If the home isn’t habitable, don’t try to stay there. Move to a shelter or alternate location. Consult your insurer to find out what provisions the company will make for temporary housing while your home is being repaired.
For more detailed information read the FEMA Publication "Repairing your Flooded Home" (PDF).