Floods, which can occur anywhere in the country, can cause serious issues to your home or business. According to Floodsmart.gov, floods are the number 1 natural disaster affecting the U.S. The U.S. Geological Survey also estimates that each year, floods and flash floods cause approximately $6 billion in property damages and about 140 deaths.
Whether your property floods from heavy rains or pipe system failures, the end-result is the same. You may have to deal with costly property repairs, unsanitary conditions, and a long clean-up process.
National, state, and local emergency management organizations continuously stress the importance of flood preparedness as well as the knowledge of what to do in the aftermath. Moreover, property-owners who become victims of floods often find themselves in the dark about how best to tackle the cleanup process safely.
Use these helpful guidelines to properly prepare for, stay safe during, and clean up successfully from any type of flood.
Before a Flood
Often times, you may not have the benefit of an advance warning before a flood occurs. Flash floods can develop in minutes, with no visible rainfall, and flooding caused by a drainage failure can pop up unexpectedly. Because of this unpredictability, it's imperative to prepare your property for a flood even though one may not happen until well into the future, if at all.
- Buy Flood Insurance. Homeowner's insurance policies do not cover damage caused by floods, so home and business owners need to purchase flood insurance. Note that there is a 30-day waiting period before any flood protection policy takes effect.
- Avoid Building in a Floodplain. That is, unless you elevate or reinforce your property.
- Elevate Electrical and HVAC Systems. As a rule of thumb, elevate these systems at least 12 inches above the expected flood elevation to help protect against water damage.
- Construct Barriers. Building levees, beams, and floodwalls around your property can help stop floodwater from entering.
- Perform Dry Floodproofing. This involves sealing all exterior property areas below the flood protection level so that they are watertight. Walls can be coated with a waterproof sealant, and watertight shields can be installed over doors, windows, and other vulnerable openings.
- Install Anti-Backflow Valves in Sewer Traps. These check valves stop the upward backflow of sewer water in case of a clog.
During a Flood
If you learn that a major flood is likely to happen in your area, remember to:
- Monitor the News. Keep on top of the latest information through radio, television, and Internet reports.
- Move To Higher Ground. In the event of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Don't wait for instructions.
- Be Aware of Areas Known to Flood Quickly. Flash floods can occur suddenly in areas such as streams, drainage channels, and canyons.
- Stay Away From Floodwaters — Floodwaters can carry raw sewage, chemical waste, and other disease-spreading substances. If you come into contact with the water, wash immediately with soap and disinfected water.
- Evacuate. If you must evacuate, secure your property by bringing outdoor furniture inside and moving essential items to upper floors. Turn off utilities at the main switches if instructed, and disconnect electrical appliances.
After The Flood
Following a major flood, it's important to first ensure that it is safe to return to your property and inspect the damage. Floods can have more than one peak, so listen to the advice given by emergency officials before returning to your property. After doing so, follow these steps. Use these same tips to recover from less-severe flooding.
- Contact Your Insurance Company. Your insurance agent will be your best guide through the process of filing a claim, documenting the damage, and starting the cleanup process.
- Enter With Caution. Before entering the damaged property or area, look for hazards such as cracks in the foundation, gas leaks, broken power lines, and leaking chemicals.
- Remove Wet Contents Immediately. Mold can begin to grow on wet carpets, furniture, bedding, and other high moisture-retaining items within 24 to 48 hours of saturation. Take these items out, clean them thoroughly, and ensure that they are completely dry and fungus-free before bringing them back inside.
- Ventilate and Dry. On dry days, open your windows and doors to let air inside to help dry out the interior of your property. Consider using a heavy-duty dryer or air mover to expedite the process. Dri-Eaz manufactures a variety of air movers that will effectively dry carpeting, upholstery, walls, and more.
- Extract Water. A large amount of standing floodwater can be pumped out gradually either by using a heavy-duty water pump or by employing a professional water extraction service. For floods of a few inches, scooping up water with a bucket — while wearing the right protective gear to prevent exposure to bacteria — may be your best bet.
- Dehumidify To Reduce Odors. Extracting excess moisture from the air will not only speed the drying process, but it will also help eliminate musty odors and prevent mold and mildew growth. Santa Fe dehumidifiers can remove 100 pints of moisture from an environment each day (or more depending on the model) and can handle large areas with ease.
- Clean and Disinfect. Disinfecting all surfaces and areas touched by floodwater is imperative to prevent the spread of bacteria and disease. If you are sensitive to chemical cleaning solutions, consider using a steam cleaner, which disinfects and sanitizes without chemicals using dry steam vapor.
- Restore Indoor Air Quality. If mold and odors are still present after the water removal, drying, and cleaning process, consider using an air purifier to help filter out impurities from the air.
For more information on flood preparation, safety, and recovery, visit these sites:
For more information on how to handle a flood and the effects a flood has on your space, check out one of these helpful blog posts:
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