Home Has Been Flooded

Problem: Home has suffered damage from floodwater.

Background: For what to do if a flood is imminent. If your home has been flooded, and you have a flood insurance policy, immediately call the agent or broker who handled it. The agent will submit a loss form to the National Flood Insurance Program and an adjuster will be assigned to inspect your property. Most standard homeowners policies do not cover flood loss. Proceed with immediate cleanup measures after the flood.

Before entering the home, make sure it is not in danger of collapsing. Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank, and let the house air for enough time to remove foul odors or escaping gas.

What to do: When entering a building after a flood, use a battery flash light instead of an open flame as a light source because gas may still be trapped inside the building. Watch for electrical shorts of live wires be fore making certain that the main power switch is turned off. Don’t turn on any lights or appliances until an electrician has checked the system for short circuits. Cover broken windows and holes in the roof or walls to prevent further weather damage. (Take pictures of the damage done to your home and contents to aid in settling any insurance claims.) Throw out perishable items that pose a health problem, as well as any previously opened medicines that have come in contact with floodwater. Until the public water system has been declared safe, vigorously boil water for drinking and preparing foods for 10 minutes.

Shovel mud out of the building while it is still moist to give walls and floors a chance to dry. Once plastered walls have dried, brush off loose dirt, wash with a mild soap solution, and rinse with clean water. Always start at the bottom and work up, doing ceilings last. When cleaning, pay special attention to heating and plumbing systems. Clean off refrigerators, sofas, and other hard goods and keep until inspected by an adjuster. Any partially damaged items should be dried and aired; the adjuster will make recommendations for repairs or disposal. Move wooden furniture outdoors, but keep out of direct sun to prevent warping. Remove drawers and other moving parts, but do not pry open swollen drawers from the front; in stead, remove the backing and push the drawers out. Allow clothing or household fabrics to dry slowly, away from direct heat.

Special advice: Drain and clean flooded basements as soon as possible but be aware that structural damage can occur when water is pumped out too quickly. After the floodwaters around your property have subsided, begin draining the basement in stages; drain about a third of the water volume each day. Mildew can be removed from dry wood with a solution of 4 to 6 table spoons of trisodium phosphate (TSP), 1 cup liquid chlorine bleach, and 1 gallon of water. Clean metal, then wipe with a kerosene-soaked cloth. Use a light coating of oil on iron to prevent rusting.

Helpful hint: Another method of disinfecting water for drinking or cooking is to mix ½ teaspoon of liquid commercial laundry bleach with 2 1/2 gallons of water, and let stand for 5 minutes before using. The flat taste can be removed by pouring the water from one container to another, or by adding a pinch of salt. In an emergency, water may be acquired by draining a hot water tank or by melting ice cubes.