Floodwaters pose a number of dangerous hazards to your home during a natural disaster. In addition to carrying away or waterlogging your most prized possessions, floods carry hidden risks in the water including chemicals and even sewage. If you experience flood damage to your home, here are a few ways to get back on your feet as quickly and as safely as possible.
If you’ve purchased a separate flood insurance policy with your home insurance, you can file a claim for lost or damaged property and belongings due to rising water. Once you get in touch with your licensed agent, you should start to separate damaged and undamaged property. An adjuster will come to your house to inspect the home and your belongings before arriving at an estimate. To speed up the process, it’s a good idea to take photographs and make a list of everything you plan to claim. Make sure to present receipts and other proof of ownership to your insurance provider if you can to help prove how much you lost and how much you’re owed.
If your home has been seriously flooded, it’s extremely important to keep children away from the affected area until all water has been removed and clean-up is complete. Adults should wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and goggles when dealing with anything contaminated by floodwater. Some items cannot be salvaged if they’ve come into contact with floodwater, including mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys and pillows. If you have any doubt about a contaminated object, it’s best just not to risk it.
Open windows and run fans and dehumidifiers to help get all of the water and moisture out of the house. Look for mold on the walls, ceiling and other hard surfaces such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks and other plumbing fixtures, and wash them thoroughly with laundry or dish detergent and hot water. If you also choose to use a bleach solution, make sure to open windows and doors to provide fresh air. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions on the product.
Inspect all the food in the house, and get rid of anything that’s not in a waterproof container. If it has a screw-cap, snap lid or pull top– throw it out. You should also throw out liquids that come in cardboard boxes, such as juice boxes, milk cartons, baby formula and others. If any canned foods show swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, rust or deep dents, they’re also not safe to eat. Remove the labels on unaffected cans — they can harbor dangerous bacteria from floodwaters. Finally, wash metal pots, pans, dishes and utensils as well as tables and countertops thoroughly with soap and hot water. After rinsing, sanitize them by boiling them in clean water.
Once you’ve completed the cleanup, wash your hands with warm water that’s been boiled for one minute and cooled. Wash the clothes you wore in hot water and detergent separately at a coin-operated laundry or throw them out once you’re done. The safer and more thorough you are during the cleanup, the less likely you are to have to face even more hidden, long-lasting effects of flood damage later.