Surface flooding (when water goes over the ground, such as a river overflowing its banks) can remain in place for days before the waters subside. Affected areas will likely be under mass evacuation orders and all you can do is wait for the green light to go back home. As you do, keep an eye on the physical and emotional needs of everyone in your family. Find a safe place to stay, watch for signs of stress, and do your best to rest and eat. When it comes to children, experts suggest explaining the disaster factually and making sure the family sticks together.
The first 24 hours after the waters subside and local authorities allow residents to return to their homes are crucial. Those who are waiting for the remaining water to recede can start considering how to start recovering from a flooded home and what steps they should take to make that process easier.
#1 Contact Your Insurance Company
Before you even arrive home, call your insurance company and alert them to your loss. You will also need to write them to officially begin your claim, though it helps speed up the process when they know in advance.
Keep in mind that homeowners insurance often covers damages from: wind and storm, broken pipes, or sewage backups, but not surface flooding itself. Flood insurance does cover those types of losses. Organize your insurance policies to find out what’s covered and where you might have gaps. Once you call your insurer, they will often provide you with a copy of your Declaration Pages and Long-Form Policy Booklet.
Update your insurance company about the condition of your home once you have had an opportunity to re-enter.
#2 Reduce Safety Risks
Stay safe when you return home after a flood. Before re-entering your home, look for structural damage such as warped walls, cracked foundations, or holes.
You should also check for damage to water lines, electrical lines, and sewage connections. Contact your utility company if you see evidence of any of these concerns.
Head straight to the electrical box and make sure you turn off all power to your home to avoid electrocution and fire risks.
#3 Protect Your Health
There is a high potential for serious health hazards in a home that has recently flooded. First and foremost, the water was likely contaminated by sewage. Wear hip-waders and rubber gloves to make sure you don’t come into contact with water or surfaces that may have been contaminated by sewage.
#4 Record the Damage
When you begin your flood insurance claim, you will need to be able to prove the damage done to your home and your possessions. Mould growth can happen so quickly, so if you hope to salvage furniture you may have to remove it in a hurry. Be sure to take photos, videos, and write descriptions of the damage before you do. You’ll have to prove the damage to your insurance adjuster later if you want to be compensated for your restoration costs. If you can wait to remove personal belongings that are obviously unsalvageable, or that can be easily cleaned later, wait until the insurance adjuster has been to the site to see it.
#5 Mitigate Mould Damage
Mould growth starts within 24-48 hours. If any of your personal belongings are valuable or sentimental enough that you think it’s worth attempting to restore them, take photos showing the state it’s in when you come across it and then take it to be restored as quickly as possible. The contents insurance part of your policy will likely cover or partially cover the costs of restoration.
The cleanup will take some time and you may want professionals to handle it if you have insurance coverage to offset the cost. This is especially true given the hazards of sewage contamination. Put your family’s safety first when you are recovering from a flood and know what you need to do within the first 24 hours.