Flood Cleanup: Safe Procedures for Returning Home after a Flood.
Returning home to navigate necessary flood cleanup and home repairs can be difficult. For your personal safety, be aware of what to look during the first inspection of your home.
Download this Safety Flood Procedure Plan
- Be prepared to get dirty. Wear old clothes, rubber boots and gloves when you first tour your home.
- Make sure to have a camera (cell phone cameras are good to use) and a flashlight ready for your initial trip.
- This is not the time to bring your young children along; seeing their home in bad shape can increase their trauma.
- Before you leave your vehicle, look at the shape of power lines around your vehicle.
- If the lines are up around your house, it should be safe to get out of your car. Avoid puddles and standing water if possible.
- If the lines are down, contact the power company and stay in your vehicle. DO NOT GO INTO YOUR HOME UNTIL CLEARED.
- Inspectors in your area may have put signs or tape up to warn about structural damage. If you see these warnings, do not venture past them until you have talked to your local authorities.
- Even if there are no warnings and the power lines are secure, do not rush inside your home.
- Do a thorough walk around the house, looking for loose power lines, damaged gas lines and visible structural damage. If you see any damage on the outside, ask a building inspector to investigate before you enter the structure.
- Use your nose. Gas leaks are very common and extremely dangerous after a flood. If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound, vacate immediately. Once you are safely away from the area, call the gas company. Do not return until they have finished their inspection.
- If you use propane tanks, turn off all valves and have your supplier inspect your system before you use it. This also goes for any gas or electrical appliances that were in the flood area. They must be checked for safety before use.
- If your home does not have power, use a flashlight rather than an open flame.
- Once inside, check the condition of your ceilings and floors.
- If the floor is sagging, do not walk on it. If the ceiling is sagging, there is water damage.
- If you choose to knock the ceiling down on your own, wear a hard hat and eye protection.
- Never poke the center of a damaged area, as the entire ceiling can collapse. If you are unsure of your ability to do the work, STOP and wait for a contractor.
- Pump out your basement slowly. If the water is removed too quickly, it can cause the basement walls to crumble and collapse.
- Discard mattresses, carpeting, stuffed animals and baby toys. These items are most likely beyond saving and are a health risk.
- Food and medicines that have been exposed to flood waters are not safe to ingest. Even if items were stored in sealed containers, they pose a risk not worth taking.
- Take pictures of the discarded items.
As you are walking the area, take plenty of pictures. These will be invaluable when it comes to dealing with your insurance agent. As you begin to make minor repairs, document your work and save all receipts.
Returning to your home after a major flood is never easy. You may not be able to leave your vehicle or walk into your house during your first trip back. It is very unlikely that your family will be able to move back into your home straight away. By being prepared and knowing what to expect, the first visit will not be as difficult to handle.