Monday Matters – Flooding: Before, During and After the Waters Recede
Flooding from hurricanes, torrential rainfall, and dam failures are very dangerous and costly to victims in the path of flood waters. Floods sweep away homes, vehicles and people that do not respect the very real power of rushing water. We are all familiar with the levees that broke around New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, rivers that overflowed banks in Nashville Tennessee, and creeks that became rushing rivers around Atlanta in 2009. These are but a few of the flooding incidents that frequently occur here in the United States with many more occurring throughout the world. The most recent catastrophic floods occurred in Pakistan where more than 20 million Pakistanis lost their homes and many thousands were killed.
Here in the USA, floods and flash floods happen in all 50 states, nearly everyone lives in a flood zone. Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high and most homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood damage, so get flood insurance now!
Flooding in coastal areas, river valleys and flash floods in low lying areas are not uncommon and in fact happen frequently. It’s even possible that people with vacation and summer homes could have been flooded during their absence and structures outwardly show little or no signs of potential health issues awaiting them inside. Mold, mildew, chemicals, and possibly raw sewage deposited by flood waters have long since dried up. Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to your property. Health issues associated with these contaminates may go unnoticed until later when the structure is further contaminated by operating the heating ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC). Structures thought to be in high ground areas are also potentially vulnerable to basement and ground level flooding during major rain events.
Flood Preparedness Tips & Hints
- Have a “Bug Out Bag” (Go Bag) fully kitted and ready to go! Have enough non-perishable food and clean drinking water for at least 5 days per person along with over the counter (OTC) and prescription medications. This includes but is by no means limited to: flashlights, first aid kits, personal hygiene and sanitation supplies, cash, camera, etc.
- Have a battery operated radio with spare batteries capable of receiving both local AM/FM, NOAA and All Hazards broadcasts. Have several large zip lock bags available to protect the radio from rain and water.
- Make sure your cellular telephone is fully charged and equipped with a vehicle charger and back-up AA emergency power source.
- If time allows, move as many important items, heirlooms, etc. to the highest areas of the structure.
- Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full in case you need to evacuate.
- Keep all important documents such as insurance policies, deeds, copies of credit cards and bank statements, passports, etc. in a waterproof container that you can easily grab if you are evacuated.
- Store anything you want to keep dry, like photographs, in the dishwasher.
- If you are ordered by authorities to evacuate – LEAVE. You may not have much time!
- Turn off the main electrical circuit breaker before leaving.
During the Flood
- Do not attempt to walk in moving water – water 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Floodwaters can change the level of the ground and make surfaces slippery. Floodwaters can weaken bridges, roads and sidewalks, so travel only if absolutely necessary.
- Do not attempt to drive through deep water or water moving across roadways. Two feet of moving water can carry a vehicle downstream in a hurry!
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- Be aware of swimming rodents, snakes and other creatures!
After the Flood
- For your own safety wait for authorities to allow entrance into the flood affected areas.
- Check the radio frequently for updates on areas to avoid and areas that have been cleared.
- Watch for danger signs – smell of gas, broken wires, sparks, falling objects. Look for roof, foundation and chimney cracks; these could be a sign of weakness and potential collapse. If you notice any of these, do not enter the structure.
- Do not enter a flood damaged structure until it has been cleared and deemed safe by authorities.
- If possible, turn off the electricity at the main breaker panel if not already done before evacuating.
- Watch out for animals – even household pets can become dangerous when afraid and hungry.
- Use a stick to poke through debris, as snakes like to hide in debris!
- Check with local authorities before using any water, it could be contaminated. If any pipes are damaged, turn off the main water valve. Have wells pumped and the water checked before using and have sewage lines checked as well.
- Take pictures of every area of the home, including damaged items. Call your insurance agent and document any items that must be disposed of. Document everything!
- Always wear protective clothing, including boots and heavy gloves when dealing with flood damaged items. Flood waters pick up chemicals, sewage, motor oil, transmission fluid and other contaminants. Do not allow children to play in the water, and don’t walk through it if at all possible.
- Dispose of all food and grocery items that have come in contact with flood waters.
- Check with a professional water damage restoration company regarding whether other household items can be salvaged. To find one contact the IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) at 800-835-4624 or www.iicrc.org.
- All contaminated carpet and padding must be removed and disposed of. Upholstered furniture and mattresses must also be disposed of. Solid wood furniture may or may not be salvageable.
- Other household items may or may not be salvageable, check with your remediation company.
- Drywall must be removed a MINIMUM of 2 feet above the high water line. Wall studs must be power washed, decontaminated and then thoroughly dried to within 4 points of normal moisture content before any drywall is replaced. A professional water damage remediation company has the proper tools and equipment to dry the materials properly.
- For more information on cleaning up after a flood, contact the IICRC, FEMA at (www.FEMA.gov) or FloodSmart (http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart)
Our thanks to Lisa Jordan for her professional assistance in assembling materials for this blog post. You can follow her on Twitter at (www.twitter.com/mastercleaner) or visit her website at www.accentamerican.com.
FACTA NON VERBA…