Over the last two decades, flooding has been by far the most common natural disaster with over 3,000 floods reported from 1995 to 2015.
Even still, many people either don’t realize that their homeowners’ insurance policy excludes damages from floods or assume that this coverage is unnecessary because they’re not in a high-risk area.
But did you know that there have been floods and flash floods in all fifty states in the last decade? It’s important to be prepared and understand the things to do if you have a flood.
Crucial Things To Do If You Have a Flood
Regardless of the cause, having your home subjected to flooding is a scary and stressful experience. Save this list of things you need to do after you’ve had a flood so you can make sure you don’t miss any of these important steps otherwise you risk having problems with your insurance company.
Safety Should Be Your Main Priority
Only return to your home after the authorities have advised that it is safe to do so. Additionally, if the power switch to your home was never turned off, it’s best to have a qualified electrician check your home before you return.
When you have been cleared to return, the first thing you should do is check the outside of your home for any structural damage such as cracks in the walls or foundation of your home.
Follow Precautions When Entering Your Home
You’re no help to your family if you get injured or sick from rushing back into your home so it is important to take the necessary precautions to protect your health. The floodwaters in your home may be contaminated by household chemicals or sewage.
Make sure that none of your skin is exposed to the water by wearing high-quality waterproof boots and rubber gloves. Do not turn on any appliances in your home including heating or sewage systems until the electrical components have been cleaned.
Once inside your home, check for damage to the walls or floors but be cautious about broken glass or other debris that could pose a safety risk. Remember that flood water itself can be highly dangerous and potentially contaminated. For this reason, you should have your home’s water source tested as well before you resume drinking the water.
Document the Damage
It’s very important to take pictures and videos of the damage before you begin thinking about the repair process.
Your insurance company will assess your claim based on these images so you need to make sure that they are getting an accurate picture of the full extent of the damages.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to save multiple copies of these images and videos to different backup systems, just in case.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Even if you don’t have dedicated flood coverage, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers some coverage. Of course, in situations where a large number of homes have been impacted, you may need to contact your insurance company’s headquarters to file your claim.
However, not all flood damage will be covered so you need to discuss your coverage plan and inform them of any repairs that you wish to conduct immediately. They will advise you about whether or not you can proceed with those repairs and then file a claim or if you need to wait for an adjuster to visit your property first.
If there has been widespread damage to the community and extensive damage to your home, be prepared to be patient during this process to avoid getting frustrated.
If the flooding has affected a large area or community in the US, it may be declared an official disaster area by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If this occurs, you and other homeowners in the region will have access to more resources including protection and financial assistance.
In the aftermath of 2017’s catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, FEMA was able to coordinate an average of $113,000 per NFIP insured family in Houston.
Begin Removing Water
After you’ve documented the damage and spoken to your insurance company, there’s nothing to do but start thinking about the repairs to get your home back to normal.
This begins with removing the water which you can do with a sump pump and a wet vac. Prepare for this to be a difficult task. Not only will the water leave a smell, the extent of the damage may present logistical challenges.
Prevent Mold Damage
Mold can develop within a day or two so try to remove things like carpeting, bedding and upholstered items as soon as your insurance company gives you the go ahead. Don’t forget to photograph the conditions of items that need to be thrown away to show your insurance company.
For things in your home that can be wiped down, use a mix of non-ammonia detergent and bleach at a 10:1 ration. Always test your DIY cleaning solutions on a discrete area to make sure that it would harm the finish of your furniture.
Prepare for Large-Scale Repairs
If the damages to your home have been extensive, you will need to additionally remove baseboards to see if or where the walls have been damaged.
A landscape drainage contractor can help you locate negative drainage issues around your home and additionally, build a system to prevent water from flowing towards your home’s foundation.
Secure Your Home
Prevent further damage from occurring to your home by boarding up broken windows and covering your roof if it has been damaged.
If you are able to stay in your home, make sure that your family understands that there may still be some risks in the home and to proceed with caution. If your home has become uninhabitable, speak to your insurance company about the coverage they offer for staying elsewhere.
Prepare for the Future
If you don’t already have an emergency kit, use your experiences from having your home flooded to put one together. The reason for doing it right away is that you can put in things you wish you had with you.
Some things that should be included in your emergency kit include spare clothes for everyone in your family, copies of everyone’s national identification, the contact and account details for your insurance company, essential medicines and enough cash to get through a few days.
Being Prepared Will Make a Huge Difference
Experiencing a traumatic situation of any kind will always be stressful, but if you are prepared and know the things to do if you have a flood, you will be able to handle the situation more calmly. This, in turn, will be reassuring for your spouse and children when they see that you have everything under control.
Comprehensive insurance for your home is just the start. Learn more about life insurance and how you can get the best rates.