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Flood Watches & Warnings: How To Prepare Your Home

09.03.15

Flooding is not only one of the most common natural disasters, it is also one of the most costly. During the rainy season when heavy, steady rain lasts for several hours or even several days at a time leads to ground saturation. In addition, rapidly rising water in low-lying areas or along streams can lead to flash flooding.

When you hear a weather forecaster use the term flood watch, flooding is possible in your area. If he uses the term flood warning, it means that flooding is already ongoing or will soon be in your area. It is important that your home is prepared for flooding and you know how to stay safe during a flood and afterward during the cleanup.

Be Prepared

On average, flooding causes billions of dollars in damages. In order to keep costs low in such a disaster, it is important that your home and your family are well prepared with a flood hits.

  • Turn off electricity, gas and water – Follow the advice of local officials and shut off your gas and water. If you expect flood waters will be near your electrical entrance panel, you need to call your power provider for disconnection. Make sure to avoid standing in water as you turn off electrical power with fuses or circuit breakers. If conditions are damp, use a ground fault circuit interrupter, which can be added to an extension cord and allow you to turn off power in the event of an electrical fault.
  • Move hazardous materials and valuables – Be sure that your important documents, family pictures or videos, insurance policies, tax records, household inventory and other irreplaceable items are moved to locations that are away from dampness and well above the anticipated water level.
  • Anchor your fuel tanks – During a flood, fuel tanks can float or tip over, which could lead to a fire or spill. Cleanup after a flood with waters that contain fuel oil is incredibly expensive and difficult. In some cases, the removal of contamination from petroleum is impossible and the lingering vapors render the home uninhabitable. Therefore, it is important to securely anchor fuel tanks to the floor. Ensure the fill line openings and vents are well above the expected water levels. If not, make sure they are properly sealed. You may also want to think about emptying the tank and then filling it with water in order to reduce buoyancy.
  • Plug floor drains in the basement – This will prevent the backup of sewage and rapid water removal, which can damage the basement floor and walls due to external water pressure.
  • Prepare or remove appliances – Shut your appliances off at the breaker panel or fuse box. Washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers and other appliances have components that can be damaged by the water and silt during flooding. If removal is not possible, use polyethylene film to wrap the appliances to make cleanup easier. Consider disconnecting and removing the furnace and the water heater to keep them out of the water. Unless you have the guidance of a professional, leave the air conditioner. The Freon can settle and create a health hazard. Use plastic to wrap both outside and inside units to reduce the accumulation of silt.

The Cleanup

The first thing you need to do after a flood is contact your insurance agent to set up an appointment with an adjuster. Then take photos and make a list of the damage throughout cleaning.

Shovel out any contaminated mud and use your garden hose to wash away any mud from the hard surfaces of your home. Use heavy duty cleaner and hot water to clean and disinfect all of the surfaces. All dishes, cookware and utensils will need to be soaked in chlorine bleach for at least ten minutes. Use bleach to clean counters and cupboards before storing the dishes.

When you clean, you will need to wear protective clothing such as rubber boots and gloves. Discard items that have been touched by flood water, including water bottles, baby bottle nipples, plastic utensils and canned goods.

Finally, check with the health department to determine if your water supply is contaminated. You may need to treat or boil water before use. In addition, do not use potentially contaminated water to prepare food, wash dishes, make ice, wash hands or brush teeth.

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