Here are some important steps to help you begin the hurricane/flood recovery process with safety in mind.
Check with local authorities to determine if it is safe to return home. Keep in mind that roads and bridges could be blocked or washed out and power lines could be down. Once it is safe to return, bring identification to show at checkpoints that may be in place.
2. Power Outage
Danger – DO NOT use matches or lighters in a disaster-affected area until all gas lines are checked for leaks. Keep flashlights and plenty of batteries on hand. Avoid deadly carbon monoxide poisoning when using a generator by operating it outdoors and away from openings like doors, soffits, and windows as well as air conditioning units, fans, or anything that drafts into the home. Remember, downed or damaged trees can become ensnarled with power lines and pose an electrocution threat.
3. Safe Cleanup
If possible, use licensed and insured professionals to inspect your home for damage and to assist with repairs. Services may include water removal contractors and electricians as well as other professionals to dry out the structure, inspect gas lines, remove uprooted trees, and check the plumbing. Follow the steps below as you begin the cleanup process.
- Take pictures of damage throughout the building and around the property.
- Check for building stability before entry. Doors sticking at the top may indicate a ceiling at risk of collapse.
- Assess stability of the ceiling. A bulging or swollen ceiling could indicate water overhead and the risk of collapse.
- Remove wet drywall and insulation well above the high-water mark.
- Clean, disinfect, and dry all wall cavities that touched floodwater.
- Use fans and sunlight to dry out interior spaces.
- Remove all wet carpets, curtains, and fabrics. Dry completely.
- Wash and disinfect all surfaces, including cupboard interiors, with a solution of 1/2 cup bleach to 2 gallons of water.
- Clean and disinfect concrete surfaces using a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water. Mix per manufacturer’s directions and apply to entire surface.
- Clean and disinfect hot air, air conditioning, and ventilation ducts before use to avoid the spread of airborne germs and mold spores.
- Check appliance wires for missing or separated wire insulation.
- Ground all appliances with three-pronged plugs.
- Dry and oil all appliance motors.
- Check foundation for any loose or missing blocks, bricks, stones, or mortar.
- Empty basement water 1/3 per day to avoid structural damage to foundation by rapid pressure change.
- Control standing water and mosquitoes by applying a larvae control product, or mosquito dunk, to standing water or a film of vegetable oil to the surface.
- Wash down and disinfect all doors, but first, remove all doorknobs and hardware and disinfect.
- To avoid warping, dry all wood doors by removing from hinges, lay flat with wood shims between, and allow to air dry completely.
- Clean and disinfect windows, sills, and tracks.
- Remove sliding doors and windows before cleaning and disinfecting the sliders and the tracks.
- Remove wallpaper and coverings that came into contact with floodwaters.
- Don’t repaint or repair until drying is complete and humidity levels in the home have dropped.
4. Food & Water
Flooding brings the risk of waterborne bacterial contaminations, so you should assume that water is unsafe and use properly stored water or boil your tap water.
Identify and throw away any perishable food that has been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two or more hours. Two weeks after floodwater subsides, drain wells, sanitize well and water lines, and test water.
Homeowners should contact their insurance carrier as soon as possible to begin the claims reporting and adjustment process. The following steps will help your claim go smoothly:
- Contact your Company – Record your company’s toll-free claims telephone number for timely reporting of any damage. Remember to file claims promptly as most policies have time limits for filing a claim. Many companies offer smartphone apps that allow for claims reporting as well.
- Protect from Further Damage – Most policies require that you take all safe and reasonable steps to reduce additional damage, e.g., covering exposed window openings to prevent water intrusion, etc.
- Document Damage – Use a camera or camera phone to record damage to your home before cleanup and repairs are attempted.
- Clean and Dispose of your Belongings:
- Do not dispose of any high-value items without consulting your insurance adjuster. Remember, most electronics require special handling for safe disposal including computers, televisions, large appliances, etc.
- Maintain receipts for all services, supplies, and claim-related expenses. This includes hotel and restaurant bills should you need to relocate temporarily.
Contact your insurer for a checkup and review your coverages and deductibles before the next storm. Remember, flood insurance is not covered under your ordinary policy, and it requires a 30-day waiting period. Your insurance professional can customize your policy and recommend possible ways to reduce your premiums and mitigate potential losses.