What to do after a flood: 5 essential tips

Wed Nov 2 2022

A contemporary bathroom with a flooded floor

Experiencing a flood is devastating for homeowners. Not only is the damage expensive and extensive, but floodwaters can make an area dangerous.

How can you ensure your family is safe to return home after a flood? These five pointers can help you build a plan of action to get repairs underway and get back on your feet after a disaster.

Please remember: Don’t return to your home if the evacuation order is still in effect. Wait until authorities give the all-clear before you head back.

1. Figure out if you’re in a disaster area

If your region is considered a disaster area, you will have access to more resources to help accelerate your hazard-free move in. These may include financial services, assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and public services to help shoulder the cost of flood repairs and cleanup.

FEMA has several programs for individuals and households that can help you recover from a flood. For example, you may be able to get:

  • Funds for temporary housing.
  • A temporary housing unit.
  • Money to help you repair or replace your home and personal belongings.
  • Hazard mitigation assistance to make your home stronger and more durable.

You can find more information at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362.

2. Wait for the all clear

You need to wait for the authorities to give you an all clear before you return to your home. That will tell you the imminent danger of the flood is gone and you can safely return to your home.

You should note, however, that cracks in your foundation can cause gas leaks and other issues. As a precaution, have your gas supplier shut off the gas until the property has been investigated for leaks. Your water supplier can also let you know when the water is safe to consume again.

Anything that plugs into an electrical outlet needs to be inspected, thoroughly cleaned, and dried by an electrician before you try to use it. This can prevent electronics shorts and possible electrocution from damaged items. If you are unsure how high the water rose, err on the side of safety before using any electronics.

3. Contact your insurance company

You must have flood insurance in place before your home experiences a flood to draw on your coverage. This protection is the difference between resuming your life as quickly as possible and struggling to make the expensive repairs needed to make your home habitable again.

Standard home insurance does not provide flood coverage. Most insurers sell this coverage as a separate policy (Kin adds flood insurance as an endorsement to your homeowners policy). If you have homeowners insurance in Florida or Texas, consider getting this coverage as soon as possible. Don’t wait until after a flood has occurred – your coverage can’t retroactively cover flood damage.

Payouts for severe damage can take up to six months, so it’s best to call your insurance company as soon as you know you will need to make a flood claim.

4. Survey the water damage

Whatever you do, don’t wade or swim through standing water. If your home has standing water, make accommodations to stay elsewhere until the home is drained and accessible.

Once the home is safe to survey, assess the damage. Some common issues to look for after a home is flooded include:

  • A cracked foundation.
  • Jammed windows and doors.
  • Soaked insulation.
  • Weak drywall.
  • Wrecked electrical systems.
  • Ruined appliances and furniture.
  • Moldy carpets.
  • Warped wooden floors.

Some of these issues may be hard to spot on your own, such as the foundation and insulation. However, take note of the problems you can easily spot without putting yourself in harm’s way. Stay away from the electric (you’ll want to leave that to a professional), but do note which outlets were underwater – they will need to be replaced.

There are things you can do to prevent mold after a flood. However, if you encounter black mold, document it and call a professional to get it removed right away.

Also be aware that infestations are common after a flood (like snakes – yikes!). Wear rubber gloves and boots while you survey the damage and keep an eye out for unwelcome critters.

Lastly, ensure water coming from your faucets is not toxic. Your utility company can confirm when the water is safe again. Until then, boil water before drinking.

5. Document the damage

Before you start repairs, document the damage that has been done to your home. Take pictures or use video to document what will need to be replaced. This will help you make the case for maximum coverage for your lost items.

During a crisis, it’s important to have a plan to avoid further danger or losses. Make sure good insurance coverage is part of that plan. Be sure to go over your recovery plan with your family so they know what to expect after a disaster.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2018. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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