10 Tips For Returning To A Flooded Home

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Unfortunately, floods leave many dangers behind after waters recede. These tips will help you return safely home as you begin to rebuild.

1. Wait Until Your Area is Declared Safe

No matter how anxious you are go home again, wait for the official word that it’s safe to return. Going back sooner could be dangerous and hinder emergency workers trying to do their jobs.

When you’re allowed to return to the neighborhood:

  • Check conditions for yourself before bringing children and pets.
  • Walk on firm ground. Standing water may carry a deadly electric charge from downed or underground power lines, and only six inches of moving water is enough to sweep you away. Don’t enter your home if the ground around it is still flooded.
  • Keep an eye out for neighbors who may need your help. Everyone is going through a hard time and you’ll need to stick together.
  • Don’t try to move or touch downed power lines.

2. Check For Structural Damage

Even if your house looks fine at first glance, it may not be safe to go inside. When you get home:

  • Wear sturdy, protective shoes or boots and bring a strong flashlight or lantern on your first visit home. You may also want to wear a hard hat to protect you from unexpected falling debris.
  • Check for foundation cracks and roof damage.
  • Make sure porch roofs and overhangs have their supports intact.
  • If you see serious damage, have a building inspector check your home before entering.
  • Open doors carefully. If they stick at the top, this may mean your ceiling has gotten so wet that it’s ready to fall. If you have to force the door open, wait a moment to see if any debris falls before entering.
  • Inspect all doors, floors, walls, ceilings and windows to make sure they’re still solid.
  • Take pictures of damage for insurance claims. Do this before you start to clean up!

3. Inspect Utilities and Take Precautions

The utilities we depend on pose life-threatening danger when conditions are compromised. To avoid a tragic accident:

  • Avoid flooded rooms and basements.
  • If your home is wet, has a submerged furnace or appliances, has electrical system damage such as sparking, broken/frayed wires or you smell hot insulation, try to turn off electricity even if your home is experiencing a power outage. If you can’t safely get to your power box, contact a professional. Have an electrician inspect your home before reconnecting your power.
  • If you see downed power lines, don’t step in puddles or standing water.
  • If you smell propane or natural gas, or you hear a hissing noise, open a window, get out of your house and call the fire department from a safe place. Turn off the gas main if you can safely do this.
  • Inspect water, sewer or septic lines. If they’re damaged, don’t drink tap water and avoid using your toilets until repairs are made.

4. Watch out for Wild Animals

Natural disasters cause upheaval for animals too, and some displaced creatures may find their way into your home. If you find debris in your home, use a stick to poke through it to avoid anything jumping out at you unexpectedly. Contact animal control if you discover snakes, raccoons or any other uninvited guests.

5. Address Hazardous Materials

Gasoline, solvents, paints, pesticides or even cleaning products and batteries may have leaked into floodwaters in your home. If you suspect your house has been contaminated, contact local authorities to help you safely clean up.

6. Keep Food Safe

Living through a flood only to get sick from spoiled or contaminated food is the last thing you need after all you’ve been through. Be sure to:

  • Throw out any food (including canned items), water bottles, baby bottle nipples or plastic utensils that came in contact with toxic floodwaters.
  • If you’ve had an extended power loss, throw out all perishables in your fridge such as meat, dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, puddings, cooked rice and pasta, potato or macaroni salad and beans. Discard all frozen foods that have thawed.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Better safe than sorry.

7. Keep Water Safe

Water safety is another serious concern:

  • Check with local authorities to find out if public water is drinkable or needs to be boiled.
  • Have well water tested if your well flooded, was very close to a flooded area or your water tastes or smells different.
  • Don’t use contaminated water for washing dishes, brushing teeth, making ice or preparing food and baby formula.
  • When in doubt, use bottled water.

8. Begin Cleanup

As you start to clean out your home:

  • To avoid structural damage, pump out flooded basements gradually (about a third of the water per day.)
  • Wear protective clothing, rubber gloves and rubber boots when cleaning.
  • Open doors and windows (weather permitting) to help home dry out.

If your home has been severely impacted, you’ll probably need professional cleaning and mold removal services.

9. Don’t Be a Victim of Fraud

Sadly, dishonest contractors seem to come out of the woodwork after a disaster. Before hiring anyone to repair your home:

  • Verify contractor’s license.
  • Get references.
  • Check contractor with the Better Business Bureau.

10. Nurture Yourself

Don’t forget to address your own needs:

  • Get as much rest as you can.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Divide your “to do” list into manageable segments.
  • Take short breathers away from the stress of your home when you can.

A flood experience is extremely traumatic so be easy on yourself and accept whatever emotions you’re feeling. Don’t be ashamed to seek counseling if needed, and take comfort in knowing that even if things are never quite the same as they were, in time they will be OK again.



Last Updated: January 5, 2013
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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