What to Do When Your House is Flooded

THURSDAY, September 3, 2020

Like many people in the past, you might have arrived home and found that a very unwelcome guest has moved in quickly and departed, leaving chaos and debris in its wake - flood damage. You might be familiar with this visitor because you live in a high-risk flood zone - maybe you know the story all too well of evacuating, but never have experienced any loss personally. But now it has happened, and you are asking yourself where do you start in the recovery process - can you file a claim? Maybe there is such extensive damage you will have to rebuild again, and then can you build your place in such a way that you can protect it from floods in the future?

Let's check out tips to support you in the days ahead - help you through what can be a pretty stressful situation. Fortunately experienced flood professionals know exactly what to do when your house floods.

Emergency Issues

Make some calls:

  • Call FEMA:  Have you heard of FEMA before? They are the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an agency in the United States Department of Homeland Security, created by President Jimmy Carter. They coordinate the federal government's response to natural and man-made disasters. If you let them know of your situation, they could well have some free help available to you.
  • Next up is your insurance agent because they will start the claims process, scheduling an appointment for the adjuster to come over. Get his name so you know the right guys when they come over.

Document everything:

  • Check with your insurance agent what information you need to collect. The agent may ask you to start recovery immediately, or may request that you wait until the insurance adjuster has viewed the damage personally.
  • Via video: Take your cell if it's undamaged or video camera and document all the damage you can see inside and outside your house.
  • Photos: Take plenty of photos, not skimping on anything. Get good close up pictures and detailed ones of all the damaged items. Check with your insurance before removing damaged items.
  • Make sure you check everything including the flooring and the carpets.
  • Keep records and make notes so you can give copies of all your observances to the adjuster or the insurance agent. Use your cellphone to take pictures of all your paperwork, too, particularly if you aren't near any photocopiers. Keep records of all your dealings with the insurance company and jot down times, dates, and details of what you have discussed.

Insurance Issues

Meeting with the adjuster:

  • Know the name of the adjuster so that when they arrive, you recognize their names.
  • Have all your insurance information on tap, like your policy number, and all the information about the property and contents insured.
  • Get your adjuster's email address so that you can communicate by email and have written records.
  • Don't start any repairs yourself until you have the written or emailed (not oral) agreement and approval from the adjuster.
  • If you see your claim is going to be large, you could hire a public adjuster (this is an independent adjuster). He will work on your behalf to mediate your claim. Just watch out for the fees though, because, in some states, there are no caps on what is charged. But it's a worthwhile tip to know.

What the adjuster will be doing:

  • He will take measurements, photos, and take notes of all the direct flood damage, and give you a flood certification number.
  • He will give you an estimated Proof of Loss, based on their assessment. Remember, he won't approve or deny your claim right there or even be able to tell you if your claim has been approved.
  • When you submit your Proof of Loss later, review it to ensure that you have not made any mistakes. You will no doubt have to sign around 60 days after the damage. But get it in as soon as possible. Some of the private insurance companies might request a shorter time.
  • You will also probably need to file for additional payment if the repair work turns out more expensive than expected. And if you discover any additional damages, you can add this to your claim after you have filed.
  • Always keep track of where your claim is in the entire process.
  • Bear in mind that you don't have to accept your adjuster's initial estimate of damage.

Secondary Issues

Keep an eye out:

Watch out for robocalls: If you can remember during Hurricane Harvey, many of the flood victims received automated calls from scammers. The scammers would say the flood insurance had lapsed and the amount needed to be paid immediately to ensure coverage was still in place. But FEMA says that your insurance will never use this type of communication - they will give you ample time via postal mail - 30, 60, or even 90 days before your policy expires. Good to know and beware!

Flood Damage Restoration Issues

Take very great care if you need to re-enter flood-damaged premises:

  • See what advice your local authorities recommend before attempting to re-enter your home and don't enter it at all if you notice damaged gas or power lines are visible. If you hear a hissing noise or smell natural gas or propane, get out and call your local fire department.
  • Do not turn the power on or off, especially when standing in water.
  • If it's really serious and your house doesn't even look like its standing straight anymore or the foundations have shifted, stay away.
  • If you can enter and do, check out ceilings and floors for any buckling or sagging - these can collapse right onto you at any given time!
  • Don't go into a flooded basement unless your home's electrical meter has come already been removed from its socket by a qualified electrician or technician.
  • Protect yourself and look out for hazards, assuming that the floodwaters are contaminated, unless you have heard by the authorities that it's not so. If it is contaminated, wear proper protective equipment like gloves, boots, etc.
  • Check out for floating debris that is glass or maybe dangerous chemicals and dangerous animals like poisonous snakes.
  • Keep your hands clean all the time by washing them with soap and clean, running, or bottled water. If you notice mold, you might even need extra special protective equipment like respirators and goggles.

The flood cleanup and water removal:

  • Ventilate the Area: That means opening up all cabinets, windows, doors so that airflow can literally flow. If it's been over 48 hours after the flooding, this will need to be done before any cleanup work commences.
  • Go slow on the power: It's advised that you don't connect generators yet or anything to your house's electrical system until you get the "all-safe" clearance from a licensed electrician.
  • Assess damages: If you can see immediate steps that will prevent any more floodwaters coming into the home such a boarding up windows or laying a tarp for instance, then go ahead and get into action. Remember to take photos of what you do, because if it's possible, rather wait until the claims adjuster has assessed all the damage for the repairs to take place.
  • Don't rush with the basement just yet: Rather than pumping all the water out immediately, rather remove it like one third every day. Because when you remove it too quickly, you could cause the floors and walls to buckle and collapse. Better yet, let the professionals remove the water for you - they have the know-how to take care of it correctly.
  • Excess water removal: Remove standing water around the house (not the basement as mentioned above) as quickly as you can. If an electrician has given you the green light to use your home's electricity, use fans (unless mold has already begun to grow) and a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture.
  • Toss out: Get rid of any food that was not sealed up and any food that was exposed to the floodwaters - it's no doubt contaminated by now and not worth the chances of affecting your health.
  • Try and remove insulation or dry walls that came into contact with the flood waters. Clean the framing carefully and dry it out as quickly as you possibly can. Rip out all your carpets and padding that came into contact with the water. Fortunately, hardwood or laminated flooring might be able to be salvaged and maybe only needs to be removed as a temporary measure. As mentioned above, keep samples of any ruined flooring to show your claims adjuster.
  • Any upholstered furniture or window coverings will probably need to be thrown out unless you know of a good restoration company that will disinfect and clean them. Keep some of the affected fabrics to show the claims adjuster. If stuff cannot be adequately sanitized, scrap it.
  • Get rid of the mold! Then sanitize everything else, scrubbing and disinfecting the flooring, the appliances and kitchens surfaces with detergent. Remember, don't mixing cleaning products because harmful fumes could develop If your appliances done work have them checked out by qualified technicians before trying to salvage them yourself.
  • The outlets will need a licensed electrician to replace all that was submerged in the flood.

Maybe you will be rebuilding

  • Work with a contractor you can trust: That means checking out the review on the contractor. It's not the first person or the lowest quote. Get multiple references and online reviews.
  • Next, make sure they have the experience to do the job.
  • Protect yourself: Don't be fooled by somebody trying to make a quick buck. Make sure the people you choose are reputable, licensed, and bonded.
  • Get recommendations: Ask your insurance agent or your adjuster for recommendations, as well as friends and family.
  • Don't settle for shoddy workmanship or low-quality stuff to replace what you lost. Remember, any costs for temporary materials, etc. should be included in your final settlement - keep all your receipts for what has gone on to repair your home, no matter how small the job.
  • If you are rebuilding, make flood-proofing a priority, like building your "new" house higher up than the zoning requirements or by maybe adding flood openings at the base of your home structure. Also, try and raise your appliances as well - higher than what the possible flood damage could be.

When all is said and done

It can never be underestimated just how dangerous flood water can be and just how much damage they can do - it might not look too bad on the surface but you can never see bacteria and pathogens lurking that can make you sick and let alone the underlying damage that is still to be discovered. Without adequate personal protective equipment and certain safety and health precautions you put yourself at risk, particularly if you try and clean up floodwaters yourself.

Some professionals step in like a friend in need

Flood damage is simply best handled by experienced, qualified professionals like us, the Flood Damage Pros - we have all the knowledge and expertise from A to Z; assisting you with the right equipment to get your home fully dried and sanitized again. Actually, failure to do a proper job will most probably lead to nasty future problems such as rot, mold growth, disintegration, and compromise of the structural integrity. Having professionals assisting you increases your family's comfort. We will guide you and advise you on reducing your utility bills and energy in the future; which means getting efficient equipment and materials for your rebuilding needs. There are heaps of energy-efficient options around today that might not have been widely available years ago.

You may not be able to halt natural disasters in their tracks in the future, but it is possible that you can reduce the risks by following certain safety procedures and of course, getting help from the right guys, the professionals, that's what our name says, Flood Damage Pro. Call us now at 866-869-4167 and we will offer you immediate relief - because safety rules are our best tools.


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What to Do When Your House is Flooded
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