Before a Flood
One of the most important things you can do to protect your home, particularly if the area in which you live is prone to flooding, is to purchase adequate flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) guarantees coverage and is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Don’t wait until a flood is imminent to purchase flood insurance.
FEMA also suggests that you move appliances or anything of value out of the basement if you live in a flood-prone area and install electric service entrance panels and utility meters above anticipated flood levels.
If a flood is anticipated but the flood waters have not yet arrived, turn off utilities at the main power switch and shut off the main gas valve (if evacuation seems likely). Fill bathtubs, sinks, and other containers with clean, fresh water. Secure outdoor furniture, grills, trash cans, or other possessions with rope, or bring them inside. Move all furniture and personal belongings to upper floors if time permits.
During a Flood
Family safety is more important than material possessions. Go to the second floor, attic, or even the roof if water begins to rise inside the house. If water is rising, leave personal possessions behind, tak¬ing only protective clothing, a portable radio, and a working flashlight. Remain at the highest point in your home until help arrives. Do not try to wade, drive, or swim through water.
After a Flood
FEMA recommends taking the following safety precautions if your home has been affected by flood waters:
– Do not turn utilities back on until your home has been inspected by an electrician and the appropriate utilities service personnel.
– Use a flashlight rather than matches, lighters, or open flames to provide light.
– Do not use water from the pipes until local authorities instruct you that it is safe to do so.
– Use caution when walking around in flood-damaged interiors since water, silt, and debris can make movement dangerous.
– Clean flood damage as soon as possible since flood waters can contaminate surfaces, furniture, and any standing food or water.
– Remove contaminated material and reduce moisture and humidity in the home immediately after the flood waters have receded.
– Have wiring, electrical equipment, and appliances tested for damage before use.
– Call the insurance company that issued your flood insurance policy to report damage.
The National Safety Council contends that flood water can create an indoor air-quality problem by encouraging micro-organisms to breed. The NSC makes the following recommendations for controlling excess moisture in the home:
– Open doors and windows, closets, and cabinets to circulate air.
– Use fans to circulate air (if electricity is safely back on).
– Have air conditioners checked before use if they were submerged in flood waters, and then turn on.
– Use dehumidifiers.
– Consider hiring a contractor who specializes in moisture control if water damage was extensive.