After a flood, your home and its contents may look beyond hope, but many of your belongings can be restored. If you do things right, your flooded home can be cleaned up, dried out, rebuilt, and reoccupied sooner than you think. This article provides a series of actions for you to follow in the event of a flood impacting your home.
1. Keep the family together. Before anything else, ensure that everyone is safe and in the same place or at least somewhere you know they're safe. In bad times, togetherness is more important than ever for providing mutual support for all family members.
2. Deal with any health issues impacting your family. It's important to deal with health impacts such as protecting against waterborne diseases, stress, and fatigue.
• Take care of emotional health. Discuss what is happening, talk together and share your anxieties. Let others talk to you to help release tension. Allow space for releasing emotions
• Ensure that everyone is getting enough sleep. Fatigue can bring on other health problems as well as reducing energy levels.
• Eat well. You are more likely to suffer from stress and health problems when you are weak and nutritionally impoverished.
3. Stay healthy. Prevent the flood waters from causing further damage to your family's health by keeping good hygiene as much as possible.
• Wash your hands with soap and water, thoroughly and often.
• Confirm that the water is clean and safe.
• Be safe around poisons. Many of the products you'll use to clean, disinfect, and repair your home are poisons. Keep them out of the reach of children and wear appropriate covering to protect yourself.
• Take care not to hurt yourself. Injuries, especially back injuries, are a common side effect of cleaning up after a flood. Be conscious that infections are everywhere.
• Infants, pregnant women, and people with health problems should avoid the flooded area until cleanup is complete.
4. Take care of your children's specific needs. Watch your children closely. You can expect to see them display fear or symptoms of stress.
• Make an effort to re-establish normal family routines as quickly as possible, including schooling.
• Listen to what children say. Encourage them to talk or otherwise express their feelings.
• Explain the disaster factually. Knowing the facts can help children deal better with the disaster.
• Reassure children. Show them through words and actions that life will return to normal.
• Be understanding. Remember, they are also going through a rough time too. Be aware too that some children have heightened sensitivities to the emotions of adults around them and will react accordingly.
5. Set a manageable schedule to start rebuilding. Getting active as soon as possible can help restore a sense of coping and well-being. Make a list and do jobs one at a time. Establish a schedule to clean up and rebuild. See the later sections of this article for more details.
• As part of your plans, be sure to include flood-proofing. People who are prepared ahead of time are better able to deal with disasters. Getting ready for the next flood can give you a sense of control over the future.
6. Seek help. Special outreach programs and crisis counseling are often set up following a disaster because so many people need help to cope with their situation.
7. Be patient. Above all, try to be patient with your family, your neighbors, the local, state, and federal authorities, and volunteer agency personnel.
8. Check your home before entering it again. Once it's safe to go back in, you'll be able to start protecting your home and contents from further damage. Things to check before entering include:
• If there is standing water next to the outside walls of your home, don’t go in. You won’t be able to tell if the building is safe or structurally sound.
• Walk carefully around the outside of your home and check for loose power lines and gas leaks. If you find downed lines or leaks, call your utility company and don't enter until they've checked.
• Check the foundation for cracks or other damage. Examine porch roofs and overhangs to be sure they still have all their supports. If any supports or portions of the foundation wall are missing or the ground has washed away, the floor is not safe.
• If you have any doubts about safety, contact a contractor before going in. Proceed very carefully.
9. Go inside carefully. If the door sticks and has to be forced open, it has probably swollen. If it only sticks at the bottom, it can be forced open. If it sticks at the top, your ceiling may be ready to fall.
• Once inside do not smoke or use candles, gas lanterns, or other open flames.
• Air out your home completely—there may be explosive gas. This also ensures that moisture is given a chance to start drying out. Open doors and windows if the weather permits.
10. Dry out your home
Flood waters damage materials, leave mud, silt and unknown contaminants, and promote the growth of mildew. You need to dry your home to reduce these hazards and the damage they cause.
11. Reduce the humidity in your home. Everything will dry more quickly and clean more easily if you can reduce the humidity in the home. If the humidity outside is lower than indoors, and if the weather permits, open all the doors and windows.
• Open closet and cabinet doors, and remove drawers to allow air circulation.
• Use fans to help move the air and dry out your home. Do not use central air conditioning or the furnace blower if the ducts were under water.
• Desiccants (materials that absorb moisture) are very useful in drying closets or other enclosed areas where air cannot move through.
12. Sort contents and discard debris.
• Move items you want to save to a safe, dry place, such as the second story, or outside.
• Put things you don’t want to save outside to dry until the adjuster comes to confirm your losses.
• Get rid of food and anything else that could spoil or go bad immediately.13. Give your house plenty of time to dry. Many problems result from rebuilding too quickly after a flood, before everything dries.