Flood Safety

 Floods can be devastating. But there are many things you can do, both before and during a flood, to increase your chances of survival and possibly minimize your damages.

 Steps to take today:

 Buy flood insurance. Homeowners insurance does not cover damage caused by flooding. You should contact your agent about flood insurance. There is a 30-day waiting period for this policy to become effective, so don’t wait until the water is rising.

Make an itemized list of personal property, that includes furnishings, clothing, and valuables. Photographs of your home (inside and out) will assist your insurance adjuster in settling claims and will help prove uninsured losses, which are tax deductible. Put the list and photos in your safe deposit box at the bank.

Learn the safest route from your home or place of business to high, safe ground if you should have to evacuate in a hurry.

Keep a portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, and flashlights in working order. Also keep extra batteries on hand.

People who live in frequently flooded areas should store materials such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber which can be used to protect property. Remember, sandbags should not be stacked directly against the outer walls of a building, since, when wet, the bags may create added pressure on the foundation.


When the flood comes:


Safety is the most important consideration. Since floodwaters can rise very rapidly, you should be prepared to evacuate before the water level reaches your property.

Keep a battery-powered radio tuned to a local station, and follow all instructions for your area. Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

When outside the house, remember, floods are deceptive. Avoid flooded roads, and don’t attempt to walk through floodwaters.

If, and only if, time permits, turn off all utilities at the main power switch, and close the main gas valve if evacuation is likely.

Do not touch any electrical equipment unless it is in a dry area and you are standing on a piece of dry wood while wearing rubber gloves and rubber-soled boots or shoes. Certainly, don’t log onto your computer!

Move valuable papers, furs, jewelry, clothing, and other contents to upper floors or higher elevations.

Fill bathtubs, sinks, and jugs with clear water in case regular supplies are contaminated. You can sanitize these items by first rinsing them with bleach.

Board up windows or protect them with storm shutters.

Bring outdoor possessions inside the house or tie them down securely.

If it is safe to evacuate by car, you should consider stocking the car with nonperishable foods (like canned goods), a plastic container of water, blankets, first aid kit, flashlights, dry clothing, and any special medication needed by your family. Keep the gas tank at least half full, since gasoline pumps will not be working if the electricity goes off.

Do not drive where the water is over the roads. Parts of the road may already be washed out.

If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it as soon as possible. Floodwaters can rise rapidly and sweep a car (and its occupants) away. Many people have died while trying to move vehicles stalled in floods.

If you’re caught in your home by rising water, move to the second floor and, if necessary, to the roof. Take warm clothing, a flashlight, and a portable radio with you. Then wait for help. Don’t try to swim to safety. Rescue teams will be looking for you.


After the flood:  

If your home, apartment or business has suffered flood damage, immediately call the agent or company handling your flood insurance policy. An adjuster will be assigned to inspect your property as soon as possible.

Before entering a building that has been flooded, check for structural damage. Make sure it is not in danger of collapsing. Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank. If you smell gas, call your utility company immediately.

When you enter the building, do not use an open flame as a source of light, since gas still may be trapped inside. Use a battery-powered flashlight.

Watch for downed electrical wires. Make certain that the main power switch is turned off. Do not turn on any lights or appliances until an electrician has checked the system for short circuits.

Cover broken windows and holes in the roof or walls to prevent further weather damage.

Proceed with immediate clean-up measures to prevent any health hazards. Perishable items pose a health problem and should be listed and photographed before discarding. Throw out fresh foods and medicines that have come in contact with floodwaters.

Water for drinking and food preparation should be used only if the public water system has been declared safe. In an emergency, water may be obtained by draining a hot water tank or melting ice cubes.

Take pictures of the damage to your building and contents. Refrigerators, sofas and other hard goods should be hosed off and kept for the adjuster’s inspection. Use a household cleanser to clean items you’ll be keeping. Any partially damaged items should be dried and aired. The adjuster will make recommendations concerning repair or disposal.

Take all wooden furniture outside to dry, but keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent warping. A garage or carport is a good place for drying. Remove drawers and other moving parts as soon as possible, but do not pry open swollen drawers from the front. Instead, remove the backing and push the drawers out.

Shovel out mud while it is still moist, to give walls and floors a chance to dry. Once plastered walls have dried, brush off loose dirt. Wash with household cleanser and rinse with clean water. Always start at the bottom and work up. Ceilings are done last. Also, special attention must be paid to cleaning out heating ducts and plumbing systems.

Mildew can be removed from dry wood with a solution of one cup liquid chlorine bleach in one gallon of water.

Clean metal at once, then wipe with a kerosene-soaked cloth. A light coat of oil will prevent iron from rusting. Scour all utensils and, if necessary, use fine steel wool on unpolished surfaces. Aluminum may be brightened by scrubbing with a solution of vinegar, cream of tartar and hot water.

Quickly separate all laundry items to avoid running colors. Clothing or household fabrics should be allowed to dry (slowly, away from direct heat) before brushing off loose dirt. Rinse the items in lukewarm water to remove lodged soil. Then wash with mild detergent; rinse and dry in sunlight.

Flooded basements should be drained and cleaned carefully. Structural damage will occur if water is pumped out too quickly. After the floodwaters around your property have subsided, begin draining the basement in stages, about one-third of the water volume each day.

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