After the storm: Important steps to protect your home following flood damage
If a flood has occurred in your local area, there are several steps you can take to begin a safe and effective recovery.
Did you know that floods are the most frequent and costly disaster in Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (KEEC)? Anywhere it rains, it can flood. Flooding can affect anyone, even those outside of a high-risk zone, and sometimes rapidly rising water from heavy rains forces residents to leave their homes behind as they head for the safety of higher ground.
If a flood has occurred in your area, there are several steps you can take to begin a safe and effective recovery of your home and possessions. Read on for helpful information regarding what to do when returning to a flooded property to assess the damage:
- Make sure it’s safe to return.
If you have evacuated your home, don’t assume you can go back to your property as soon as the rain stops. Follow guidance issued by local officials so you know when it is safe to return to a flooded area.
Once you get the “all clear,” do a peripheral check for safety by assessing the outside of the home or structure for signs of broken or damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, or missing support beams. Damage on the outside can indicate a serious problem inside! Also, be aware of the warning signs for a gas leak. If you smell natural or propane gas or hear a hissing noise, exit the property immediately and call the gas company or fire department as soon as possible. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that if you have standing water in your home and can turn off the main power from a dry location, then turn off the power. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off.
When entering your home, if the door is stuck, do not force it open – it may be providing support to the rest of the structure. Find another, safer way to get inside. Beware of snakes, insects, and other unexpected visitors that may have moved in while you were away. And if power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water. Report downed lines to the power company immediately.
- Assess the damage and make emergency repairs to your home.
The KEEC recommends you start by covering obvious holes, reinforcing sagging floors, ceilings, or roof sections, and check for broken or leaking pipes. The Red Cross also warns that if the floor is sagging, you should NOT walk on it! Small sections that are sagging can be bridged with thick boards that extend at least 8-12 inches on each side of the sagging area. Make sure to save all receipts from emergency repairs to provide to your insurance adjuster.
Minimize the chances of mold growth as much as possible, as flood insurance will not cover mold damage if the policyholder fails to take preventative steps following exposure to floods, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Mold can form within 24-48 hours of the flood, so you will need to work quickly! If you do encounter mold, use protective gear such as gloves, goggles, and a face mask. For a handy guide on mold removal following a disaster, courtesy of the CDC, click here.
- Report your loss ASAP.
Homeowners and renters policies written through most insurance providers across the U.S. (including Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance) do not protect against flood damage. A majority of flood insurance nationwide is written through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is administered by FEMA.
If you are a KFB member who has flood insurance, there are several options for reporting the loss:
- Call your Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance agent who can either file the claim for you or talk you through next steps.
- Report it yourself by using this online tool.
- You can also report claims by calling the Southern Farm Bureau Flood Department at 1-800-647-8052. The hours of operation are Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. CST.
- Document your damage.
Make a thorough list of damages to your home and its contents, including details such as item descriptions, brands, models, and serial numbers. Before you discard anything, take plenty of photos and videos so that you have accurate documentation of damage. Be sure to save all your receipts for any interim repairs you have made; your insurance adjuster may want to see these for reimbursement.
- Begin the recovery process.
Flood waters often contain hazardous chemicals, sewage, and other contaminants, so you will want to use personal protective equipment during the clean-up process.
The CDC recommends cleaning and drying your home quickly after the flood ends – within 24 to 48 hours if possible. Begin drying out your home by opening doors, windows, closets, and cabinets. You can aid this process by running fans and dehumidifiers.
If you are dealing with a flooded basement, the Red Cross recommends that you pump it out gradually (about one-third of the water per day). If you pump the water out too quickly, pressure from water-logged soil on the outside of your home could cause your basement walls to collapse.
- When in doubt, throw it out.
You will need to either properly clean or discard all items that have been touched by floodwater. If an item absorbs water and cannot be properly cleaned or disinfected, the CDC advises throwing it out (this includes carpeting, cosmetics, mattresses, baby toys, food, bottled water, etc.). Click here for instructions from the CDC on how to safely and effectively clean up following a flood.
>> Prepare ahead of time! Don’t wait to purchase insurance until a flood occurs. Flood insurance policies generally have a 30-day waiting period until they take effect. Your Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance agent can offer NFIP flood insurance through Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance CompanyTM. Click here to begin the easy quote process, or you can contact your local agent today to learn more about how we can help protect you with an affordable flood insurance plan.