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Checklist: What to Do After a Flood

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Central and southern Ohio can experience devastating floods. Earlier this year, record-setting rainfall caused flash flooding in Columbus and overflowing rivers in Dayton and Cincinnati. People were evacuated throughout the Miami Valley region, and property damage was widespread.

Despite your best efforts to prevent flood damage, you may still find yourself faced with water in your home.

As building professionals, we know that your immediate response to a flood could determine the level of property damage you could have. This checklist breaks down the most important steps to take to protect your home after a flood.

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1. Only Go Home After It’s Safe

Water can be unpredictable during a flood, rising quickly, washing out bridges, and creating hazards from utility lines or gas tanks.

Even when you’re anxious to see the state of your home, it’s important to return home only when it’s safe to do so. Listen to the authorities about what you should do and where you should go.

2. Prepare for the Shock, Destruction, and Unpleasant Surprises

Receding floodwaters usually leave behind a devastating mess. Mentally prepare yourself for the shock of seeing the state of your home and its belongings.

Also, prepare yourself to encounter unpleasant surprises. A flood can have many auxiliary effects including attracting pests or animals to your home or causing sewage to flow backward through your plumbing.

3. Deal With Utility Issues First

Each flood is different, and the force and volume of water have the potential to cause a dangerous gas problem. Even a small failure in your gas system or appliances can lead to an explosion.

The hazard potential of utilities means this should be your first concern after returning home. Don’t try to troubleshoot issues yourself. Instead, immediately call the proper utility representatives.

4. Don’t Enter a Flooded House If the Electricity Is Connected

Remember that water conducts electricity. You could get electrocuted from floodwaters if they’re in contact with an electrical source like a live wire.

Even if there’s no power at your home, you still can’t assume there won’t be electrical current flowing into floodwaters. A brown-out situation could mean there’s low-level or variable power still running through the lines. Even if there’s a complete power outage, a homeowner who hooked up a generator incorrectly could be accidentally back-feeding electricity into the lines.

The only way to be certain there’s no electric current entering your house is to have the electric meter box removed by a professional electrician or your electric company.

5. Stop the Ongoing Flow of Floodwaters

After it’s safe to do so, assess the water problems in your house and identify which areas were hardest hit. Immediately address any ongoing flooding. For example, if there is water still seeping through a foundation crack or a broken pipe, solve that first. Any flooding you’re able to stop now is less cleanup you’ll face later.

6. Get the Water out of Your House

When it comes to standing water, how quickly you respond can determine the amount of property damage. For example, the longer you have a flooded basement, the more water that will be absorbed into your joists, beams, drywall, or other permeable surfaces.

Plus, mold can start growing on damp surfaces within 24 to 48 hours, so it’s important to quickly dry out your home so you can avoid mold growth.

A sump pump can do the bulk of the work for you, removing more than 2,000 gallons of water per hour. If it has a backup battery, it can keep pumping water when the power is off.

7. Disinfect and Dehumidify

Disinfect any surface that’s been in contact with floodwaters. The risk of local contamination is high, and the CDC cautions that contaminated floodwater can cause GI illnesses, rashes or other health problems. You also want to stop the incubation of mold spores before they start to grow.

Simultaneously, the dehumidification process will reduce the moisture in the air and start to draw out the moisture from saturated surfaces.

Remember that even if only the basement or crawl space is flooded, any dampness at the ground level can affect the rest of your home as air circulates. Dehumidifying your lower level may help you avoid additional problems in the upper stories of your home.

8. Look for Structural Problems

Identify what structural problems the water damage could have caused, and consider both immediate effects and potential long-term issues.

Look for damaged walls, sagging floors, warped boards, cracked concrete, or foundation damage. Also, look for damage to household infrastructure such as a furnace or HVAC unit.

Consider ways you can complete the necessary repairs while simultaneously protecting your home from another flood event. For example, as you’re implementing a drainage solution to pull existing floodwaters away from your foundation, you could also be doing the legwork for a more permanent flood mitigation plan.

A smart cleanup process involves thinking ahead, and your basement waterproofing and foundation repair experts can help. Ohio Basement Authority offers free inspections and estimates for homes throughout central and southern Ohio so you can learn the best solutions to protect your home from a flood. 

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