Even if you don’t live in an area that’s particularly rainy, a house flood is not out of the realm of possibility. There are a number of unpleasant situations that can cause water to spill inside your home, including a burst pipe, an overflowing toilet, or problems with your washing machine—as if you needed one more possible disaster in your home to stress out about!
While it doesn’t help to worry about things you can’t control, you can be aware of the actions you should take if you do find yourself in a messy—and potentially toxic—situation like this. We certainly hope you never experience a flood in your home, but if you do, these are the steps you should take to protect it.
1. Put on protective gear
The water floating around your house is a lot different from the water you use in your sink or tub—it’s not sanitary, and the contents are unknown.
“Floodwaters can contain harmful bacteria, fecal matter, and even snakes or other critters,” says Audrey Monell of Forrest Anderson Plumbing and AC, in Phoenix.
Wear gloves, masks, and even waterproof boots to protect your skin.
2. Document the flood damage
Obviously, you want to start getting water out of your home as soon as possible. But even before that, you’ll want to document the flood damage.
“If you’re planning on making an insurance claim, you’re going to need extensive documentation of the damage to your home and your belongings,” says Craig Ricks Jr., president of Acadian Windows & Siding, a residential construction company in Kenner, LA.
Before you start trying to clean up, take photographs or video footage of your home to document the home’s condition.
“This will help your claims adjuster with the necessary documentation and investigation of your claim,” says Stefan Tirschler, product and underwriting manager at Square One Insurance Services.
However, don’t enter the home if it’s not safe. Your personal safety should be your top priority.
3. Remove the water and increase the airflow
Depending on the extent of the water damage, you’ll probably need to contact a flood restoration company to handle the cleanup.
“If gray or black water [from sinks and sewers] was involved in the flood, avoid coming into contact with the water,” warns Tirschler.
A professional restoration company will have the appropriate equipment—and the expertise—to safely clean up contaminated water.
In the meantime, though, there are certain actions you can take to help salvage your house. For example, you can use a wet-dry vac to remove water.
It’s also important to keep humidity levels low, so after you’ve cleaned up any mess, open the windows and dry out your house using fans, dehumidifiers, and desiccants. This will help prevent moisture from causing lasting damage to your home.
4. Be aware of electrical components
If the home is flooded and the electricity is active, there’s a chance that you could be electrocuted. Don’t turn on the lights or touch anything that uses electricity until you are sure the power is off.
“To avoid electric shock, make sure the electrical breaker is off before electronics and appliances are moved or unplugged,” says Raymond Plante, vice president of account services for Rainbow International, a water damage, fire damage, and mold restoration company.
5. Call your insurance provider
To open the insurance claim, you’ll need to contact your provider.
“The insurance adjuster assigned to your claim will help you to quantify the damage to your home, confirm that it is covered, and help you identify contractors to repair the damage,” says Tirschler.
Also, if you had to pay any emergency expenses to get the flood under control—for example, paying a plumber to shut down your water supply—keep your receipts.
“Your home insurance provider will generally help cover emergency mitigation expenses as part of your overall claim,” Tirschler says.
As you know, all insurance policies are not the same, so don’t assume yours covers flooding.
“Some may include coverage by default, while others may have upgraded flood coverage available as an optional endorsement,” Tirschler says.