Flood preparedness and recovery for homeowners

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Before and after a flood: Homeowners, here’s how to prepare

  1. Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the U.S., and flood events are becoming more widespread.
  2. Learn steps to prepare for a flood, starting with knowing your home’s and community’s flood risk.
  3. Prepare emergency kits for your family and another for your pets.
  4. Turn off gas and electricity before you vacate your home; move items higher and more.
  5. Learn steps to take once floodwaters recede and you return home.

Hurricane Hilary’s hit to California and Nevada was a surprise to many residents – especially the flood waters. And Hurricane Idalia’s hit to Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas was worse than predicted. Yes, we’re being reactionary with this blogpost, but it’s still a good time to post on flood preparedness and recovery.

Flooding is the most common disaster in the U.S., says Zurich, and with climate change, flooding is becoming even more widespread. But homeowners, there’s a lot you can do to prevent damage with flood preparedness and recovery.

Related:  How to prepare for an emergency before it happens


How to Prepare Before a Flood

  • Know your home and community’s flood risk. Visit the FEMA Flood Map Service Center and search for your home using your address.
  • Typically, your homeowners policy does not cover flooding. Consider purchasing a separate flood policy. Get information at www.FloodSmart.gov.
  • Collect important documents, records and valuable items and to move them to a safe place.
  • Take photographs of valuable items for insurance records. If you have receipts, move them to a safe place as well.
  • Move any valuable items at least 4 feet from the floor.
  • Unplug all unnecessary electrical items; if forced to evacuate, turn off your electricity and gas.


Live in a flood-prone area? Here’s how to prepare in advance

Related: How to prevent flood damage from natural events


Protecting Your Family

Talk with your family about what to do if a flood watch or warning is issued. Discussing floods ahead of time helps reduce fear, especially for younger children.

One of the first steps in flood preparedness and recovery is to determine if you’re located in a floodplain, which is considered a Special Flood Hazard Area. If so, you are eligible for flood insurance. Check with your city or county government (start with the Building or Planning Department) to review the Flood Insurance Rate Maps, published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).


Protecting Your Pets & Animals

  • Prepare a pet emergency kit for your companion animals.
  • Most American Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety concerns and other considerations. However, service animals that assist people with disabilities ARE allowed in Red Cross shelters.
  • Know which friends, relatives, boarding facilities, animal shelters or veterinarians can care for your animals in an emergency. Prepare a list with phone numbers.
  • Make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are current and that all dogs and cats are wearing collars with securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Many pet shelters require proof of current vaccinations to reduce the spread of disease.
  • Ensure that any outbuildings, pastures, or corrals are protected in the same way as your home.
  • Consider a precautionary evacuation of your animals, especially any large or numerous animals. Waiting until the last minute could be fatal for them and dangerous for you.
  • Where possible, move livestock to higher ground. If using a horse or other trailer to evacuate your animals, move sooner rather than later.
Related: How to prepare your home for a hurricane [infographic]


Protecting Your Home

  • If you live in a floodplain, check with a professional to:
    • Raise your furnace, water heater, and electric panel to floors that are less likely to be flooded. An undamaged water heater may be your best source of fresh water after a flood.
    • Install check valves in plumbing to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home. (As a last resort, when floods threaten, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins.)
    • Construct barriers such as levees, berms, and flood walls to stop floodwater from entering the building (if permitted by local building codes).
    • Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage through cracks. Move basement equipment and stored items to a higher level.
  • Use sandbags when flooding is expected:
    • Prepare early. It takes two people about an hour to fill and place 100 sandbags, creating a wall one foot high and 20 feet long.
    • Ensure you have enough sand, burlap or plastic bags, shovels, strong helpers and time to place them properly.
    • If a flood is expected, some communities offer free sandbags to residents. Watch or listen to the news so you can access these resources.
  • Drain pools at least 8-10 inches so pool water doesn’t increase your floodwaters.

 Keep abreast of the latest news and forecasts for flooding in your area. Yes, the forecasts are sometimes wrong, but it pays to be safe rather than sorry by taking steps towards flood preparedness and recovery.


What to do when floodwaters recede

  • Don’t return home until officials say it’s safe to do so.
  • Severely damaged areas of your home should be reviewed by a structural engineer. Electrocution is a risk from downed power lines, so treat them as live until a utility provider confirms they are de-energized. Do not reconnect electric or gas until your utility provider has cleared you to do so.
  • Power and other utilities should not be restored until after inspection by qualified personnel. After getting safety assurances, have electricity and gas services restored.
  • Watch out for snakes and other wildlife that may have taken refuge in higher parts of your home.
  • Take photos to document damage to your flood insurer.
  • Before entering your home, don protective gear and take along drinking water, disinfecting supplies, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher.
  • Move ruined, moisture-soaked objects outside, away from exterior walls to facilitate the drying out. Dispose of damaged material, which is also most likely to be contaminated, according to local regulations. Restore air conditioning systems or rent or purchase blowers and dehumidifiers to assist in the drying out and to mitigate mold. Do not use extension cords in wet areas.

Next week we’ll cover flood preparations and precautions for commercial entities.

Related: Protecting your home after a hurricane or major storm