Four Critical Tips for Cleaning Up after a Flood Strikes
The value of knowing how to respond to an emergency has never been so clear, with one of the worst hurricane seasons ever behind us. Educating yourself on what to do in a flood, therefore, is one of the key disaster preparedness issues. Here are some valuable tips homeowners should be aware of when cleaning up damage left behind by a flood.
Don’t Go Near the Water: Floodwaters can be some of the most contaminated water you will ever come in contact with. Seek medical attention right away if you or a family member has been exposed to flood waters for any length of time. Topical floodwater contact could lead to serious infections. If you believe you or anyone else has drunk floodwater, seek medical care at your local hospital or clinic as soon as possible, as the dangers of infection are even worse.
Tread Lightly: Stay out of any buildings or structures that still have floodwaters encircling them. Don’t underestimate structural damage floodwaters can cause. A structure’s foundation can be significantly weakened by floodwaters in relatively short periods of time, especially in older structures. Foundations can sink and become unstable, causing cracks and gaps in the flooring, even a house’ total collapse without warning. An apparently sound structure may also have suffered gas leaks, electrical damage, or water line damage, so you should steer clear of such buildings until local officials have declared them safe .
Wait Until the All-Clear: Just because the rain has stopped and the floodwater seems to be withdrawing, doesn’t mean its safe to go home and start cleaning up. Of course you’ll be anxious to find out what damage if any has been done to your property, but sometimes, floodwater damage creates many a hazard that requires professional clean up before the area is cleared as safe to local area residents. Keep watching for information on the weather if you have access to local radio or television stations, which will inform you of any threat from incoming storms, or other floodwater-related dangers in your area.
Handle with Care: You should inspect flood-damaged buildings cautiously once local officials have judged the area safe. Start with examining your house carefully. Tread carefully; flood damage can weaken structures. Do not smoke inside the building. (gas leak hazard) Bring battery-operated flashlights or lanterns as electricity may be cut off. Study the floors, walls, doors, staircases, and windows closely to make sure the house is not in danger of collapsing, using the flashlight to look at the foundation for cracks or other signs of damage.
After you’ve examined the structural integrity of the building, check for damage to the utility systems. Find and note down damage to the building’s gas, electrical, and sewage system. Check for gas leaks by listening for a small hissing noise and smelling the gas in the air. If you suspect a gas leak, shut off the main valve immediately and contact the gas company.
Scrutinize the building’s electrical system. Any broken, frayed, or loose wires are spots for worry. If you see any sparks or smell any burning, immediately turn off the electricity at the circuit breaker or fuse box.
You will also need to check out your home’s sewage system. Avoid using the toilet and call a plumber if you believe the sewage lines have been damaged. If fresh water pipes have also been damaged, call your water company and don’t drink water from the tap.