Cleaning Up Your Home After A Flood: The Do’s And Dont’s
You have experienced the horrifying sounds of heavy rain on your roof, winds howling and banging against your home, all before needing to eventually evacuate. Once the storm backs off, you are left with the stress of dealing with a flooded home and like most people, you don’t know where to start.
Safety, as always, should be at the top of your to-do list. It is vitally important you avoid any additional risks before entering your damaged property by checking for structural damage, cracks in the foundation and make sure you shut off your gas and electricity. Contact your service providers for help if you’re not sure how to do this on your own. You can never be certain of the structural integrity of your home following a natural disaster without investigating it first.
Make your health a priority
Flood waters contain all sorts of unsanitary items posing various risks including infectious diseases, chemical hazards, and injuries. Exposure to contaminated flood water is linked to health issues such as intestinal problems, upset stomach, headache and flu symptoms. According to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), most cases of sickness associated with flood conditions are brought about by ingesting contaminated food or water.
Before you come in contact with anything, wear gloves and clothing you don’t mind throwing away.
Shovel any debris and mud out of the house.
An effective way to kill germs and prevent mold and mildew is by adding ¼ cup of chlorine bleach to a gallon of water.
Open windows and doors while fans are on to allow air circulation.
Use a dehumidifier to help remove moisture.
There are some items that are very absorbent like mattresses, and stuffed animals that will need to be thrown out if they have been contaminated with floodwater.
Photos are some of our most prized possessions, and luckily they may be saved. Carefully rinse off any debris, dry it off and place in a plastic freezer bag to prevent mildew or discoloration.
Place and secure a tarp over any roof damage.
Documentation is key
Now that you’re inside your home, it’s important that you fully document any damage you come across before removing your belongings out of the water. Take photos and record videos of your belongings in the state you found them in for your insurer. If structural damage is present, document it as well.
Contact your insurance company
Get in contact with your insurance agent as soon as possible. If your policy includes flood insurance, your agent will help you make a claim and you will be contacted by an adjuster. If your agent is not available, call your insurance company right away and report your claim immediately to have an adjuster come out to your home. Some insurance companies will allow you to file a claim online. Look online to see if there is an e-mail address where claims can be made; this may be the quickest way for reporting your claim. Keep following up until you are assigned a claim number.
Send any photos and videos to your insurance company. Make sure you are documenting any contact made with your insurance company including what was discussed at every stage of the process, the date and time of your calls, and the person who you spoke with.
Don’t sign anything just yet
By signing a Proof of Loss, you are giving your word that the information is true and correct. When an insurance adjuster provides you with this document, don’t sign the proof of loss attesting to damages if you disagree with the amount of damage found by the insurance company’s adjuster, or the amount of money your insurance company is offering you for the damages. Do collect estimates to replace or repair your property from a contractor to compare with the amount the insurance company said they would pay.
Are you in a disaster area?
You may be in a disaster area which means property owners have access to increased resources and may have access to financial assistance. You may contact FEMA directly for further information.
Federal insurance programs for flood victims
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) controls most policies for homeowners and businesses who have flood insurance. There are very specific rules administered by NFIP for making flood claims.
You must file your Proof of Loss statement with your insurance company within the standard deadline or within any extension of that deadline made in writing by the Associate Administrator for Federal Insurance and Mitigation. Before the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or insurance company issues any payment, a proof of loss will need to be filed with your insurance company if you have a Standard Flood Insurance Policy.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
You will need a flood attorney to take the burden of fighting insurance companies, and we are ready to do just that here at The Carlson Law Firm. Contact us today, we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We care, we can help.
- Written by Adriana Torres