What to do Before and After a Flood

What to do Before and After a Flood By Scott Patrick Humphrey

Climate change is a reality that is affecting many of the eco-systems all around the planet, and weather patterns have had considerable changes over the past decade due to the increases moisture in the atmosphere.  Thanks to global corporate pollution we have had a massive spike in temperatures as well as a drastic increase in the loss on the Antarctic ice sheet.  The effect has caused massive damages to communities all around the country, and we need to stay prepared for more in the future.

As summer approaches, one might be tempted into passivity by the unfurling of lawn chairs, the cracking open of beer bottles and the hum of air conditioning units, but the coming of summer also signals a real need for preparedness as for much of the country it signifies the start of hurricane season. Beginning around the 1st of June, hurricane season can wreak havoc on coastal cities and homeowners alike. However, the real danger of hurricanes lies not as much with the strong winds or rock-solid hail, but rather with the flooding that it causes.

Whereas broken windows and fallen trees can be repaired with effort, flooding can be much more complicated to tackle, often requiring the need to “wait it out” before even the most rudimentary repairs can begin. But there are several steps that can be taken to prepare yourself and your home for flooding in the event that a hurricane or flood strikes your home this summer.

Before the Storm

If you live in an area that is vulnerable to hurricanes or flash floods, there are several steps you can take to prepare yourself and your home for the inevitable, but the first step that should be taken is looking into insurance coverage. Though it will undoubtedly raise the price of insurance - especially in known hurricane hotspots such as Florida - the peace of mind that comes with flood insurance will be worth the price alone. And if you already have flood insurance, do a little research to make sure it’s a comprehensive plan. Not all insurance plans are made equal, and there could be loopholes sewn in. For instance, keep an eye out for response time, as some insurance companies take longer than others to process claims - and the longer the processing time, the harder it will be to return to life as usual.

There are also other changes that are even simpler to implement than splurging for an insurance plan. Basic steps can be taken such as ensuring that drainage pipes are clear or that flood drains are free of debris. Further, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends elevating flood-sensitive parts of your home, such as water heaters and electric panels, that could cause further damage (or dangers) if exposed to flood waters, and of course having a gas powered generator if the electric goes out.

Additionally, there are many products for sale that allow a homeowner to waterproof their basement to prevent seepage or flooding, and basements can be especially vulnerable due to their location below ground level.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure your home is stocked up on emergency supplies. Some supplies include batteries, first-aid kits, and a map of the area, radio, cell phone batteries, fresh water and canned food. Though some stores sell pre-made emergency kits, the Red Cross has a full pamphlet dedicated to helping homeowners prepare supplies for just such an emergency, and there are certain supplies that one can’t find in a store-bought kit - such as a backup pair of prescription glasses.

Post-Flooding

Once flooding has begun, it’s critical to exercise the utmost caution. Listen to the radio for emergency updates, and stay clear of roads if possible. If forced to travel, don’t attempt to drive or walk through flood waters, as water as shallow as 6 inches could still be enough to knock an adult from their feet. There can also be other unseen dangers, such as an electric current caused by a downed electric-pole.

After the immediate danger of a flood has passed, it is still important to be on alert as there can be a host of residual dangers. Before entering your home, make sure that your floorboards are strong enough to support you, check for downed areas of the home, and be on the lookout for wild animals or snakes that may have infiltrated your home during the flood.

If you have deemed the home safe to reenter, that is when the real repair work can begin, and always turn off all gas and electricity before starting work. In any community there are several companies that will offer water-pumping services to help remove any remaining water or you can purchase a sump pump.

Start by cataloging the damage for the insurance company. As one goes through the home, they should keep a camera with them and take pictures of any damage. Hire a professional to analyze your home to determine if there has been any critical structural damage that might require serious renovations, and invest in waterproofing as renovations are performed to minimize the possibility of suffering similar damage in the future.

Picture Credit Salvation Army)

But most critically is to safeguard one’s own mental and physical wellbeing during the process. Take rests and seek the help and comfort of family or friends. Talk to neighbors who have experienced similar flooding and ask them how they are handling the flood damage and exchange tips. Odds are that if your home is damaged, there will be several other neighbors in the same boat, and sticking together could make the difference between a full recovery and desperation.

Fortunately, flooding is nothing new and there is an increased awareness in recent years following several high-profile disasters - most notably the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. This has contributed to a rise in the number of options available to a flood victim, and the preparedness of outside organizations like FEMA or Red Cross to help you get back on your feet and your life on track.

BIO: Scott is a freelance writer on a variety of topics including emergency relief.  When he is not writing he is hiking in the mountains of upstate New York.

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