Repairing Your Flooded
FEMA P-234 / October 2010
Do not walk through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Most drownings occur
during flash floods. Six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. Use a pole or stick to make sure that
the ground is still there before you go through an area where the water is not flowing.
Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Don’t drive around
road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out.
Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Electrocution is also a major killer in floods. Electrical cur-
rents can travel through water. Report downed power lines to your utility company or local emergency manager.
Turn off your electricity when you return home. Follow the instructions in Step 2 on page 4. Some appliances,
such as television sets, can shock you even after they have been unplugged. Don’t use appliances or motors that
have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.
Watch for animals, especially snakes. Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter
in yours. Use a pole or stick to seek, poke, and turn items over and scare away small animals.
Look before you step. After a food, the ground and floors are covered with debris, including broken bottles and
nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can be very slippery.
Be alert for gas leaks. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don’t smoke or use candles, lanterns, or open flames
unless you are sure that the gas has been turned off and the area has been aired out. Carbon monoxide exhaust
kills. Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machine outdoors. The same goes for camping stoves. Fumes from
charcoal are especially deadly; only cook with charcoal outdoors.
Clean everything that got wet. Floodwaters pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories, and stor-
age buildings. Spoiled food and flooded cosmetics and medicines are health hazards. When in doubt, throw them
Take good care of yourself. Recovering from a flood is a big job. it is tough on both the body and the spirit. And
the effects a disaster has on you and your family may last a long time. Read Step 1 on page 1 on how to recognize
and care for anxiety, stress, and fatigue.
Issued in furtherance of the International Decade
for Natural Disaster Reduction
Repairing Your Flooded Home
Flood Safety Precautions .............................................. Inside Front Cover
Step 1. Take Care of Yourself First ..................................................................1
Protect yourself and your family from anxiety, stress, and fatigue, as well as
health hazards that follow a flood.
Step 2. Give Your Home First Aid ..................................................................4
Once it is safe to go back in, protect your home and contents from further
Step 3. Get Organized .................................................................................11
Some things are not worth repairing and some things may be too complicated
or expensive for you to do by yourself. A recovery plan can take these things
into account and help you make the most of your time and money.
Step 4. Dry Out Your Home ........................................................................14
Floodwaters damage materials; leave mud, silt, and unknown contaminants;
and promote the growth of mildew. You need to dry your home to reduce these
hazards and the damage they cause.
Step 5. Restore Your Utilities ........................................................................20
The rest of your work will be much easier if you have heat, electricity, clean
water, and sewage disposal.
Step 6. Cleanup ..........................................................................................24
The walls, floors, closets, shelves, contents, and any other flooded parts of your
home should be thoroughly washed and disinfected.
Step 7. Check on Financial Assistance ...........................................................28
Voluntary agencies, businesses, insurance, and government disaster programs
can help you through recovery.
Step 8. Rebuild and Floodproof ....................................................................32
Take your time to rebuild correctly and make improvements that will protect
your home from damage by the next flood.
Step 9. Prepare for the Next Flood ................................................................40
Protect yourself from the next flood with flood insurance, a flood response plan,
and community flood protection programs. This step also includes sources to
contact for additional assistance.
Important Phone Numbers ............................................ Inside Back Cover
Repairing Your Flooded Home
About This Book
This information is published by the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross (ARC) to help flooded property
owners. It is designed to be easily copied. Permission to reproduce all or any
section of this material is hereby granted and encouraged.
Copies of this book are available from your local Red Cross chapter or by
FEMA Distribution Center
4440 Buckeystown Pike
Frederick, MD 21704
Copies of this book are also available by calling: 1-800-480-2520.
Repairing Your Flooded Home
Following a Flood
This book gives step-by-step 2. Ask for help. Many people can
advice you can use to clean up, re- do a lot of the cleanup and re-
build, and get help after a flood. Be- pairs discussed in this book. But
fore you start, read the flood safety if you have technical questions
precautions on the inside front cover or do not feel comfortable doing
of this document and review the something, get professional help.
nine steps that are summarized in If there is a federal disaster decla-
the Table of Contents. ration, a telephone “hotline” will
Your home and its contents may often be publicized to provide in-
look beyond hope, but many of formation about public, private,
your belongings can be restored. If and voluntary agency programs
you do things right, your flooded to help you recover from the
home can be cleaned up, dried out, flood. Government disaster pro-
rebuilt, and reoccupied sooner than grams are there to help you, the
you think. While you are doing the taxpayer. You’re paying for them;
job ahead, you should remember check them out.
these three important points: 3. Floodproof. It is very likely that
1. Play it safe. The dangers are not your home will be flooded again
over when the water goes down. someday. Floodproofing means
Read the flood safety precautions using materials and practices
on the inside front cover of this that will prevent or minimize
document. Your home’s founda- flood damage in the future.
tion may have been weakened, Many floodproofing techniques
the electrical system may have are inexpensive or can be easily
shorted out, and floodwaters may incorporated into your rebuild-
have left behind things that could ing program. You can save a lot
make you sick. Many flooded of money by floodproofing as
items, such as wallboard and you repair and rebuild (see Step
mattresses, will hold mud and 8). You should also prepare for
contamination forever. When in the next flood by buying flood
doubt, throw it out. Don’t risk insurance and preparing a flood
injury or infection. response plan.
Repairing Your Flooded Home
This book was prepared for the
Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) under Contract
Number EMW-89-C-3024 and
FEMA and the American Red
Cross gratefully acknowledge the
thoughtful assistance provided by
the many individuals who reviewed
this book. Reviewers included repair
and reconstruction contractors,
mental health professionals, sociolo-
gists, researchers, disaster assistance
specialists, insurance experts, under-
writers, structural engineers, public
health agents, floodplain managers,
emergency managers, education
specialists, editorial experts, and
S T E P
Take Care of Yourself First
S T E P
Take Care of Yourself First
ou and your family have been
through a disaster. Your life has
Discuss your problems. Talk to
family and friends. Share your anxi-
Warning Signs of Stress
been turned upside down, and it eties. Let others talk to you to help • Short tempers, frequent arguments
will take time for things to return to release tension. Crying is a natural • Greater consumption of alcohol
normal. Take a few minutes to review response to a disaster. It’s also a great • Smoking more than usual
the flood safety precautions listed on way to release pent-up emotions. • Getting upset over minor
the inside front cover of this document. Rest often and eat well. You are irritations
Also, you should watch out for symp- more likely to suffer from stress and • Difficulty sleeping, bad dreams
toms of anxiety, stress, and fatigue. health problems when you are weak. • Aches, pains, stomach problems
With all the cleanup and repair Being active helps, but don’t overdo • Apathy, loss of concentration
jobs awaiting you, it may seem odd it. Your body must have proper rest • Depression
to spend the first chapter of a flood and nourishment for you to keep
recovery book talking about emo- going.
tional issues. But a disaster can do Set a manageable schedule. You
damage beyond the obvious destruc- have a million things to do, but you
tion and debris you see everywhere. can’t do everything at once. Make
You should recognize that the flood a list and do jobs one at a time.
can take its toll on you as well as Establish a schedule to clean up and
your property. This first section is rebuild. Following the steps in this
designed to remind you that you booklet will help you. Try to return
need to look after yourself and your to your pre-flood routines as quickly
family as you focus on the obvious as possible. Routines give you some-
tasks of cleanup and recovery. Your thing predictable to depend upon.
hidden enemy is stress. Watch for it. Watch for signs of stress. You
have just been through a disaster
Care for Yourself and the recovery period can be long,
Your body reacts to stress in many hard, and chaotic. Don’t be sur-
ways. You may expect to experience prised if you experience tension or
one or more of the warning signs see signs of stress in family mem-
as you deal with the flooding and bers. Often other people will notice
recovery. Your body is just remind- problems more readily than you do.
ing you that times are difficult. Listen to them.
Reactions to stress are common and Seek help. If you cannot shake
usually temporary. Need some relief? feelings of despair or other telltale
Here are some steps you can take to signs of stress, get professional help.
relieve your tensions. Special outreach programs and crisis
Keep the family together. Even counseling are often set up following
in bad times, togetherness provides a disaster because so many people
mutual support for all members. need help to cope with their
S T E P
Take Care of Yourself First
situation. Call the Red Cross at Hugs help. Try to find or replace
1-202-303-5000 for programs avail- pets or favorite toys.
able in your area. Be understanding. Avoid scold-
Floodproof as you rebuild. ing children for things that might be
People who are prepared ahead of flood-related, such as bed wetting,
time are better able to deal with thumb sucking, or clinging to you.
disasters. Getting ready for the next Remember, they are also going
flood can give you a sense of control through a rough time.
over the future. Besides, floodproof- Take care of yourself. Your chil-
ing will be a definite improvement dren reflect your fears and worries.
to your property. If you take care of yourself, you will
be better able to help your children
Care for Your Children cope.
Watch your children closely. You
can expect to see them display fear Stay Healthy
or symptoms of stress. Infants, pregnant women,
Fear is a normal reaction to any and people with health problems
danger that threatens a person’s well- should avoid the flooded area
being. Because their daily routine until cleanup is complete. Small
has been interrupted, children may children tend to put things in their
experience considerable anxiety mouths. Pregnant women need to
Helping Children and fear. Those feelings are real and be cautious to avoid injury and ex-
natural. You can help your children posure to disease. People with health
• Keep the family together deal with the disaster by keeping in problems are more likely to get sick
• Listen to them mind the following points. or be injured.
• Explain what happened Try to keep the family to- The Red Cross can help you re-
• Reassure them gether. Make an effort to establish place medicine or lost prescriptions
normal family routines. Include after a disaster.
• Be understanding
children in cleanup activities. Chil- Your body is used to being clean.
• Take care of yourself
dren need and want to be important When you work in an area that has
parts of the family. been flooded, you will be exposed to
Listen to what children say. dangerous chemicals and germs that
Encourage them to talk or otherwise you are not used to and can make
express their feelings. Teenagers may you very sick.
need to talk with other teenagers. Wash your hands with soap
Explain the disaster factually. and water, thoroughly and often.
Children have vivid imaginations This is especially important before
and what they don’t understand can handling food, eating, or smoking.
make them fearful. Knowing the If possible, use an antibacterial soap
facts can help children deal better on your hands. Avoid biting your
with the disaster. nails.
Reassure children. Show them Confirm that the water is clean
through words and actions that life and safe. Don’t drink it or wash
will return to normal. Touching and dishes until you’re sure (see Step 5).
holding are important.
S T E P
Take Care of Yourself First
Disinfect dishes and all items chemical products out of the reach
that floodwaters touched. Instruc- of children. Have the number for
tions for cleaning and disinfecting the National Capital Poison Control • Wash up frequently
appliances and household items are Center (1-800-222-12222) posted • Make sure the water is safe
covered in Step 6. by your telephone and call right
• Disinfect everything
Don’t hurt yourself. Items are away if anyone is poisoned.
• Don’t overdo it
much heavier when wet. Don’t try Report health hazards. Tell the
to move large objects by yourself. Health Department about animal • Report health hazards
Unfortunately, injuries, especially carcasses, rats, dangerous chemicals,
back injuries, are a common side ef- and similar hazards on your prop-
fect of cleaning up after a flood. erty.
Watch out for fatigue. When Be patient. Above all, try to
your body is tired, you are more be patient with your family, your
prone to accidents. Set a realistic neighbors, the volunteer agency
schedule for the work you will do personnel, and local, state, and
each day. federal authorities. Remember that
Be safe around poisons. Many many others are in the same situa-
of the products you will use to tion you are in, and it may take time
clean, disinfect, and repair your for everyone to get service. You may
home are poisons. Read and fol- have to wait your turn.
low label instructions and keep all
S T E P
Give Your Home First Aid
S T E P
Give Your Home First Aid
I t is dangerous to go back into your
home because the flood may have
caused structural, electrical, and other
This section is designed for those
who have experience in construction
and electrical repair. If you are un-
hazards. After you have made things certain about these steps, contact a
safe, take steps to protect your home professional such as a licensed home
and contents from further damage. repair contractor or an electrician.
Most of the information in this
section assumes that the person do- Make Sure It is Safe to Go
ing the work has experience in con- Back
struction and electrical repair. If you Some floods have more than one
do not have experience in construction crest or peak. Even though the water
and electrical repair, do not try to do looks like it’s going down, it may
this work yourself. Hire a qualified rise again and trap you. Stay tuned
contractor or an electrician. It is still to your radio or TV to find out if
a good idea to read the information and when you can go back home.
in this book so you will have a better If you are not sure whether you can
understanding of the jobs ahead, no return, contact your local emergency
matter who does them. manager.
A Note About Portable Read the flood safety precautions
Generators Even if you have some experi-
ence with construction and electrical listed on the inside front cover of
Portable generators can be a big work, do not attempt any job if you this document. Each year about 150
help if you are without power. But feel uncertain about the right thing to people die because of floods. Many
remember: do or you wonder if the job is beyond of those fatalities are due to electro-
• Connect appliances one at a time
your skill or physical strength. Read cution or other accidents that occur
to the generator. Never hook a gen- after the floodwaters have gone
erator directly to your household the instructions in this book all
the way through before you start. down. Have someone with you when
wiring yourself. Only a qualified
Gather your tools and supplies, and you check your home and do repairs.
electrician can do this.
make sure you have enough help. Dress for the task—wear sturdy
• Only use generators outdoors.
They give off carbon monoxide There is plenty of work to go shoes and gloves.
fumes. around after a flood. Do only those Things You Will Need When It
• Avoid using extension cords with jobs you can do well and without
generators. If you must use them, is Safe to Return Home
injuring yourself. If you cannot af- ❏ Flashlight
check them often to make sure
they have not become hot. ford to get professional help, check ❏ First aid kit
with your local Red Cross chapter, ❏ Battery-operated radio
your local emergency management ❏ Waterproof boots or waders
agency, or your building department ❏ Safety clothing, such as a hard hat
to see if there are any volunteer and gloves
programs available to you. ❏ Boots or shoes with hard soles
Give Your Home First Aid 2
S T E P
❏ Dust mask If any supports or portions of the
How to Turn Off the Power
❏ Camera or video camera to record foundation wall are missing or the
damage ground has washed away, the floor
❏ Tools: crowbars, hammers, saws, is not safe. If you have any doubts
pliers, crescent wrenches, about safety, contact a contractor
screwdrivers, etc. before going in. Proceed very care-
❏ Drinking water fully.
❏ Trash bags
❏ A wooden stick for turning Turn off the electricity
things over, scaring away snakes Electricity and water don’t mix.
and small animals, and moving Turn the power off at your home!
electrical wires Even if the power company has
❏ Cleaning supplies turned off electricity to the area, you
1. Stand on a dry spot.
Note: Do not use candles before, must still make certain your home’s
2. If your box has a handle on the
during, or after a flood. Candles can power supply is disconnected. You side, use a dry wooden stick or
easily tip over or invite child fire-play. don’t want the power company to pole to pull the handle to OFF.
turn it on without warning while 3. Use the stick to open the door.
Check Your Home Before You you’re working on it. 4. Carefully pull out the main fuses.
Go In The electricity must be turned off Use a dry wooden stick.
If there is standing water next at the main breaker box or fuse box. 5. Unscrew and remove each circuit
to the outside walls of your home, Your utility company may have re- fuse
don’t go in. You won’t be able to tell moved your electric meter. This does
if the building is safe or structur- not always turn off the power.
ally sound. Before you go in, walk If you have to step in water to get
carefully around the outside of your to your electric box, call an electri-
home and check for loose power cian. Simply removing the electric
lines and gas leaks. You will know meter does not always turn off the
there is leaking gas by the putrid, power. If you can get to your electric
distinct odor that is added to gas to box without going through or stand-
let people know gas is leaking. If you ing in water, you can turn off the
find downed lines or leaks, call your power yourself (see box).
utility company. Remember that if the electrical
Check the foundation for cracks or gas controls are inside the home, Breaker Boxes
1. Stand on a dry spot.
or other damage. Examine porch do not turn them off until you can
2. Use a dry wooden stick or pole
roofs and overhangs to be sure they safely enter your home.
to open the door.
still have all their supports.
Turn off the gas 3. Use the stick to push the main
Look for gaps between the steps breaker switch to OFF.
and the home. If you see obvious Gas appliances and pipes may
4. Use the stick to turn each circuit
damage, have a building inspector have moved or broken during the
breaker to OFF
check the home before you go in. flood, creating a gas leak. If you sus-
Some communities require official pect a leak or smell gas, leave your
inspections for all buildings after a home immediately and call the gas
flood. company from a neighbor’s home.
S T E P
Give Your Home First Aid
Leave the door open and, if the gas Telephone your utility company for
meter is outside, turn off the gas. help and keep clear of the area until
• Wait for the water to go down If your have gas appliances that the gas has stopped flowing.
• Report downed power lines were flooded, you will need to clean If you have a fuel oil or propane
• Report gas leaks the mud out of the pilot and the tank, it may have floated and broken
• Check for structural damage burners. But first, you must turn off the connecting pipes. Even an un-
• Turn off electricity the gas. derground tank can float. Turn off
• Turn off gas or fuel There is a valve next to the gas the fuel valve at the tank and follow
meter. If the valve handle is parallel the instructions in Step 5 before you
to the pipe, the gas is on. You may turn the fuel back on.
need a pair of pliers or a wrench to
turn the valve. Turn it 90 degrees Go Inside Carefully
(a quarter turn) so the handle is If the door sticks and has to be
perpendicular to the pipe to shut off forced open, it is probably swol-
the gas. len. If it only sticks at the bottom,
it can be forced open. If it sticks at
the top, your ceiling may be ready
to fall. You can force the door open,
but wait outside the doorway for a
minute where you will be protected
if something falls.
If the door won’t open easily, it
may be easier for you to enter your
home through a window. Look care-
fully at the ceiling before you go in
to be sure it is not ready to fall.
Do not smoke or use candles, gas
lanterns, or other open flames in your
home. Air out your home complete-
OFF ly—there may be explosive gas.
Check the ceiling for signs of
Some gas meter valves will have sagging. If there was a lot of wind
a hole in the handle. This hole lines and rain or if the flood was very
up with a hole in the valve body deep, your ceiling may be holding
when the gas is shut off. (The gas water. Wet plaster or wallboard is
company uses the hole to lock or very heavy and dangerous if it falls.
seal the valve closed when the build- If the ceiling is sagging, do the fol-
ing is vacant.) To be sure the gas is lowing before you go in:
off, write down the numbers on all 1. Make a poker by attaching a nail
the dials in the meter. Check the or other pointed object to the
dials at least 5 minutes later. If the end of a long stick. (You might
numbers have changed, the valve hammer a finish nail into the
is not closed. Gas is still flowing. end of a broomstick.)
S T E P
Give Your Home First Aid
2. Stand away from, not under, the Rescue the Most Valuable
sag. (Under a doorway is safest.) Items
Poke a hole in the ceiling at the Find and protect the “irreplace-
edge of the sag so any trapped able” valuables such as money, jew-
water can begin to drain. Do elry, insurance papers, photographs,
not start at the center of the sag and family heirlooms. Wash the
because the ceiling may collapse mud off before the items can dry.
suddenly. Put articles in a safe place such as a
dry second story or a plastic bag, or
take them to a friend’s home.
Photographs, books, and other
articles that are easily damaged when
wet can be frozen and cleaned later
when you have more time. Wash the
mud off. Store the articles in plastic
bags and take them to a friend who
has electricity. Put them in a frost-
free freezer to protect them from
mildew and further damage until
you have time to thaw and clean
them. A photographer or camera
shop can professionally clean wet
3. After the water drains, poke an- Resist the urge to stop and clean ev-
other hole, lower down the sag. erything you pick up. You need to get
Keep poking holes as you move to work on protecting your home,
to the lowest point. assessing all the damages, and plan-
4. Tear down the sagging ceiling ning your recovery so you can save
using extreme caution—it’s very and restore as much as possible. You
heavy. You’ll have to replace it can clean up your belongings after
anyway. you have done the more important
5. Repeat this procedure for any things listed here.
room that has sagging ceilings.
Protect Your Home From
Step carefully. Water and mud Further Damage
make a floor very slippery. Also You need to make sure that
watch for snakes, other animals, there will be no more damage from
loose flooring, holes, and nails. rain, wind, or animals. Your flood
Check for cabinets and other tall insurance policy may cover some of
pieces of furniture that might be the cost of protecting your home
ready to fall over. Remove mirrors from further damage or moving
and heavy pictures from walls. They the contents to a safe place. (Read
will not stay up if the wallboard is your policy and ask your agent what
wet. expenses are covered by your policy.)
S T E P
Give Your Home First Aid
Get fresh air moving through Carefully Drain Your
your home. Open windows and Basement
doors if weather permits. This will If your basement is flooded, don’t
reduce the moisture and get rid of be in too big a hurry to pump it out.
any gas in the home. Do not try Here’s why.
to force open a swollen window. Water in the ground outside your
Instead of breaking glass, remove the home is pushing hard against the
molding and take the window sash outside of your basement walls. But
out of its frame. the water inside your basement is
Patch holes. Cover holes in pushing right back.
the roof, walls, or windows with
boards, tarps, or plastic sheeting.
Plastic sheets or trash bags should
be nailed down with wood strips or
taped with duct tape to keep them
from ripping loose. It may not look
pretty, but you need to do this so
rain won’t cause any more water
Repair sagging floors or roof
sections. Use 4 x 4s or other heavy
lumber to brace weak areas. If you’re
uncertain how to shore up floor or
ceiling joists, call a contractor.
Remove debris. Tree limbs or
other trash that may have landed on
or floated into the home should be
Check for broken or leaking
water pipes. If you find any, cut
off the water supply by turning off
the valve at your water meter. If you
can’t find it, call the water company
for help. Also check floor drains—
they may be clogged with debris.
If the water pipes are not leaking,
you can use your tap water for hos-
ing and cleaning. But do not drink
or cook with tap water until it has
been declared safe. (If you are not on
a municipal water system, the local
health department will usually in-
spect your well and test your water.
See Step 5.)
S T E P
Give Your Home First Aid
5. When the water stops going
back up, pump down another 2
to 3 feet and wait overnight. Re- • Assume that anything touched
peat steps 4 and 5 until all water by floodwaters is contaminated
is pumped out of the basement. • Wash hands frequently
Hose the House and Its • Disinfect everything floodwa-
Contents ters have touched
The mud left behind by flood-
waters contains most of the health
hazards you will face. It is very
important to get rid of the mud as
soon as possible. This is a lot easier if
it is done before the mud dries out.
If you drain your basement too Follow these steps:
quickly, the pressure outside the 1. Shovel out as much mud as pos-
walls will be greater than the pres- sible.
sure inside the walls—and that may
2. Make sure the electricity is turned
make the walls and floor crack and
off. Unplug all appliances and
collapse, causing serious damage.
lamps, remove all light bulbs,
To avoid this situation, follow
and remove the cover plates to
these steps when you pump the
wall switches and outlets that
water out of your basement:
got wet. Check with your local
1. Never go into a basement with
building department to see if
standing water in it unless you
your code allows you to discon-
are sure the electricity is off.
nect the wiring from the switch-
2. After floodwaters are no longer es and outlets.
on top of the ground, you can
start pumping the water out
of the basement. Do not use
gasoline-powered pumps or gen-
erators indoors because gasoline
engines create deadly carbon
monoxide exhaust fumes.
3. Pump the water level down 2 to
3 feet. Mark the level and wait
4. Check the water level the next If the code does not allow you to
day. If the water went back up, disconnect them, leave the wires
it’s still too early to try to drain connected and pull them out
the basement. Wait overnight of their boxes as shown in the
again. Then pump the water drawing. They can be replaced
down 2 to 3 feet again. Check during Step 5 by an electrician
the level the next day.
S T E P
Give Your Home First Aid
If the code permits, it is prob- the basement or crawlspace to
ably best to throw away switches give you access to all areas. Then
and outlets that were flooded thoroughly hose out all the
and replace them with new ones ducts.
(see Step 5). 5. While you hose the walls, thor-
3. Check your water system for oughly hose out the electrical
leaks from pipes that may have outlet, switch boxes, and light
moved (see Step 5). Even if your sockets that you opened up.
water supply is not safe to drink, Read Step 5 before turning the
it can be used for cleaning the electricity back on.
home. If you have water, hose 6. After you hose out the duct work
the home down, inside and out. to remove the mud, wash it with
If you have an attachment that a disinfectant or sanitizer, such as
sprays soap, wash and then rinse the quaternary, phenolic, or pine
the walls and floors. Hose the oil based ones. (Check labels for
furniture and other major items the contents and instructions.)
that got muddy. If your ducts are in a slab or
4. Heating and air conditioning are otherwise inaccessible, have
ducts that got flooded will have them cleaned by a professional.
mud left in them. If you don’t 7. Don’t let the water sit on the
clean them out, your system will floor for long, especially if your
be blowing foul, dusty air that floor has particle board or other
contains the same health hazards wood product that tends to fall
you are trying to get rid of. To apart when wet. Use a mop, “wet
clean the ducts, remove the vents vac,” or squeegee.
or registers. If possible, remove
some sections of the ducts in
Get Organized 3
S T E P
S T E P
B efore you try to clean up and re-
pair everything, you need to assess
your damage and develop a recovery
2. Flood insurance covers most
losses caused by surface
plan. An organized approach will 3. Wind and hail insurance
make the best use of your time and covers losses in coastal areas
money. If your structure is substantial- from the winds of a hurricane.
ly damaged, you need to ask yourself if In coastal areas, homeowner’s
you should rebuild at all—it may be insurance often does not cover
smarter, safer, and cheaper to relocate. damage from wind.
If you do rebuild, your recovery plan Read your insurance policies so
should include the floodproofing mea- that you will know what is covered
sures that can be incorporated with and what is not. If your insurance
repairs and can save you thousands of covers the damages, your agent will
dollars in the future (see Step 8). tell you when you can expect an
Call Your Insurance Agent adjuster to contact you. The adjuster
You need to tell your agent about will determine the costs to repair
the damage to your home and the damage to your home and your
contents so that your agent can file belongings. The adjuster will then
a claim. The sooner you can talk to submit those costs to the insur-
your agent, the sooner your claim ance company for final approval.
will be filed and an adjuster will be Your agent will also tell you what to
assigned to review your damage. throw away, and what to set aside
How much of your loss is covered for the adjuster to review. Find
will depend on your policy. But out if your insurance covers living
even if you don’t have full coverage, expenses while your home is being
repaired. (Flood insurance does not Records to Keep
your agent may be able to give you
advice about where to get help with cover that cost.)
• Damage to the building
cleanup and repairs. Start Listing the Damage • Damage to the contents (see
Your property insurance will fall List the damage and take pictures sample inventory form, next
into one of three categories: or videos as you clean up so you page)
1. Homeowner’s insurance usu- will have a complete and thorough • Receipts for cleanup and resto-
ally covers losses caused by wind, record. Good records are needed for ration expenses, such as materi-
storm, or broken water pipes, insurance claims, applications for als, labor, and equipment rental,
but not surface flooding. Some disaster assistance, and income tax and receipts for flood-related
homeowner’s policies may cover deductions. expenses, such as motel bills.
basement flooding caused by Some items that are health (Keep these in one place, like in
sewer backup or sump pump hazards, such as rotting food and an envelope in your car.)
failure. debris, should be thrown away.
S T E P
Tell your agent or adjuster that walls will have to be totally rebuilt.
you need to get rid of this trash be- Repair safety hazards such as broken
fore you throw it out. They should pilings or an undermined founda-
tell you what to do so that all of tion before you proceed any further.
your losses can be recorded properly Get professional help for any task
by the adjuster. (See page 15 regard- you cannot confidently do yourself.
ing items to discard.) You may be You will need a building permit
told to keep a sample of items such to repair structural damage. Talk to
as a piece of carpet or upholstery your local building department be-
to show the value of what you have fore you start reconstruction or sign
thrown away. any repair contracts. If the damage
to your home’s structure exceeds 50
percent of the market value of your
home, most local building codes will
require you to elevate it above flood
levels. Some may not allow you to
rebuild at all. (For more information
on building permits, see Step 8.)
Ask the Big Question
Odds are that the area where you
Ask someone to sign your record live will flood again. Before you
as a witness. If you have flood insur- spend a great deal of money and
ance, you will need to file a Proof effort repairing and rebuilding, ask
of Loss form within 60 days of the yourself this question:
flood (see Step 7). Completing your Do I really want to be
own inventory form will make this flooded again?
form easier to complete and will also If you think that you would be
help the adjuster determine the costs better off in a different location, talk
to repair the damage to your home to your local government or disaster
and belongings. assistance officials about help in re-
Check for Structural Damage building where floods can no longer
You need to find out whether damage your home.
there is any structural damage to There are programs that will buy
your home. (You will probably need some properties with homes that
professional help in making this have been destroyed or substantially
decision.) damaged. Other programs give
Is there evidence of broken or financial help to move or elevate
cracked basement or foundation homes so they are above flood levels.
walls? Are there broken pilings, See Step 7 for more information on
shifted stairs, or slanted floors or floodproofing assistance programs.
walls? Any of these things could If you decide to stay, you can still
mean that the foundation, floors, or make your home less susceptible to
Get Organized 3
S T E P
damage from the next flood. Before other jobs may be too involved or
Cleanup and Repair—
you start repairing and replacing too heavy for you.
Who Does What?
things, look at the floodproofing ❏ Decide if you need financial
measures in Step 8. Floodproofing assistance. If you need to replace Jobs a homeowner can usually
as you repair and rebuild can save items or hire a professional and handle by following the steps in this
a great deal of money over time. you don’t have insurance, there book
Protecting your home from future may be some voluntary organiza- • Sorting contents to be repaired or
floods will also add value to your tions that can help you (see Step
• Drying the ceiling, walls, and floors
property. 7). Check your local newspaper
• Drying and cleaning electrical cir-
and radio and TV stations for
Plan Your Recovery cuits and boxes (if code allows)
notices about Red Cross, church,
Get organized with a recovery • Removing minor debris such as
and government disaster pro- branches and trash
plan. A recovery plan is simply a grams. • Checking the gas or oil system
list of jobs that need to be done. ❏ Check with your mortgage • Fixing leaky pipes
Planning can help you save time and holder. If your mortgage holder • Checking sewage disposal system
money. Doing things in the right is listed on your insurance policy, • Cleaning building and contents
order will also make everyone feel you cannot cash your insur- • Checking sources of financial as-
better—you’ll know you are making ance claim check without their sistance
progress without wasting efforts. approval. Before you decide on • Minor floodproofing projects such
To develop a recovery plan, fol- repairing and floodproofing, as building an earthen wall or rais-
low these steps: make sure that your loan will not ing appliances
❏ Make sure it is safe to work in be affected. The mortgage holder Jobs that usually require services of a
your home. You’ll want to go may be able to provide financial professional
back to your home as quickly as help, such as deferring interest
• Structural repairs
possible. But you must make sure payments for a month or two.
• Restoring electrical service
the building is safe and sound • Wallboard taping and finishing
❏ Think before you use credit
(see Step 2). • Checking the water system to
cards. Credit cards may be the
❏ Review the rest of the recovery ensure that it is safe to drink. (That
fastest way to handle repair and service is often free from the local
steps in this book. Start making rebuilding expenses, but they are health department.)
lists. Begin with the projects such also very costly. Their interest • Major debris removal such as tree
as “replace furnace” and “dry out rates can be up to 2 percent per cutting
walls.” Write down items you will month (24 percent per year). A • Electrical and gas appliance and
need such as cleaning supplies or second mortgage or low interest motor cleaning and repair
film and paper for record keep- government loan is a much less • Cleaning leather, furs, upholstered
ing. If necessary, make plans for a expensive way to borrow money furniture, and expensive carpeting
place to stay while you clean up. for home repairs. • Major floodproofing projects such
❏ Decide what you can and can’t as moving or elevating a home
❏ Keep talking openly with your
do. You can save money by do- family. Some of the biggest prob-
ing much of the work described lems that come with a disaster are
in this book as you can. But be the mental strain of the loss and
realistic. Jobs such as propping up worries about the future. Work
broken foundations and replacing together and let everyone know
electrical service boxes are best what you will be doing in the
left to the professionals. Many days ahead.
S T E P
Dry Out Your Home
S T E P
Dry Out Your Home
loodwaters can affect a home in
If you have a thermometer with a
humidity gauge, you can monitor
1. The water damages materials. the indoor and outdoor humid-
Wallboard will disintegrate if it ity. On the other hand, when
remains wet too long; wood can temperatures drop at night, an
swell, warp, or rot; and electrical open home is warmer and will
parts can short out, malfunction, draw moisture indoors. At night
and cause fires or shock. and other times when the humid-
2. Mud, silt, and unknown contami- ity is higher outdoors, close up
nants in the water not only get the house.
everything dirty, they also create a ❏ Open closet and cabinet doors.
health hazard. Remove drawers to allow air
3. Dampness promotes the growth of circulation. Drawers may stick
mildew, a mold or fungus that can because of swelling. Don’t try
grow on everything. to force them. Speed drying by
opening up the back of the cabi-
The following steps work on all
net to let the air circulate. You
three of these problems. It is very
will probably be able to remove
important that they be followed in
the drawers as the cabinet dries
Lower the Humidity ❏ Use fans. Fans help move the air
Everything will dry more quickly and dry out your home. Do not
and clean more easily if you can use central air conditioning or the
reduce the humidity in the home. furnace blower if the ducts were
There are six ways to lower the hu- under water. They will blow out
midity and stop the rot and mildew. dirty air, that might contain con-
But you’ll have to delay using some taminants from the sediment left
methods if you have no electricity. in the duct work. Clean or hose
(Read Step 5 before you attempt to out the ducts first (see Step 2).
restore the utilities.) ❏ Run dehumidifiers. Dehumidi-
❏ Open up the house. If the fiers and window air conditioners
humidity outside is lower than will reduce the moisture, espe-
indoors, and if the weather cially in closed up areas.
permits, open all the doors and ❏ Use desiccants. Desiccants
windows to exchange the moist (materials that absorb moisture)
indoor air for drier outdoor air. are very useful in drying closets
Your body will tell if the humid- or other enclosed areas where air
ity is lower outdoors. If the sun cannot move through.
is out, it should be drier outside.
Dry Out Your Home 4
S T E P
Desiccants like those listed below • things you want to save
Items Soaked by
are usually available at hardware, • things you don’t want to save
grocery, or drug stores. • garbage
• Chemical dehumidifier packs
used for drying boats and damp Things you want to save Should I Throw Them Out?
closets. Move them to a safe, dry place, Usually
• Cat litter made of clay. such as the second story or outside. Mattresses, pillows, foam rubber,
• Calcium chloride pellets used for The longer they sit in water, the large carpets, carpet padding, up-
melting ice in the winter. Hang more damaged they become. In holstered couches and chairs, books,
some cases, you may only be able to paper products
pellets in a pillow case, nylon
stocking, or other porous bag. move them to one room while you
Put a bucket underneath to catch clean the other rooms. Don’t leave
Food, cosmetics, medical supplies,
dripping water. Close the closet wood furniture in the sun or it will
stuffed animals, baby toys
or area being dried. Be careful. warp when it dries. To save an area
Calcium chloride can burn your rug, lay a sheet or some other mate-
skin. It will also make the air rial on top so the colors will not
salty, so do not use this product bleed. Promptly clean it.
near computers or other delicate Things you don’t want to save
equipment. Put things you don’t want to save
• Call a contractor. There are con- outside to dry until the adjuster
tractors who specialize in drying comes to confirm your losses. Take
out flooded buildings. They have pictures or videos and list each item
large fans and dehumidifiers that for the record. If you are not sure
can dry out a home in a few days. whether to throw something out,
Look in the yellow pages under decide if it is worth salvaging by
Fire and Water Damage Restora- checking the information in Step 6.
tion or under Dehumidifying.
Be careful about contractors who Garbage
inflate prices after a disaster or Get rid of food and anything else
request payment in advance. that could spoil or go bad imme-
Be patient. Drying your home diately. Don’t let garbage build up.
could take several weeks. Until your Garbage piles will cause yet another
home is reasonably dry, damage health hazard by attracting animals
caused by mildew and decay will and insects. If your insurance ad-
continue. The musty odor will juster has not come, tell your agent Questions About the
remain forever if the home is not or adjuster that you need to get rid Safety of Your Food?
thoroughly dried out well. of potential health hazards. That
person will tell you how to make Call the USDA Food Safety Hotline:
Sort Contents and Discard sure that your losses are covered. 1-888-674-6854
Debris Then throw the stuff out, preferably Professional home economists will
You have three types of contents in sealed plastic garbage bags. answer your questions from 10 a.m.
that should go to three different Don’t take chances with frozen to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday
places: food if electricity went off, unless through Friday.
S T E P
Dry Out Your Home
food is still thoroughly frozen and place with plenty of fresh air moving
contains ice crystals. As a rule, food through the area.
will remain frozen for up to 3 days
in a closed freezer without power. Plaster
Don’t refreeze thawed food. How- Plaster will survive a flood better
ever, you can cook meat that was than wallboard. It should not have
partially thawed and then refreeze it. to be replaced but it will take a very
Properly dispose of discarded long time to dry.
items. Do not burn or bury them. Sometimes the plaster will
There usually will be more frequent separate from the wood laths as it
garbage pickups after a flood. Your dries. Then the wall will have to be
local radio and TV stations will have removed and replaced.
announcements concerning trash Insulation
pickup schedules and drop-off sites. There are three main types of
How Floodwaters Affect Your insulation and each reacts differently
Home to floodwaters. Foam board insula-
Once contents and debris have tion survives best; it may only need
been cleared, the next step is to get to be hosed off.
the water out of the ceilings and Fiberglass batts should be discard-
walls. How you drain and dry your ed if they are muddy. If soaked by
ceilings and walls depends on of clean rainwater, remove them so the
what they are made. rest of the wall can dry. They can be
put back in the wall, but it will take
Wallboard a very long time to dry.
Most ceilings and walls are cov- Cellulose (loose or blown-in
ered with wallboard, especially in treated paper) insulation will hold
Water and Wood newer homes. Wallboard will act like water for a long time. It can also
a sponge, drawing water up above lose its antifungal and fire retardant
Wood always has some water in it, the flood level. It becomes very abilities. Therefore, flooded cellulose
but a flood can bring its moisture fragile if it stays wet for long and insulation should be replaced.
content up to 30 percent. This causes
will fall apart when bumped. When
swelling. However, if allowed to Wood
dry naturally, wood will usually go the wallboard finally dries, there still
will be mud and contaminants dried If allowed to dry naturally, wood
back to its original shape. Unlike
wallboard, wet studs and sills that inside. will generally regain its original
are touched by floodwaters do not Wallboard that has been soaked shape. Different layers of laminated
need to be thrown out. Hollow wood by floodwater presents a permanent wood, such as plywood, may dry at
doors usually have cardboard spacers different rates, causing the layers to
health hazard. Therefore, this book
in the middle that lose their shape separate.
when wet. Generally, these doors recommends that you throw out
flooded wallboard. On the other Some contaminants will stay in
come apart after they are flooded and
need to be replaced. hand, if the wallboard was soaked the wood pores after it dries, but
by clean rainwater, it can be dried in not as much as stays in flooded
wallboard. Wood studs and sills will
S T E P
Dry Out Your Home
be covered by new wallboard and
painted, so they are well removed
from human contact. Therefore, wet
wood studs and sills do not need to
be replaced if they are allowed to dry
Drain the Ceilings and Walls
Check for sagging ceilings. Drain
them carefully as shown in Step 2.
If the floodwaters went above your
ceiling, you should replace it if it is If your walls are plaster, a knife
made of wallboard. A plaster ceiling won’t penetrate them. Drill a hole
will dry eventually but, if it has too above the sill plate to drain the
many cracks or sags, you will have to water. (Use a hand or cordless drill
tear it down and replace it. Remove to avoid shock.) Do not use a ham-
any wet insulation in the ceiling to mer or chisel on plaster because the
allow the joists to dry. plaster could shatter.
In a newer home, you may have
metal sill plates. A metal sill acts as
Remove water trapped within
a trough at the bottom of the wall
your walls. To check for water, take
cavity. Drill a hole at floor level to
off the baseboard. Stick an awl or
drain the water, using a hand or
knife into the wall about 2 inches
above the floor (just above the 2 x 4
wood sill plate). If water drips out,
cut or drill a hole large enough to
allow water to freely drain. (Use a
hand or cordless drill or saw to avoid
shock.) If you are going to replace
the wallboard anyway, you don’t
have to be neat: use a hammer to
knock out a hole.
Repeat the process to drain all
the wall cavities. Depending on the
spacing between studs in your walls,
make a hole every 16 or every 24
inches. Watch out for the wiring,
S T E P
Dry Out Your Home
which is usually at the same height without removing the wallboard
as your electrical outlets. If there is using the technique explained below
wet insulation, you will have to re- for plaster walls. But you will need
move the wallboard in order to take to remove wet insulation if it is not
out all the insulation. foam board insulation.
Floodwater soaked wallboard is
usually removed and thrown away. Plaster walls
Plaster and paneling can often be If the plaster or wallboard is clean
saved, but you still need to get air and in good shape, you can drill or
circulating in the wall cavities to cut ventilating holes in each wall
dry the studs and sills. Different cavity. Place holes low enough so
approaches are used for different they will be covered by the base-
materials. board after the wall dries out. Open
up the wall on both sides of interior
Wallboard walls. For exterior walls, drill or cut
If floodwaters soaked the wall- holes on the inside of the house.
board at least 4 feet above the However, if there is wet insulation,
floor, you should take down all the you will have to remove the plaster
wallboard and replace it. If the water or wallboard in order to take out all
level was less than 4 feet deep, re- the insulation.
move the lower 4 feet of wallboard.
You can fill the gap with 4 x 8 sheets Concrete block
installed sideways. The cavities in a concrete block
wall will drain on their own. The
water will not damage the concrete
like it will wood or wallboard.
Vinyl wallcovering seals the wall
and prevents drying. Wallpaper
paste is a favorite home for mold
and mildew. For these reasons, you
should remove all wallcovering that
got wet and throw it out. If vinyl
wallcovering is loose on the bottom,
you may be able to save it by pulling
it off the wall up to the flood level.
Clean and reapply it after everything
If you have foam board insula-
tion—or no insulation—and the
wallboard was soaked with clean
rainwater, you can dry the walls
Dry Out Your Home 4
S T E P
If a home with a basement was
Cleaning Floor Coverings
flooded over the first floor, remove
finished basement ceilings, or cut • Small throw rugs can be saved and
or drill holes between all the joists cleaned in a washing machine.
to allow circulation. Don’t cut or • Indoor-outdoor carpeting can he
drill near electric lines or pipes. You hosed off and hung up to dry.
have now reached the stage where • Large rugs and those with foam
backing should be discarded. (Usu-
no more damage should occur to
ally only valuable carpets are worth
your home. Exterior holes have the cost of professional cleaning.)
been patched, the utilities have been • After getting wet, wall-to-wall
turned off, and the drying process carpeting usually will not return
has started. It may take days or to its former size and has to be
weeks, depending on the humidity, thrown away. Therefore, make the
for all the wood to dry out. You can job easier by cutting it in strips and
Paneling discarding it in pieces that are small
Carefully pry the bottom of do Steps 5, 6, and 7 while the home
enough to be carried. Watch out
each panel away from the wall. Use is drying. However, do not start Step for the tack-down strips along the
something to hold the bottom away 8, Rebuild and Floodproof, until the wall; they often have nails sticking
from the sill so the cavities can drain home is completely dry. up to hold the carpet down.
and dry out. You can nail them back • A wall-to-wall carpet that was
soaked by clean rainwater can be
into shape after they and the studs
left in place and dried.
dry out. However, if there is wet
• Tile, vinyl, and linoleum flooring
insulation, you will have to remove should be removed if it is warped,
the paneling in order to take out all loose, or has a foam rubber pad
the insulation. (which should be thrown away).
Dry the Floor
Air needs to circulate around
flooded floors so they can dry out.
This means removing the floor cov-
ering. Because floodwaters contain
mud and dirt, most soaked floor
coverings should be thrown away.
Keep a piece of all discarded floor
covering so the adjuster can tell its
Air also needs to circulate below
the floor to dry it out. If the crawl-
space of your home is flooded,
pump it out. Remove any plastic
sheets, vapor barriers, or insulation
from underneath the floor. (Be sure
to replace them when the floor and
foundation are completely dry.)
S T E P
Restore Your Utilities
S T E P
Restore Your Utilities
he rest of your work will be much
easier if you have heat, electric-
relight that appliance. First, make
sure the room is well-ventilated and
1. Check for leaky fuel pipes by ity, clean water, and sewage disposal. that there are no open flames (or
smelling for gas. A chemical that However, it may take some time for a bare electric wires) anywhere.
has a disagreeable, distinctive repair professional to be able to help Then turn on the gas valve.
odor is added to natural gas and
you. Therefore, you should go to Step 6 Check for leaky pipes. Let the gas
propane to tell you if there is a
leak. If you have any doubts, have and do all the cleaning you can while run for a minute or two to clean any
a professional check for you. Do you wait for one or more of these util- air and impurities out of the pipes.
not use open flames. ity systems to be restored. Then turn the gas off for a minute
2. Make sure the valve that leads to to allow the gas in the air to go away
each appliance is closed. Gas and Oil Systems before you light the appliance.
3. If you find any pipes that moved If your furnace, water heater,
or any area that smells like gas, stove, or other gas or oil appli- Oil System
brush soapy water on each pipe ances were flooded to the level of Make sure your main oil valve is
connection. The pressure in the the burners, turn off the valve on turned off. Check your oil pump.
pipes will make bubbles appear the pipe to the appliance. If they If it got wet, have the pump profes-
where there is a leak.
were hot when flooded, parts may sionally checked and cleaned. If you
have cracked. Flood insurance and want to clean it yourself, see Step 6
federal disaster assistance programs Look carefully for any signs of
will help replace flooded gas and oil leaking oil; if you see any, call a
appliances. If you want to keep a professional. Look for signs that the
gas or oil appliance, have it cleaned pipes or oil tank moved during the
professionally. flood. Oil tanks, even buried ones,
A cracked, plugged, or leaky will float when flooded. After you
chimney can cause fires or carbon have turned the electricity back on,
monoxide poisoning. Be sure you open the main valve and turn the
check metal and brick chimneys for pump on. Check for leaky pipes (see
dirt, debris, and leaks before lighting above).
4. If you find a leak, turn off the the furnace or a fire.
gas. Unscrew the pipe connec- Propane, L-P, and Butane
tion, clean the joint, and apply Gas System Systems
pipe joint compound or pipe tape
If the gas has been turned off at These fuels are kept in pressurized
(available at hardware stores) on
the threads. Screw the pieces back the main valve serving your home, tanks, so there is no electric pump
together tightly. you need to have a professional to turn on. Check the tanks for
5. Turn on the gas and check the restore gas service to your home, signs of movement or floating. Then
connection again with soapy wa- relight pilot lights, and do a final follow the instructions above for gas
ter. If you have a leak, or if you are check of the system. systems.
not sure your system is safe, turn If the gas valve serving only one
off the gas and immediately call a
appliance is turned off, then you can
Restore Your Utilities 5
S T E P
Electrical System switches or outlets, replace them.
Check with your building or If you want to keep the switches
electrical inspector to see how much and outlets that were flooded, • Use only the electrically operated
work you can do on your wiring. rinse them thoroughly in a pail tools you need, one at a time, to
Many local codes require that a of water. Let them dry for at avoid overloading a few working
licensed electrician do the work, or least 24 hours.
• If appliances or motors have got-
that a municipal inspector check 4. Check the condition of the wire
ten wet, have them taken apart,
the system before you can turn the that goes to each switch and each cleaned, and dried before plugging
power back on. The electrical system outlet. Replace any fabric cov- them back in again.
should be tackled in two parts: the ered wire. Plastic covered wire • Make sure all appliances are
main breaker or fuse box and the does not need to be removed properly grounded. This is most
circuits. If the main box got wet, it unless it has been flooded with important if there was damage to
should be checked and cleaned by saltwater. Aluminum wiring may the wiring from the flood or during
an electrician before you turn the be severely corroded by saltwater,
• Mud or dirt in a grounded outlet
power back on. You should have so all aluminum wiring that has or adapter may prevent the
the electrician move your main box been flooded by saltwater should grounding system from working,
above flood level for future protec- be replaced before proceeding. and you could be electrocuted. If
tion. 5. After everything has dried out, you are unsure of whether your
Meanwhile, if you are comfort- check to make sure the fuses are electrical system is properly
able working with electrical fixtures grounded, call an electrician.
still out or the breakers are still
and wiring, you can clean the • When in doubt, call an electrician.
switched off. Then re-install the
Electrocution is a major killer in
flooded circuits. Otherwise call an switches and outlets or install floods.
electrician. new ones.
To clean a flooded circuit, follow If your main box was not flooded
these steps in order: or if it has been cleaned and checked
1. Check the switch at the main by an electrician, you can test each
breaker or fuse box to make sure circuit once it is cleaned.
that the power is still off. Take To test a cleaned circuit:
out the fuses or switch off the 1. Make sure nothing is plugged in
breakers to the circuits you will and no wall switches are turned
be working on. on.
2. As noted at the end of Step 2, 2. Install the fuse or turn the breaker
everything should be unplugged to “ON.” Install the main fuse
and all light bulbs should be re- or turn on the main breaker. Important
moved. The switches and outlets Some fuse boxes have a main
should be out of the wall. Check switch—a handle on the outside It is very important that your utility
the switches and outlets and of the box that is easier to use systems and appliances be turned
their boxes for mud and dirt that back on the correct way. A leaky
than taking out and replacing
gas pipe, an ungrounded electrical
can cause a short or overheating. the main fuses. appliance, or contaminated water is
Hose or wash any mud out of 3. If the fuse blows or the breaker a serious safety and health hazard.
the boxes. clicks back to “off,” you have a If you are not comfortable working
3. If you see a lot of mud, dirt, short somewhere. Recheck your on your utilities or appliances, call a
or saltwater corrosion in the professional.
cleaning and installation work.
S T E P
Restore Your Utilities
If the fuse or breaker are okay, clean drinking water from places
wait 15 minutes and then walk outside your area and are towed to
around the home. Look for your location, often by National
sparks or the pungent smell of Guard or U.S. military personnel.
an electrical short. If there are A “boil order” may be issued in
any signs of smoking or heating, your community. If such an order
if the fuse blows, or if a breaker has been issued, do the following:
goes off, turn the power off and 1. Fill a large pot with water from
call an electrician. the tap.
4. If there are no signs of problems, 2. Strain the water through cheese-
turn the power off again. Plug cloth, a sheet, or other clean,
a lamp or small appliance in an porous material to remove as
outlet on the circuit you just many solids as you can.
tested, or turn on a light switch. 3. Bring the water to a rumbling
Be sure that the appliance you boil and let it boil for at least 5
are using to test each outlet is minutes.
properly working. 4. Pour the water back and forth
5. Turn the power back on and between two clean pots. This will
check the fuse or breaker. help it cool and will also add air
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for each to the water to make it taste bet-
outlet and wall switch to check ter.
for shorts or problems. 5. Let the water cool. After it is
7. Bathroom and outdoor circuits cool, add 16 drops of liquid
often have a ground fault circuit chlorine bleach per gallon of
interrupter at the breaker box or water. Let the water stand a
at a wall outlet. These are very half hour. If it gives off a slight
sensitive and may keep trip- chlorine smell and looks clear,
ping the circuit off, so you may it’s OK to use.
have to be extremely thorough If you do not smell the chlorine
in cleaning and drying these or if the water is still cloudy, add
circuits. another 16 drops of liquid chlo-
rine bleach and let it stand another
Water Supply half hour. If you smell chlorine, it’s
Public water suppliers usually okay to use. If you have treated it
provide water soon after the flood. If again and it still does not smell like
you are unsure of your water supply, chlorine, don’t use it for drinking or
only use it to hose your home or for cooking.
sanitation purposes (e.g., flushing Do not cook in pots and pans, or
the toilet). use eating utensils, baby blankets, or
Buy bottled water for drinking if any other items that could go in the
you can. Sometimes large water stor- mouth until they have been washed
age tanks called “water buffalos” are in water that has been tested and ap-
brought to communities that need proved by your local water supplier
clean water. They are filled with or health department.
S T E P
Restore Your Utilities
Wells. Private wells should be Water Heater. Check your
Cleanup and Repair—
pumped until the water is clear. You water heater. If floodwaters got into
Who does what?
can decide whether water is clear the gas burner, electrical parts, or
enough to hose the home and do insulation, it should be replaced. If If your home will be unheated for
other cleaning work. Check with the you want to save it, have it cleaned a few days, and the temperature
local health department for instruc- and restarted by a professional. Be will fall below freezing, you should
winterize your water pipes so they
tions before you drink or cook with sure to flush clean water through it
will not freeze and break. A plumber
your well water. Their instructions before you wash dishes or clothes can blow out the pipes to make sure
will account for minerals and chemi- with hot water. they are empty. Or you can take the
cals that naturally occur in your following steps to protect your water
area. The health department should Sewage Disposal and sewer system from damage due
be able to advise you about the Public sewers should work soon to freezing temperatures:
best way to have your water tested after a flood, but mud and debris 1. Shut off the main water valve. (It
if necessary. If there are no specific might clog them. Flush the toilet is usually found at the water meter.)
before you use it. If it is clogged, 2. Turn on all the faucets in the
instructions from the local health
check with your local sewer depart- home, both the hot and the cold
department, follow these steps to taps. Leave them on and let them
treat your well and water: ment to see if the problem is in the
1. Open your faucets to pump the main line. You may need to clean
3. Turn off the hot water heater.
water out of your well. Let them out the sewer line from your home Open the faucet at the bottom of
run for at least 15 minutes or to the main line. the water heater to drain it. You may
until you lose pressure. Septic systems will not work want to connect a hose to the faucet
until the ground water level is below so you can control where the water
2. Pour 1 quart of liquid chlorine goes. Be careful; the water may be
the distribution lines. So be careful
bleach in the well and leave it for very hot.
about flushing the toilet and pour-
at least 4 hours. Do not use any 4. Flush the toilets to empty their
ing things down the drain; they may
water during this time. water tanks.
not have anywhere to go. Until your
3. Open all the faucets and let 5. Wait for the lowest faucet in the
toilet works, you can line it with a home to stop running. (This will
them run until you smell chlo-
plastic trash can liner and dispose of usually be a faucet in the basement.)
rine at each faucet.
the bag following local public health Then check all faucets and toilets.
4. Turn off the faucets and let the If they have stopped running or are
water sit in the pipes for 2 to empty, your water system should be
4 hours. Do not use any water drained.
during this time. 6. Pour some propyleneglycol-based
5. Flush out the system by running antifreeze in all sinks, tubs, floor
the taps until you can no longer drains, and toilet bowls. (This type
of antifreeze is available through
taste or smell the chlorine.
recreational vehicle and mobile home
dealers. Do not use regular automo-
tive antifreeze.) These drains have
traps that keep water in them.
7. You can turn the main valve back
on after the building is heated. Do
this before you start your repairs.
That way, if there is a broken pipe, a
water leak won’t cause much damage.
S T E P
S T E P
he walls, floors, closets, shelves,
contents—every flooded part of
cloth in the rinse bucket. Wring it
as dry as possible and keep it rolled
your home—should be thoroughly up tight as you put it in the cleaner
washed and disinfected. Some projects, bucket. Let it unroll to absorb the
such as washing clothes, may have to cleaner. Using two buckets keeps
wait until all the utilities are restored. most of the dirty rinse water out of
Others may be best done by profession- your cleaning solution. Frequently
als. This section offers suggestions on replace the rinse water.
the best way to clean flooded items.
Cleaning Supplies Cleanup Supplies Start cleaning a wall at the bot-
Checklist The Red Cross will often dis- tom or where the worst damage was.
tribute cleanup kits after a disaster. If you did not have to remove the
• Brooms, mops, brushes, sponges These kits contain many useful wallboard or plaster, you may find
• Buckets, hoses items such as a broom, mop, bucket, the wallboard or plaster won’t come
• Rubber gloves and cleaning supplies. clean and you will want to replace
• Rags In most cases, household clean- it rather than clean it. If you have
• Cleaners ing products will do the job if you removed the wallboard or plaster,
• Disinfectants use them correctly. Check the label wash the studs and sills and disinfect
• Lubricating oils on the products to see how much them.
• Trash bags to use. Some products shouldn’t be
• Hair dryers used on certain materials; the label Windows
will tell you that. Apply cleaner and If you taped your windows before
give it time to work before you mop the storm, clean the tape off as
or sponge it up. Follow directions soon as possible. The sun will bake
and all safety precautions on the the adhesive into the glass. If glass
container. cleaners don’t remove the adhesive,
After cleaning a room or item, try tar remover, acetone, nail polish
go over it again with a disinfectant remover, or a razor blade. And next
to kill the germs and odors left by time, don’t bother taping the win-
the floodwaters. You may also need dows. You don’t get much protection
to get rid of mildew, an unwelcome for all that effort.
companion to moisture that shows Furniture
as fuzzy splotches. Don’t try to force open swollen
Cleaning Tips wooden doors and drawers. Take off
Tackle one room at a time. A two the back of the piece of furniture to
bucket approach is most efficient: let the air circulate. You probably
use one bucket for rinse water and will be able to open the drawers
the other for the cleaner. Rinse after they dry.
out your sponge, mop, or cleaning Solid wood furniture can usually
be repaired and cleaned, but wood
S T E P
veneer often separates and warps. You can speed up the drying pro-
Wood alcohol or turpentine applied cess for motors and parts by using a 1st choice: Non-sudsing household
with a cotton ball may remove white blow dryer and a moisture displace- cleaners
mildew spots on wood. Cream ment spray. Moisture displacement
2nd choice: Laundry soap or deter-
wood restorers with lanolin will help sprays, such as electronics parts gent
restore good wooden furniture parts. cleaners or lubricating and penetrat-
Upholstered furniture soaks up ing oil, are available at hardware or Disinfectants
contaminants from floodwaters and automotive parts stores. The sprays 1st choice: Commercial disinfectants
should be cleaned only by a profes- can also stop rust and corrosion un- or sanitizers, such as the quaternary,
sional. This is also true of carpets til the appliance can be disassembled phenolic, or pine oil based ones.
(Check labels for the contents.)
and bedding. Unless the piece is an and cleaned. One word of caution:
antique or especially valuable, up- the sprays are flammable. Read and 2nd choice: 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of
holstered furniture soaked by flood- follow label instructions and precau- laundry bleach for 1 gallon of water.
waters probably should be thrown tions.
out. Get a cost estimate from a Moving parts such as motors
1st choice: Commercial mildew
professional to see if the furniture is and pulleys will need oil or grease. removers or mildewicides
worth saving. Contacts and electrical switches can
2nd choice: Washing soda or tri-sodi-
be cleaned with a moisture displace- um phosphate (available at grocery or
Appliances ment spray or an aerosol contact paint stores). Use 5 tablespoons per
There’s an unexpected danger of cleaner available at electronics or gallon of water.
shock with some electrical appli- auto parts stores. Allow a motor to
ances such as TV sets and radios. 3rd choice: 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of
run for 30 minutes with no load be- laundry bleach for 1 gallon of water.
Certain internal parts store elec- fore you use it. For example, run the See below for using bleach.
tricity even when the appliance is vacuum cleaner without connecting
unplugged. Check the back for a the belt. Bleach
warning label. Appliances with such Watch for stripped or damaged Liquid chlorine bleach can be
labels will need professional clean- wire insulation. Be sure all appliances used for a variety of flood cleanup
ing. But first, get a cost estimate to jobs. Make sure that 5.25 percent
are properly grounded. This is most sodium hypochlorite is the only
see if they are worth saving. important if there was damage to the active ingredient. Bleach that has a
You’ll need appliances such as the wiring from the flood or during clean- scent added to improve its smell is
washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, ing. Appliances that must be grounded available. Scented bleach is fine for
and vacuum cleaner to help clean have a round third prong on their cleanup jobs, but don’t use it to treat
your home and contents. The mo- plugs. Review the information on your drinking water. Don’t use dry bleach
tors or heating elements can usually or any bleach that does not contain
electrical system in Step 5. chlorine.
be cleaned. If you can’t wait for a Refrigerators and freezers are
professional cleaning job, unplug, more complicated. They may have Be careful of fumes and wear rubber
disassemble, and thoroughly hose gloves. Read the safety instructions
foam insulation and sealed com- on the label. Do not mix bleach with
off the appliances (with hot water, if ponents that suffered little water other household chemical products,
possible). Then clean and disinfect damage. But those appliances hold especially ammonia or toilet bowl
them, but do not use detergents. food, so they should be cleaned, cleaner, because the chemical reaction
Clean and disinfect dishwashers, disinfected, and checked by a profes- can create a poisonous gas. Do not
washing machines, and dryers only sional, or replaced. If your repair use bleach on aluminum or linoleum.
with water that has been declared person says an expensive appliance
safe for drinking. Make sure the should be replaced, get the opinion
sewer line is working before starting in writing and discuss it with your
a dishwasher or washing machine.
S T E P
insurance adjuster before you spend Kitchen Items
money for another one. Throw out soft plastic and po-
rous items that probably absorbed
Clothing and Linens whatever the floodwaters carried
Even if your washing machine in. Floodwaters are contaminated,
did not get wet, do not use it until so you may want to wash dishes by
you know that the water is safe hand in a disinfectant. Air dry the
enough to drink and that your disinfected dishes; do not use a dish
sewer line works. (Perhaps a friend towel.
or relative has a washing machine Like the washing machine, the
you can use until yours is clean and dishwasher should also be used only
working.) after you know your water is safe
Before you wash clothes in the to drink and your sewer line works.
washing machine, run the machine Clean and disinfect it first. Then
through one full cycle. Be sure to use a hot setting to wash your pots,
use hot water and a disinfectant or pans, dishes, and utensils. (If you
sanitizer. have an energy saving setting, do
Take clothes and linens out- not use it.)
doors and shake out dried mud or
dirt before you wash them. Hose Food
off muddy items to remove all dirt Throw any food out that has been
before you put them in the washer. touched by floodwaters. Even food
That way your drain won’t clog. in tin cans should be discarded if
Check the labels on clothes and the cans got wet during the flood
linens, and wash them in detergent because there is no way to be abso-
and warm water if possible. Adding lutely certain the food inside is safe.
chlorine bleach to the wash cycle Do not keep food in bottles or jars
will remove most mildew and sani- with bottle caps or screw on lids—
tize the clothing, but bleach fades they do not keep out floodwaters.
some fabrics and damages other The U.S. Department of Agricul-
fabrics. You can buy other sanitiz- ture operates a food safety hot-line.
ers, such as pine oil cleaners, at the Professional home economists can
grocery store to sanitize fabrics that answer your questions about whether
cannot be bleached. to keep or discard food. Call 1-888-
If the label says “Dry Clean 674-6854 between 10:00 a.m. and
Only,” shake out loose dirt and take 4:00 p.m, Eastern Time, Monday
the item to a professional cleaner. through Friday.
Furs and leather items are usually
worth the cost of professional clean- Paper and Books
ing. If you want to clean leather Valuable papers such as books,
yourself, wash the mud off and dry photographs, and stamp collections
the leather slowly away from heat or can be restored with a great deal of
sunlight. effort. They can be rinsed and frozen
(in a frost-free freezer or commercial
meat locker) until you have time
S T E P
to work on them. A slightly less water out of barrels, old tires, and
effective alternative to preserving cans. Check that your gutters are
an item is to place items in a sealed clean and can drain. Ditches and
container, such as a plastic bag, with drains also need to be cleaned so
moth crystals. they can carry stormwater away
Papers should be dried quickly from your home.
when they are thawed or unsealed If you can’t get rid of standing
(a blow dryer will do). Don’t try to water, use a commercial product
force paper products apart, just keep that kills mosquito larvae but does
drying them. Photocopy valuable not harm other animals. A slightly
papers and records soon because less effective method is to apply
substances in the water may make a thin film of cooking oil on the
them deteriorate. water. Repeat the application within
If a computer disk or tape has a few days after a rain has disturbed
valuable information, rinse it in the film.
clear water and put it in a plastic bag
in the refrigerator. Later, you can The Lawn
take it to a professional drying cen- Lawns usually survive being un-
ter and have the data transferred to a derwater for up to 4 days. Saltwater
good disk or tape. Many companies should be hosed off the lawn and
that specialize in restoring comput- shrubs. Some grasses are not dam-
ers and computer records after a aged by saltwater flooding. Check
disaster are members of the Disaster with your local nursery, garden
Recovery Institute International. To store, or Cooperative Extension
find a member company near you, Service. You may have to replace the
you can call the Institute at 1-866- lawn if there was mud thicker than
542-3744. 1 inch deep, erosion, or chemicals in
As you get rid of things from Further Information
your home, don’t turn your yard More detailed instructions
into a dump. Food and garbage on how to clean your household
must be hauled away as soon as contents may be presented by local
possible. Other discarded items media (e.g., newspapers, on radio
should be removed as soon as your and TV stations) after a flood event.
insurance adjuster has told you how Many Cooperative Extension Ser-
to make sure their loss is covered. vice offices have more information,
Other things you throw away should especially on animals, vegetables,
be removed as soon as your insur- landscape plants, and household
ance adjuster says it’s okay. items. Check your local telephone
Mosquitoes can carry many book under the name of your
diseases, and a flood can create idea county. For example, if you live in
conditions for them to breed. Drain Montgomery County, look under
or remove standing water that can the Montgomery County Coopera-
become a breeding ground. Dump tive Extension Service.
S T E P
Check on Financial Assistance
S T E P
Check on Financial Assistance
ow much you rebuild and
replace depends on what you
assistance is free and is provided as
a gift of the American people. The
can afford. Four sources of financial Red Cross does not receive funding
assistance can help you through recov- from the government to provide this
ery: insurance, government disaster assistance.
programs, voluntary agencies, and The American Red Cross can help
businesses. If you are fully insured (80 by providing you with a voucher to
percent of the replacement cost of your purchase new clothing, groceries,
home), you may only have to pay the essential medications, rent, bedding,
deductible and your flood insurance necessary furnishings, and other
policy will pay for professional clean- items to meet emergency needs. The
ing and reconstruction. Even if you are Red Cross can also provide you with
insured, the other sources of assistance a cleanup kit: broom, mop, bucket,
can help with expenses that your insur- and cleaning supplies. Listen to
ance policy doesn’t cover. news reports to find out where to
go for this assistance, or look up the
Voluntary Agencies American Red Cross in the tele-
Private voluntary agencies such phone book. You can also find your
as the American Red Cross, Salva- local Red Cross chapter by doing a
tion Army, and church groups are search at the Red Cross web site at
usually on the scene during or right http://www.redcross.org or calling
after a flood. These groups normally 1-202-303-5000.
provide for immediate needs such as
clothing, groceries, shelter, medical Businesses
aid, and counseling. Your local newspapers and radio
Some private organizations can and TV stations will usually publi-
help you restore your home. They cize how businesses are contribut-
may offer supplies or sometimes ing to the recovery process. Some
volunteers to help you clean up and businesses may offer reduced prices,
rebuild. The services are usually but be wary of “flood sales” that are
provided free of charge regardless of selling flood damaged items.
a person’s eligibility for government Some insurance companies and
aid. lenders may let you delay or defer
The American Red Cross provides your monthly payments. Sometimes
emergency assistance to people af- banks will make lower interest loans
fected by disasters, whether or not available for reconstruction. While
the affected area has been declared these may seem easier to obtain than
a disaster area by a governor or the government disaster loans, their
President. All Red Cross disaster interest rates are usually higher.
Check on Financial Assistance 7
S T E P
Be careful about out-of-towners additional damage, but do not make
Some Points on
offering “special deals,” especially repairs that make it impossible for
repair contractors. Sometimes the the adjuster to see the damage. Step
local builders’ association will offer 2 discusses how to protect your • You are supposed to be reim-
advice on reconstruction or advice home from further damage. bursed fairly for your loss, but
on choosing contractors. (See Step 8 While you are waiting for the you are not supposed to profit
from a disaster.
on dealing with repair contractors.) adjuster, the following suggestions
• You cannot collect more than the
will help you organize the informa-
Flood Insurance Claims face value of your policy.
tion that you will need:
You may have as many as three • You cannot collect for uninsured
❏ Take photos or video the items, such as landscaping.
separate insurance policies: home- damage to both the inside and
owner’s, flood, and wind and/or • Most adjusters receive a flat sal-
outside of the building and the ary or compensation on a per
hail. This section covers the proce- contents. case basis. There are no financial
dures for handling a flood insurance ❏ Separate your damaged and incentives that encourage the
claim. Claims for non-flood damage undamaged belongings and adjuster to give you a small claim
will be handled in a similar manner. store them for the adjuster to
You should call your flood insur- • You should get the adjuster’s
ance agent to report your damage as name, company, and phone
❏ Find receipts, canceled checks, number. He or she will probably
soon as possible after the flood. Your or proofs of purchase for high be from out of town.
agent will arrange for an adjuster to cost items such as major appli- • In most cases, you will be reim-
visit your home so that your claim ances, if possible. The adjuster bursed for the actual cash value of
can be settled. Be sure you leave will need the manufacturer’s an item. That is the cost of replac-
phone numbers where you can be name; serial and model num- ing the item minus depreciation.
reached. If your policy is for 80 percent or
bers; price; location and date of
If you are unable to contact the more of the replacement cost of
purchase; and a description of the your home, you will be reim-
local agent, call the National Flood items. bursed for the replacement value
Insurance Program at 1-888-379- of damage to your hom e (no de-
9531. The claims adjuster’s job is to preciation), less your deductible.
Under ideal conditions, the ad- collect information that is sent to • If you have problems with a flood
juster should contact you to set up a central office for processing. The insurance claim, your policy
an appointment to visit your home insured (you) must file a Proof of should list an office or telephone
within a few days after you call Loss form within 60 days of the number that you can contact or
you can call your insurance agent.
your agent. But if flood damage is flooding. In most cases, the adjuster
widespread in your area, it may take will file this form for you. The form
longer for the adjuster to visit, and it states the amount of your loss and
make take time for your claim to be is signed by both the insured and
settled. If flooding is extensive, the the adjuster. An important point to
adjusters will schedule their visits to remember is that you will not be re-
review the most severe damage first. imbursed for expenses not authorized
The adjuster cannot estimate your by the adjuster.
damage until floodwaters are away You can ask the adjuster for an
from the building. advance or partial payment for your
In the meantime, protect your building or contents loss, especially
home and its contents from if you need the money to make your
S T E P
Check on Financial Assistance
home liveable. An advance will not or FEMA may open one or more
DRC Visit Checklist
affect the total amount of your pay- Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs).
Before you go to a DRC or phone ment. Later, when your total pay- These centers will give information
the toll-free number, do your best to ment is determined, the amount you and take applications for assistance
get together the following informa- were advanced will be subtracted and are usually located in a nearby
tion and documents. If you don’t
from it. You can also ask for a partial school or other public building.
have all of them, don’t worry; gather
what you have and start your disaster payment if you disagree with the They will be open during the day
assistance application process. amount of your loss on the Proof of and early evening for several days to
• Your name, address, Social Security Loss form. Tell your adjuster if you give people time to come in. Check
number, and identification disagree and ask what steps can be local newspapers and radio and TV
• Telephone numbers where you or a taken to straighten out your claim reports for the locations and hours.
neighbor can be reached payment. Federal disaster assistance may be
• Names and ages of all persons The check to settle your flood available in some cases to deal with
living in your home at the time of insurance building claim will most uninsured losses and needs. People
likely be in your name as well as who are not insured should go to
• Insurance papers, including the
the name of your mortgage holder. a DRC first. If possible, those with
“Proof of Loss” form
Some insurance companies may insurance should file their Proof of
• A summary of your damage and a
rough idea of the cost of repair or send the payment to your mort- Loss form before visiting a DRC. If
replacement (see Step 3) gage holder. Talk to your mortgage there is a long wait, you can make
• Your income and the income of all company ahead of time to make an appointment for another time.
other members of your household sure there won’t be a delay in getting Call 1-800-621-3362 or check
• Who you owe money to and how your claim payment to you. FEMA’s web site at http://www.
much you owe (mortgage, car loan, fema.gov.
etc.) Disaster Assistance When you go to a DRC or ap-
• The total amount of your living If the flooding was widespread ply for disaster assistance, take the
expenses (rent, mortgage, food, and caused a lot of damage, your
clothing, utilities, medical, and
items listed below: The first person
community might be eligible for you will talk to at a DRC will be a
state or federal aid. To receive such receptionist. He or she will re-
• Directions to your property, start-
assistance, your community must view your damage and needs, and
ing from a major road, and a road
map with an X for your property be declared a disaster area by your identify which programs are most
governor, a federal agency director, appropriate for you. You will receive
or the President. Local newspapers a checklist of programs that can help
and radio and TV stations will keep you. You can then talk to representa-
you informed about disaster declara- tives of these programs at the DRC.
tions and where to get information There are six types of federal or
about any programs that might be state disaster assistance. Except as
available to you. noted, the following are available
If the flood were severe enough only if the President issues a disaster
for your area to be declared a disas- declaration for your area.
ter area by the federal government,
the Federal Emergency Management Disaster Housing Assistance
Agency may open “teleregistration,” This program may provide a safe
which provides a toll-free number place to live until repairs to dam-
for you to call to request assistance, aged homes are completed. Rent
S T E P
Check on Financial Assistance
assistance or mobile homes may be an amended tax return for the past
provided to those without insur- year and get a partial refund for your
ance. If repairs can be done quickly uninsured casualty losses. Even if no
to make your house liveable, the federal declaration is made, you can
program may provide funds to make often deduct your uninsured losses
those repairs. on your next income tax return.
Ask the Internal Revenue Service
Disaster Loans for Publication 547, Non-Business
Home and business owners, Disasters, Casualties, and Theft to get
farmers, and others with real or more information. This document
personal property losses may be can be downloaded at http://www.
eligible for low interest loans. These irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p547.pdf.
loans are administered by the federal
government’s Small Business Ad- Floodproofing Assistance
ministration (SBA) and the Farmers Restoring a building to its pre-
Home Administration (FmHA). flood condition used to be the focus
SBA and FmHA can provide loans of government disaster programs.
even if there is no Presidential disas- Now, some programs encourage
ter declaration. “floodproofing,”—that is, modify-
Eligibility and loan interest rates ing the structure to help it with-
vary according to the income and stand damage from the next flood
financial condition of the applicant. (see Step 8). The SBA’s Disaster
Check your local newspaper or radio Assistance Loan program can loan
or TV stations for the types of loans additional money to cover certain
available for replacing your personal floodproofing costs—call SBA at
property and for repairing your 1-800-827-5722. Other programs
house. will vary from state to state.
Individual and Family Grants Counseling
This program may provide funds A variety of programs give advice
for necessary expenses and serious on recovering from a disaster. These
needs. Grants can cover immediate include help with unemployment,
expenses such as medical treatment, food stamps, income taxes, insur-
transportation, home repair, replace- ance claims, legal issues, veterans
ment of essential personal items, and benefits, and crisis counseling. Crisis
the cost of protecting your property counseling can be especially helpful
from the flood. Applicants must not in coping with problems as you re-
have other financial resources or be cover from the flood before they get
able to qualify for an SBA disaster out of hand. Be sure to ask the Red
loan. Cross about disaster mental health
Income Tax Deductions
If a federal disaster declaration
was made, you might quality to file
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Rebuild and Floodproof
S T E P
Rebuild and Floodproof
on’t just build it back; build it
better. Now is the best possible
the government to act; you can
take care of protecting your home
time to think about floodproofing your when you are ready.
home because you can take definite • Floodproofing won’t make it pos-
action to protect your property in the sible for you to stay at home in a
future. Many floodproofing measures flood. But it is likely to make it
are quite simple, cost effective, and much quicker and easier for you
easy to put in place. By floodproofing to clean up the next time.
as you rebuild, you can make the next Before you repair or rebuild, the
flood easier on you and your wallet. first thing you should do is talk
Floodproofing to your town’s or city’s or county’s
Floodproofing means to remodel building department. You will need
or rebuild using materials and meth- to ask the following questions:
ods that will prevent or minimize • What are the procedures for
damage from future floods. Con- applying for a building permit?
sider the benefits to floodproofing What inspections will need to be
your home: done?
• By protecting your home from • Is your home substantially dam-
damage, floodproofing will save aged? (Substantially damaged
you money, aggravation, and means that the cost to restore
stress during the next flood. your home to its “before dam-
• Many floodproofing measures are aged” condition would equal or
inexpensive. exceed 50 percent of the market
• Protecting your home from value your home had before the
future flood damage will increase damage occurred.) The flood pro-
your property’s resale value. tection level is the level of flood-
• Many floodproofing measures ing that you want your home
can be easily worked in during to be able to withstand without
repair and rebuilding, resulting in damage to your home or your
reduced costs. belongings.
• Some financial assistance pro- Start by asking your building de-
grams can help pay for flood- partment what flood protection level
proofing. is required for your area. If a flood
• By preparing for the next flood, occurred that was higher than the
you regain control over your level they gave you, you should use
future—a guaranteed way to that flood’s level plus 1 or 2 feet for
reduce your level of anxiety and safety. The next flood may be worse.
stress. You don’t have to wait for
S T E P
Rebuild and Floodproof
The next step is to decide if you also the most dependable measures
will be better off living in a different for floodproofing your home.
location, away from areas that flood. An elevated building will need a
Ask your building official about new foundation. The contractor will
government agencies that sometimes jack up a structure and temporar-
purchase property for open space ily set it on a temporary framework
or flood protection in areas that called cribbing while the foundation
flood—you may qualify. is built underneath. The founda-
If you are sure that you will repair tions of an elevated building may
or rebuild your home in the flood- be columns, piers, pilings, or raised
prone area, choose the floodproofing foundation walls. The elevated
type that is best for your home or building will usually look better and
property. Basic types of floodproof- have added protection if fill dirt
ing are described here, as well as is placed around the new founda-
rebuilding tips to help you safely tion. But check with your building
repair and rebuild. department before adding fill dirt. It
may not be allowed in your com-
Five Types of Floodproofing munity.
1. Elevation 2. Relocation
Most buildings can be raised so Moving a building out of the
that the lowest floor is above the flood-prone area is the surest way
possible flood level. If you had foun- to protect it from flood damage.
dation damage from the flood, you Most homes and smaller commercial
may need to raise the home to repair buildings in good condition can be
it. It will be easier and cheaper to moved, and it is usually no problem
elevate the home at that time. to find contractors experienced in
There should be many contractors moving buildings. You will have to
qualified to undertake elevating your purchase a new lot unless your pres-
home above flood level. Elevation ent lot is large and has a good spot
or relocation are the only reason- on higher ground for your home.
able ways to protect your home if Relocation and elevation are the
it is subject to coastal flooding or only reasonable choices for protect-
to deep flooding (more than 6 feet ing a home that is subject to deep
deep.) Elevation and relocation are flooding (of more than 6 feet in
depth) or to coastal flooding.
Floodwalls, berms, and levees
all work to keep floodwaters from
reaching your home. They are built
to at least the height of the flood
protection level in your area. Flood-
walls are usually made of concrete.
S T E P
Rebuild and Floodproof
4. Dry Floodproofing
Dry floodproofing means sealing
a building to keep floodwaters out.
All areas below the flood protection
level are made watertight. Walls are
coated with plastic or rubberized
sheeting or special waterproofing
compounds. Openings such as
doors, windows, sewer lines, and
vents are closed permanently, or can
Berms are simply small levees, usu- be temporarily sealed with remov-
ally built from fill dirt. able shields or sandbags.
Floodwalls, berms, and levees can Dry floodproofing can only be
either surround the building (ring done if the walls of your home are
levee) or connect to high ground. strong enough to hold back the
They can also be built up against a floodwaters without collapsing. For
building’s foundation walls. A sump this reason, dry floodproofing is not
and pump will be needed to pump recommended if floodwaters are
out water that seeps under the wall. expected to be more than 2 or 3 feet
Floodwalls, levees, and berms may above the ground level. Dry flood-
not be allowed in your area if they proofing is generally not appropri-
could create a drainage problem on ate for homes with basements or
your neighbor’s property. Check crawlspaces.
with your building department
before you build.
Floodwalls of all types work best
in places where flooding is less than
3 feet deep. If floodwaters near your
home develop swift currents, flood-
walls, levees, and berms cannot be
used—they may wash away. Flood-
walls and berms may not be appro-
priate for homes with basements.
If there is not enough room for
a levee or berm, you may be able to 5. Wet Floodproofing
build a floodwall made of concrete, Wet floodproofing means modi-
which takes up less room. The walls fying a building so that floodwaters
should contain internal reinforcing will cause only minimal damage to
bars to give added strength as well the building and contents. Building
as to help walls resist cracking and materials below the flood protection
settling over time. Walls must be level are replaced with materials that
properly anchored to withstand the are resistant to water. Floodwaters
same water pressure that can destroy are allowed into the building to
S T E P
Rebuild and Floodproof
counteract the pressure of the water need to get approval from your ho-
on the outside of the walls. meowner’s association or mortgage
holder before you make repairs or
alterations to your home or prop-
If you are just replacing items
such as carpeting or wallboard, you
will probably not need a permit—
but you should check with your lo-
cal building department before you
You should furnish areas that proceed. You will usually have to
have been wet floodproofed with get a permit for electrical work and
light, portable furniture that can be repairs of structural damage, such as
easily and quickly moved before a broken walls.
flood. Objects that are difficult to Most local and state building
move, such as furnaces, water heat- codes require that a building that is
ers, appliances, and bookcases, are substantially damaged be treated as
either put on platforms or rein- a new building. A new residential
stalled upstairs. building must be built so that its
Wet floodproofing has one ad- lowest floor is at or above the flood
vantage over the other four flood- protection level. In other words, if
proofing types: even the smallest your home meets the criteria de-
efforts will significantly reduce flood scribed above for “substantially dam-
damage the next time. Thousands of aged,” you will have no choice but
dollars can be saved simply by mov- to elevate or relocate your home in
ing furniture and electrical applianc- order to meet local building codes.
es out of areas that will flood. If you Failure to follow the local build-
decide not to use one of the other ing code can result in an order to stop
four floodproofing types, you should reconstruction, a fine, imprisonment,
use wet floodproofing measures as higher flood insurance rates, denial of
you repair and rebuild. The rebuild- flood insurance, or all of the above.
ing tips in this section give more wet
floodproofing ideas. Rebuilding Tips
Give your home plenty of time
Building Permits to dry. Many problems result from
One you’ve determined the rebuilding after a flood before
repairs and floodproofing measures everything dries. If it takes a week
you are going to take, local codes for the visible signs of moisture to
generally require that you get a disappear, allow at least another
building permit. Before you make week for the parts you cannot see
repairs or alterations to your home to dry. Don’t try to force a swollen
or property, make sure your plans door to close or wooden parts to
are reviewed and approved by your fit. When completely dry, the wood
building department. You may also may regain its original shape.
S T E P
Rebuild and Floodproof
There are small, inexpensive such as washers and dryers are secure
Products That Resist
measures you can take to make your and will not vibrate off the blocks or
recovery easier from future floods. platform during use.
• Concrete, concrete block, or You can protect the furnace,
glazed brick Utilities water heater, washer, and dryer from
• Clay, concrete, or ceramic tile Move the main breaker or fuse shallow flooding with a low flood-
• Galvanized or stainless steel nails, box and the utility meters above wall built around the appliance. A
hurricane clips, and connectors the flood protection level for your concrete or wooden wall 1 or 2 feet
(in areas subject to saltwater home. Make sure each circuit is high can stop low-level flooding.
flooding) labeled so you know which circuits The wall should be waterproofed
• Indoor-outdoor carpeting with control which outlets and fixtures.
synthetic backing (do not fasten with plastic sheeting or waterproof-
If the electrical code allows, raise the ing compounds that can be pur-
electrical outlets and switches above chased at hardware stores.
• Terrazzo, rubber, or vinyl floor
covering with waterproof adhe- your flood protection level.
sives If you are going to replace a Walls
• Metal doors and window frames flooded furnace, water heater, or Wash and disinfect the studs and
• Polyester-epoxy paint (do not use air conditioner, install the new sills if the wallboard and insulation
mildew-resistant paint indoors, one on a higher floor. If your new had to be removed. If you are going
especially on cribs, playpens, or air conditioner or heat pump will to rebuild the walls, remember that
toys because it contains an ingre- be outside, install it on a platform metal studs and sills are not dam-
dient that is toxic)
above the flood protection level. A aged by water as much as wooden
• Stone, slate, or cast stone (with
water heater can be put anywhere studs.
near a hot water pipe. An updraft Pressure-treated wood will resist
• Foam board insulation
furnace located in a basement can be mildew and wood eating insects
• Water-resistant glue
replaced with a downdraft furnace outdoors, but it may swell as much
on a floor above the flood protection as untreated wood when soaked.
level. Some kinds of pressure treated wood
should not be used inside the home,
where they will come into contact
with food or skin. (It depends on
which chemicals were used to treat
them.) Ask your lumber company to
help you choose the right products
for jobs you will do. They should
also have consumer information
sheets that give specific precautions
Where the flood protection level for some products. Ask for them.
is not too high, a furnace, water
heater, or other heavy appliance Wallboard
can also be raised on a platform Think horizontal rather than
inside the home. Put the appliance vertical. Install the wallboard panels
on concrete blocks or a wooden sideways so they are only 4 feet
platform supported by concrete high. If the next flood is less than 4
blocks. Make certain that appliances feet deep, you only have to replace
half the wall.
S T E P
Rebuild and Floodproof
Do not paint until the surface is
completely dry. If the surface still
contains moisture, the paint will
peel. Things look dry on the sur-
face long before they are dry on the
inside, and this can lead to costly
mistakes. It may take several weeks
This drawing shows another sug- for the surface to dry out enough.
gestion. Leave the wall open 1 inch To get an idea if a wall or floor
above the sill. The baseboard will is dry enough to paint, dry an area
hide this gap. When you remove approximately 18 inches square
the baseboard after the next flood, with a blow dryer. (When checking
the wall cavity will drain freely and a wall, select an area near the floor
air will circulate better. Check your where it will be the most damp.)
local codes, however. If a firewall is Cover the area with a piece of clear
required, the building code may not plastic sheeting. Carefully seal all the
allow the gap. edges with tape. Check the plastic
“Greenboard” or other moisture- 24 hours later. If there are beads of
resistant wallboard is made for bath- condensation on the side of the plas-
rooms and other damp areas, such tic that faces the wall or the floor, it’s
as basements. It may be more sturdy still too damp to paint.
when wet than regular wallboard. You can cover concrete surfaces
However, if soaked with floodwa- with a clear coating or penetrat-
ters, it will present the same health ing sealer to make cleanup easier
hazards as regular wallboard and next time. Don’t paint over water
should be replaced. stains—they will bleed through sev-
eral coats of paint. Coat the stained
Floors area with shellac or a commercial
Some floors are made with stain killer before painting.
particle board or plywood, materi- If you are going to dry floodproof
als that fall apart when wet for long. your walls, don’t rely on waterproof-
Floor joists and some wood floors ing paints; they cannot keep flood-
will regain their shapes if allowed to waters out. Such paints may protect
dry naturally. a deck from rain, but they cannot
After re-nailing, a wooden floor protect walls and floors against the
may need a little sanding to be pressure of standing water. (Thick
smooth, or you can place a new un- plastic or rubberized sheeting pro-
derlayment for a new floor over it. vides the most secure waterproofing
Use screws or screw nails on floors seal.)
and stairs to minimize warping. Do
not lay new flooring or carpet until
the subflooring is completely dry.
S T E P
Rebuild and Floodproof
Windows ❏ Ask for proof of insurance. Be
Products to Avoid
If you live near the coast, your sure the contractor has liability,
Avoid using or storing in areas likely home is likely to suffer damage from disability, and worker’s compen-
to flood: the high winds and floodwaters of sation insurance. If the contractor
• Fiberglass or cellulose insulation a hurricane or nor’easter. Boarding is not insured, you may be liable
• Cork, corkboard up all your windows and doors is for accidents on your property.
• Gasoline, weed killer, pesticide, lye, the best way to protect them from ❏ Ask for references. Contrac-
drain cleaner, swimming pool and breaking and letting in the heavy tors should be willing to provide
rains that a coastal storm brings. names of previous customers.
Taping windows will not prevent Call some of the customers and
• Particle board, chipboard, fiber-
them from breaking during a storm. ask if they would hire the con-
board, paperboard, strawboard,
wood-grain paneling Cut plywood to fit each of your tractor again.
• Wallboard, drywall, gypsum windows and doors well before a ❏ Ask for a written estimate.
• Wallpaper storm threatens. Label each piece so Check it to make sure it in-
you’ll know which window or door cludes everything you expect the
it covers. Store the plywood with contractor to do. Some contrac-
the nails or other fasteners you will tors charge a fee for an estimate,
need to attach them. That way, you which is understandable because
will be able to quickly put up the they have plenty of work to do
plywood when a storm threatens. after a flood.
❏ Ask for a contract. The contract
Contractors should be complete and clearly
You may need a contractor to state all the work, the costs, and
help you rebuild, especially to han- the payment schedule. Never
dle the difficult jobs such as founda- sign a blank contract or one with
tion repair and electrical work. If blank spaces. If a lot of money is
you have been satisfied with work involved, it may be worth your
done by licensed local contractors, while to have an attorney look at
try them first. If they cannot help the contract before you sign it.
you, ask them for recommendations. ❏ Ask for any guarantees in writ-
If you must hire a contractor you ing. If the contractor provides
do not know, talk to several con- guarantees, they should be
tractors before you sign anything. written into the contract, clearly
Reputable contractors would agree stating what is guaranteed, who
that you should take the following is responsible for the guarantee
steps: (the dealer, the contractor, or the
❏ Check on the firm’s reputation. manufacturer), and how long the
The local Better Business Bureau, guarantee is valid.
home builders association, or ❏ Obtain a copy of the final
building trade councils are excel- signed contract. Once signed,
lent sources. Ask if the firm has it is binding on both you and
had unanswered complaints filed the contractor.
S T E P
Rebuild and Floodproof
❏ Don’t sign off before the job is “cooling off ” period for unsolic-
finished. Don’t sign completion ited door-to-door sales of more
papers or make the final payment than $25. If you want to cancel
until the work is completed to such a contract within 3 busi-
your satisfaction. A reputable ness days of signing it, send your
contractor will not threaten you cancellation by registered mail.
or pressure you to sign if the job Other types of sales may have
is not properly finished. contracts with different cancella-
Areas recuperating from floods tion clauses.
can be prime targets for less than • Beware if you are asked to pay
honest business activities. Build- cash on the spot instead of a
ing codes often require that work check made out to the contract-
be done only by licensed contrac- ing company. A reasonable down
tors. Some building departments payment is up to 30 percent of
and trade associations keep lists of the total cost of the project.
contractors who work in the com- • Make sure your contractor calls
munity. you or a qualified observer to
Here are some points to remem- inspect work before it is covered
ber: over. Shoddy work on sewers or
• Be cautious when contractors you basement walls will be hidden
don’t know offer “special deals” from view, and you won’t know if
after a disaster or want to use there is a problem until the next
your home as a “model home.” flood. Most building departments
• Ask for complete financial details will want to inspect electrical and
in writing and for an explanation plumbing lines before the walls
of any differences from regular are covered with wallboard or
prices. Sales are worthwhile and paneling.
they do exist, but be sure you are If you are a victim of fraud or
getting the services and products have problems with a less than repu-
for which you are paying. table contractor, the state or local
• Do not sign a contract when a consumer protection office or public
salesperson has pressured you. attorney should be able to tell you
Federal law requires a 3-day what to do.
S T E P
Prepare for the Next Flood
S T E P
Prepare for the Next Flood
e prepared is more than just a
Scout motto. Your home will •
An NFIP policy does not cover:
Damage caused by high ground
very likely be flooded again someday. water, sewer backup, subsurface
Preparing for the next flood will flows, or local drainage problems
protect you and your family, your that are not considered a “general
property, your finances, and your peace condition of flooding”
of mind. In addition to the floodproof- • Property located outside an insur-
ing measures discussed in the previous able building, including fences,
step, you should buy flood insurance, outdoor swimming pools, drive-
develop a flood response plan, and help ways, docks, floodwalls, crops in
your community implement a flood the field, and landscaping
protection program. • Vehicles, trailers on wheels, and
Flood Insurance • Paneling, carpeting, furniture,
Even if you have floodproofed and contents in the finished por-
your home, you still need insurance tion of a basement or underneath
to protect you from the unexpected an elevated building
events such as a flood that rises • Animals
higher than your flood protection • Money, valuable papers, and land
level. If you have insurance, find out values
whether you have the right kinds • Living expenses and lost income
of coverage, and whether you have
adequate coverage. Homeowners’ The NFIP provides federally-
policies do not cover damage caused backed insurance coverage for
by floods, so you will probably need any building in a community that
to purchase a separate policy under is participating in the program.
the National Flood Insurance Pro- Almost every type of walled and
gram (NFIP). roofed building can be insured. It
An NFIP policy covers: does not matter whether the build-
• Damage to your home or con- ing is in or out of the floodplain. A
tents caused by a general condi- mobile (manufactured) home affixed
tion of surface water flooding (up to a permanent site and properly
to the amount of your coverage) anchored can also be insured. You
• Costs for protecting your proper- can get coverage on the building as
ty from flood damage, including well as for contents.
moving and storing your con- Building coverage. Insurance
tents for up to 45 days (up to the can be purchased for the walls,
amount of the deductible) floors, insulation, wall to wall
• Expenses for removing debris left carpeting, furnace, and other items
by the flood permanently attached to the
S T E P
Prepare for the Next Flood
structure. (Permanent items include companies sell coverage for water
anything that would not fall out if damage caused by sewer backup or
you turned your home upside down; sump pump failure—items that are
i.e., items that stay with the building not covered by the NFIP.
when it is sold.) Up to 10 percent of NFIP flood insurance is sold
the policy value for building cover- through private insurance agents
age may apply to a detached garage and companies. All companies offer
or carport on the same lot. identical coverage and rates.
If you buy insurance for 80 Newer or substantially improved
percent or more of the replace- homes are charged according to
ment value of your home, you will their elevation in relation to the
be reimbursed for the replacement expected flood level. Older homes,
value of damage to your home— which are “grandfathered” in,
no depreciation will apply. If your qualify for a flat, subsidized rate.
coverage is for less than 80 percent, Homes outside floodplains that are
you will be reimbursed for the actual identified on Flood Insurance Rate
cash value of the damage—replace- Maps (FIRMs) pay lower rates. You
ment value minus depreciation. can check your property’s location
Contents coverage. Contents on a FIRM at your building depart-
coverage insures your personal ment or an insurance agent’s office.
property. Renters as well as owners A few private insurance compa-
may purchase contents coverage. nies sell their own flood insurance
Although you can get contents policies, although the coverage and
coverage without having a building rates are different from the NFIP’s.
coverage policy, those contents must Some mobile home insurance covers
be located in a building that can be flood losses. Unlike the NFIP, pri-
insured under the NFIP. Contents vate insurance will vary from com-
coverage will pay some costs to pany to company, so check several
move and store contents in a safe for their coverage and rates.
place when a flood threatens. If you are located in a floodplain
Basements. Building coverage shown on a FIRM, you must buy
is recommended to cover the walls, flood insurance coverage as a condi-
floor, furnace, and other struc- tion of having a mortgage or home
tural components of a basement. improvement loan from a federally
However, the NFIP does not cover regulated lender or as a condition
finished portions of a basement for getting federal disaster assistance.
(carpets, wallboard) or its contents. In some cases, private insurance
Damage to the basement foundation will suffice for this requirement,
is a major problem during floods, so but generally the lender or disaster
this coverage can be very important assistance agency will ask to see an
even though it does not cover the NFIP policy.
finished portions (carpets, wallpa-
per) of basements. Some private
S T E P
Prepare for the Next Flood
Flood Response Plan the format shown in Step 3. Keep
Preparing a flood response plan photocopies of inventory records,
Buy flood insurance protection will help you think through all the insurance policies, deeds, and other
before the next flood is threatening. details that will demand attention as valuable papers at a different loca-
There is a 30-day waiting period be- the floodwaters approach. This is a tion, someplace outside of the flood-
fore NFIP flood coverage takes effect.
project for the whole family. As you prone area.
Contact your insurance agent for
information on rates and coverage. write down the plan, you can make If flooding in your area is from
sure everyone understands it. And sewer backup or basements, your
having the plan in writing will help own water alarm can give you pre-
you remember what to do when cious lead time before your belong-
everyone is in a hurry and nervous ings are damaged by floodwaters.
because a flood is coming. A water alarm is similar to a smoke
The next flood might be worse alarm; it beeps when water touches
than the last one. Talk to your it. Water alarms cost $10 to $20 and
building official or city or county are available at hardware stores.
engineer about that possibility. See Develop a flood response plan
Step 8 for information on the flood based on the flood protection level,
protection level in your area to use local warning procedures, and the
as you prepare your flood response estimated time you will have to re-
plan. spond. In flash flood areas, you may
Check with your local emergency only have enough time to evacuate.
manager or Red Cross chapter for But if you live in areas in the path
the official warning and evacuation of a hurricane or on large rivers, you
procedures. Find out how much may have 12-24 hours of warning
warning time you will have to leave time.
your home before the flood reaches
you. Identify a friend, relative, or Flash Floods
motel where you can go when you If you live in a mountainous area,
are asked to evacuate. Test drive or if your flooding comes from a
your evacuation route to be certain small stream or ditch, your home
it will be passable when flooding is may be subject to flash flooding.
likely. Be prepared to evacuate when Flash floods can occur before the
told to do so or if you see flood- local emergency managers have time
waters rising. You may hear flood to issue a warning. In these cases,
Flood Watch, Flood warning and evacuation information the National Weather Service may
Warning on your local radio and TV stations. issue a flash flood watch advising
Make a record of all your per- people that conditions are favorable
Floods can take several hours to days
to develop. sonal property. Go through your for a flash flood. You may not be no-
• A flood watch means a flood is pos- home room by room recording tified of a flash flood warning before
sible in your area. household inventories and taking flooding actually begins.
• A flood warning means flooding photographs or videos. Inventory
is already occurring or will occur
forms are available from most insur- If you live near the coast, you will
soon in your area.
ance companies, or you can use be asked to evacuate when a
Prepare for the Next Flood 9
S T E P
hurricane threatens your commu- ❏ If you have enough warning
Flash Flood Watch
nity. It is important to evacuate time, move your contents above
when you are asked to. Prepare your the flood protection level or to If it is raining a lot, or if you are in
flood response plan to take into another safe place. Some of the mountainous areas, it’s a good idea
account all of the time that you will cost of doing this can be covered to keep listening to local radio or
TV stations (not stations in loca-
need to protect your home before under an NFIP flood insurance
tions away from where you are). If
you evacuate. You will need time to policy. you hear a flash flood watch for your
board your windows and to clear ❏ Install flood shields and other area, it’s a good idea to stay on high
your yard so that your belongings floodproofing measures you may ground.
will not blow or float away. You may have prepared.
If you hear a flash flood warning,
also want to take time to move your ❏ In hurricane-prone areas, protect
climb to higher ground immediately.
belongings above the flood protec- against wind damage. Install hur- Leave your car, camping gear, or
tion level (see Step 8). ricane shutters or plywood covers other belongings where they are. You
over windows and doors, take may have only minutes to escape.
Developing a Checklist down TV antennas, and securely
Your flood response plan should tie down boats, garbage cans, and Flash floods can happen without
be a checklist of steps to take before warning. If you hear a rumbling
everything else left outdoors. sound, if animals are running away
floodwaters reach your home. The ❏ Tape plastic around the cap to from where you are, or if you feel
following are examples of things to your well. This will prevent most, the ground shaking, climb to higher
include: but not all, floodwater from en- ground immediately.
❏ Listen to local radio or TV sta- tering your water supply. You will
tions for flood information and still have to disinfect your water,
evacuation instructions. as explained in Step 5.
❏ Read the flood safety precautions ❏ Turn off the electricity, gas, oil,
on the inside front cover of this and water.
document. ❏ Lock your home.
❏ Get in the habit of keeping a full ❏ Follow your designated evacua-
tank of gas in your car, especially tion route to a place of shelter.
at times of the year when flood-
ing can be expected in your area. If You Are Asked to Evacuate
❏ Pack the car with supplies you Take essential disaster supplies
need while away from home. with you. See ARC 4463 on page
❏ Put supplies needed for cleanup 46.
and recovery in a safe place. If
your flood protection level is over Community Activities
your top floor, you may have to Your neighborhood or commu-
store supplies at a friend’s home nity can take steps to reduce flood
away from the flood-prone area losses in the future. Recent flooding
or take them with you in your may prompt local governments to
car. start a flood planning effort that en-
❏ Take pets to a kennel or a friend’s courages citizens to participate. If no
place on high ground. Health effort is underway, encourage your
codes do not allow animals in community leaders to start a flood
public shelters. protection program.
S T E P
Prepare for the Next Flood
There are many ways to reduce flood to be sure you have them on
flood damage. a community flood hand. Get burlap or plastic sand-
protection program should consider bags. Other kinds of bags simply
a variety of activities. The obvious won’t hold up. Burlap or plastic bags
solution often seems to be “fixing” cost 25 to 50 cents each. Sand and
the shoreline or river using flood plastic sheeting must also be stock-
control projects such as dredging or piled.
seawalls. Unfortunately, these activi- Sandbagging can also be very
ties may not be effective, feasible, or time consuming. It takes two people
affordable without state or federal approximately 1 hour to fill and
aid. Because flood control projects place 100 sandbags, giving you a
require so much planning, time, wall 1 foot high and 20 feet long. If
and money, communities should you skimp on the bags, you risk put-
also consider and implement other ting up a wall that will be knocked
Keeping the ditches and drain- When a flood is imminent,
ageways open is very important. everyone wants to sandbag, usually
Trash, construction materials, shop- because they don’t know what else
ping carts, and even grass clippings to do. While it does have a thera-
dumped in a ditch can clog bridges peutic effect, sandbagging should be
and culverts, and add to water pol- considered only as part of an overall
lution. flood response plan, or as a last
Neighborhood efforts to keep the resort for individuals.
ditches clean and to report dump- A good plan will help use your
ers can make a big difference in limited time and resources most
the amount of flooding, especially efficiently. For example, a flood re-
during smaller storms. Report illegal sponse plan might call for sandbags
floodplain construction activities to fill in gaps in a floodwall.
(i.e., those without a permit posted) Sandbagging is supposed to keep
to the building department. water away from vulnerable flood-
You can work with your neigh- prone properties. Floodproofing
bors to monitor stream levels or measures and moving contents out
rain gauges to give the community of the way are much more secure
advance warning. It may also be methods to accomplish the same
possible to monitor common debris thing. Therefore, before you con-
catching sites, such as bridges, and sider sandbagging for your property,
keep the openings clear. consider the flood protection alter-
natives discussed in Step 8. They are
Sandbagging more effective and more dependable
Sandbagging can be very expen- ways to protect a home from
sive. If your community wants to flooding.
establish a plan for sandbagging, you
will have to buy sandbags before a
S T E P
Prepare for the Next Flood
Sources of Information under Pittsburg County Coopera-
The following sources can provide tive Extension Service.
advice or assistance on flood re- Questions on cleaning or disin-
covery. Some may be able to speak fecting of specific materials can be
to neighborhood groups or help answered by manufacturers of clean-
in developing a community flood ing products. Check the product la-
protection program. bels for toll free telephone numbers.
Flood Preparedness and Safety Flood Insurance
The American Red Cross and Your property insurance agent is
local emergency managers conduct the best source of information on
sessions to increase public aware- flood insurance. He or she can give
ness and to educate the community you forms and instructions for mak-
in ways to prevent, prepare for, ing your own property inventory.
and cope with emergencies. Local a free copy of Answers to Questions
emergency managers also sponsor About the National Flood Insur-
public meetings on damage reduc- ance Program, is available from the
tion, safety, response planning, how Federal Emergency Management
to handle stress, and other flood- Agency (http://www.fema.gov/busi-
related topics. ness/nfip/qanda.shtm).
The following publications are
available from the American Red Repairs and Rebuilding
Cross. Contact the Red Cross Local building and housing
(1-202-303-5000) for more infor- departments, and hardware stores
mation: are excellent sources of technical
• Your Family Disaster Plan (ARC advice. Their staffs have many years
4466) of experience in dealing with local
• Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit construction conditions. Home
(ARC 4463) maintenance and repair books that
• Safe Living in Your Manufactured are found in libraries or bookstores
Home (ARC 4465) are invaluable references for the do-
• Are You Ready for a Flood or Flash it-yourselfer.
Flood? (ARC 4458) Private home inspectors can give
• Are You Ready for a Hurricane? you itemized lists and cost estimates
(ARC 4454) of needed repairs. (Look in the yel-
low pages under Building Inspection
Cleanup Services.) Building trades associa-
Many Cooperative Extension Ser- tions and the Better Business Bureau
vice offices have home economists can provide guidance on dealing
and food and farm experts. Check with contractors.
your telephone book under the
name of your county. For example,
if you live in Pittsburg County, look
S T E P
Prepare for the Next Flood
Floodproofing • Flood-Proofing Regulations, U.S.
Some local building officials Army Corps of Engineers (Corps
and are familiar with floodproofing publication EP 1165-2-314),
techniques. Several states and com- 1990.
munities have published flood- • Raising and Moving the Slab
proofing or “retrofitting” manuals. on Grade Home with Slab At-
FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of tached, U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers have several publications Engineers,1990.
that provide excellent summaries of • Flood Proofing - How to Evaluate
various floodproofing measures. The Your Options, U.S. Army Corps
following are available free from: of Engineers, 1993.
FEMA Distribution Center • Flood Proofing - Techniques, Pro-
4440 Buckeystown Pike grams, and References, U.S. Army
Frederick, MD 21704 Corps of Engineers, 1996.
or call: 1-800-480-2520 Information on technical aspects
• Elevated Residential Structures, of floodproofing can be obtained
FEMA 54. from the Association of State Flood-
• Floodproofing for Non-Residential plain Managers. Call 1-608-227-
Structures, FEMA 102. 0123 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Central
• Coastal Construction Manual, Time.
FEMA 55. FEMA Regional Offices
• Protecting Manufactured Homes
from Floods and Other Hazards, FEMA Headquarters
FEMA P-85. 500 C Street, SW.
• Engineering Principles and Prac- Washington, DC 20472
tices of Retrofitting Floodprone (202) 646-2500, (800) 621-FEMA
Residential Structures, FEMA 259. (3362)
• Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofiting, TTY: (800) 462-7585
The following are available for Region I – CT, MA, ME, NH,
free from: RI, VT
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 99 High Street, Sixth Floor
441 G Street, NW Boston, MA 02110
Washington, D.C. 20314-1000 (617) 956-7506
1-202-761-0011 Region II – NJ, NY, PR, VI
• Flood Proofing Tests, Tests of Ma- 26 Federal Plaza, Suite 1337
terials and Systems for Flood Proof- New York, NY 10278-0002
ing Structures, U.S. Army Corps (212) 680-3600
of Engineers, National Flood
Proofing Committee, 1988.
S T E P
Prepare for the Next Flood
Region III – DC, DE, MD, PA, Region IX – AZ, CA, HI, NV,
VA, WV American Samoa, Guam, Com-
615 Chestnut Street monwealth of the Northern
One Independence Mall, Sixth Mariana Islands, Republic of
Floor the Marshall Islands, Federated
Philadelphia, PA 19106-4404 States of Micronesia
(215) 931-5608 1111 Broadway, Suite 1200
Oakland, CA 94607-4052
Region IV – AL, FL, GA, KY,
MS, NC, SC, TN
3003 Chamblee Tucker Road Region X – AK, ID, OR, WA
Atlanta, GA 30341 Federal Regional Center
(770) 220-5200 130 228th Street, SW.
Bothell, WA 98021-8627
Region V – IL, IN, MI, MN, (425) 487-4600
536 South Clark Street, Sixth Floor
Chicago, IL 60605-1521
Region VI – AR, LA, NM, OK,
Federal Regional Center
800 North Loop 288
Denton, TX 76209-3698
Region VII – IA, KS, MO, NE
9221 Ward Parkway, Suite 300
Kansas City, MO 64114-3372
Region VIII – CO, MT, ND,
SD, UT, WY
Denver Federal Center, Building
P.O. Box 25267
Denver, CO 80255-0267
A Contracts 12, 39 Emergency steps 42
Adjuster 11, 12, 15, 19, 26, 29-30 Cosmetics 15 Floodproofing 2, 11, 31-39, 40,
Air conditioning 10, 14, 16 Counseling 1, 28, 31 43-44, 46
American Red Cross 2, 4, 13, 24, Crawlspace 10, 19, 34 Assistance 31
28, 31, 42, 43, 45 Credit cards 13 References 46
Animals 5, 7, 15, 27, 40, 43 Crisis counseling 1, 31 Flood protection level 32-36, 40,
Anxiety 1, 2, 32 D 42-43
Appliances Flood response plan 40, 42-44
Dampness 14 Flood warning 42-43
Cleaning 3, 25 Dehumidifier 14-15
Gas 5, 6, 20 Flood watch 42-43
Depression 1 Floodwall 33-34, 36, 40, 44
Protecting 9, 35-36 Desiccants 14-15 Floor 5, 7-10, 12-13, 19, 23, 33,
B Disaster assistance 11, 20, 28, 30- 37, 40
Baseboards 17-18, 37 31, 41 See also Carpet
Basement 8-12,19, 23, 34, 36, 39- Dishes, cleaning 2, 3, 23, 26 Flooring 7, 17, 37
41 Disinfectants 24-25 See also Carpet
Berms 33, 34 Drywall, see Wallboard Foam rubber 15, 19
Bleach 22, 23, 25, 26 Drying 13-15,18-19, 22, 25, 27 Food 26-27, 31, 36
Books 7, 15, 26, 45 Ducts, heating or cooling 10, 14 Foundation 9, 12-13, 19, 33, 34,
Builders 29, 38 E 38, 41
Building permit 12, 32, 35 Electrical system Fuel oil 6, 20
C Circuit breakers 5, 21 Furnace 13-14, 20, 35-36, 41
Cleaning 10, 13, 21 Furniture 7, 10, 13, 15, 35, 40
Cabinets 7, 14 Cleaning 24-25
Calcium chloride 15 Electricity safety 4-5 8, 18, 21
Carpet 12, 13, 15, 19, 25, 35-37, Fuse boxes 5, 21 G
40-41 Turning off 5 Garbage 15-16, 27,43
Ceiling 6-7, 8, 13, 16-17, 19 Turning on 13 Gas system, 5-6, 20
Children 2-3 Elevation 33, 41 Checking for leaks 5, 20
Chimney 20 Evacuation supplies 43, 45 Gas meter 6
Cleaning F Turning off 5-6
Advice 3, 9-10, 21-25, 28, 45 Fatigue 1, 3 Turning on 20
Cleaners 25 Financial assistance 13, 28-32 Generators 4, 9
Supplies 24, 45 Flash floods 42-43 Government assistance 30-31
Closets 14, 15, 24 Flood insurance 7, 11-12, 20, 28- Grants 31
Clothing, cleaning 26 30,35,40-43,45 Grass 27, 44
Community activities 43 Claims 11, 29-31 Gypsum board, see Wallboard
Computers 15, 27 References 46 H
Concrete 18, 33, 34, 36, 37 Flood protection
Contractors 15, 29, 33, 38, 39, 45 Health precautions 1-3, 9
Community activities 43 Humidity 14, 19
Hurricanes 42-43, 45 O T
References 46 Oil, see Gas system Tile 19, 36
I Outlets, see Electrical system Toys 2, 15, 36
Income tax 11, 31 Outreach programs 1-2 Trash, see Garbage
Information sources of 45-47 P U
Insulation 16-19, 23, 25, 38, 40 Paint 25, 36, 37 Unheated. See Winterizing
Insurance Paneling 19, 38-40 Utilities. See also Electrical system,
Agent 11, 29, 41-42, 45 See also Permit, building 12, 35, 44 Gas system, Water supply
Adjuster Pets, see Animals Restoring 20-23, 36
Coverage 11, 40-41 Photographs 7, 26, 42
Flood 7, 11-12, 20, 28, 29, 30, V
Plan for recovery 11-13
35, 40-3, 45 Plants 27 Valuables 7
Homeowner’s 11 Plaster 6, 16-18, 24 Video 5, 11, 15, 29, 42
Wind and hail 11, 29 Plywood 16, 37-38, 43 Camera 5
Inventory 11-12, 42, 45 See also Wood, Floors, Volunteer organizations 3, 28
K Paneling, Windows W
Kitchen ware 26 Power, see Electrical system Walls 5, 7-10. 12-13, 16-18, 24,
Prescriptions 2 33-38, 40-41
L Proof of Loss 12, 29-30 Basement 8-9, 40
Lawn 27 Propane, see Gas system Drying 13, 16-18
Leather cleaning 13, 26
R Cleaning 10, 24, 36
Levee 33-34 Protecting 33-35
Lights, see Electrical system, Rebuilding, see repairs
Records 11, 27, 42 References 45-47
Appliances Wall covering 18, 38, 41
Linoleum 19, 25, 38 Recovery plan 11-13
Regulations, see Building code Wallboard 6, 7 13, 14, 16-18, 24,
See also Flooring 35-39, 41
Loans, disaster 28, 31 Red Cross, see American Red
Cross Wallpaper, see Wall covering
LP gas, see Gas system Warnings 42-44
M Repairs 4, 11, 13, 23, 29, 30-31, Water, drinking 2, 5, 8, 10
Mattresses 15 35, 45 Water alarm 42
Medicine 2 Temporary 7-8 Water heater 20, 23, 35, 36
Mildew 7, 14-15, 18, 24-26, 36 Roof 5, 8 Waterproofing 34, 36, 37
Mildew-resistant paint 36 Rugs, see Carpet Water supply 8, 10, 22, 43
Mobile (manufactured) home 23, Well water 23
S Windows 8, 14, 24, 35, 38, 43
30, 40, 45-46
Mold 14-18 Safety checklist 6 Cleaning 24
Mosquitoes 27 Sandbags 34, 44 Winterizing 23
Moth crystals 27 Septic system 23 Wires, wiring, see Electrical system
Mud 6-7, 9-10, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, Sewage disposal 13, 20, 23 Wood 8, 10, 14-19, 24-25, 35-38,
26-27 Sheetrock, see wallpaper 43
Stress 1-2 See also Walls, Floors, Furniture,
N Structural damage 6, 12, 35 Cabinets
National Flood Insurance Substantially damaged, definition
Program, 29, 40-43,45 32, 35
Important Phone Numbers
Police Insurance Agent
Fire Homeowner’s Insurance Policy
Emergency Management Office Number
Neighbors/Relatives Flood Insurance Policy
American Red Cross Company
Power Company Number
Gas Company Wind and/or Hail Insurance Policy
Health Department Number
Poison Control Center Hardware Stores
FEMA Disaster Hotline (announced if there is a Federal Lumber Companies
Cooperative Extension Service
Catalog No. 09119-1