Flooding: Before, During and After

Before a Flood

What can you do other than insure your property to get ready for a flood? Follow these steps to help minimize loss to your home, and ensure your family’s safety.

     Prepare your house

  • Make sure your sump pump is working.
  • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
  • Anchor any fuel tanks. An unanchored tank in your basement can be torn free by floodwaters and the broken supply line can contaminate your basement. An unanchored tank outside can be swept downstream, where it can damage other houses.
  • Have a licensed electrician raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring) at least 12" above your home's projected flood elevation.
  • Place the furnace and water heater on masonry blocks or concrete at least 12” above the projected flood elevation.
  • If your washer and dryer are in the basement, elevate them on masonry or pressure-treated lumber at least 12” above the projected flood elevation.

    Safeguard your possessions

  • Make sure any photos or videos of all of your important possessions are in a safe place. These documents will help you file a full flood insurance claim.
  • Store important documents and irreplaceable personal objects (such as photographs) where they won't get damaged. If major flooding is expected in your area, consider putting them in a storage facility.
  • If major flooding is expected, move furniture and valuables to the upper levels of your home.

    Develop a family emergency plan

  • Post emergency telephone numbers by the phone. Teach children to dial 911.
  • Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family.
  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be the "family contact" in case your family is separated during a flood. Make sure everyone in your family knows the name, address, and phone number of this contact person.
  • Don’t forget to have a plan for your pets.

     During a Flood

You have flood insurance and have done your best to prepare. Here’s what you can do once flooding has started to keep your family safe.

  • Fill bathtubs, sinks and jugs with clean water in case water becomes contaminated.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information.
  • If local authorities instruct you to do so, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve.
  • If told to evacuate your home, do so immediately.
  • If the waters start to rise inside your house before you have evacuated, retreat to the second floor, the attic, or if necessary, the roof.
  • Floodwaters may carry raw sewage, chemical waste and other disease-spreading substances. If you've come in contact with floodwaters, wash your hands with soap and disinfected water.
  • Avoid walking through floodwaters. As little as six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.
  • Don't drive through a flooded area. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. A car can be carried away by just two feet of flood water.
  • Electric current passes easily through water, so stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.
  • Animals lose their homes in floods, too. Be aware that even domesticated animals may be confused and unpredictable in a flood situation.

     After a Flood

Once water levels have dropped, here’s what you can do to stay safe and start the recovery process.

  • If your home has suffered damage, call the agent who handles your flood insurance to file a claim. If you are unable to stay in your home, let the agent know where you can be reached.
  • Check for structural damage before re-entering your home—you don’t want to be trapped in a building collapse.
  • Take photos of any water in the house and save damaged personal property. This will make filing your claim easier. If necessary, place these items outside the home. An insurance adjuster will need to see what's been damaged in order to process your claim.
  • Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their age and value where possible. If possible, supply receipts for those lost items to the adjuster. Officials may require disposal of damaged items. If so, keep a swatch or other sample of the items for the adjuster.
  • Prevent mold by removing wet contents immediately. Wet carpeting, furniture, bedding, and any other items holding moisture or water inside the building can develop mold within 24 to 48 hours. Items should be cleaned with a phenolic or pine-oil cleaner and bleach solution, completely dried, and monitored for several days for any fungal growth and odors. If any mold develops, throw the item away.
  • Do not use matches, cigarette lighters or other open flames upon re-entering your property. Gas may be trapped inside. If you smell gas or hear hissing, open a window, leave quickly and call the gas company from a neighbor's home.
  • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.
  • Avoid using the toilets and the tap until you have checked for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect damage, call a plumber.
  • Throw away any food including canned goods that have come in contact with floodwaters.
  • Boil water for drinking and food preparation until local authorities declare your water supply to be safe.
  • Salvage water-damaged books, heirlooms, and photographs using restoration tips from the NFIP.
  • Follow local building codes and ordinances when rebuilding. Use flood-resistant materials and techniques to protect your property from future flood damage.