Some people live in areas where floods are a common disaster. They have learned the hard way that being prepared for such a natural disaster is very important. For many of us, however, a flood may not only devastate us but leave us confused. There’s so much to take care of afterwards. Where do we start? Hopefully, you’ve started thinking about this dilemma before the flood comes. Taking care of recouping losses after a flood is not as simple as having renters or homeowners insurance, which will not cover the costs of rebuilding your home and your life.
If you have certain types of water damage in your home, like burst pipes and ruptured water heaters your homeowner’s and renter’s insurance will cover the costs. However, floods caused by natural disasters, like thunderstorms, hurricanes or melting snow and ice, won’t be covered. Neither will overflow from rivers, ponds, lakes and streams. Natural events are exclusions, but most floods are a direct result of such occurrences. What to do?
Make Sure You’re Covered Before a Flood:
You can start by buying the right flood insurance, which is separate from a homeowners and renters policy. If you are reading this and are not insured or are considering buying a policy to protect your home, contact an insurance specialist who is ready to address your concerns and questions by calling (888) 772-4247. Note that unlike other insurance products, all flood insurance is written under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) so there is always a 30-day waiting period from the time you sign your policy and when it takes effect.
Even if you’ve never experienced a flood in your home and neighborhood, don’t count out the possibility of it happening one day, especially if you live in a coastal region. Only one out of 10 homeowners and business owners has a flood insurance policy, according to the Insurance Information Institute. However, each year, flooding costs people in this country billions of dollars!
In 2005, during Hurricane Katrina, $16.2 billion worth of insurance claims were filed. Unfortunately, many of these claims were never paid out because people only found out after the flood that their possessions and property weren’t covered by homeowners insurance. You do not want to be caught off-guard and stuck with 100% of your own costs. Such a heavy financial burden can easily cause a business owner to declare bankruptcy or a homeowner to lose all their life’s savings replacing all that was lost.
What to Do in the Aftermath
- Call you insurance agent right away: Of course, you can always adjust the policy limits on your flood insurance according to the value of your home and private possessions, but the average policy covers $250,000 worth of damage to a home or condo, with another $100,000 for the contents in the home. You can also opt to just buy one and not the other (e.g. You may get covered for just the contents in your home but not the structure, or vice versa). Deductibles for flood insurance generally range from $500-$1,000.
- Only re-enter the home if you’re certain there is no major structural damage that would make entering dangerous. For example: check for sagging ceilings.
- Bring along a flashlight, a first aid kit, waterproof boots, a solar or battery-operated radio, dust mask, hard hat and gloves, camera, trash bags, clean drinking water, cleaning supplies.
- The electrical system may have shorted out, so be careful not to touch any wiring.
- Turn off electricity even if the power company has shut it off (in case they turn it back on without warning and you’re in a very wet home).
- Turn off the gas. If you suspect a gas leak, leave immediately and leave the door open. Call the gas company.
- Check for broken or leaking water pipes. If you find any, shut off the water supply. If there are no busted pipes, do not drink this water until authorities say it is safe to do so. You may, however, use it to clean.
- Be wary of items the flood waters may have left behind. They could make you sick.
- Keep yourself safe and do not risk injury or accidents trying to recover your things.
- Ask for help if it’s too much to take on. You can always call the federal hotline that will be publicized in such an event. They will refer you to public, private and voluntary programs designed to help flood victims. There are federal agencies, like FEMA, who are in charge of disaster relief. Also, seek out your local American Red Cross and call for assistance with cleanup.
- Remove wet contents from the salvageable ones to prevent mold.
- Drain a flooded basement slowly and carefully, otherwise the force of the water pushing at it from the outside may damage the structure of your home.
- Take as many photos and/or videos of the floodwater and damaged personal property. Do not throw out any damaged contents until after you’ve taken photographs. Tell your insurance agent before you do throw any valuable items away.
- Create a list to be submitted for a claim. This will include all the items you plan to claim, along with purchase dates and receipts.
- As you rebuild your home, plan to make it floodproof. It’s not very expensive to do at all.
- If you didn’t have flood insurance this time around, make sure you buy good coverage before the next disaster.
- Having your home and your prized possessions destroyed by a flood is a traumatic event. Take care of yourself. Reassure young children and try to make them feel safe. Seek counseling if the stress is simply too much or if you find yourself having episodes of depression. Make sure you are eating and sleeping enough as you rebuild your home.
- As you clean up and rebuild make sure you are washing your hands thoroughly and often, especially when handling things that have been touched by the flood waters. Keep lots of hand sanitizer around.
- Disinfect dishes first and then everything that has touched floodwater.
- Many of the products you will use to disinfect your home and belongings are poisonous. Use them carefully by reading directions carefully and keeping them away from children.
- Call the Health Department if you find animal carcasses or any hazardous materials left behind by the flood.
- Check for structural damage, especially to the foundation. You will probably have to hire a professional, but it’s an important step to take.
- Plan your recovery. Whether the damage is big or small, you must create a plan of attack. If you live in a flood-prone area, you may want to get assistance from local government to rebuild in a safer area. See if you will need financial assistance beyond what you hope to get from insurance.
- Dry out your home by running fans, dehumidifiers and leaving doors, cabinets and closets open.
- Drain the ceilings, walls and finally the floor.
- Get professional help restoring utilities like electricity, gas and oil systems in your home. Your flood insurance may fully cover the cost.
- Find out if you are eligible for income tax deductions. If the event was declared a federal disaster, you might be able to get a partial refund for you uninsured losses. Even if it was not declared a federal disaster, you can often deduct your losses on your income tax return.
- Look into disaster housing assistance, disaster loans, individual and family grants and floodproofing assistance if you need to rebuild your home and are having difficulty.
Remember, the most important thing you can do is prevent yourself against another disaster. Make sure you have the proper flood insurance and set the limits based on what your property and home are worth. If you do end up surviving a flood, you’ll be glad you did.
The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.