After the Flood

Your home has been flooded and although floodwater levels have dropped, many dangers still exist. Here are some things to remember for the days ahead.

  • If your community has experienced a disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well web site to let your family and friends know about your welfare. You may also call 1-866-GET-INFO to register yourself and your family.
  • Use local alerts and warning systems to get information and expert informed advice as soon as available.
  • Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organization.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Roads may still be closed because they have been damaged or are covered by water. Barricades have been placed for your protection. If you come upon a barricade or a flooded road, go another way. Even though floodwaters have receded, roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • If you must walk or drive in areas that have been flooded, keep in mind that flooding may have caused familiar places to change. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways. Flood debris may hide animals and broken bottles, and it's also slippery so it is best to avoid walking or driving through it.
  • Be wary of downed power lines in floodwaters.
  • Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
  • Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.
  • Get a copy of Repairing Your Flooded Home, which is available for free from the American Red Cross or online for more information on cleaning up and repairing your property.

A flood can cause physical hazards and emotional stress. It is also important to be aware of health risks associated with floods.

  • Rest often and eat well.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage. The CDC website and the EPA website have excellent information on protecting yourself and your family from flood waters after a disaster or emergency.
  • Boil water for drinking and food preparation until authorities tell you that your water supply is safe.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene and hand washing to prevent the spread of illness and disease. Tips to maintain good personal hygiene after a disaster are available on the CDC website.

Returning to a flood damaged home can be dangerous. Here are some safety tips for returning to your home.

  • Take your time... fatigue and impatience can put you at risk.
  • Check for structural damage to see if it is safe to enter.
  • Be alert for loose water soaked ceilings and/or plaster and check the ceiling for signs of sagging. Poke a hole at the edge of the sag to drain water.
  • Don't enter the flooded house until you are sure the main electrical service is disconnected and cannot be turned on. Don't cross damp floors to shut off power at the fuse box.
  • Be wary of downed power lines in floodwaters, which can turn your house into one gigantic live wire.
  • Gas should be turned off outside, preferably by the utility company, at the tank or meter. Let the house air out to remove gas fumes and don't smoke or use any open flames that might cause an explosion. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage.
  • Have your power turned off by the utility company. Some appliances, such as television sets, keep electrical charges even after they have been unplugged. Do not use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.
  • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.
  • Be careful of slippery surfaces, falls are a common post-disaster hazard.
  • Be alert for snakes, insects, and other animals that have been displaced and have chosen your house for higher ground. Use a pole or stick to poke and turn things over and scare away small animals.
  • If the house has been closed up for several days, enter briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for awhile (at least 30 minutes) before you stay for any length of time. If your home has been flooded and has been closed up for several days, presume your home has been contaminated with mold and dry out your house as soon as possible. Information on drying out your house and mold hazards are available on the CDC website and the EPA website.

Starting the recovery process includes cleaning up and repairing your home, but it is important to do so safely.

  • Remove all water as soon as possible from your home. Also remove carpeting and other furnishings that are water soaked. Once water is removed, begin removing moisture that has been absorbed by wood and other materials. Consider using fans and dehumidifiers to speed the drying process. Shut windows and doors if you use dehumidifiers. If you experienced severe flooding, consider hiring a professional water removal contractor.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewer systems are serious health hazards.
  • Purchase and use an N-95 respirator and goggles if you are exposed to flood conditions for any length of time.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Wear gloves and boots to clean and disinfect. Mud left from floodwaters can contain sewage and chemicals. Wet items should be cleaned with a pine-oil cleanser and bleach, completely dried, and monitored for several days for any fungal growth and odors.
  • Throw away anything that was wet with flood water and can't be cleaned. Failure to remove contaminated materials and to reduce moisture and humidity can present serious long-term health risks. Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria and mold. They can cause disease, trigger allergic reactions, and continue to damage materials after the flood.
  • If your home has suffered damage, call your insurance agent to file a claim. Visit the FloodSmart webpage for step-by-step information on filing your claim.
  • Take photos of any floodwater in your home and save any damaged personal property.
  • Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their purchase date and value with receipts, and place with the inventory you took prior to the flood. Some damaged items may require disposal, so keep photographs of these items.
  • Find and protect the "irreplaceable" valuables such as money, jewelry, insurance papers, photographs and family heirlooms. Then freeze them in plastic bags to protect them from mildew and further damage.
  • Listen to your radio for information on assistance that may be provided by the state or federal government or other organizations.
  • If you hire cleanup or repair contractors, check references and be sure they are qualified to do the job. Be wary of people who drive through neighborhoods offering help in cleaning up or repairing your home.
  • Note that some repair measures may need a building permit. Leon County requires issuance of all appropriate building permits prior to any construction in the County. Permits are obtained after submittal and approval of building plans. An important part of this review process is the requirement that structures be built high enough and use proper design techniques to protect against flood damage. Contact Leon County Development Support & Environmental Management at 606-1300 for information on how to obtain the necessary permits to repair your home.