As severe weather becomes the new normal, more and more people will experience home flooding in their lifetimes. If you live in a flood-prone area—or just want to be prepared in case of a catastrophic plumbing malfunction—it’s important to plan ahead so you know exactly what to do when a crisis hits. But what to do after a flood in your house? Read on for our best tips and pointers.
Obtain Adequate Insurance Coverage
Over the last several years, major hurricanes have generated hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, with Hurricane Harvey alone causing more than $125 billion in damage in 2017. Repairing damage to individual homes can cost tens of thousands of dollars, with just an inch of floodwater resulting in about $8,000 in damage.
If you live in an area where hurricanes or other severe weather are common, make sure your homeowners’ insurance policy will cover damage from these storms, including flood damage. Many policies do not cover flooding or water damage, so you will need to obtain a separate policy or special rider for these circumstances.
What to do after a flood in your house? Remember, Safety First
Before you do anything else, turn off the electrical power via your home’s circuit panel, even if your area is already without power due to a storm. If power is suddenly restored while you’re inside, it could injure or kill you or a family member.
Before entering the house to retrieve important paperwork, photos, family heirlooms or other items, carefully evaluate the physical condition of the structure. Flood waters can weaken walls and floors, and falling limbs and high winds may have damaged the roof. Do not go inside if you have any concerns about the structural integrity of your home—no material item is worth risking your life.
Try to stay out of flood waters, which may contain bacteria and microbes that can make you sick, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly and shower as soon as possible once you leave the property.
Collect Important Paperwork
Take time now to gather important paperwork you’ll need in the wake of a disaster, such as copies of your homeowners’ insurance policy and flood insurance; birth certificates and other personal identification; and your deed or other proof of ownership. These documents should be stored in a waterproof, fireproof container or offsite in a safety deposit box.
If you can safely locate these items after a flood, do so; if water is too high or appears contaminated or your home is not structurally sound, do not spend time searching for them until your home has been inspected and determined to be safe to enter.
Submit Your Claim
After a storm or flood event, insurance adjusters will be swamped with claims, so expect the claim process to take days (if not weeks) and complete yours as soon as possible. Some of the damage will need to be addressed immediately, meaning you’ll have to pay up front and be reimbursed later by your insurance company. If possible, have emergency funds set aside for the following items:
- Paying an inspector to assess the severity of the damage
- Removing and replacing floors
- Wall and foundation drying
- Repairing or replacing damaged plumbing and electrical systems
As you price these repairs, remember that your insurance company may not cover the full cost of replacing certain items, so be sure to check with your agent or adjuster before you start racking up repair bills.
Documentation is Key
What to do after a flood in your house after the fact? Since you will likely be requesting reimbursement from your insurance company, it’s critical to create a comprehensive record of all damage and repair work as soon as possible. If you can, take photos and video of your home and possessions well before catastrophe strikes; these can come in handy in case of a robbery as well as fires, flooding or other disasters.
Carefully document all damage to your home and property and take detailed notes. If damage continues to worsen before the adjuster or inspector is able to assess your property, make sure you document that as well. And of course, request and retain itemized receipts and invoices for restoration work you pay for out of pocket.
Don’t Get Fooled by Fraudsters
If your area receives an official disaster declaration by the state or federal government, it may extend the amount of time it takes you to access repair and restoration services and other support. In that lag time, bad actors inevitably descend on the scene hoping to defraud unsuspecting homeowners who simply want their lives returned to normal.
What to do after a flood in your house? Always request identification from anyone who contacts you claiming to represent the government or your insurance company, and never pay contractors in advance for work they haven’t yet completed, as this increases the likelihood that you’ll never see them again.
If you are still concerned about what to do after a flood in your house, there are ample resources online for a further in-depth look at disaster preparedness, flood insurance, safeguards and more.