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Are you prepared for a flood?

So far this year we haven't seen much rain up here in Gauteng, but that may change in the next couple of months and perhaps now is a good time to prepare for any eventuality.

 

Whether a flood is caused by ground water, falling water, or home water system malfunction, there are some best practices you’ll need to employ within the first 24 hours after the flood to ensure the safety of your home and family and give you the best outcome possible with your insurance company.

Avoid additional risks

If the flood was serious enough for you to leave your home, be sure you stay safe upon your return. Check for any visible structural damage, such as warping, loosened or cracked foundation elements, cracks, and holes before entering the home and contact your local municipality if you suspect damage to water or electrical lines. 

In addition, it’s important to have a working flashlight and turn off all water and electrical sources within the home. Even if the power isn’t operational, it’s a good idea to turn off the main. That way, if the power is reactivated, you’re not at risk for mixing standing water and electricity.

Take pictures

Before you remove any water or make any repairs, fully document the damage for your insurer by taking photos or video. Digital versions are best, because they can be stored electronically and easily copied. If you start removing water or making repairs before you photograph the damage, you could potentially decrease the extent of your coverage.

Protect your health

Even if the water in your home is clear, it could be contaminated by sewage or household chemicals. Wear rubber gloves to remove water-damaged possessions and to avoid contaminants. Be sure to throw out any food that may have come into contact with flood waters. Emergency authorities recommend boiling water until authorities declare the water supply is safe.

Call your insurance company

Since you should notify your insurer soon as possible after the flood, it’s a good idea to keep your insurance company and local agent’s phone number in your always-ready emergency bag.

Since groundwater flood damage typically isn’t covered by conventional homeowners insurance policies, you’ll need to work with your insurer to determine the cause of the flood and the extent of your coverage.

Advise your insurance representative of the state of your home and any repairs you intend to do immediately. Be sure to follow the insurance company’s direction about whether or not to wait for an adjuster to inspect the property before making repairs. Document the damage and conversations at every stage of the process.

What can you expect in terms of time to get back to normal? It could be as little as one week if the claim and clean up is minimal to five to six months if you’re working with an insurance adjustor and contractor to complete extensive repairs.

Remove water

Once you get the OK from your insurer to remove the water, use a sump pump, available from most hardware or hire stores and a wet vac. Water is heavy, so be careful not to injure yourself, especially if you’re carrying buckets of water up and down stairs. Open doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate so long as that won’t allow in more water. 

Mitigate mould damage

Mould can develop within 24 to 48 hours of a flood, so remove wet contents, including carpeting and bedding, as soon as possible. If an item has been wet for less than 48 hours, it may be salvageable. However, you’ll need to decide whether it holds enough monetary or sentimental value to try to do so. And notify your insurance company before removing items to ensure that you’re not affecting coverage. Always photograph the flood-soaked items.

Rugs, for example, may be dried and then cleaned professionally. Large pieces of furniture that are saturated will likely be difficult to dry effectively, and should often be discarded.

Mould growth can be controlled on surfaces by cleaning with a non-ammonia detergent or pine oil cleaner and disinfecting with a 10% bleach solution. (Caution: Never mix ammonia and bleach products, as the resulting fumes can be highly toxic.) Always test this solution on a small area of the item or area you’re cleaning to be sure it doesn’t cause staining or fading.

Secure the property

As the homeowner, it’s your responsibility to secure the property so that no additional damage occurs. Put boards over broken windows and secure a tarp as protection if the roof has been damaged. Again, take photographs to prove to the insurance company that you have done everything possible to protect your home against further damage.

If the home is habitable, take precautions to keep yourself and your family safe from injury. Use flashlights to move around dark rooms, for example. If the home isn’t habitable, don’t try to stay there. Move to a shelter or alternate location. Consult your insurer to find out what provisions the company will make for temporary housing while your home is being repaired.

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