As experts at Indiana University explain, flooding in the state is not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
It’s only a matter of time before the next flood. Indiana’s many rivers, heavy rainstorms, and wetland areas can create a dangerous set of circumstances. After a flood, people throughout the Indianapolis metro area could face significant property damage.
Despite your best efforts to prevent flood damage, you may still find yourself faced with water in your home.
What should you do if your home has been flooded? This checklist breaks down the most important steps to take immediately after a flood.
1. Only Go Home After It’s Safe
Flooding includes a wide range of circumstances, and homeowners can face anything from a few inches of water in a basement to a flash flooding event where water levels reach the roof.
Remember that water can be unpredictable during a flood, rising quickly, washing out bridges, and creating hazards from utility lines or gas tanks. Return home only when it’s safe to do so, and listen to the authorities about what you should do and where you should go.
2. Prepare for the Shock, Destruction, and Unpleasant Surprises
It’s jarring to see your living room turn into a lake. After a flood, it’s important to be mentally prepared to find out what’s been damaged and to see the devastating mess that’s left behind after floodwaters start to recede.
You may also encounter unpleasant surprises. Sewage could have flowed backward into your home. Animals like snakes could have found their way indoors. Floodwaters could have carried toxic chemicals, turning everything that’s saturated into a danger zone.
3. Deal With Utility Issues First
A small failure in your gas system or gas appliances can be a big problem. A gas leak or damaged furnace controls could cause an explosion. The high risk and potential damage make it a top priority to check your utility systems.
During a flood, water can get anywhere. It can affect things you don’t see, such as gas lines that are behind a wall. If you think there might be a problem, don’t try to troubleshoot it yourself. Instead, immediately call the authorities.
4. Don’t Enter a Flooded House If the Electricity Is Connected
Remember that water conducts electricity. You could get electrocuted from floodwaters if they’re in contact with an electrical source like a live wire.
Even if there’s no power at your home, an electric current could still be flowing. A neighbor could have incorrectly hooked up a generator and could be back-feeding the power lines, or a brown-out situation could mean there’s low-level or variable power still running through the lines.
The only way to be certain there’s no electric current entering your house is to have the electric meter box removed by a professional electrician or your electric company.
5. Stop the Ongoing Flow of Floodwaters
After it’s safe to do so, assess the water problems in your house to identify how severely your home has been flooded.
Immediately address any ongoing flooding. For example, if you have a broken pipe, turn off the main water valve. Or if there is water pouring in through a foundation crack, immediately patch it and seek advice from foundation repair professionals.
Any flooding you’re able to stop now is less cleanup you’ll face later.
6. Get the Water out of Your House
When it comes to standing water, speed is critical to reducing property damage and minimizing mold growth. On a damp surface, mold can start growing within 24 to 48 hours, so it’s important to get any water out of your house and start drying things out.
A sump pump can do the bulk of the work for you, removing more than 2,000 gallons of water per hour. A sump pump that has a backup battery will allow it to keep pumping water even when the power is off.
If you have a home flood but don’t have a sump pump, a wet/dry vacuum may be your next best bet. Keep in mind that it could be slow going. With a 12-gallon wet/dry vac, you’d be emptying 167 buckets of water to achieve the equivalent of one hour of a sump pump running.
7. Disinfect and Dehumidify
Floodwaters are commonly contaminated with toxins, and the CDC cautions that contact with floodwater can cause GI illnesses, rashes, or other health problems.
Disinfect any surface that’s had contact with floodwaters. This will prevent bacterial growth and prevent the incubation of mold spores.
Your ground floor has the potential to hold moisture so it’s also important to dehumidify your basement or crawl space. This will draw out moisture from saturated surfaces. Because dampness at the ground level will expand throughout your house as air circulates, dehumidifying your lower level may help you avoid moisture damage in the upper stories of your home.
8. Look for Structural Problems
Look for potential structural issues that flooding caused. Do you see sagging floors, damaged walls, cracked concrete, or foundation damage?
As you begin to repair your structure, consider ways you can reinforce your home to protect it from another flood event. A smart cleanup process involves thinking ahead. For example, as you’re implementing a drainage solution to pull existing floodwaters away from your foundation, you could also be doing the legwork for a more permanent flood mitigation plan.
Need help from a pro? Get a free inspection from Indiana Foundation Service, your basement waterproofing and foundation repair experts.