National Preparedness Month: Flooding
September is National Preparedness Month so we thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the best ways to prepare for a flood. While you may think you will never have to deal with flooding issues, statistics show that over the course of a 30-year mortgage there is 1 in 4 chance your home will flood at least once.
Even if you reside in a low flood risk area there is still a chance your home will someday suffer flood damage. In fact, data shows that 25% of all flood claims originate in areas that are considered low risk for flooding.
While keeping your family safe should be your first priority, protecting your home should be a close second. In addition to being prepared to evacuate your home and get your family to higher ground, you should also consider a flood policy to ensure your home and possessions are properly protected.
Many homeowners are surprised to learn that flood damage is not covered by a typical homeowners policy. In order to be protected you must purchase a separate flood insurance policy. If your home is located in a high-risk flood area your mortgage lender will most likely require a flood policy.
Preparing for a flood
Floods rank as the most frequent and most expensive of natural disasters. If flooding is a possibility in your area local forecasters will most likely be using the following terms:
Flood/Flash Flood Watch—Flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area.
Flood/Flash Flood Warning—Flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.
At this point you should be listening to your local radio and television stations for updates and other critical information from the National Weather Service. Flash floods can happen very quickly so evacuation is always a possibility.
If your area is under either a flood watch or flood warning you should prepare and have the following items in your home:
- Water—Keep a 3-day supply on hand, which translates into one gallon per person per day
- Food—There should be at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food that is easy-to-prepare
- Extra batteries
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio to monitor weather updates
- First Aid kit
When flood conditions exist you should prepare an evacuation or go bag. Items in the bag should include:
- Medications, a 7-day supply is recommended
- Medical notes and medical items such as glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and Epi-Pens
- Multi-purpose tool
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of important personal documents such as birth certificates, deeds, insurance policies, passports and a home inventory.
- Cell phone and chargers
- Contact information for family and friends
- Extra cash
- Baby supplies such as bottles, formula, baby food, and diapers
- Pet supplies
- Extra set of car keys and house keys
- Clothing for all family members
- Rain gear
Get Out of the Way
Getting your family out of harms way is key when dealing with a flood. When flooding conditions exist be prepared to evacuate in a moments notice. If local officials issue an evacuation order follow it immediately, do not linger or refuse to leave your home.
During evacuation, avoid all floodwaters if possible, if you run into flowing water do not go in above your ankles. If the water is deeper then your ankles, turn around and find another way. As little as 6 inches of fast-moving water can easily sweep you off your feet.
If you are driving and come upon a flooded road you should turn around and find another way. If the waters are rising quickly around the vehicle get out of the car and run to higher ground. Studies show that the majority of vehicles can be swept away by 2 feet of moving water.
Never let your children into moving water during a flood. Running water can be extremely dangerous and any floodwater, running or standing can be contaminated.
After the Flood
You should return home only after local officials have declared your area safe. Before reentering your home check around outside for fallen power lines, damaged gas lines, cracks in the foundation or other serious damage to your home. If you hear or smell gas or propane leave the area immediately and call your local fire department.
If any part of the house is collapsed or damaged do not enter until a professional has inspected it. Keep an eye out for wild animals, especially snakes, when entering your house. Keep all children away from floodwaters as well as any damaged portion of your home.
Flood cleanup can be a tricky and disgusting business. Always wear rubber gloves and rubber boots as well as a mask if your septic or sewer system has been compromised. Check with local officials before using your water to ensure that it has not been contaminated.
This is when the flood policy will pay off. A flood policy will cover damages to your house as well as your possessions that are damaged due to flooding. The process for making a flood claim will vary from company to company but here are a few general tips:
- Make sure your home inventory is up to date so you can document what has been lost in the flood. If possible, provide receipts and photos.
- Take photos of all of your damaged property, including items that must be thrown away.
- Document any structural damage that has occurred, as well as the floodwater levels in your home.
- Keep notes on every conversation you have with your insurer regarding your claim. Note the name and title of the person you spoke with as well as what was said.
- Get estimates to repair the damage to your home and to replace your possessions.
- If you are unhappy with answers you are getting from your insurer or they refuse to cover items you feel should be covered, consult with an attorney.