Think you’ll never be the victim of a weather-related house flood? You might want to reconsider. In the past 5 years, floods have been documented in all 50 states. More than 20% of National Flood Insurance Program claims are paid out to properties considered to have a moderate or low risk of flooding. Water flow patterns can change over time, and sudden heavy rains can quickly overwhelm drainage systems. Even if your home has never flooded before, you might find the next downpour brings an unpleasant surprise.
And if your house does flood? You may be in for another unpleasant surprise. Your regular homeowners insurance policy will not cover damage from weather-related flooding. To make sure you’re protected, you need flood insurance.
Regardless of whether you live near a body of water, or on the side of a mountain, it’s important to be prepared for possible flooding. It’s one of the most catastrophic things that can happen to your home. A mere 2 inches of water can result in more than $20,000 in damages for the typical home. If you have high-end flooring and finishes, that number can quickly multiply.
In addition to buying flood insurance, there are a few things homeowners can do to protect themselves—before, during and after a weather event—to minimize property damage.
Make your home as water-tight as possible by following a regular home maintenance schedule. A few simple repairs can save you money, and headaches, after a heavy storm.
- Check caulking around windows and exterior doors at least once a year. Minor cracks can be touched up. Caulk that is brittle and damaged should be removed and replaced.
- Keep gutters clean, if you have them. Gutters do a good job of directing rain water away from your home, but they can’t function properly if they are clogged with leaves and other debris.
- Inspect your foundation annually or more often if you suspect problems. Small cracks are generally nothing to worry about, and can be filled with a concrete patch material. Cracks that are more than ¼” wide could indicate a problem and may require professional repair.
- Maintain your roof. Avoid letting moisture-trapping debris, such as leaves or pine needles, sit on roofing for long periods of time. Inspect flashing and shingles at least once a year and repair any damage.
- If a major storm has hit your neighborhood, follow all of the above tips, even if it’s been less than a year since your last inspections.
If flood waters do begin seeping in, quick action can help minimize damage to your home and furnishings. (Please note these tips are meant for minor flooding incidents only. If there is a possibility that flooding will be severe, it’s important to follow evacuation instructions and get to higher ground.)
- Turn off electricity and gas at the main switches, to prevent electrocution or fire. Leave power off until all standing water has been cleared.
- Move small items and portable electronics to places where they will stay dry. Lightweight furniture can be stacked or placed on countertops. Focus on high-value items first.
- Roll up area rugs before they become wet, and get them off the floor.
- Put plastic under furniture legs (even trash bags will do) to minimize contact with water. It’s better, if possible, to move furniture to a dry spot.
- Loop long draperies over the curtain rods, to keep them dry.
- Get as many things off the floor as possible. Flood waters are dirty and can be contaminated. It’s best to minimize contact.
- Stay out of flood waters. Even clear water can carry contaminants. If water levels become too high to avoid, you will probably need to leave your home.
Once the initial crisis has passed, follow these steps to get your home back in order as quickly as possible, and minimize any health risks. Keep in mind that if flooding was widespread in your area, professional services may be overwhelmed and adjusters might be delayed in getting to your property.
- Contact emergency personnel if necessary. Police, fire and medical crews are trained to help with disasters.
- Assess the damage. If you think your home is unsafe, you should leave. If you must stay in a hotel, keep all receipts for lodging and meals. Your insurance policy may reimburse you for some of these costs, subject to restrictions.
- Call your insurance agent, or contact your carrier directly. They can give you further instructions on how to proceed. If flood waters have saturated your flooring, drywall or cabinetry, you may need to hire a restoration company to assist with clean-up and minimize chances of mold growth.
- Take pictures or video before moving anything. In general, it’s best not to move items before a claims adjuster has been out; however, it may be prudent to move some items in order to prevent further damage. You’ll want to document the original scene before moving things around.
- Minimize your contact with flood waters. Even clean water can be contaminated, and wet items can quickly mold. Wear waterproof shoes and rubber gloves to shield your skin. If you suspect mold, protect your lungs with a properly rated face mask.
- Set up fans and a dehumidifier. You want to encourage air flow and remove moisture from your home to speed up the drying process.
- Clean thoroughly to avoid mold. If you are handling clean-up yourself, use appropriate cleaning products. A bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) can be effective for hard surfaces. For items that cannot be bleached, borax, vinegar or other commercial cleaners can be effective. Keep in mind that fabrics and upholstery may need special care.
- Do NOT make any structural repairs until after a claims adjuster has given you permission, in writing. If you expect damages may be covered by your insurance policy, it is essential to let the adjuster see the full extent of necessary repairs. It’s ok to board up windows, tarp your roof, or take other measures that prevent additional property damage.
Flood Insurance to the rescue
Perhaps you’re wondering, is flood insurance a good option for me? Like most insurance products, there is no “one-size-fits-all” policy for flood insurance. Coverages and deductibles vary, and there is typically a 30-day wait period between the purchase date of the policy and when it goes into effect. A reputable insurance agent will take the time to assess your unique needs and find a solution that adequately protects your risks. As an independent agency, General Southwest offers our clients multiple flood insurance options for personal property and businesses. It’s probably not as expensive as you think. And much less costly paying out-of-pocket for home repairs after a flood.
For more information on flood insurance, contact your GSW advisor. Fill out the box on this page, or call 480-990-1900.