You’ve likely seen recent images of devastating floods that have occurred across the Midwest and other parts of the country. While no one can really predict the likelihood of a flood in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, it’s still a smart idea to know what you should do if a flood occurs in your hometown.
The first 24 hours after a flood are critical to ensuring the safety of your home and family and to improve the outcome of any potential natural disaster claims with your insurance company. Here are some key tips to file away in case you or a loved one are impacted by a flood:
Check for structural damage at home and work
If a flood forces you to leave your home or business, it’s important to look for dangerous structural damage before you settle back in. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises that you look for any visible structural damage, such as warped, loosened or cracked foundation elements, cracks, and holes before re-entering your home or business.
Reduce your accident risk related to utilities
If the storm that produced the flooding you experienced was severe, the area you’re in may have lost power. To avoid the potential dangers of mixing standing water and electricity, go to your fuse box and turn off the main power and make sure to turn off all of the individual fuses. It’s also important to contact utility companies to check your water, gas, electric, and sewer lines if you suspect they’re damaged.
Call your insurance company
Another call you should make as soon as possible is one to notify your insurance company about the flooding (Of course, if you use a local company, chances are they are well aware of it!). Since groundwater flood damage generally 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.
Take photographs of the flood aftermath
Before you start trying to clean up, you need to fully document flood damage for your insurer by taking digital photos or video. This step is extremely important for any natural disaster claim because if you start removing water or repairing the damage without documenting it, you could potentially decrease your available coverage.
Secure your home or business from further damage
Once you have documented the initial flood damage at your home or business, you must secure the property so that no additional problems occur. Board up broken windows and use a tarp over other areas of your home with exterior damage. Keep your camera handy to take photographs of the work you have done to secure your home or business against further damage.
If your home or office isn’t habitable, move to a shelter or an alternate location. Talk to your insurer to find out what provisions are available for temporary housing while your house or office building is being prepared.
Beware of flood-related health hazards
Even if the water in your home or office is clear (or appears to be clear) it could still be contaminated, so be sure to protect yourself and any others who are helping you by wearing protective clothing including waterproof gloves and boots. FEMA recommends boiling water for drinking and other uses until authorities declare the water supply is safe.
Find out from FEMA if you’re in a disaster area
FEMA is the government body that officially declares a disaster area. When this happens, the property owners in the area may have access to increased physical and financial resources as well as public services to protect and clean up the area. If you are affected by a flood, your insurance company will be able to tell you if the area you are in is an official disaster zone. You can also contact FEMA directly.
Floods can happen for a number of reasons, but the ones that require natural disaster insurance claims are particularly frightening and serious. Keep the above tips tucked away at the back of your mind—or better yet—in an easily accessible place so that you know what to do if you are impacted by a flood. If you have questions about protecting your home or business from the ravages of a flood, contact one of our insurance professionals today. They can help you understand what flood insurance options are available to you given your specific circumstances.
About the Author
Leah Cobb has been with Kemner-Iott Agency of Cass County for 7 years working in our customer service department. She loves to be outdoors, whether it is going for a walk or playing with her daughter Lillian. She also enjoys art and traveling to new places.
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