Nine Steps to Flood Recovery for Hurricane Harvey Victims

Cathy's Tuesday Tip

Like most of you, I have been glued to the news coverage of Hurricane Harvey and its path of destruction across Texas and Louisiana. Please keep Texas and Louisiana residents in your prayers as they begin the flood recovery process, as well as the adjusters and all recovery teams that provide assistance to the affected areas. The hurricane and flood recovery will be stressful, long and heartbreaking to those directly involved in the path of destruction. If you are assisting friends and relatives with recovery, here are “Nine Steps to Flood Recovery” provided by FEMA and the American Red Cross. Hope you enjoy Cathy’s Tuesday Tip! ~ Cathy

Nine Steps to Flood Recovery

“Nine Steps to Recovery” is from: Repairing Your Flooded Home, a joint publication of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency, an independent federal agency) and the American Red Cross. Copies of this booklet are available at no charge, from FEMA. To request a copy, call FEMA at 1-800-480-2520 (request “FEMA 234–8/1992”).

Step 1 Take Care of Yourself First

Care for Yourself

  • Keep the family together
  • Discuss your problems
  • Rest often and eat well
  • Set a manageable schedule
  • Watch for signs of stress
  • Seek help
  • Floodproof as you rebuild

Care for Your Children

  • Try to keep the family together
  • Listen to what children say
  • Explain the disaster factually
  • Reassure children
  • Be understanding
  • Take care of yourself

Stay Healthy

  • Small children, pregnant women and people with health problems should avoid flooded areas until cleanup is complete
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, thoroughly and often
  • Confirm that the water is clean and safe
  • Disinfect dishes and everything else that flood waters touched
  • Avoid injuries
  • Watch out for fatigue
  • Be safe around poisons
  • Report health hazards
  • Be patient

Step 2 Give Your Home First Aid

Make sure it is safe to go back

Check your home before you go in

  • Turn off the electricity
  • Turn off the gas

Enter carefully

Rescue the most valuable items

Protect your home from further damage

  • Get fresh air moving through your home
  • Patch holes
  • Repair sagging floors or roof sections
  • Remove debris
  • Check for broken or leaking water pipes

Drain your basement carefully

Hose the house and its contents

Step 3 Get Organized

Call your insurance agent

  • Homeowners insurance usually covers losses caused by wind, storms or broken water pipes, but not surface flooding
  • Flood insurance covers most losses caused by surface floodwater
  • Wind and hail insurance covers losses in coastal areas from the winds of a hurricane

Begin listing the damage

Check for structural damage

Plan your recovery

  • Make sure it is safe to work in your home
  • Decide what you can and can’t do
  • Decide if you need financial assistance
  • Check with your mortgage holder
  • Think before you use credit cards
  • Keep talking openly with your family

Step 4 Dry Out Your home

Floodwaters affect a house three ways:

  • Water damages materials: wallboard will disintegrate if it stays wet too long; wood can swell, warp or rot; electrical parts can short out, malfunction and cause fires or shock
  • Mud, silt and unknown contaminants in the water not only get everything dirty; they are also unhealthy
  • Dampness promotes the growth of mildew, a mold or fungus that can grow on everything

Lower the humidity

  • Open up your house
  • Open closet and cabinet doors
  • Use fans
  • Run dehumidifiers
  • Use desiccants
  • Call a contractor

Sort contents

Discard debris

Drain ceilings and walls

Dry ceilings and walls

Dry floors

Step 5 Restore the Utilities

If your furnace, water heater, stove or other gas or oil appliances were flooded to the level of the burners, turn off the valve on the pipe to the appliance.

Flood insurance and federal disaster assistance programs will often help you replace flooded gas and oil appliances.

If you want to keep a gas or oil appliance, have it cleaned professionally.

If you are not experienced and comfortable working on your utilities or appliances, call a professional.

Step 6 Clean Up

Every flooded part of your house–walls, floors, closets, shelves, contents–should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Some can be done by you, others should be completed by professionals.

Cleaning supplies checklist

  • Brooms, mops, brushes, sponges
  • Buckets, hose
  • Rubber gloves
  • Rags
  • Cleaning products
  • Disinfectants
  • Lubricating oil
  • Trash bags
  • Hair dryer

The American Red Cross and other organizations often distribute cleanup kits after a disaster. These contain things like a broom, mop, bucket and cleaning supplies.

Cleaning Tips

  • Tackle one room at a time
  • Use one bucket for the cleaning solution and another for the rinse water
  • Replace the rinse water frequently

Step 7 Check on Financial Assistance

How much you can rebuild and replace depends on what you can afford. Four sources of financial assistance can help you through recovery:

Insurance

  • If you have flood insurance, call your insurance agent to file a claim and report the damage as soon as possible after the flood
  • An adjuster will be assigned to your home to settle your claim
  • While you are waiting for the adjuster, organize the information you will need:
    • Take photos or videotape the damage
    • Separate your damaged and undamaged belongings
    • Find receipts, canceled checks or proofs of purchase

Government disaster programs

  • If the flooding was widespread and caused a lot of damage, your community may be eligible for state or federal aid. Before it can receive this assistance, your community must be declared a disaster area by your governor, a federal agency or the President.
  • The following are programs available if the President issues a disaster declaration for your area:
    • Disaster Housing Assistance
    • Disaster Loans
    • Individual and Family Grants
    • Income Tax Deductions
    • Floodproofing Assistance
    • Counseling

Volunteer organizations

  • Groups like the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and church groups are usually at the disaster site during or immediately after a flood and help with people’s immediate needs, such as groceries, new clothing, shelter, medical aid and counseling.

Businesses

  • Listen to your local TV and radio for businesses that are contributing to the recovery process.

Step 8 Rebuild and Floodproof

Don’t just build it back: build it back better. Floodproof your home by remodeling or rebuilding it using materials and methods that will prevent or minimize damage from future floods.

There are five floodproofing strategies:

  • Elevation
  • Relocation
  • Floodwalls
  • Dry floodproofing
  • Wet floodproofing

Remember that local building codes usually require a building permit before you start to repair or alter your home.

If you need a contractor to help you rebuild, talk to several before signing anything. A good contractor will agree that you take the following steps:

  • Check the firm’s reputation
  • Ask for proof of insurance
  • Ask for references
  • Ask for a written reference
  • Ask for a contract
  • Ask for any guarantees in writing
  • Get a copy of the final signed contract
  • Don’t sign off before the job is finished

Step 9 Prepare for the Next Flood

Buy flood insurance

Even if you have flood proofed your home, you still need insurance to protect you from unexpected events, such as a flood that rises higher than your flood protection level.

If you have insurance, find out if you have the right kinds of coverage, and if the coverage is adequate.

Remember that homeowners insurance policies do not cover damage from floods, but you can purchase flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program through any licensed insurance company or agent.

Develop a flood response plan

Develop a response plan based on your flood protection level, local warning procedures and the amount of warning time you will have to respond before the flood comes.

Develop a checklist of steps to take before flood waters reach your home:

  • Listen to local TV and radio stations for flood information and evacuation routes
  • Get into the habit of keeping a full tank of gas in your car
  • Pack your car with supplies you will need while away from home
  • Put supplies needed for cleanup and recovery in a safe place
  • Take your pets to a kennel or a friend’s home on high ground
  • If you have enough warning time, move the contents of your home above the flood protection level or to another safe place
  • Install flood shields and other floodproofing measures you have prepared
  • In hurricane-prone areas, protect against wind damage
  • Tape plastic around the cap of your well
  • Turn off electricity, gas, oil and water
  • Follow your designated evacuation route to a place of shelter

Help your community implement a flood protection program

There are many ways to protect your community from floods:

  • Flood control projects, such as dams and levees
  • Keep ditches and drainage ways open
  • Report illegal floodplain construction– those without a permit
  • Sandbagging

To view more of Cathy’s Tuesday Tips, visit our blog.