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When your house floods.

The natural tendency after any disaster is to try to return your life and your home to the way it was before as soon as possible. Water in unwanted places can cause a lot of damage. Not only can it ruin your prized possessions, but also the house in which they are stored. If you’re able to act quickly, you can minimize the damage and possibly save some of your possessions. Some of your success depends on how long the water’s been around, there might be pieces of furniture that can be saved, and sometimes, even carpet, but any electronics hit by water are probably doomed. Don’t treat flood water in unwanted places lightly: even if your basement only has an inch of water in it, or is even just damp, it is the perfect breeding ground for mold. Mold growth not only ruins walls, furniture, carpets, flooring, etc., it can lead to poor indoor air quality causing respiratory problems including asthma, and can lead to severe illness. Preventing mold growth is key to keeping your home’s air clean and healthy.

Drying and Disinfecting Your Home

Flooding in your home has several consequences. Materials submerged in flood water can decay, swell, and warp. Electrical equipment and components can become damaged and may cause fires or electrical shock if not replaced after a flood. Wet surfaces encourage mold growth, which discolors surfaces, leads to odor problems, deteriorates building materials, and may cause allergic reactions and other health problems in susceptible individuals. Mud leaves things dirty and the contaminants that may be contained in this mud can pose potential health threats.

Controlling and preventing decay is easier to accomplish and reduces the health risks to occupants if done correctly. Control and prevention of the effects of mold and other contaminants is more difficult to accomplish. However, the stakes are much higher. You can minimize these risks by reducing moisture levels in your house through drying, and by decontaminating building surfaces.

After a flood, you must both dry and decontaminate your home. Either measure alone is not enough. Because flood water and mud contain sewage, hazardous and toxic materials released upriver, micro-organisms, and other contaminants, it is essential to both dry and decontaminate your home. Drying without decontamination, or decontamination without drying, are ineffective. Remember too, that all materials and tools you use in the process, such as clothing, wet/dry vacuums, etc., will become contaminated and in need of disinfecting when you are finished.

 

How can you tell when your home is dry?

Depending on things such as the extent of flooding and the weather, drying your home after a flood could take anywhere from several days to several months, or even longer. To determine whether your house is adequately dried, you should consult with a professional, such as PRS of Tampa Bay, your county extension agent, or the local building inspector, who may have a moisture meter to test your home’s moisture level.

Measures to Help Decontaminate the House

Your home should be cleaned from mud and silt immediately to remove any sewage and micro-organisms that may have been deposited on building surfaces by flood water. However, removing mud and debris is only the first step. Surfaces that have been cleaned will still be wet and will require time to dry. As these surfaces dry, they will become hosts for mold and other biological growth. Therefore, your home may have to be decontaminated again once it is dry.

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Tips on protecting your home from flooding.

 Safeguard in-home electrical and climate systems

Raise switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring at least a foot above the expected flood level in your area.

Modify your furnace, water heater and any other anchored indoor equipment so that it sits above your property’s flood level.
Determine how water flows around your house

Called the grading or slope, the angle of the ground can direct water to or from your house. Obviously, it’s best if the home was built so that water drains away from the building.

This is easy enough to determine by watching how water flows or accumulates during an average rainstorm, says FLASH President Leslie Chapman-Henderson.

If your street is prone to standing water even after a fairly ordinary rainstorm, talk to your county planning or environmental services department, advises Chapman-Henderson. “A major part of their job is water flow, and they can make suggestions.”
Take last-minute measures as waters rise

Clear gutters, drains and downspouts.

Move furniture, rugs, electronics and other belongings to upper floors, or at least raise them off a ground floor.

Shut off electricity at the breaker panel.

Elevate major appliances onto concrete blocks if they’re potentially in harm’s way from flooding.



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