While fire may be a more common concern among homeowners, your home could in fact be as much as ten times more likely to be damaged by water than by fire.* Significant sources of water damage to one’s property can come from weather-related moisture or flooding, including flooding from heavy rains, flash floods, dam and levee failures, tidal storm surges and mudflows. In addition, new construction of buildings, roads or bridges can alter the flow of water, increasing the potential for flooding.
Living in a high-risk flood zone can increase the likelihood of experiencing a flood, but being outside a high-risk zone does not mean homeowners are safe; flooding is always a possibility due to causes such as heavy rains, snowmelt and spring thaws.
Protecting Your Property Before, During and After a Flood
There are a number of things you can do to help minimize or prevent water damage to your property. Follow these tips to help prepare and recover from potentially costly flood damage.
Before the Flood:
- Know your properties flood zone risk and evaluate your flood risk with this reference guide from IBHS.
- Have your furnace, water heater and other permanent equipment elevated above the expected flood levels of your area.
- Inspect sump pumps and drains regularly to ensure proper operation.
- If you own a generator, have a licensed electrician provide a transfer switch to your sump pump so you can operate it in the event of flooding.
- To help prevent sewage backup, have a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow prevention valve.
- Keep sandbags on hand to help divert unusually high water away from your foundation.
- In snowy climates, flag drains to avoid plowing snow on top of them.
- Learn the flood alert signals of your community.
- Collect emergency building materials if you live in a frequently flooded area. These may include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, shovels and sandbags.
- Plan and practice an evacuation route. Designate a place for family members to meet in the event they become separated.
- Review with all family members how to shut off utilities in an emergency.
- Plan a survival kit with important documents, including insurance documents, medications and critical items in the event you need to leave your home.
During the Flood:
- Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest storm information. If advised to evacuate, shut off all utilities and evacuate immediately.
- Move to high ground, avoid rising waters and do not walk or drive through any floodwaters.
- Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.
After the Flood:
- Listen to the radio and do not return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
- Once allowed back into your home, inspect it for damage. If your property has been damaged, promptly report the loss.
- Be watchful of snakes that may have found their way into your home.
- Throw away all food that has come in contact with floodwaters.
- Remove standing water as quickly as possible, including from your basement. If your basement is flooded, pump out about 1/3 of the water per day to avoid structural damage.
- Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24-48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Discard anything that cannot be properly dried.
- Wash and disinfect all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets and shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems. Do not energize electrical or electronic equipment that may have suffered water damage without first having a qualified electrician inspect and/or test it.