Eight important steps for coping after a flood
When the floodwater has gone and it is safe to return home, you may be faced with an upsetting sight. Even a small amount of water can have a devastating impact by causing damage to your property and belongings, some of which may have to be replaced. The eight steps below will help you during this time, and they include crucial advice about dealing with your insurance company and keeping safe.
Contact your insurers as soon as possible, and closely follow their advice. If possible, make a note of the key things that your insurers tell you, and record details of all conversations and correspondence you have with the insurer.
If you don’t have insurance, contact Calderdale Council or Citizens Advice Bureau who should be able to provide information on hardship grants or charities that may be able to help you.
If you are insured, you should ask your insurance provider two key questions:
- How long will it be before a Loss Adjuster visits your house?
- Whether you should clean your property or if they will arrange to have it cleaned for you?
IIt is likely that your insurance company will send a ‘Loss Adjuster’ to your house in order to evaluate the damage. For this reason, it is very important not to repair or throw away damaged goods until your insurer has said it is safe to do so.
Once damaged goods have been seen by your insurer, you can contact the Council to see if they can help with collection. Be careful putting household goods outside to dry out: people might help themselves if they wrongly assume the goods have been scrapped.
It is also a good idea to take photographs or video of any damage to your property and belongings (if your camera is damaged, use your mobile phone’s camera or a disposable camera). Make a list of the damage and, if your carpet is saturated, cut up a small sample to show the Loss Adjuster as proof of its quality.
Use a permanent ink pen to mark on the wall the maximum height of the floodwater. Do this in every room affected by flooding.
If your insurance policy covers you for the loss of perishable goods like food, make a list of all these items you throw away. Include any food touched by floodwater and anything in your fridge or freezer that has been ruined by loss of power.
The Food Standards Agency issues full guidance: Food safety advice
Don’t immediately switch your gas and electricity supplies back on. Instead, you should ask a professional to check the safety of electricity and gas appliances before using them. A qualified electrician needs to check any electrical equipment that may have come into contact with floodwater.
Never enter flooded areas or touch wet electrical equipment, unless you are certain that the power is off. Don’t assume that any part of a flooded electrical installation or appliance is safe.
Water and mud may enter gas systems during a flood. Even if appliances appear to be working normally, the flue or ventilation systems might be affected. For safety reasons, it is very important to have appliances inspected by a CORGI registered engineer before they are used for the first time after flooding.
The floodwater affecting your home or other property may have been contaminated with sewage, animal waste and other contaminants.
Avoid contact with any remaining floodwater or items that have been exposed unless you are wearing protective clothing and gloves. Be sure you dispose of any contaminated foods (including tinned) that may have been in contact with floodwater.
Be careful walking through floodwater as there may be debris, open manholes or other hazards you can’t see, and sediments might be slippery. Always move slowly and carefully.
You should also avoid enclosed areas that might be contaminated by chemicals, such as garages and cellars, where hazardous fumes could build up.
Boil all tap water until Yorkshire Water tells you it is safe to use and drink. You will also need to boil spring water used for drinking and food preparation.
Following potential chemical contamination, you should not return home without first getting advice from your Local Authority.
Don’t let young children or pets play on affected grassed or paved areas until they have been cleaned down and restored to their normal condition.
Be sure you wash your own and your children's hands often, using bottled or cooled boiled water if your water supply is not safe (preferably with anti-bacterial soap). Disinfect any children's toys before allowing them to be played with.
Go to your doctor if any health issues arise, especially flu-like symptoms.
Also, be aware of the stresses and strains caused by flooding, and look after your mental health as well as your physical health. Don’t set yourself unrealistic targets for cleaning up the mess, as this could add to the pressure.
Ventilate your property but keep security in mind. Flooding can contribute to the growth of mould in homes, and this can present a health risk, especially to people with asthma, allergies and other breathing conditions, or to those with a suppressed immune system.
Remember that petrol or diesel-run generators, dehumidifiers and pressure washers should never be used indoors without adequate ventilation – their fumes can kill.
Rogue traders often promote their services after flooding. Make sure you get a written quote on letter-headed paper with a landline number and address before entering into any agreement. Always check they are registered with the Government Buy With Confidence scheme.