While not all flooding and water damage can be prevented, there are some precautions you can take to protect your property and help mitigate damages.
- When installing furnaces, water heaters, water softeners or electrical equipment in the basement, make sure they are elevated on cement blocks.
- Any new construction or additions to your property, such as sheds or garages, should be reinforced against flooding.
- Install “check valves” in the sewer traps so that floodwater does not back up into the drains and seal basement walls with waterproofing compounds to help keep water from seeping in.
- Install a sump pump if the basement is below the water table level in the area or if water commonly collects in your building during rainstorms. Also consider installing a battery-operated backup sump pump in case of a power failure.
Immediately Prior to a Heavy Rainstorm
- Advise custodians to check that all drains, grates and basins are free of snow, ice, leaves and debris.
- Check the sump pumps to make sure they are working properly.
- Move valuables and important documents to a safe place.
- Make sure cell phones and other electronics are fully charged.
- Anchor outdoor items, such as trash cans and lawn furniture, or bring them into an enclosed area.
- Fill bathtubs with clean water in case water becomes contaminated. (Sanitize tub first with bleach, rinse, then fill with clean water.)
- Create a Go Kit with a flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, radio, drinking water and snacks in the event of a power failure.
During Heavy Rains
- Continuously assess the situation by listening to the radio or television for up-to-date information.
- If the authorities advise that occupants in your area should evacuate their premises, then do not hesitate to do so.
- If evacuating premises, before leaving be sure to move important belongings to an upper level of your building, if possible.
- Switch off utilities at the main switches or valves and disconnect electrical appliances. To avoid electrocution, do not disconnect electrical appliances that are wet or in standing water.
- Consider using sandbags in lower-level areas to redirect water and debris away from the property.
- When exiting the building, avoid wading through moving water; drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Use a stick to check the ground in front of you before walking. Also, electricity from streetlights and power poles may be active through standing water, causing electrocution to anyone coming in contact with it.
- Do not wade through still water. Flood waters may have become contaminated with feal material and associated bacteria and viruses.
- Take care when driving in floodwater. It is possible for a car to be carried away by just two feet of moving water so do not try to cross flooded roadways. If waters begin to rise around the car, call 911, abandon the vehicle, and climb to higher ground immediately. According to FEMA, just one foot of water can cause a car to float and six inches of water can cause a loss of control and stalling in most cars.
After a Flood
- Before entering a building after a flood, check for loose power lines, gas leaks or damage to the home’s structure.
- Once inside, beware of natural gas leaks, broken or frayed electrical wires, wet appliances and damaged pipes and sewer lines.
- Damaged septic tanks, cesspools, and leaching systems should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent serious health problems. Listen for news reports to determine whether the water supply is safe.
- Outside the building, downed or damaged power lines can be very dangerous; steer clear of them and report them to the town immediately.
- When clearing downed trees, wear proper protection, such as gloves, eye goggles, a helmet, and ear plugs, and only use chainsaws and power tools that can be used safely outside and in wet conditions.
- The Red Cross can provide a mop, broom, bucket and cleaning supplies, but it is always a good idea to consult a professional before beginning any major cleanup.
- A professional construction worker, plumber, or oil burner technician often is required when any structural work or heating system repairs are involved.
- Secure necessary permits before beginning. Some cities and towns waived permit fees for flood cleanup in previous years. To determine whether a permit is required, call the building inspector in the city or town where work will be done.
- Before making final payment to contractors, have all work inspected. State laws require that plumbing and electrical work be inspected by a town inspector to ensure that the work is in accordance with state codes and standards.
- Take pictures of the damage before beginning any work. Document work that has been done in order to satisfy the Risk Management Program and their insurers who will want to see that proper permits were secured and that work was inspected.
Putting Together a Plan
Each facility should have its own flood prevention and mitigation plan. To help you get started on developing a plan, please download Willis' Technical Advisory Bulletin on Flood Loss Prevention Plans: