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. Call the Office of Risk Management for more information.
- When exiting the building, avoid wading through moving water; according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, 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 Office of Risk Management and their insurers who will want to see that proper permits were secured and that work was inspected.
- Consult with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health if any questions or concerns arise.
A major concern when water enters the building is mold growth. Water that seeps into carpets, walls and wood needs to be dried out properly, as these are ideal breeding grounds for mold. The presence of water and oxygen is all that is needed to enable mold to grow on almost any surface. Mold can cause allergic reactions, such as sneezing, runny nose, eye irritation, coughing, congestion, skin rash and aggravation of asthma. Children, the elderly and those with existing respiratory illnesses are most at risk.
To prevent mold from developing:
- Remove water with a wet-dry vacuum and dry out the area within 24-48 hours of exposure.
- Clean wet surfaces with a mixture of water and detergent and then disinfect with a mixture of bleach and water.
- Running fans, dehumidifiers and portable heaters in the area can also help to dry out moisture.
- Throw away any porous material that has been wet for more than 48 hours as it can become a source of mold. These materials include rugs and rug padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, leather, paper, wood and insulation.
- Drain interior walls if they are still holding water. Do this by removing the baseboard trim and drilling holes about two inches above the floor to let water out. The holes will not be seen when you reinstall the baseboard trim.
- Remove and discard wallboard that has gotten wet. Paneled walling can usually be reused after allowing it to dry out.
- Remove flood-soaked insulation in exterior walls as soon as possible. Batt insulation and blown-in insulation cannot be reused, but you may be able to reuse rigid foam insulation once it is disinfected and allowed to dry completely.
When cleaning and disinfecting areas where mold growth is present:
- Avoid breathing in mold spores by wearing a mask or using a N-95 respirator.
- Avoid touching mold with bare hands by wearing gloves that extend to forearm.
- Avoid mold spores contacting with your eyes by wearing goggles without ventilation holes.
Reporting Water Damage to the Office of Risk Management
If you experience flooding in your facility, contact a disaster restoration company immediately to conduct water extracting and drying operations. Then report the situation to the Claims Manager. Our office can recommend a disaster restoration company if you do not know of one, or you access our Disaster Restoration Contact List.
For additional questions or concerns, please contact the Office of Risk Management at 617-746-5743.
© Bree Publishing LLC. Author: Meghan Noé