If your home has been damaged in a flood, you should read this blog and heed the warnings below. At Citizens’ Flood Insurance Litigation, our goal is to help you stay informed as a homeowner so that you can keep your family and everyone helping you safe.
Many people are not aware of the risk involved with flooding damage. Water is water, right? Not quite. The damage that flooding can do to your home can be extensive and can put you, your family, and anyone who visits at risk. We have made a list of warnings and things ‘you can do to keep your family safe after your home’s been flooded.
Warning: These Risks Could Be Present in Your Home
After a flood, there is a lot of cleanup to do, but before you get started, be aware of some of the dangers so that you can avoid them or take the steps necessary to keep yourself safe. If the hazards go unaddressed, a visitor to the property could get seriously injured.
This is perhaps the most obvious hazard. Structural damage can be fairly easy to spot, such as a collapsing roof. However, there can be structural damage that is not so easy to identify. For example, if a wall has been thoroughly soaked in water, the structural beams behind it could be rotting and eventually give way.
This type of structural damage is not something you can immediately see, but when cleaning up your property, it could put you and any helpers at risk for a catastrophic injury if a sudden and dangerous collapse occurs.
Watch out for any exposed electrical wiring. Remember how you’re not supposed to use a hair dryer by the sink, or how you want to avoid driving through big puddles if the electrical wires are down? Think about how much more dangerous it is to walk through a home with electrical wires exposed to several feet of water.
In this situation, it would be easy for you, your family and friends, and anyone helping you to be electrocuted and seriously injured. Before you begin walking around, it’s important to make sure that no electrical hazards are exposed to the water. You should also wear insulating rubber boots and gloves the first time back at your property after the flooding.
Remember all those paint cans that you were storing in the garage and the pesticides that you kept underneath the counter to use in your garden? Under normal circumstances, it is unlikely that these chemicals would ever cause you harm. However, a flooded house is not a normal circumstance.
These types of materials, including your home cleaning supplies, are highly toxic and can spill and get into the water that has flooded your home. This means that your house could literally be a soup of toxic chemicals.
Even the building materials that were used to construct your home could be toxic and contain dangerous materials such as lead and asbestos. This creates an extremely dangerous situation.
Never walk through your property without boots and gloves, and make certain that you are fully covered. You never know what you will be exposed to, and you definitely do not want to put children in this situation. In fact, it’s also a good idea to wear a mask.
Objects loosened by the flood water could easily fall on you and anyone assisting with the cleanup. Make sure that everything is secure and stable prior to having a cleanup crew go in.
Mold, mold, and more mold. This is probably one of the most common concerns people have after a flood. Mold can be highly toxic and dangerous to your respiratory system and the rest of your body.
This is particularly true for anyone with asthma and certain other health conditions. Unfortunately, mold can form quickly after a flood (within twenty-four hours). This is not the only biological concern though. Viruses and bacteria can also come with the flooded water to make you and your family ill. This is especially true in warmer climates.
All of these hazards and more can exist in homes after flooding. Being aware of the risks allows you to take steps to protect yourself and everyone else who visits your home. Always remember that it isn’t possible to worry too much in these situations. It is a lack of worry or awareness that you should be concerned by. Too many people simply assume that the water will recede and everything will be okay, but this is a sure-fire way for people to get hurt—and an injury lawsuit can follow toxic exposure.
Ways to Protect Yourself and Others
When you go back to your house for an inspection or to clean up after the flooding, you need to take the proper safety precautions:
The first step to staying safe is paying attention and being aware of your surroundings. You need to know what is happening around you at all times so that if something like a beam becomes loose, you are aware that it is a danger before it comes crashing down on you. You also want to pay attention to what is under the water to make certain that you do not trip or become injured by something that’s been submerged.
Wear Rubber Boots and Gloves
Given the risk of exposed electrical wiring and other hazardous objects in the water , you will be safer if you wear rubber boots and gloves at all times.
Wash Your Hands
Remember that flood water is often incredibly toxic. You do not want it to come into direct contact with it if at all possible. If it does touch you, you need to wash the contact point immediately and thoroughly. Bring bottled water and soap to the site so that you can wash your hands frequently, and be sure to take a thorough shower as soon as possible.
Do Not Eat or Drink While at the Flood Site
A flood site is not a place to eat and drink. Even though you should probably bring bottles of water, make sure to keep them sealed at all times that you aren’t actively drinking. Do not let anything touch your food or water while at the flood site. If possible, keep these items secure in your vehicle or leave the site to eat and drink.
Spray Down Mold
It may seem strange, but even if the house’s walls are damp, any mold on the surface might not be. Mold tends to be drier than the objects it is living on. To prevent the mold spores from spreading as you move a contaminated object, you need to bring a spray bottle and wet the mold prior to moving the object.
Get a Tetanus Shot
Given the potential high toxicity of your home after a flood, one small cut—even a papercut—can lead to an infection. It is recommended that you get a tetanus shot or booster prior to cleaning up a flood site.
Your Responsibility as a Homeowner
After your home has been flooded, your first thought may be “how do we get the house cleaned up and get moved back in as quickly as possible?” This is understandable because the longer that your flooded home sits, the more likely it is that the damage will become permanent.
Still, it’s not smart to rush in too quickly. You need to think things through first. Homeowners are responsible for any hazards present on their property. While you can’t control Mother Nature, you are responsible for what happens to people on your property after the flood. If you get a bunch of your friends or colleagues together to help you clean up and they become injured or poisoned by the toxic water, you could be liable.
Think about it: If one of those loose beams comes crashing down on your friend from work, he or she could suffer a traumatic brain injury—or worse. You would be responsible for paying medical bills and even be looking at a lawsuit.
Imagine how terrible it would be if the people helping you suddenly began suffering from lead poisoning. This is a devastating condition, and one that can occur due to toxic exposure from lead paint that’s mixed with the floodwater. This is only one of the many toxic and biological hazards that the people helping you could be exposed to.
With so many hazards everywhere after a flood, you could be taking a serious risk just by soliciting help. To make sure that you’re covered, you should speak with your insurance company to find out if your homeowners insurance policy will protect you in the event that someone is injured while helping you clean up. Also, you may want to consider working with a professional company that would not hold you liable for any injuries that occur while doing the job.
Finally, if someone is injured while helping you or visiting your property, it’s best to call an attorney as quickly as possible. There’s a good chance that the injured person will file a lawsuit, and it’s important that you are protected.