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First steps to take if your home is affected by flooding

KSNF/KODE — Flooding may not be something that’s on your mind, especially since the Four State area has seen moderate to extreme drought conditions since the mid-summer months. But, as time progresses so does the weather conditions, and it’s usually just a matter of time before we see the rain return. If you’re living in a flood plain, or in an area where flooding has occurred in the past, it’s likely to happen again in the future. In the event that water were to reach the inside of your home, there are some important steps to take to ensure that whatever can be saved, is saved.

If your home sustains damage from flooding, the first step is to contact your insurance company before starting any cleanup. Make sure to ask about their guidelines and requirements for cleanup. It’s advisable that you document all conversations you have with your insurance company and keep a record of who you spoke to, what time and everything that was said. It’s also important not to throw anything away until the insurance adjuster sees it. Carpets, rugs, flooring, furniture, appliances, etc.; all of that is your evidence for reimbursement. It’s recommended that you claim everything touched by flood water on insurance, even if you are able to salvage it (like wood furniture). Also, if your flooding is part of an ‘officially declared disaster’ check with FEMA for additional services and financial assistance available.

When you’re ready to start the cleanup process, it’s advisable to do so as soon as possible. Starting that process 24-48 hours after a flooding event will greatly reduce the spread of mold. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that a professional should handle cleanup if the amount of visible mold is larger than a 3’x3′ area. In most cases, a professional cleanup and restoration company will be needed to help get your home back to a condition that’s livable.

One such company, “1-800 Water Damage,” will work with your insurance company and start the process of restoring your home as well as furnishings, as quickly as possible. “Whenever water goes where it’s not supposed to be, we are there to help. We would be essentially a first responder for your property. Depending on the situation, where the next thing you think about is, ‘how am I going to restore my home,’ that’s where we come in. We’re going to quickly take care of things, whether it’s high water or an overflowing tub, it doesn’t matter, you have to get it cleaned up,” said William Gordon, Midwest Region Coach for 1-800 Water Damage.

If it’s a job you’re able to tackle yourself, drying the affected area as quickly as possible is going to be your main goal, according to Consumer Reports. If you have power, turn on your air conditioner, a dehumidifier and/or every fan you own. Keep your windows closed if you have a dehumidifier and an air conditioner to help the air circulate inside and get rid of excess moisture. Keep your windows open if you have only fans, and face the exhaust toward an open window. If you don’t have power, the best thing to do is to open all doors and windows to create airflow.

While you’re airing out your home, use a humidity meter to keep tabs on the moisture level. The EPA advises that anywhere between 30 and 50 percent humidity is a good level to inhibit mold growth. Floors, walls and furniture may be dry to the touch and still harbor mold and bacterial growth. A moisture meter is another good tool to have, so you can detect dampness you can’t see.

A larger job may require a professional water cleanup and restoration company. “We use specialized tools to determine where the water is, what’s materials are wet that maybe you can’t see, and we sample the air to make sure that we’re controlling the humidity to dry the structure and the furniture. We also have equipment that can modify the air and circulate it, too. We have specialized tools for getting air into walls in the least intrusive way possible. So, if the wall is wet for just a short period of time we can get in and dry it out without having to take apart the home. Of course circumstances vary, but we apply the tools we have to try to get things dry, as fast as possible,” said Gordon.

If your cleanup and restoration requires you to bring in the experts, make sure you vet the people you hire. There are a lot of scams involving restoring flood-damaged homes after disasters, so be sure that the restoration firm you hire is certified for mold and water damage remediation. “Most of our folks are all family owned small businesses, so their lives are staked on their reputation. Their measure of success is by having satisfied customers and getting the job done right. Our people are fully invested in what they do,” said Gordon.

The EPA has more information for homeowners and renters affected by flooding, which you can find HERE.

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