We remember the torrential rains in March 2010 that caused $330 million in damage across the Northeast, including Massachusetts. If you were lucky enough not to have been impacted, remember: it doesn’t necessarily take a catastrophic weather event such as that to create basement flooding that can cause significant damage to your home.
Here in New England, basement flooding is an annual concern, typically prompted by snowmelt and spring rains that cause sewer backups or overflows. (Does your homeowners policy have water & sewer back-up coverage? Call Educators Insurance Agency today to learn more.)
We’ve compiled tips and resources to help you prepare for the possibility of a flood and to recover in case one occurs.
Before a flood hits …
Get covered: While a standard homeowners policy does not cover damage due to flooding, the federal government’sNational Flood Insurance Program provides insurance solutions to homeowners, renters and business owners in participating communities. This insurance provides coverage for electrical fixtures, furnace, water heater and other essential components, but may not cover everything.
Floodproof your basement:
- Furnaces, sinks, toilets, water heaters and washers and dryers should be elevated, if they are not able to be moved upstairs.
- Waterproof your foundation, including sealing cracks in the floors and walls.
- After checking with your local sewer authority, you may install a check valve or shut-off valve on the sewer close to where it enters your structure.
Protect your personal property: It is generally not advised to store personal property in your basement, particularly property with monetary value or personal significance, because even closed plastic containers do not have a guarantee of being watertight in the event of a flood.
Recovering from a flooded basement
Do not enter a flooded basement: There is a risk of electrocution if flood waters have not yet receded, according to FEMA and the Red Cross. You are also at risk of disease from waterborne pathogens.
Disconnect your utilities: Have your gas and electricity providers shut off service to your home until your flooding situation has abated.
Exercise caution removing water: If your basement floods, pump the water out slowly. Hastily pumping out a flooded basement may cause structural damage. Instead, wait until floodwaters have receded on land and pump water out of your basement a foot at a time, according to FEMA “Draining the water too fast could cause the collapse of the cellar walls, floors, and foundation of the house. The water must be drained slowly to equalize pressure on both sides of the wall,” the agency advises.
Cleaning your basement: You should only begin to clean your basement after confirming with local emergency management officials and after the flood waters have receded. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection advises taking the following precautions:
- Wear protective gloves, eyewear, boots, and rain gear.
- Avoid direct contact with sewage material, and be careful of your face and eyes (consider wearing goggles).
- Immediately wash and disinfect any wound that comes in contact with sewage. Tetanus shots are also smart if you work near contaminated floodwaters.
- Always discard food, cosmetics, medicines and medical supplies, stuffed animals, toys, mattresses and pillows, upholstered couches and chairs, carpet padding, and cardboard. Also consider discarding foam rubber, large carpets, books and paper products.
- Guard against mold. The Red Cross advises: “Remove all items that have been wet for more than 48 hours. To clean hard surfaces, use commercial cleaning products or a bleach solution of 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water.”
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection also advises disinfecting surfaces, since floodwaters can bring pathogens into your home.
Get help with recovery: FEMA’s Individual and Households program offers funding that may help with some aspects of cleaning and repairing your basement after a flood, including sanitization and HVAC issues.
Rebuild and fortify: In a jointly issued report entitled “FEMA and the American Red Cross urge homeowners to incorporate flood-proofing techniques as they repair and rebuild their homes. These techniques, according to the report, are inexpensive and can prevent or minimize future flood damage.
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