After a flood, the physical devastation to a community is obvious. But during the aftermath,
there are some basic facts to remember that will help protect your health and safety and start
getting your life back to normal.
The dangers are not over when the water goes down.
If you come upon a barricade or a flooded road, go another way. Roads may still be closed
because they have been damaged or are covered by water. Barricades have been placed for your
protection: a car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
Keep informed. Keep listening to the radio for news about what to do, where to go, or
places to avoid.
Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations,
and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods, such as contaminated waters,
crumbled roads, landslides, mudflows, and other hazards.
Stay out of any building if flood waters remain around the building. Flood waters often
undermine foundations, causing sinking, floors can crack or break and buildings can collapse.
Watch out for animals that may have come into buildings with the flood waters. Use a stick to
poke through debris. Flood waters flush snakes and many animals out of their homes.
Wear sturdy shoes. The most common injury following a disaster is cut feet.
Stay on firm ground. Moving water only 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Standing
water may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
Be careful. Flooding may have caused familiar places to change. Floodwaters often erode
roads and walkways. Flood debris may hide animals and broken bottles, and it's also slippery.
Avoid walking or driving through it.
Parents should not allow children to play in flood areas. Above all, play it safe.
Additional flooding or flash floods can occur. Listen for local warnings and information. If
your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, get out immediately and climb to higher ground.
Floodwaters can leave behind contaminants that can make you sick and animals or debris that can
cause injury. Floods can also cause damage to your home that could increase its risk of fire or
collapse. When returning home, remembering some important steps can help keep you and your family
safe and healthy.
Check your home before you enter it. Walk carefully around the outside and check for
loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. If you have any doubts about safety, have
your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before
entering. Do not enter if:
You smell gas
Floodwaters remain around the building
Your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe
Turn off the electricity at the main breaker or fuse box, even if the power is off in
your community. That way, you can decide when your home is dry enough to turn it back on.
Look for fire hazards. There may be broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical
circuits, or submerged furnaces or electrical appliances. Flammable or explosive materials
may travel from upstream. Fire is the most frequent hazard following floods.
Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window
and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call
the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be
turned back on by a professional.
Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if
you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker.
If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician
first for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to
Check for sewage and waterline damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid
using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company
and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters
or by melting ice cubes.
If water is of questionable purity, boil or add bleach, and distill drinking water before
using. Wells inundated by flood waters should be pumped out and the water tested for purity
before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authority. Ill health effects often
occur when people drink water contaminated with bacteria and germs.
Throw away food that has come in contact with flood waters. Some canned foods may be
salvageable. If the cans are dented or damaged, throw them away. Food contaminated by flood
waters can cause severe infections. When in doubt, throw it out. Don't risk injury or infection.
Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Floodwaters may have left behind things that
could make you sick. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.
Clean walls with soap and water disinfected with 1/2 –cup of bleach and a gallon of water
Thoroughly disinfect food contact surfaces (counter tops, pantry shelves, refrigerators, etc.)
Wash all linens and clothing in hot water or dry-clean them
Steam clean all carpeting
FEMA has tips for removing mold from your home available on its website
Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as
possible. Damaged sewage systems are health hazards.
Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid
structural damage. If the water is pumped completely in a short period of time, pressure
from water-saturated soil on the outside could cause basement walls to collapse.
Repairing Your Flooded Home
is available free from the American Red Cross or your state or local emergency manager.
Call 211. 2-1-1 provides callers with information about and referrals to human services for
every day needs and in times of crisis. Or you can visit
The American Red Cross can help you by providing you with a voucher to purchase new clothing,
groceries, essential medications, bedding, essential furnishings, and other items to meet
emergency needs. The Red Cross can also provide you with a cleanup kit: mop, broom, bucket,
and cleaning supplies. You can call the Badger Chapter of the American Red Cross at
(608) 233-9300 or toll free at 1-877-618-6628, or visit them at the
Badger Chapter website.
Contact your local government. For Dane County residents, local government information can be
found on the Dane County Website.
Contact your insurance agent to discuss claims.
Listen to your radio for information on assistance that may be provided by the state or federal
government or other organizations.
If you hire cleanup or repair contractors, be sure they are qualified to do the job. Be wary
of people who drive through neighborhoods offering help in cleaning up or repairing your home.
Avoid disaster areas. Emergency workers will be assisting people in flooded areas. You
can help them by staying off the roads and out of the way.
Report broken utility lines to the appropriate authorities. Reporting potential hazards
will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury.
Check with your utility company now about where broken lines should be reported.
Help a neighbor who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with
disabilities. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance.
People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency
Call your agent or insurance company. Have the following information with you when you
place your call:
The name of your insurance company (your agent may write policies for more than one company)
Your policy number
A telephone number/e-mail address where you can be reached
Once You Have Reported Your Loss:
An adjustor will work with you to calculate the value of the damage and prepare a repair
Please keep your agent advised if your contact information changes. If you are still in a
shelter or cannot be easily reached, please provide the name of a designated relative or
point-of-contact who can reach you.
Before the Adjustor Arrives
Local officials may require the disposal of damaged items. If you dispose of items, please
keep a swatch or other sample of damaged item(s) for the adjustor.
Separate damaged items from undamaged items. If necessary, place items outside the home.
Photograph or videotape everything. Take photos of standing water, both outside and inside
of your house; structural damage; and damaged personal property. Your adjuster will need evidence
of the damage to prepare your repair estimate.
Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their age and value where possible. If
possible, have receipts for those items available for the adjustor.
If you have damage estimates prepared by a contractor(s), provide them to the adjustor
since they will be considered in the preparation of your repair estimate.
Within 60 Days
File a Proof of Loss within 60 days of the flood. Your official claim for damages is called a
Proof of Loss. This sworn statement, made by you, substantiates the insurance claim and is required
before the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or insurance company can make payment. Your
adjuster should provide the form for you. However, it is your responsibility to provide your insurance
company with a signed Proof of Loss within 60-days of the date of loss. You must include a detailed
estimate to replace or repair the damaged property, which you can obtain from your adjuster. You
should both come to an agreement about the scope of damage and what needs to be repaired or replaced.
Your claim is payable after:
You and the insurer agree on the amount of damages
The insurer receives your complete, accurate, and signed proof of loss
If major catastrophic flooding occurs, it may take longer to process claims and make payments because
of the sheer number of claims submitted.
More information is available on the NFIP website,
When you are repairing your flood-damaged home, consider taking steps to reduce future damages.
Visit our Protect Your Home or Business page to learn
more about projects you can do to protect your home from flooding. These projects are often less
expensive when they are combined with other repair work. Remember, always get a permit from your
community zoning department before doing any development if you live in a 100-year floodplain.
Revised: October 18, 2007