After a Flood: The First Steps

Road closed with car

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.

Links to Sections of this Document

Staying Safe

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.

Returning Home

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.

Repairing Your Flooded Home is available free from the American Red Cross or your state or local emergency manager.

flooded community

Getting Help

  • 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 211's website.
  • 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. Check references.

Being Helpful

  • 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 situations.

Filing a Flood Insurance Claim


  • Call your agent or insurance company. Have the following information with you when you place your call:
    1. The name of your insurance company (your agent may write policies for more than one company)
    2. Your policy number
    3. 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 estimate.
  • 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,

Preparing for the Next Flood

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