FLOOD - A flood is an abnormal progressive rise in the water level of streams or rivers which may result in overflowing. Floods in the Caribbean can often be caused by heavy rainfall, dam or levee failures, tsunamis, storm surges or burst water mains.
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Repairing Your Home

A flood can be a terrifying experience especially if it destroys your home or property. When the factors creating the flood have ceased, water levels may still remain high for some time until it drains or evaporates. During this period, you should avoid attempting repairs. Remember that floodwaters can still present dangers even when they are stagnant.


Here are some guidelines for the cleanup process:

Cleanup Tools

When you begin the clean up process you will need some equipment to assist you.
The list below highlights a few items that will make the process easier

  • Mops and buckets, scrubbing brushes and brooms
     
  • Shovels
     
  • Garbage bags
     
  • Household cleaners and disinfectants
     
  • Rubber gloves and rubber boots
     
  • Hammer, nails, screwdrivers and pliers etc for conducting repairs

N.B Use a camera to record evidence of flood damage before you initiate cleanup.

Safety Guide

  • Make sure you wear protective clothing before cleaning and handling debris
     
  • Sanitize all cuts and bruises. If possible get a tetanus injection if you have not already gotten one. Remember, harmful chemicals, sewage, or rat’s urine, (which can lead to the spread of leptospirosis), can often contaminate floodwaters.
     
  • Do not enter water which is flowing rapidly or that appears deep.
     
  • Stray or displaced animals as well as vermin may enter your home fro shelter during the flood. Be cautious when approaching any animal. Contact the RSPCA if necessary.
     
  • Avoid tampering with heavy objects. They can be unstable, and can trap, crush or hurt you.
     
  • Children should not participate in clean up efforts. If you are pregnant or ill, you should also avoid this type of activity.
     
  • Avoid cleaning up or entering any buildings, which have clearly suffered serious structural damage.

Cleaning Up

  • Scrub and wash down all surfaces with strong disinfectant or bleach. Rinse all areas thoroughly. Pay special attention to food preparation areas, utensils and equipment, these must be properly disinfected before use.
     
  • Remove as much mud as possible using a shovel; if possible use a hose to wash down the floors and areas affected by the floodwaters. If large amounts of mud have been deposited against the walls, remove it in such a way that loading remains even
     
  • Dispose of foodstuffs and items such as clothing and soft furnishings
     
  • Germs need water to thrive, make sure that all disinfected areas dry properly

Drying out

  • Drain water in stages. Do this to avoid uneven pressure being placed on certain areas of the structure. It is recommended to remove a third of the volume of water present.
     
  • If a pump is required, you can purchase one from a DIY outlet. The fire service may also provide a pumping service at a cost. Call your local fire service to find out more.
     
  • Mop up remaining water
     
  • Keep areas well ventilated, as this is needed for the building to dry properly. On dry days, keep doors and windows open; keep them ajar on wet days.

Removing Mould

Moulds are a health hazard! Exposure to moulds may cause wheezing and dizziness as well as cold-like symptoms such as sore throat and watery eyes. They can particularly affect persons who already suffer from some form of respiratory illness.

  • Moulds form in damp areas. Clean and thoroughly dry areas that have been affected by floodwaters to reduce the risk of mould formation.
     
  • If mould has developed, protect yourself with face-masks, or toxic particle cartridges/respirator masks to reduce inhalation.
     
  • If mould levels are high, avoid staying in your home.
     
  • Seek expert assistance from a professional cleaning service.

Disposal

  • You may need to get rid of damaged appliances; some of these may be larger (fridges, stoves etc.) than your regular collection service can handle. 
     
  • Do not dump! If you cannot transport the items to the dump on your own, you will need to get a skip.
     
  • Contact your local sanitation service for advice.

Restoring Your Utilities After The Flood

Activating your utilities can be a bit tricky immediately after a flood.

Here are a few tips:

Reconnecting your electricity

  • Turn off your electricity supply if you had not already done so before the flood. Then have the supply checked by an electrician before you attempt to use any electrical equipment.
     
  • Use a circuit breaker for extra protection.
     
  • You can source an alternative form of electricity by using a generator if your electricity supply cannot be used. Generators release carbon monoxide, so make sure the area is well ventilated.
     
  • Do not use electrical appliances unless an electrician has inspected them.

Reconnecting your gas

  • Check for damage to your gas supply. If you smell gas, get everyone out of the building or area immediately and avoid using appliances, devices or vehicles in the area, which can create flames or sparks as this could cause an explosion. If it is dark, use flashlights NOT candles.
     
  • Contact your gas/propane provider or your local fire department if you suspect there’s a gas leak. Do not return indoors or to the area until you are told it is safe to do so. Do not attempt repairs on your own. Only a service technician is qualified to do so.
     
  • Do not use any gas-powered appliances until your supply has been checked.
     
  • Floodwaters may cause your propane tank to be dislodged, it can then become floating debris, which may cause damage to other objects or structures. If your propane tank is missing or if you discover one on your property that isn’t yours, contact your fire department or propane retailer immediately.

Reconnecting your water

  • Test your water supply before use. Catch a medium sized bowl of water and inspect that no sediments have entered the water supply. To be safe, boil tap water for at least 20 minutes before use. Contact your local/national water company, if you suspect that the water supply has been contaminated.
     
  • Floodwaters and debris can damage pipes and insulation. Have these inspected and repaired/replaced if needed.

If You Are Insured

  • Insurance policies that cover floods may contain various provisions or assistance/compensation. Find out exactly what your insurance company will pay for.
     
  • Take photographs/video footage to record the damage to your property/possessions.
     
  • If possible, make a mark of current water levels as this will reduce over time due to evaporation or drainage etc.
     
  • If you need repairs to your property, your insurance company may provide a builder etc. If this is not the case, you may be required to obtain quotes from several builders/companies.
     
  • Do not commence repair work until your insurance company has given you the go-ahead.
     
  • Collect and safely store signed receipts for all work done.

Structural Repairs

  • When choosing a builder, make sure they are officially trained and qualified! Beware of independent builders who may not be properly skilled, who are seeking to exploit you at this vulnerable time.
     
  • Never pay cash in advance.
     
  • Get several quotes in order to find the best company for the job.

Structural Damage

Signs of structural damage may take some time to show. Inspect your property often in the months following the flood. Below are a few signs of structural damage that you can look out for:

  • Protruding or displaced areas of the building
     
  • Cracks larger than 5mm above doors or windows
     
  • Changes in the line of the roof ridge. The appearance of the roof ridge is best viewed from a distance.
     
  • Buckling of walls. (horizontal cracks across walls, or areas that appear to have been displaced from their original vertical alignment.
     
  • Vertical or diagonal cracks.
     
  • Exposed foundations due to scouring.

If you observe any of these signs, contact your insurance company. In addition, consult a professional structural engineer for advice/inspection. Take regular photographs to document the damage and further developments.

Floors

  • Remove coverings such as carpet, vinyl or tiles if these have been inundated by floodwaters and damaged. Make sure the area has dried properly before replacing flooring materials.
     
  • Concrete floors are not likely to be seriously affected. If additional ventilation may be needed contact a professional builder or surveyor.
     
  • If your property has suspended wooden floors, some boards should be removed so that water beneath can be removed.
     
  • If your floor is “heaved”, (cracked and/or has shifted from its original level) you will have to have it removed and build a new one. If the floor is at its original level but only cracked then you may be able to construct a new floor above the existing one. Contact a professional builder for more information.

Windows/Doors

If flooding is so severe that it reaches window levels, here are a few tips to help you fully restore and regain full use of your windows.

  • Clean window thoroughly, especially around the hinges and locks to prevent corrosion.
     
  • Check the condition of your windows and ensure that everything is still secure.
     
  • If you have doubled glazed units, check that floodwater has not damaged the edge seal. Make sure that there are no sediments stored in the frame; if such exists, drill holes at the top and bottom of the frame to facilitate drainage. If you notice condensation between the panes, damage of some kind has occurred and the unit should be replaced or repaired if possible.
     
  • Ventilation should dry wooden doors. Once dried within a few weeks, there is minimum risk of decay.
     
  • Fire doors are normally filled with fire resistant material. If affected by floodwaters, the damage is normally permanent. These type of doors should be removed and replaced.
     
  • Sash windows may swell after a flood. Allow these to dry and they should return to normal shape and size. If this does not happen, the windows can be repaired to allow them to fit accurately.

Bricks/Walls

  • Bricks may retain moisture even when the exterior appears dry. The best way to ensure that complete drying has been achieved is through evaporation. Wash walls and remove any loose, damaged or contaminated coverings (wallpaper/tiles etc). Ensure that areas are well ventilated. It’s important to note that the drying process may take months to achieve.
     
  • Seek professional advice if your walls have moisture sealants applied, as this tends to slow the drying process
     
  • Do not re-paint walls/brickwork until the area is completely dry. Painting or wallpapering too soon can cause mould to develop. The paint may also peel. Staining may show through if re-painting is done to early using an emulsion. To avoid staining, try using an oil-based or stain-block paint before applying emulsion.
     
  • Bricks can crack as they dry. Take note or mark areas where bricks/walls have cracked or been damaged, and repair when area has fully dried.
     
  • In some cases, white salt may appear on bricks during the drying process. This will stop when the bricks have completely dried. Remove, using a bristle broom.
     
  • If you have airbricks, which are covered, remove covering to allow adequate ventilation and drainage of trapped water.
     
  • Floodwaters can leave sediment build up behind. If substantial debris/sediments have been piled against your walls (greater than 30cm), this will result in pressure being applied to the wall. If loading has occurred on the inside and outside on a wall, try to remove the build-up as evenly as possible.
     
  • Have wall cavities inspected by a specialist. If there is debris present have it removed, if wall ties are damaged have them replaced.
     
  • Plasterwork made from gypsum will absorb large quantities of water. This will need to be replaced. Make sure area has dried and that crack movement and salt growth has stopped before you begin replastering.

Building Interior

  • Wall coverings such as tiles, wallpaper, vinyl, gloss paint etc, tend to slow the drying process. Removing these from one or both sides of the wall can speed up the drying process.
     
  • If there are wooden staircases, these may have become unstable. Check the support of the staircase and if needed consult a professional to begin repairs.
     
  • Do not redecorate for at least 3 months after walls have been dried and repaired
 

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