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Seven Home Safety Tips for After a Flood

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021
after a flood

If flooding strikes your home, you have a lot to think about and deal with after the water stops. One of the things that should be a top priority, however, is safety. Every year, people who survive an initial flood event are injured or sometimes killed by hazards present in the aftermath. To help reduce those statistics, here are seven post-flood safety tips to keep in mind 

  • Don’t go home until it’s safe. If you were ordered to evacuate before the flood, don’t return to the house until an all-clear has been issued by local authorities.
  • Be aware of electrical hazards. Electrocution is among the most common causes of fatalities after a flood. Even if utility power is off, it may be restored at any time without warning. If utility power is still on, don’t enter flooded rooms inside the house until electricity is shut off at the main electrical panel. If the panel is located in a flooded area of the house, call an electrician to disconnect the electricity outside.
  • Ventilate the premises. If the house has been closed up during flooding, open doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate for at least an hour before spending extended time inside. 
  • Trust your nose. If you notice the pungent odor of natural gas, leave the house immediately and call the gas company to turn it off at the main valve.
  • Watch out for structural hazards. Saturated drywall is structurally unsound and may collapse suddenly. Stay out of rooms where ceilings are sagging and stand clear of walls that appear to be soaked and/or deformed.  
  • Avoid direct contact with water. Outdoor floodwater from sources such as an overflowing river or flash flood may contain toxins such as chemicals and raw sewage. Water from an indoor source like a ruptured pipe is considered contaminated if it has been present for more than 48 hours.  
  • Wear protective gear. Basic attire inside a house after flooding includes eye protection (goggles), face mask rated N95 or higher, rubber gloves, and waterproof boots. A hard hat is also advisable if available.

National Preparedness Month: Teach Your Children Flood Safety

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Are you ready for National Preparedness Month?  Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), September is the designated month each year to encourage readiness for potential natural disasters. The theme for 2019 is “Prepared, Not Scared.”  

In the U.S., floods typically kill about 100 persons every year, far exceeding the death toll caused by any other natural hazard including tornadoes and hurricanes. To make sure everyone in the family is aware of the potential danger, it’s important to include children when providing information on how to stay safe in the event of a flood. Here are some suggestions from FEMA and the American Red Cross.

  • Explain to kids that flash floods may happen very suddenly with little warning. Or, floods may develop more slowly, such as flooding associated with extended rainy periods or events such as rapidly melting snow.
  • It’s important to note that storms or heavy rain far away may cause streams and rivers nearby to overflow—even when it’s not raining close to home at the moment.
  • Children should avoid all contact with floodwater outdoors and indoors.  Emphasize that floodwater flowing outside may be strong enough to knock down a person and carry them away. Talk about the dangers of chemicals and germs present in floodwater that could make them sick, as well as poisonous snakes and other possible threats such as electrical shocks.
  • Encourage kids to remind parents and other adults not to drive through floodwater even when it appears shallow. “Turn around, don’t drown” is an easy-to-remember slogan for children to pass along to adults and keep the whole family safe.
  • Kids should be fully informed about the family plan in the event of a flood. They should know where the family will go to seek shelter and what each person in the family will do if a flood occurs. Children should also know the names and phone numbers of specified responsible adults to contact in the event of an emergency such as a flood if a parent isn’t available at the time.

6 Important Flood Safety Tips Everyone Should Know

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

In the U.S., more people are killed every year due to floods than the total of all deaths from hurricanes, tornadoes and lightning. Flooding is statistically the most common natural disaster and no locale is totally immune from the potential danger. Because the right time to familiarize yourself with the hazards and make plans to stay safe is before disaster strikes, here are six flood safety tips:

  • Know the risks. Find out if you live in a flood-prone zone. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) provides online flood risk maps for most communities in the U.S. With this information, you can estimate the risk of flooding from local sources and plan evacuation routes if the need ever arises. 
  • Keep informed. If conditions that may trigger flooding occur—such as severe storms or an overflowing river—monitor local radio broadcasts for updates. Keep all occupants of the house informed of the threat and prepared to evacuate, if necessary.
  • Leave if you are advised to. If evacuation is recommended by authorities, leave your home, ASAP.  Staying put in the house will do nothing to prevent the damage if flooding strikes and only exposes occupants to increased dangers.  
  • Stay out of moving water. Don’t walk or wade into moving floodwater during evacuation. Just six inches of water with typical flood current can knock you off your feet. If you encounter flooded roads while driving, stop, turn around or back up, and take a different route.  
  • Don’t come home until it’s safe. Monitor radio broadcasts for updates that indicate it’s safe to return. Flash floods are often a delayed effect that occurs following severe weather events. Just because it stops raining and the sun is out, don’t assume the threat is over.
  • Be aware of dangers at home. If you return to a flooded or wet home, don’t enter the house if electrical power is still active. Contact an electrician to disconnect utility power at the meter. Floodwater is toxic, so avoid direct skin contact. Snakes and other vermin may also be present in a flooded structure.

3 Tips to be Prepared for Flash Flooding Conditions

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

While some flood scenarios develop after days of heavy rain or a predictable incident such as a river overflowing its banks, flash floods are a rapid-onset event that can strike in an instant. Areas dry only moments before may suddenly be inundated with water. Preventive measures, therefore, must be taken in advance. Once a flash flood occurs, there will usually not be adequate time to make preparations at that late stage. While you can’t prevent the conditions that may trigger a flash flood, here are three steps you can take to reduce risk and losses if flash flooding strikes:

Know your risk. You may be living in an area of high potential hazard for flash flooding and not even be aware of it. Flood risk maps are available from agencies such as FEMA or your local emergency management office. These maps depict flood risk for your local community and your specific address. A high-risk zone means you have at least a one-in-four chance of experiencing flooding. In designated high-risk zones, you are five times more likely to experience damage from a flash flood than from a fire.

Reduce potential damage. If you live an area where flash flood risk is high, certain home improvements may help reduce damage. Elevate critical components such as electrical panels, appliances and HVAC systems where they will be less likely to contact water. Waterproof the basement to reduce inundation due to high ground water during a flood. Make sure a basement sump pump is installed and test it several times a year to verify that it functions properly. Store valuables and important documents on an upstairs level of the house or some other safe place.

Be prepared to evacuate. Become familiar with the fastest and safest routes out of the affected area to higher ground should a flash flood strike. If local authorities issue a flash flood warning, evacuate immediately and don’t wait for additional signs of impending high water. Don’t drive or walk through any flooded areas, as only a few inches of water during a flash flood can be dangerous.

5 Essential Flood Safety Tips For Your Family

Friday, April 20th, 2018

flood dangerFlood safety can be an issue no matter where you live. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, no geographic locale in the U.S. is totally immune to flooding from some source. In an average year, about 85 people are killed by floods in the U.S. However, “average” can be misleading: over twice that many (175) died in 2015.

The basics of flood safety sound simple: Go away when you’re told to leave and stay away until it’s safe to come home. However, a number of measures need to be taken while you’re home, when you leave and after you return.

1. Get Ready

If the potential for flooding exists, stay alert by monitoring TV and radio broadcasts. Prepare for  evacuation and inform all family members. Decide what to do about pets. Move valuables including furniture and electronics to a higher level in the house if possible. Disconnect electrical appliances.

2. Evacuate Promptly

If told to evacuate, do so without delay. Stay on recommended routes and don’t deviate to observe the flood.  If rising water stalls your car, abandon the vehicle immediately and climb to higher ground. Water less than a foot deep can sweep you off your feet so don’t wade into moving water. Avoid active disaster areas where rescue or emergency crews are working.

3. After The Flood Is Over

Don’t return home until you are given an all-clear. If the house is flooded, don’t enter it until electricity has been shut off—preferably by a qualified electrician removing the meter. Shut off natural gas at the meter valve.

4. Safety At Home

Be aware of hazards posed by contaminated floodwater. Avoid contact with bare skin, eyes and by inhalation. Stay out of rooms with sagging ceilings or bulging, drooping walls. Structure could collapse at any time.

5. In The Aftermath

Toxic mold growth in the house is a frequent after-effect of indoor flooding. Mold may cause illness and allergic reactions if not appropriately treated by qualified personnel. Report any symptoms to your physician.


5 Essential Flash Flood Safety Tips

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

flash floodingThough tornadoes and hurricanes top the headlines, observing a few flash flood safety tips could actually save more lives. In an average year, over 125 people die in flash floods in the U.S.—nearly twice the fatalities due to tornadoes and hurricanes. A flash flood is the sudden inundation of a normally dry, low-lying area with fast moving, rapidly rising flood water. Typically, it follows intense rainfall. However, storm activity may occur miles from the area actually affected by flooding, which may remain totally dry until a surging wall of water strikes, often with only brief warning.

No region is totally immune to the damage and danger posed by this extreme weather phenomenon. Here are five flash flood safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Know Your Risk. Find out in advance if your home is located in a low-lying area susceptible to flash flooding under certain weather circumstances. Know where the nearest higher ground is located and the safest, most direct route to reach it.
  2. Get Ready To Go. If a flash flood watch is posted by the National Weather Service, prepare to evacuate. Remaining at home will not be a safe option in most cases. Stay tuned to local media and/or NOAA emergency radios for updates.
  3. Act Fast. If a flash flood warning is announced, evacuate to higher ground without delay. You do not have time to make efforts to preserve property or possessions.
  4. “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” During evacuation, do not drive or walk through flood water. The current generated by a flash flood only two feet deep will float most vehicles off the road. If you are on foot, be aware that just six inches of swift-flowing flood water can knock you down.
  5. Stay Away Until It’s Safe. A flash flood may occur in a series of surges. Just because water temporarily recedes doesn’t mean it’s safe to return home yet. Wait until an official “All Clear” is issued by authorities before returning to low-lying areas.


The Flood Is Over… But Is It Safe To Go Home?

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

flooded homeReentering a flooded house is a priority for most homeowners as soon as the water recedes. However, it’s important to consider this: Any structure affect by floodwater must be considered a hazardous environment. Injuries and death frequently occur after the main disaster event has subsided—just when the occupants thought it was safe to come back again. Before hastily reentering a flooded house, stop and think about these factors first.

  • If evacuation was mandatory, you shouldn’t even be in the vicinity until local authorities have given the green light for residents to return. You may expose yourself to law enforcement sanctions if you come back to an area before it is officially permissible.
  • Don’t enter a flooded house if the electricity is on. Shut off electricity at the main panel only if the area of the house where the panel is located is completely dry. If it is wet, you’ll need an electrician or a technician from the utility to disconnect power at the meter. Even if the local power grid is down, stay out of the structure until house power has been shut off. Grid electricity could be restored without warning at any minute and result in electrocution.
  • If you smell natural gas, shut off the gas at the main shutoff valve. If you are unable to access the shutoff valve, stay out of the house and call the gas company.
  • Floodwater is contaminated and toxic. Take precautions to avoid direct contact with floodwater including proper clothing, gloves, eye protection and a breathing mask.
  • Be aware of structural hazards. Stay out of rooms with sagging, saturated walls or ceiling. They may collapse at any time.
  • Don’t wade into deep standing water such as a flooded basement.
  • Be aware that animals including venomous snakes may inhabit flooded premises.
  • Open doors and windows to initiate ventilation.
  • Once power is safely restored, don’t turn on any major appliances or your HVAC system if these components were contacted by floodwater. They should be inspected by an electrician first.

Ask the water damage experts at Rytech, Inc. for more about safely reentering a flooded house.


Hidden Dangers: Surprising Sources of Flood Contamination Risks

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

Flood contamination risks may result from both obvious and less-obvious sources. Most people know that surface flood water entering your home should be considered toxic and direct contact avoided. Clean-up is best left to water damage recovery specialists with the equipment and expertise to ensure competent, thorough disinfection of your home. In addition to this primary contamination source, however, flood contamination risks also arise from other sources.

flood contamination risksMunicipal Water

Most people think tap water is safe after a flood event. Maybe so, maybe not. Flooding may affect municipal water supplies in two ways. If the local water is drawn from surface sources such as lakes and rivers, the unusually large amount of sediment stirred up by the storm or other flood event may interfere with proper disinfection at the water utility. Tap water may appear cloudy and its quality may be suspect. Where municipal water is drawn from wells, if the location of the well head is swamped by flooding, the well may be inundated with pollution and biohazards present in surface flood water, making the source unsafe. After flooding, listen to radio and TV news broadcasts for information on the status of municipal water.

Sewage Reflux

If the municipal sewer system becomes inundated with flood water, normal sewage flow may reverse and raw sewage may back up into your home through the drain system, bringing extremely dangerous biohazards. Sewage reflux first appears at the lowest drains in the house—basement floor drains are a frequent entry point. Sewage backup into a home may be extreme if the municipal system is severely swamped, making the house unsafe for occupation until professional decontamination is performed.

Toxic Products Overflow

Common household products like paint, solvents, pesticides and other common substances may contribute to flood contamination risks if they are swamped by flood water and spillage inside the house results. In locales at greater risk of flooding, toxic or caustic chemicals should be stored outside the house, in a garage or separate storage shed.

For more advice on identifying flood contamination risks, contact the professionals at Rytech, Inc.

Staying Safe: What You Need to Know About Reentering a Flooded House

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Before reentering a flooded house, make the safety of yourself and others your first priority. Anyone who’s been the victim of flooding knows the feeling of anxiety: you want to get back inside your home ASAP and check on the extent of damage to the structure and irreplaceable valuables. However, houses aren’t designed to hold water. Flooding from any source turns that familiar, safe environment into a danger zone for several reasons.

Here are some hazards of reentering a flooded house to be aware of.

reentering a flooded houseElectricity

Electrical power and a water-saturated environment mean danger from electrocution. If the electricity is still on, it should be shut off by an electrician. If local utility power has been interrupted by the flood, the house should still be considered unsafe because power could be restored unexpectedly at any moment. A professional electrician will shut the power off by removing the meter, then verify the safety of the system before restoring power.

Structural Collapse

Gypsum wallboard and composite ceiling panels can act like sponges and absorb water volume weighing hundreds of pounds. Typically, walls or ceilings bulge or sag under the weight and may collapse suddenly, injuring persons in the room. Stay out of rooms where walls are bulging or ceiling panels are sagging and/or dripping.

Gas-Fired Appliances

According to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, exposure to floodwater can make gas-fired furnaces, water heaters and stoves unsafe to operate. If there is any question whether water has contacted these units, don’t attempt to relight or use the system until it has been checked by a qualified HVAC contractor or plumber.

Toxic Sewage

Raw sewage is a biohazard. Overflowing sewage elsewhere may be swept up in floodwaters that inundate your home, or a flooded municipal system may reflux sewage back into your house through drains and other entry points. Take steps to protect yourself from raw sewage by wearing gloves, eye protection and waterproof boots. Wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with contaminated water.

Before reentering a flooded house, ask the professionals at Rytech about more ways to stay safe.

Staying Safe: Precautions to Take When There is a Flash Flood Warning

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Every year, basic flash flood safety tips turn out to be good advice for millions of Americans. Flash floods are considered a coast-to-coast threat because they may result from a variety of triggering events. The most common cause of flash flooding is extreme amounts of rainfall or snow melt occurring faster than the soil can absorb the water. A flash flood can take place within minutes or up to several hours after a triggering event. It’s important to note that flash floods may affect dry areas distant from the area where the heavy rain actually fell.

A flash flood watch issued by the National Weather Service is a notification to stay alert because conditions that may result in flooding are possible. A flash flood warning, however, means floodingflash flood safety tips is imminent or already occurring. It’s an urgent message to take immediate action to preserve life. If the National Weather Service issues a flash flood warning, here are a few flash flood safety tips to keep in mind:

  • If you are advised to evacuate, act fast to move to higher ground. Lock your house and go. Once a warning has been issued, you may have only a very short time to reach safety.
  • The safest action is to go to the nearest higher ground on foot. If you must drive your vehicle, don’t attempt to drive through flooded areas. The majority of flash flood deaths in the U.S. occur inside vehicles swept away by high water. If your car should be swamped by flood water, abandon the vehicle at once and get to higher ground on foot.
  • Don’t walk or wade into moving water. Flowing water only six inches deep has enough velocity to knock you down.
  • Avoid any casual contact with standing water. Flood water may be extremely toxic due to raw sewage or chemicals that have been picked up along the path of flooding.
  • If the potential for threatening weather exists, don’t camp or park near streams or dry washes.

For more flash flood safety tips, ask the professionals at Rytech, Inc.