After the Flood
Following a flood, it is important to restore your home to good order as soon as possible to protect your health and prevent further damage to your house and its contents.
|For more information on flooding preparedness visit PreparedBC and download a copy of the following guide:
Flood Preparedness Guide
See page 19 for key tips on what to do after a flood
If possible, contact your insurance provider immediately upon reaching safety. Most insurers have a 24-hour claims service. If you do not know the name of your insurer or your insurance representative, contact Insurance Bureau of Canada’s (IBC) Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC. You can also find more information by visiting IBC.
You should also connect with your provider before returning home and beginning cleanup activities. Your policy may require you to follow specific steps in documenting damage to your home, or in using specific contracted companies for cleanup. Ask your insurance representative about what expenses can reimbursements you may be entitled to and for how long.
In general, be sure to document all damage to your home and belongings, being as detailed as possible. Take pictures, video, and attempt to preserve key documents such as proofs of purchase, warranties, etc. Retain receipts for all costs, including living and shelter expenses, as they may all be eligible under your policy.
Residents without insurance, or those whose claims have been denied may be eligible for assistance from the province through Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA). Not all events are eligible to receive funding. To confirm eligible events and to begin the application process, visit the DFA website.
For more information on DFA see below for answers to common questions.
What is eligible for DFA?
- DFA can compensate individuals for 80% of eligible claims, after the first $1,000 to a maximum claim of $300,000.
- DFA is only for uninsurable losses and for losses where there is no other program offered by local, provincial, federal or international governments or agencies.
- DFA is available for essential items only. It provides or reinstates the necessities of life, including help to repair and restore damaged homes and to re-establish or maintain the
- viability of small businesses and working farms. Loss of land or damage to land (except for some farm land) is not eligible for DFA.
- Must be the residence that is occupied by the individual as their home and where the majority of their personal effects are located.
What is DFA?
- Disaster Financial Assistance is a provincial program to help individuals and local governments recover from uninsurable disasters.
- DFA is administered by Emergency Management BC, part of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
- The purpose of DFA is to provide assistance to individuals for their principal residence and to help small business/farm owners when their livelihood is at risk. The DFA program operates under the Emergency Program Act and the ensuing Compensation and Disaster Financial Assistance Regulation. The DFA program is obliged to provide compensation in compliance with this legislation.
- DFA eligibility criteria, as defined in the Act and the Regulation, have been applied consistently and fairly throughout the province since 1995.
When is DFA available?
- DFA is available in the event of a disaster in respect of which the minister, or designate, has determined that disaster financial assistance may be provided.
- When this determination is made, EMBC defines the eligible dates and geographic locations, notifies affected local governments, posts this information on its website, publishes information in local papers, and if requested attends community meetings.
Local Governments and individuals in the private sector in the following categories are eligible:
- Homeowner: Must be for the residence that is occupied by the individual as their home, where the majority of their personal effects are located, and the residence for which they received the provincial Home Owner Grant or were entitled to receive this grant.
- Residential Tenant: Must be a not-for-profit charitable organization that provides a benefit or service to the community at large, has been in existence for at least 12 months, and is registered under the Society Act.
- Small Business Owner: Must be the owner of a business that is managed by the applicant on a day to day basis, is the owner’s major source of income, has gross sales of less than $1 million per year, and employs less than 50 people at any one time.
- Farmer: Must be the owner of a farm operation that is identified by the BC Assessment Authority as an agricultural operation, is owned and operated by a person whose full time employment is as a farmer, and is the means by which the applicant derives the majority of their income
- Charitable Organization: Must be a not-for-profit charitable organization that provides a benefit or service to the community at large, has been in existence for at least 12 months, and is registered under the Society Act.
Before you Begin
Exercise caution when re-entering your home. Avoid electrical shock by wearing rubber boots in an area flooded with more than 5 cm (2 inches) of standing water.
Keep extension cords out of the water. If the power is on in the flooded area, shut it off immediately at the breaker box.
If conditions are wet around the breaker box, stand on a dry board and use a dry stick to turn off the switch (to avoid electric shock.)
Consult with your local electrical utility if you require assistance.
Make sure the building is structurally safe. If you notice buckled walls or floors, contact a building inspector to inspect the building and determine if it is safe to enter. Watch for holes in the floor, broken glass and other potentially dangerous debris.
Flood water can be heavily contaminated with sewage and other pollutants, and pose a serious health hazard. If through taste, colour or odour you suspect that your drinking water has been contaminated, you have two choices. Don’t drink it (and opt for bottled water) or purify it before drinking either by boiling it for 10 minutes or adding purification tablets. If you choose to chlorinate your water with a non-perfumed bleaching compound, add one drop per litre of water, or three drops per litre of cloudy water, and allow it to stand for 30 minutes before consuming.
Household items that have been flood-damaged will have to be bagged, tagged and discarded according to local regulations.
Assemble equipment and supplies, which should include:
- Disposable gloves
- N95 masks
- Rubber boots
- Pails, mops and sponges
- Plastic garbage bags
- Unscented detergent
- Clean water
- Where possible, open windows and doors to provide fresh air
- Rent any larger equipment you might need, including submersible pumps, fans, wet/dry shop vacuums and dehumidifiers
Record details of flood damage, by photograph or video if possible. Register the amount of damage to your home with both your insurance agent and local municipality immediately.
Before Moving Back In
Once the flood waters have receded, you must not live in your house until several steps have been followed:
- The regular water supply has been inspected and officially declared safe for use
- Every flood-contaminated room has been thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and surface-dried
- All contaminated dishes and utensils have been thoroughly washed and disinfected either by using boiling water or by using a sterilizing solution of one part chlorine bleach to four parts water, then rinse dishes and utensils thoroughly
- Adequate toilet facilities are available
For more information, consult your local health authority.
Heating Systems and Appliances
Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse-breaker panels until they have been checked by your local utility.
Whether you use a wood, gas or electrical heating system, ensure that you have it thoroughly inspected by a qualified technician before using it again. If they have been soaked, replace the furnace blower motor, switches and controls. Flooded forced-air heating ducts and return-duct pans should be either cleaned or replaced.
Replace filters and insulation inside furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators and freezers if they have been wet. However, it is often cheaper to replace this equipment.
Flush and disinfect floor drains and sump pumps using undiluted chlorine bleach. Scrub them to remove greasy dirt and grime. Clean or replace footing drains outside the foundation when they are clogged. Consult a professional for advice or service.
Any of the following food items exposed to flood waters must be disposed of:
- All freezer or refrigerator contents
- All meats
- All fresh fruit and vegetables
- All boxed foods
- All bottled drinks and products in jars, including home preserves – since the area under the seal of jars and bottles cannot be properly disinfected
- All medicines, cosmetics and other toiletries
- All undamaged canned goods must be thoroughly washed and disinfected. Any cans with large dents or that reveal seepage must also be disposed of
First Steps in Clean-Up
Immediately add about 2 litres of chlorine bleach to standing water. Do not occupy a house that still contains standing water.
Remove water from your flooded home slowly. Drain it in stages – about a third of the volume daily. If the ground is still saturated and water is removed too quickly, it could cause the walls or the floor to buckle.
Use pumps or pails to remove standing water, followed by a wet/dry shop vacuum to mop up the rest.
For instructions on how to disinfect and restore wells and cisterns, contact your local or provincial health authorities or emergency measures organization.
Do not heat your home to more than 4 degrees Celsius until all water is removed.
If you use gasoline, kerosene, or propane-powered pumps or heaters, buy and install a carbon monoxide sensor. Combustion devices can produce large amounts of lethal carbon monoxide when out of tune or improperly ventilated.
Dirt and Debris
Remove all soaked and dirty materials and debris. Break out walls and remove drywall, wood paneling and insulation at least 500 mm (20 inches) above the high-water line.
Remove residual mud and soil, furniture, appliances, clothing and bedding.
Hose down any dirt sticking to walls and solid-wood furniture. Then rinse several times.
Wash and wipe down all surfaces and structures with chlorine bleach, ensuring there is adequate cross ventilation to remove fumes. Then rinse again. Wear a charcoal respirator (which can be obtained at major safety supply or hardware stores) when using bleach in any closed space.
Wipe down surfaces that have not been directly flood-affected using a solution of one part chlorine bleach to four parts cold or tepid water, mixed with a small amount of non-ammonia dishwashing detergent. Then rinse.
Ventilate or dehumidify the house until it is completely dry. Tape clear food wrap to sections of material. If these sections are still damp inside, they will turn darker than the surrounding material. Dry until this does not occur.
Rinse, then clean all floors as quickly as possible. Replace flooring that has been deeply penetrated by flood water or sewage.
Clean all interior wall and floor cavities with a solution of water, chlorine bleach and non-ammonia dishwashing detergent and dry thoroughly.
Carpets must be dried within two days. For large areas, hire a qualified professional to do the job. Carpets soaked with sewage must be discarded immediately.
Water-Damaged Heirlooms and Antiques
Time is of the essence to prevent further damage. Wet items will be heavy and fragile, so keep them well-supported when handling, drying, or freezing. Relocate items to a cool, dry location as soon as possible. Freeze books, paper, and textiles until they can be properly treated, and consult a conservator before attempting any repairs. If items are contaminated with sewage, take proper health precautions.
If dirty items are saturated, rinse with clean water if they are strong enough to withstand it; exceptions are paper, fragile items, or those with loose parts or soluble paints and adhesives. If items are only damp, let mud dry and then brush it off.
To minimize mould growth, move items to a cool, dry area within 48 hours and set up fans. Alternatively, textiles, paper, and books can be frozen and a conservator called for advice. Wet mould will smear if wiped; let it dry then brush it off out-of-doors. Materials not affected by alcohol can be lightly misted with isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) to kill mould spores. Note: Mould is a health hazard. If present, wear a face mask and disposable gloves.
(Other than Upholstery)
Separate dark- and light-coloured items to prevent staining; if colours run, rinse in clean water until the water runs clear.
Remove any metal attachments and dry separately.
Blot excess water, lay items flat, shape them, and air-dry quickly using fans; alternatively, place textiles individually on supports, bag separately, then freeze for treatment later.
If staining has occurred, do not allow items to dry; bag them wet and freeze, then seek the advice of a conservator.
First priority is to keep the wooden structure from warping or splitting, so dry slowly; discoloration of the finish such as "blooming" is secondary and can be dealt with later. Use caution with flaking paint and lifting veneers. Joints may be loose if flue is water-soluble.
Open doors and drawers immediately so they do not swell insitu and become impossible to remove when dry; do not force if stuck.
Blot excess water.
Lay freezer or wax paper on lifting veneer and apply weights.
Air-dry using fans; if necessary, shelter the item under polyethylene sheeting to slow drying.
For upholstered furniture remove cushions but not upholstery, and blot excess moisture from both; raise furniture onto blocks and place fans underneath.
Move ferrous (iron-containing) metals to a dry location as soon as possible, blot excess water, blow hollow areas with warm (not hot) air, and air-dry.
Metals other than iron are less prone to water damage.
Most items can be air-dried. Inks or dyes that have run can be "wicked up" with the corner of a sheet of blotting paper or paper towel. Do not blot. Stains and distortions should be treated by a paper conservator.
Bag or wrap in freezer paper all books printed on glossy paper, and freeze immediately to prevent pages from sticking together.
For other books, if not saturated fan out pages and air-dry, using fans (set on cool) to circulate air; if saturated, freeze as soon as possible and thaw as time permits.
Remove documents from wet storage boxes or coloured file folders; keep supported.
Do not try to separate pages if stuck together.
Where possible remove pins, paper clips, and staples to avoid corrosion.
Air-dry on blotting paper or paper towels, or freeze.
Framed Items (i.e. Prints, Drawings, Watercolours)
Remove items from frames, lay face up on blotting paper or other absorbent material, and air-dry.
For vellum or parchment documents, and pastel, charcoal, or chalk drawings, call a conservator.
Oil and Acrylic Paintings on Canvas
Remove excess water by tilting and draining from a corner.
Relocate paintings to a dry area; use fans to increase air circulation.
Remove paintings from frames unless there is adhesion of the paint to the frame; do not remove paintings from stretchers.
Place damaged or highly textured paintings face up and raise on blocks for adequate air circulation.
Paintings with minimal texture should be placed face down on a padded, absorbent
surface covered with tissue paper, if the stretcher is warping, place weights on the corners.
Contact a conservator immediately for further advice and/or assistance.
Some early photographs (i.e. tintypes, daguerreotypes) will not survive immersion. Store them in waterproof containers away from potential leaks. If other types of photographs are stuck together do not try to separate them. Prioritize for salvage as follows:
- Contemporary colour prints
- Black and white prints
- Black and white negatives
- Most photographs can be either air-dried (face up) or frozen, then thawed and air-dried
What to Keep or Discard
Remove and replace all insulation materials and other articles that have been soaked, including particleboard furniture, mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys, pillows, as well as furniture coverings, paddings and cushions.
Frames on high-quality furniture can often be salvaged. However, they must first be cleaned, disinfected and rinsed, then dried by ventilation away from direct sunlight or heat. Drying too quickly can cause warping and cracking.
Scrape heavy dirt from washable clothes. Rinse and wash them several times in cold water treated with one cup of chlorine bleach per washer load, and dry quickly.
Consult your lawyer to determine whether flood-damaged documents or just the information in them must be retained.
The yard area should also be cleared of all debris and refuse, which can provide a breeding ground for bacteria and mould.
Keep children away from contaminated areas during clean-up operations.