Before And After a Flood: Saving Vital Records and Valuables

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Release date: 
November 2, 2006
Release Number: 
1663-005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaskans know about flooding. Floods are the most frequent and costly disaster to occur here in the state. Fall can bring sea storms and driving tides. In early winter, excessive rainfall can lead to run-off over frozen ground. With spring, the winter’s ice and snow melts, pushing rivers beyond their banks. The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHS&EM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have tips to help households protect important records, valuables, and heirlooms that may get caught in a flood.

Homeowners and renters should store birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, passports, military discharge papers, wills, deeds and financial, insurance and immunization records in a safe deposit box or other secure, flood-safe location. Include photographs or a video of the interior and exterior of your home, cars, boats and recreational vehicles, along with a record of your possessions to help you claim reimbursement in case of loss or damage. Maintain a recent utility bill in case you need to show proof of residence.

It is helpful to have photocopies of important documents in a watertight emergency supply kit, along with copies of medical cards, credit cards and the front and back of your driver’s license. Have handy the name of your insurance companies and policy numbers, along with checking account and bank routing numbers.

Disaster recovery officials recommend the following tips for valuables or heirlooms that do get water damage:

  • Rinse wet objects with clear, clean water or a fine hose spray. Remove dried silt and debris with a soft brush, or dab the affected area with a damp cloth. Avoid grinding debris into the object.
  • Air-dry objects indoors if possible. Sunlight and rapid drying may cause some materials to split, warp or buckle.
  • Fans, dehumidifiers, open windows and air conditioners reduce humidity, and inhibit mold and mildew growth. Remove visible mold from walls, baseboards, floors and household surfaces with commercial disinfectants. Never use disinfectants on historic wallpapers.
  • Place broken pieces, detached parts and objects that might break in clearly labeled open containers. Do not attempt to repair them until they are completely dry.
  • Be aware that documents, books, photographs and paper art are extremely fragile when wet.
  • Free the edges of prints and paper art from matting and frames, and air dry. You may also refrigerate or freeze them until a restoration specialist can treat them.
  • Never pull apart dried, stuck photographs and negatives. Soak them in clean water until they separate naturally. Rinse with clean water. Handle prints and negatives by their edges and place them on a dry, clean and smooth surface. Note: Digital photos printed on an ink jet printer have water-soluble ink and would not be salvageable from any water contact.
  • Textiles, leather and other natural materials must be air-dried.
  • Remove wet paintings from their frames but not from the stretcher. Air dry paintings face up, out of direct sunlight.
  • Furniture finishes and painted surfaces may develop a white haze or bloom. This does not require immediate action, but may require professional service.
  • Rinse metal objects exposed to flood waters, mud or silt with clear water, then dry with a clean soft cloth. Let heavy mud deposits on large metal sculptures dry and consider calling a restoration specialist for advice before removing the mud.

FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with State and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Depart...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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