DENVER – Homeowners returning to flood-damaged homes should use caution – structural damage may have made the house unsafe, electricity and gas may pose a threat, and animals may have taken up residence in the house. A careful and systematic approach is recommended when returning to any area after a severe storm or flood.
Inspect the outside of the house before entering. Look for cracks in the foundation and make sure that porch roofs and overhangs are adequately supported. If you have any doubts about safety, do not enter and have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer.
- Turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker from a dry location. Never turn power on or off or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
- Turn off the gas.
- Call the utility company if you find downed power lines or suspect a gas leak.
- Do not use generators or other gasoline-powered machines indoors. They emit carbon monoxide that can be deadly. All cooking on camp stoves and charcoal grills should only be done outside.
Entering Your Home
If it appears safe to enter, do so carefully. Heed the following precautions:
- A stuck door may mean that the ceiling is ready to cave in. If it only sticks at the bottom, it can be forced open. If it sticks at the top, your ceiling may be ready to fall.
- Check ceilings for signs of sagging. Rain or deep flooding may soak plaster and drywall. Expect floors to be slippery. Remove any debris that may have floated into your home.
- Be on the lookout for snakes, wild or stray animals. Remember that insects may have moved in while the house was empty.
Cleaning Up Your Home
Groundwater creates enormous pressure on basement walls and floors. Drain the basement no more than one foot per day to minimize further damage.
Floodwaters damage materials, leave mud, silt and unknown contaminants and promote the growth of mold and mildew. Dry your home to reduce these hazards and the damage they cause. Let fresh air move through your home. Open windows and doors if weather permits.
- Walls, floors, closets, shelves, contents and other parts of your home that have been flooded should be thoroughly washed and disinfected. Disinfect items that may have been contaminated by raw sewage, bacteria, or chemicals.
- Have appliances checked by a professional before using them again. Check with your local power company before turning the electricity on.
- Pump out wells and have the water tested by experts before drinking. Do not flush toilets until you know that sewage lines are intact.