COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Federal and state disaster officials urge people to take extra precautions when pumping out their basements.
The reason - if you drain a basement too quickly, the pressure outside the walls will be greater than the pressure inside the walls - and that can make the walls and floor crack and collapse, causing serious damage to the house's or building's overall structure.
To avoid this situation, follow these steps when pumping the water out of your basement:
- Never go into a basement with standing water in it unless you are sure the electricity is off.
- After the floodwaters are no longer on top of the ground, you can start pumping the water out of the basement. Do not use gasoline-powered pumps or generators indoors because gasoline engines create deadly carbon monoxide exhaust fumes.
- If there is less than three feet of water, you can pump it all out.
- If there is more than three feet of water, pump the water level down two to three feet. Mark the level and wait overnight.
- Check the water level the next day. If the water went back up, it's still too early to try to drain the basement. Wait overnight. Then pump the water down two to three feet again. Check the level the next day.
- When the water stops going back up, pump down another two to three feet and wait overnight. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all water is pumped out of the basement.
Common sense is the watchword for people who are repairing or rebuilding their flood-damaged homes, state and federal officials say. But the danger of pumping out a basement too quickly may not be immediately obvious to most people.
Although federal funds are not available for basement flooding that occurred after May 19, if you suffered disaster-related losses between April 29 and May 19 and have not yet applied for assistance, call FEMA's toll-free registration number 1-800-462-9029 (TTY 1-800-462-7585) to begin the assistance process.
Those who have already applied for assistance and need information about disaster-related programs or the status of a filed application should call the Disaster Helpline at 1-800-525-0321 (TTY: 1-800-462-7585) or visit the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in La Junta at 215 Raton. The La Junta DRC is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. It is closed on Sundays.
For additional information on disaster preparedness and recovering from flooding, visit the FEMA website at www.fema.gov or contact your local emergency manager.