AUSTIN, Texas – So, you and your family survived the big storm.
The water has been pumped out of your basement. Your walls and floors are dry. Your roof seems to be intact. Your electrical appliances are working fine. And your flood-soaked refuse has been removed to the landfill. You are grateful it’s all over. But is it really? Ask yourself, “Are my house and property ready for the next big one? Will my family be safe the next time we flood?”
Mitigation experts at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) say there is no better time than now for homeowners to start thinking about what can be done to prepare for the next flood.
For the big jobs, homeowners will want to hire a reputable licensed contractor. FEMA mitigation officials suggest getting bids from two or three contractors. And ask for references. Many other repairs may be easy work for handy do-it-yourselfers. Tasks like relocating basement or first floor electrical equipment and appliances, however, may require the help of a professional.
Start with the main circuit breaker or fuse box. Move it up to at least 12 inches above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for your home or building. Your insurance agent or local flood plain administrator will be able to tell you what that number is.
Check with your local building department. If the electrical code allows, raise electrical outlets and switches above flood level.
If you need to replace a flood-damaged furnace, water heater or air conditioner, have the new one installed on a higher floor. If your air conditioner or heat pump is outdoors, install it on a raised platform. Place washers and dryers on blocks, making sure they will not vibrate off the blocks during use. A 1- or 2-foot waterproof floodwall around appliances will protect them from shallow flooding.
More do-it-yourself tips for repairing flood-damaged buildings:
Walls. If the wallboard and insulation were removed, wash and disinfect the exposed vertical wooden studs, and the horizontal wooden sills at their base. If rebuilding, consider metal studs and sills as they are less damaged by water than wooden ones.
- Wallboard. If you install the wall board horizontally (4 feet high), you’ll only have to replace half the wall if the next flood is less than 4 feet deep. Leave the wall open 1 inch above the sill. The baseboards will hide the gap, and all you have to do after the next flood is remove the baseboard and the wall cavity will drain freely and air will circulate better.
Floors. Particle board or plywood fall apart when wet for lengthy periods. Floor joists and some wood floors regain their shape when naturally dried. Use screws or screw nails on floors and stairs to minimize warping. Completely dry subflooring before laying new flooring or carpeting. Renail, then sand or place a new underlayment for a new floor.
Paints. Completely dry the surface before painting. This may take several weeks, but paint will peel if applied over a damp surface. Coat concrete surfaces with penetrating sealer for easier future cleanup.
Windows and Doors. When appropriate, replace flood damaged windows with vinyl or metal framed windows. Hollow core or polystyrene foam filled metal doors are water resistant.
Despite all that you have done, natural disasters are unpredictable, and even the best preparations may not hold up in the next flood.
The first step in moving on after a flood is getting rid of damaged or destroyed personal property that can’t or should not be saved. FEMA mitigation experts tell flood survivors to always throw out flood-dirtied cosmetics, medicines, stuffed animals, baby toys and food that may be spoiled. It’s also a good idea to get rid of mattresses, pillows, rugs, books and other paper products. Should you throw away this or that? Good advice from one FEMA mitigation specialist: If you have to ask, throw it away.
Next, dry out your house – lower the humidity. Open doors and windows to let fresh air circulate. Open closet and cabinet doors; remove drawers from their cabinets. Run dehumidifiers and fans. Give your housed plenty of time to dry. The rule of thumb is, if it takes one week for visible moisture to disappear, it will take at least another week for unseen parts to dry.
Alternatively, you may want to turn the job over to a flooding and storm damage professional. Go online to search “water damage restoration” or “dehumidifying.”
For more ideas on reducing flood loss, view FEMA’s booklet, “Protecting Your Home and Family From Flood Damage,” at https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/21471 .
Texas homeowners and renters who have registered for disaster assistance with FEMA are encouraged by recovery officials to “stay in touch.” Applicants changing their address or phone numbers should update that information with FEMA. Missing or erroneous information could result in delays getting a home inspection or in receiving assistance.
Survivors with questions regarding their application for disaster assistance, or a pending appeal, should visit DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA Helpline (voice, 711 or relay service) at 800-621-3362. (TTY users should call 800-462-7585.) The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available.
For more information on Texas recovery, visit the disaster web page at www.fema.gov/disaster/4245, Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/femaregion6 and the Texas Division of Emergency Management website, https://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem.
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All FEMA disaster assistance will be provided without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), religion, national origin, age, disability, limited English proficiency, economic status, or retaliation. If you believe your civil rights are being violated, call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585(TTY/TDD).
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
Visit www.fema.gov/texas-disaster-mitigation for publications and reference material on rebuilding and repairing safer and stronger.