In the Gulf South, late summer is typically the time when the wind picks up and the Gulf waters get choppy. Hurricane season comes with strong winds, heavy rain, and the danger of flooding. But flooding isn’t just a possibility in the warm summer months, and it doesn’t just happen on the coast. Plumbing fails and other kinds of problems can cause flooding, too. Because it’s always better to be prepared, here are our tips to help you answer the question, “What to do if my house floods?” before you face this situation.
Major causes of house flooding
If you live in the Gulf South or any low-lying areas in the region, you’re familiar with one of the major causes of flooding: hurricane season. Hurricanes come with damaging wind and pelting rain, but for many people on or near the coast, the biggest threat is the storm surge that causes flooding.
But weather-related flooding isn’t the only major cause of flooding. Other major causes include:
- Appliance failure: Nothing is worse than coming home from a relaxing week away to find that your hot water heater has failed and released water all over your basement
- Plumbing issues: In cold weather, pipes burst and can fill your house with water that finds its way to lower floors; likewise, outdated or damaged pipes could break any time of year
- Water main breaks: At the street level, cities with older plumbing or ground movement can experience water main breaks that can send hundreds of gallons of water into your house
While the most visible cause of flooding might be natural disasters, flooding can happen to anyone, anywhere, all across the country. In fact, flooding is more common inland than it is on the coasts—even in low-lying areas. It pays to be ready!
What to do if my house floods: Immediate steps
Even if you aren’t expecting weather-related flooding right now, it’s always good to have a plan in place in case of emergency. These are four immediate steps to take when flooding occurs.
1. Get safe!
The first concern is the safety of yourself and your loved ones. In Louisiana (and other low-lying areas), house flooding is a major concern, especially during hurricane season. Follow the evacuation instructions from your local government. If your house begins to flood, move to higher, drier ground. It’s good to be prepared with insurance documents and identification, so keep these things handy.
Also, remember as you leave to take caution when driving in rising water. The majority of flood-related fatalities occur in vehicles. People misjudge the depth (or speed) of the water in front of them. When you see murky water in front of you, remember: turn around, don’t drown!
2. Stop the water (if you can)
If flooding occurs due to a natural disaster, there is probably nothing to be done until the water recedes.
If water is in your home due to a break in a pipe or other mechanical failure, immediately try to find the source of the break and turn off the water to your house. This might be as simple as turning the water to that pipe off. You may need to turn the water off at the street.
3. Turn off power to the house
This one comes with a big disclaimer: if you have to step into water to turn off the power, do not attempt to do this. Water and electricity do not mix and can be deadly.
Of course, if you are anticipating a possible flood or flood damage, you can always shut off the power in advance (moving perishables to coolers or another location).
4. Call your insurance company (or your landlord)
It’s hard to know when exactly to call the insurance company, but some appreciate the heads-up if flooding is anticipated (or is in progress). They will make a note of your call and give you any advice they have as to how to proceed when the flooding stops.
Renters should get in touch with their landlord and let them know what’s happening. This gives your landlord time to take appropriate steps, too.
What to do after the flood
After the flood, you may find yourself in a state of understandable shock, especially if the floodwaters rose substantially and the damage seems irreparable. It is okay to be overwhelmed and feel grief. Floods can be devastating events. They take with them not only our precious memories in the form of photos and other personal possessions but also the symbol of our hard work: our homes.
Cleaning up and drying out after a flood can be a long and stressful process. It’s best to go step by step. Here’s how.
1. Stay away until it is safe
Your instinct might be to rush back to your home after the flood waters recede, but be careful. Flood waters can leave behind poisonous snakes, contaminated water, and hidden sharp hazards. Take your time and only enter when it is absolutely safe to do so. This means:
- Emergency personnel have cleared you to enter
- No water is entering the house
- You’re wearing protective gear (waders, boots, rubber gloves, etc.)
- Power to the house is off
Note also that if you have a well you should not drink water from the well until you have had the water tested for safety.
2. Call your insurance company
If you have not already done so, now is the time to call your insurance company (or your landlord).
They will need to schedule time for an adjuster to come visit. In the case of flooding related to natural disasters, it’s best to call as soon as possible to get the earliest possible appointment.
3. Call electric, sewage, and gas companies if you suspect damage
If your house has been flooded due to a burst pipe, this could cause localized damage to sewer, gas, and electric lines that your utility companies might not know about.
Call them before entering your home to make sure these utilities are shut off at the source.
4. Make sure your house is safe to enter
Properties with flood damage can have compromised foundations that lead to unstable floors and roofs. Buckled walls and floors or cracks in the foundation indicate that your home may not be safe to enter.
If you’re ever unsure, don’t enter. It may instead be time to move onto the next step.
5. Find a good clean-up crew
Look for a company that specializes in house flooding solutions. These water-damage experts have the equipment to help remove water and quickly dry out walls to prevent the development of mold. Drying out flooded areas should happen as quickly as possible.
At this time, it’s possible to salvage any belongs that survived the flood and begin to think about what’s next.
6. Get expert help for historical or bathroom renovations
If your flooding is due to plumbing issues, especially in NOLA’s historic districts, MLM Incorporated can help.
We work on Louisiana home renovations, including residential construction, plumbing and bathroom renovations, and repair after flood damage. We work closely with our clients to make their vision a reality while following Louisiana building codes and keeping your family’s safety our top priority.
At MLM Incorporated, we can help you rebuild when the waters recede. Get in touch.