My House Flooded! What do I do? Start Here

This is a series of articles I’m writing based upon my own experience when my home flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Obviously some things will be different depending on your part of the country / world, whether you flooded from a small, local event vs. a large scale event like a hurricane that affected your entire state, etc., but I hope to give you some peace of mind and set you in the right direction.

In the beginning:

The water has finally receded enough for you to get to your house. You open the front door expecting a horror show inside and possibly get a surprise like I did and find that your house doesn’t look much different inside at all. Then you step through the door and are greet by the SLOSH sound your foot makes when it steps on the soaked carpet. Your house has flooded.

Your head swirls with a million thoughts about how much of your stuff is ruined, how much can be saved, how much is it all going to cost, how long will it take to get back to normal, I can’t believe I forgot that precious family heirloom was in the bottom of the closet, it’s ruined! Should I get a carpet cleaning machine or maybe a wet / dry vacuum to save my carpets??

You aren’t going home tonight. You’re not going to be able to go and stay home for a few months. It’s going to take a bit to wrap your head around what’s happened to you. Take a bit of time to let it all sink in, then you need to go into mental battle mode. You don’t have time to mourn or sink into despair. You are now in a race against your neighbors and your entire flooded community and the time to start is RIGHT… NOW.

Open an Insurance Claim

Assuming you have a safe, dry place to sleep for now, the first part of this race is for you to IMMEDIATELY open an insurance claim. NOW. Not tomorrow morning, not later on after you get to talk it over with your spouse or knowledgeable parents. NOW. Call the flood insurance company and open a claim with them and call your Homeowner’s insurance company and open a claim with them as well. Some things will not be covered by flood insurance, but will be covered by homeowner’s and vice-versa. If your car was flooded, call and open a claim with your auto insurance company as well. This gets you in their systems and gets their process started on your claim. Next, you need to call and register with FEMA to let them know you’ve flooded. This immediately makes you eligible for government assistance and any programs that end up getting created by the government to help recover from the flood. FEMA may preemptively send you a check to help cover immediate needs and temporary rental housing. I don’t care how much you hate / don’t trust / want to overthrow the government, call and register with FEMA. This could be worth literally THOUSANDS of dollars in “grants” (free money) to help you recover. They will give you a FEMA ID number. Write it down and email it to yourself along with the claim numbers you got from your insurance companies. You’re going to be referring to them a lot in the next few months.

The reason it’s so important to make these calls quickly is because everyone else around you that is also flooded is also going to be calling to open claims. Odds are good that most of you are using the same handful of well-known insurance companies. You’re going to get processed in the order that your claims are opened. Once the first wave of claims are in process and the insurance company employees are all busy processing them, everyone that comes in after will be waiting for the next available people to help them. You want to be in that first wave or as close to it as possible. This will directly translate into you being among the first people to get your insurance checks. The people that wait the longest to file a claim will take far longer to get their final insurance checks sent than those that start immediately.

When you call to open a claim, you’ll just need to give basic info and let them know your house was flooded. You don’t need many details at all. Once your claim is opened, the insurance company is going to assign it to a claims adjuster, who will come to your house to inspect the damage. The adjuster will call you to let you know when they are coming. Since you’re part of the first wave of people that filed, you’ll wait a few days to maybe a week.

Confirm with your adjuster when they call, but ours told us that we didn’t have to wait for them to get to us before we started cleaning out the flood damaged items. Just take pictures of everything in detail before starting. Don’t throw out anything at all without taking a picture of it first.

The last “first” thing to do now is to get a storage unit to store your stuff that didn’t get wet while your house gets repaired. We got one delivered to our house and plopped onto our front lawn (made packing up the rest of the house much easier than driving back and forth to a self-storage place). These self storage units will be fully booked quickly, so get yours reserved now.

Take A Million Pictures And Video

The first thing we did after calling to file claims was to record videos of our house, inside and out. We started at the front door and continuously recorded every room and closet in the house showing the wet carpet, opening drawers and describing what the camera is looking at. You don’t have to go nuts or spend a lot of time on any one item, but you are proving what you had in the house immediately after the flood. This is proof for you if needed and something for you to look back at when you’re itemizing all the things you want insurance to pay for. Make sure to include any visible water marks showing how high the water was inside the house, where possible.

Go outside and walk around your property while recording calling out any damage to the house, contents of sheds, lawn mowers, damage to pool equipment, flood water marks on the outside of the house or fences.

Now that you’re done with the videos, start taking still pictures. The goal is to show each room, the contents in it, show any remaining water, etc. When you open the bottom drawers and there’s water in them, take a picture. Go in the bathroom, take a picture of the contents of every drawer, cabinet, toilet paper holders, garbage can, literally EVERYTHING the flood water touched. You will need to throw out all of it.

Say Goodbye To Your Stuff (for now)

One of the mentally toughest parts of this journey is going to be seeing how much of your stuff you have to throw away. The short answer is: anything that was touched by the flood water is garbage. Can SOME of it be saved? Yes. Things that are non-porous that you can clean with hot water and soap (or just throw in the dishwasher may be salvageable. Paper items are done, shoes, leather, most furniture, anything that absorbs water is done. Your lower kitchen cabinets are garbage. Every piece of carpet and padding that got wet is gone. Your hard wood floors… Your bathroom vanity… your kitchen appliances, your water heater, your washing machine…

Literally, almost everything that was touched by the water needs to go out on the curb as soon as possible. My best analogy would be: if you wouldn’t keep it after soaking it in the ocean for several hours, then you shouldn’t keepit now.

Flood water is full of every nasty thing that you’d never touch with bare hands. Gasoline, oil, chemicals, household cleaners, sewage, dead animals, insects, bacteria, fungus, pure disgusting garbage, … Hopefully you get the picture. You don’t want it in your house.

What Do I Do With All This Stuff I Have To Throw Out??

Put it all on the curb. The local government is not going to give you a ticket for it and you don’t need permission. At this point, you are in survival mode and getting the wet nasties out of your house if far more important than worrying about violating a town ordinance. Do you really think the police or code enforcement is patrolling the flooded neighborhood giving tickets for not bagging your garbage or putting it out when it’s not garbage day? No… They’re at their house doing exactly what you’re doing right now. Your neighbors will follow your lead and the government will come by with bulldozers and take it all away in a few days. Next Page: Claims Adjusters and Demo



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