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What to do after a flood

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Floodwaters leave extensive damage to homes and property in their wake and knowing what to do after a flood is critical to your safety and wellbeing.

Returning home

Before attempting to return home, wait until the authorities have given the all-clear for entering a flooded area, Emergency Management Australia warns.
Monitor the latest flood updates for current flood information and do not enter your house until water has subsided below floor level.
The Red Cross offers the following recommendations when dealing with the destruction caused by a flood:

Your SES (State Emergency Service) warns that people returning home should be aware that any electrical appliance or source, indoors or out, is potentially dangerous - don’t turn on anything, including lights, until an electrician can check it is safe to do so. Emergency Management Australia suggests exercising caution with potentially unstable flooring and staircases, as well as waterlogged ceilings that may be holding a large volume of water.

Documenting the damage

Your immediate concern may be to begin the clean-up work straight away.
But David Kneipp, QBE National Catastrophe Claims Manager, says it’s important to capture images and details of the damage to your property and vehicles.
“If volunteers come in to assist with the clean-up, supervise this process carefully to avoid items being disposed of when they could have been salvaged. Capture video or images of the damage before the clean-up effort starts – this will help during the claiming process.”
It’s also worthwhile starting a list of what’s damaged and noting whether it can be repaired or cleaned, David says.

How to clean up after a flood

David Kneipp, QBE National Catastrophe Claims Manager, says property damage will largely depend on water depth and the flood’s duration.

“One of the huge dangers with flood is mould,” David says. “If you don’t dry a property properly it can lead to mould and this opens the door to some very significant health problems.”
“The extent of repairs needed will also depend on what damage has been done to your foundations. Repairs will usually include washing out the property and then pulling out all the wall linings and floor coverings.”
It may take several weeks to get everything dry so The Red Cross advises starting as soon as possible.

Hygiene

The Department of Health stresses the necessity of guarding against contamination from polluted water.

  1. Disinfect surfaces that have been submerged in flood water in order to reduce the danger of infections, paying special attention to areas children can reach.
  2. Wash and disinfect your hands frequently during clean-up.
  3. Until the latest flood updates confirm that tap water is safe to drink, boil for one minute all water for drinking and washing, including dishes.
  4. Discard all food that has come into contact with flood water, even sealed cans and jars.

Recovery and restoration

If your home is uninhabitable, you may need food, supplies, and accommodation contact your local emergency services for immediate help.
Your insurer can help with accommodation, food, clothes and other emergency supplies after a flood, according to David Kneipp, QBE National Catastrophe Claims Manager.
“If you are in significant need, let us know. We can make an early payment into your bank account if you and your family are in genuine need.”
All QBE home policies include flood cover, says David. “(But) business owners and farmers need to check whether they have flood cover and consider whether they need it as it is priced according to risk.”
Returning home after a flood can be stressful. If you are struggling with emotional distress reach out to Lifeline, the Australian Psychological Society, the Samaritans or your GP for support.

More Information

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended as a general guide only. You should consult your state fire and emergency services for further information.