Thursday, February 28, 2019

14 Tips for Staying Safe When Returning Home After Flooding

American Red Cross Urges Residents to Take Caution As They Re-Enter the Flood Zone

In some areas, flood waters are starting to recede and people are starting to return to their homes. The American Red Cross urges safety and encourages people in affected areas to follow the advice of local authorities. If evacuated, return only when authorities indicate it is safe to do so.

Red Cross Disaster Assessment team member Tami Wright hands Bridgett Rushing, left, and Jennifer Claxton gloves at a home damaged by flooding, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, in Waverly, Tenn. Photo Credit: Wade Payne/American Red Cross

Here are a few important Red Cross safety steps to follow when returning home after the flood:

1. Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater. Leave children with a relative or friend while you conduct your first inspection of your home. The site may be unsafe, and seeing the damage firsthand may upset them even more and cause long-term effects.

2. Check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, missing support beams or other damage. If power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water. Report them immediately to the power company.

3. Do not cut or walk past colored tape that was placed over doors or windows to mark damaged areas unless you have been told that it is safe to do so.

4. Take pictures of home damage, both of the structure and contents, for insurance purposes.

5. If power is out, use a flashlight. Do not use any open flame, including candles.

6. Sniff for gas. If you detect natural or propane gas, or hear a hissing noise, leave the property immediately and get far away from it. Call the fire department after you reach safety.

7. If you have a propane tank system, turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier to check the system before using.

8. Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots, and be cautious when cleaning up.

9. Throw away items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected. This includes mattresses, carpeting, and toys.

10. Throw away food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood waters and mud.

11. If any gas or electrical appliances were flooded, don’t use them until they have been checked for safety.

12. Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage. If the water is pumped out completely in a short period of time, pressure from water-saturated soil on the outside could cause basement walls to collapse.

13. Is your ceiling sagging? That means it got wet – which makes it heavy and dangerous. It will have to be replaced, so you can try to knock it down. Be careful: wear eye protection and a hard hat, use a long stick, and stand away from the damaged area. Poke holes in the ceiling starting from the outside of the bulge to let any water drain out slowly. Striking the center of the damaged area may cause the whole ceiling to collapse.

14. Is the floor sagging? It could collapse under your weight, so don’t walk there! Small sections that are sagging can be bridged by thick plywood panels or thick, strong boards that extend at least 8–12 inches on each side of the sagging area.

Additional information on flood safety can be found on

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