The past few days have been some of the most difficult and heart breaking for South Louisiana residents. Many have lost their cars, homes and all of their possessions to the flood. Some have even lost their lives. As the region pulls together and begins a season of recovery, there are a few things to know about the restoration process.
If you had to evacuate, wait until the water has completely receded to go back home. Before entering your home, check for structural damage as well as power and gas lines that may be down. Once you step inside, your first instinct may be to reach for a light switch – don’t. In fact, turn off the water and power to your home until it’s safe. Your safety should be your first priority throughout this process.
The American Red Cross provides this checklist, detailing items to pack before returning home and what to check before entering your home.
If you had flood insurance, the National Flood Insurance Program has tips on how to document the damage for insurance purposes. This includes taking inventory and pictures of damaged items. If you did not have flood insurance, you can fill out an application for disaster assistance from FEMA.
Recovering your possessions:
Before you move anything in your home, be sure you are wearing rubber-soled shoes or boots and rubber or leather gloves. The water that flooded your home was likely contaminated with sewage, chemicals, gas and various other liquids that can be harmful to your health. Throw away any food near the flood waters and any items that soaked up the water.
When you first walk in, all may seem lost. But with a little bit of motivation and patience, you’d be surprised at what you can save. For instance, books, important documents and pictures. Put these items in plastic bags and frozen until you’re ready to dry them. Each type of paper can be properly dried using different techniques.
The kitchen is one of the first places you may need to start cleaning. Even if water filled every cabinet, there’s no need to throw away your pots, pans and plates after a flood. Soak your dishes and glasses in bleach and hot water then air dry. Boil pots pans and silverware in just water for 10 minutes then air dry. Electrical appliances should be thrown away for your safety.
Furniture may be some of the biggest losses after a flood. Lightly damaged furniture with cloth and cushion can be air dried, professionally cleaned and restored. Wood furniture with mild damage might can be repaired with one of the following applications: 1) mixture of wood cleaner and a few drops of orange oil; 2) a spoonful of mayonnaise; 3) #000 steel wool dipped in mineral or linseed oil. *If any item remained soaking in flood water, it may be best for your health to throw it away.
Most clothing articles can be saved. Air dry each article, then wash with hot water and detergent.
One of the biggest concerns in your home after a flood is mold. To avoid this, soak up any remaining water with a wet/dry shop vacuum or pump and remove all wet contents including carpets and padding. Open all doors and windows to allow more air circulation and set up fans to blow air outside. While your home is airing out, throw away all items that were fully submerged and can’t be disinfected.
When your floors and walls are somewhat clear, you can get to work busting down drywall and tearing out insulation. You only need to remove the walls as high as the water rose.
Once you’ve removed all necessary items and walls, grab your mask and goggles – it’s time to start cleaning. Use a mixture of hot water and laundry or dish detergent to clean hard surfaces. After cleaning, it’s crucial to disinfect all areas. Use a 10% bleach solution (about 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water) to cover the area in a thin layer with a sprayer or sponge then dry.
If you would like more detailed instructions, The American Red Cross has a digital book ready for you to reference when repairing your home.