Home and Business

ACES-2299
RECOVERY

Reentering a Flooded Home

Structural Integrity

When first returning to a flooded home, you may face many threats to life and health. The first and most obvious issue is whether the building is structurally sound. Only a structural engineer or other building official can answer this with any certainty, but some warning signs include the following:

  • Is the building shifted off its foundation?
  • Is the foundation itself damaged?
  • Is the building cracking—no longer square but leaning to one side?
  • Is the building partly destroyed—missing a wall, for example, or partially crushed?
  • Is the roofline out of position?

If any of these are true, then the building may collapse at any time. It must not be entered unless a qualified official has declared it safe. Don’t take any chances.

Is the basement flooded? If so, then make sure groundwater has receded before pumping it out. Basements that are pumped out while the ground is still soaked may collapse as the outside water pressure is no longer balanced by pressure inside the basement.

Debris Piles

Debris piles may shift or collapse at any time. They may harbor snakes or other animals.

Electrical Hazards

Is the electricity turned off? Do you know this for certain? If you are not certain, do not enter if the home is flooded. Do not touch any electrical devices, especially if you are standing in water or in contact with the earth.

Combustible or Explosive Gases

  • When flooding is severe, gas lines are often broken if the building has shifted or if major appliances have moved about. Open all windows when first entering a building. If you smell gas or hear it escaping:
  • Exit the building immediately, leaving doors and windows open.
  • Don’t smoke or light matches.
  • Don’t use cell phones or regular phones.
  • Don’t operate any electrical switches, which may spark.
  • Don’t create any other source of ignition.
  • Notify emergency authorities.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced when any fuel is burned. High concentrations can kill. When coming back to a house that is wet, cold, and without heat or power, it is tempting to use an electric generator or an improvised heater, such as a barbeque or camp stove. Do not operate these devices indoors.

Opening windows is not sufficient to prevent CO buildup. Keep gas-powered electric generators outdoors or, if indoors, keep properly vented and away from windows or other air intakes. Fuel-fired, unvented space heaters can be used if manufacturers’ directions are carefully followed. Note that these devices produce large amounts of moisture as fuel is burned, so their drying ability is quite limited.

Check chimneys and flues for blockage by debris before using furnaces, hot water heaters, and wood stoves.

Mold

Mold and other organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, that thrive in wet environments can trigger negative health effects. These range from irritation, coughing, and headache to asthma attacks and possibly life-threatening infections.


Used by permission of eXtension.org.


This document is part of a larger publication titled Emergency Handbook: Preparation and Recovery (ACES-2168).

The Emergency Handbook is available digitally as an iBook and on the web. Use the left-hand navigation bar to access all topics and pages. This publication is not available in print. To download or print the pages you need, please look for Printable PDF Download this information.


For more information, contact your county Extension office.