First step is to contact your insurance company so they can start the legal process and set up your claim details. It’s wise to check if you can start the clean up or if they will need to assess the damage, however, many insurance companies will accept a photo library as your priority is to get your home or premises dry, safe and habitable.
Next step is to BE SAFE. Before you plough into your clean up ensure that the electricity supply to the water affected area is off. If you have standing water, ensure you do not walk in it as we all know, electricity conducts through water. Switch off the power at the mains. If your fuse box is in the water logged areas use a wooden walking stick, broom handle or similar to reach the main switch to turn it off. However, the most prudent thing to do is call an electrician, he can switch off the supply, undertake any repairs and tell you it’s safe to walk into the wet area. If you happen to smell gas, call the supplier immediately – open all the windows, evacuate and most certainly do not smoke! It is rare but electrical items and mobile phones can spark, subsequently igniting the gas so keep that in mind. Switch off anything that could spark.
Once you are fully confident that the wet area is safe you can start the clean-up. Water is dirty and carries contaminants so protect yourself by wearing waterproof boots, gloves and other protective clothing. If mould has developed or you are aware of a history of mould in the flooded room, a protective face mask is vital with a HEPA filter. Spores entering the lungs can cause long term health implications and shouldn’t be breathed in. If items have mould on them, place in strong plastic bags and dispose. Do not attempt to clear up large areas of mould, you will need professional help. There are many companies offering mould cleaning services on the internet.
Use a professional automatic pump to slowly remove the flood water, ensure that the generator is placed outside the property as these can produce carbon monoxide fumes which will kill if used indoors. Once the water is removed open windows to aerate the room and use fans to dry the area out. If your heating system has been checked and is stable you can switch this on and heat the rooms. Remember to thoroughly wash your hands and under your nails using soap and water.
Now you will need to address the water logged furniture, floor coverings and soft furnishings. Take these out of the building and use a spade or scoop to clear up the mud and debris that will be left on the floor. Some floor coverings can be rescued by using professional carpet cleaners but if the water contained sewage, sadly, everything will need to be discarded. However, if you have put in a claim you will need to take photographs of anything you thrown away, for the insurance assessor.
Once the floor coverings are removed, mop bare floors using hot water and a suitable detergent. Walls and skirting will also need to be thoroughly cleaned to remove bacteria and germs. Don’t forget to wash your hands after every stage of the clean up! Some clothing (that hasn’t been exposed to sewage) can be salvaged by being laundered or dry cleaned. Other personal items should be washed in detergent and hot water. Wipe items dry and then if possible allow them to dry naturally outside, which can help to deodorise them. Electronic items should always be checked by a professional prior to being plugged in and used. Unfortunately, any kinds of paper products are rarely usable once they have been exposed to water.
On a personal practical note, cleaning up after a flood is time consuming and tiring so pace yourself, eat regularly and keep up your liquid intake as exertion can dehydrate you. If you feel unwell or have been exposed to sewage-contact your GP. There are many companies that specialise in after flood clean ups and have the professional know how to support you in your clean-up operation.
Finally, flood damaged rooms can be returned to normality, get advice from a recommended builder or decorator who can give you professional guidance. 21 Jan 2013