How to stay safe when returning to a flooded home

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Here are important precautions to take when returning to a flooded home. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)

One of the most damaging and devastating things you can ever experience as a homeowner is a flood. Hurricane Harvey has damaged at least 178,000 homes, according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management. As homeowners return, some precautions should be taken when entering and cleaning say experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Hurricane Survival Initiative and FEMA.

Safety First

The first step in any major home disaster is to remain safe. When returning make sure you turn off the power, as water and electricity obviously do not mix. Wear protective clothing-such as rubber boots and gloves-when you reenter your home and watch out for snakes, insects and animals.

Never eat food that has been contaminated by flood waters, or even in close proximity to the water for an extended period of time. If the water was high enough to reach your refrigerator or any of your pantry cabinets, it is safest practice to go ahead and throw the food away and just buy more. Be sure to thoroughly wash any dinnerware, glasses, and flatware that might have been caught in the house flood before you use it again.

Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry the house and safely clean off all surfaces.

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Flood insurance claims

About 80 percent of Texans do not have flood insurance, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. Federal aid through FEMA is available to help cover uninsured victims' rental costs, home repairs, and other expenses. Go to disasterassistance.gov or calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 for assistance.

For homeowners with flood insurance, document values of everything and take as many photos as possible before, during, and after clean-up. This will help an insurance adjuster when he or she is able to come assess the damage. For information about the process, call your local FEMA assistance center or visit their website.

Beware of fraud

Flood victims have received fraudulent calls telling them their policy would be void if they do not make an additional payment, according to FEMA. Victims have also received calls stating anybody who filed an insurance claim last year would not be eligible to file one this year. Roy E. Wright, Director of FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program, has said both of these messages are fraud.

It's recommended to only take information from a trusted source such as local officials, FEMA representatives, insurance companies and assigned adjusters.

Related Topics:
houston floodhurricane harveysevere weatherflooding