Water is vital for life, but too much can cause serious problems. Floods are a double-edged sword; they’re necessary for ecosystems but can also wreak havoc on communities and properties. And often, those who can least afford it suffer the most when floods hit.
Floods have been causing destruction throughout history, and they come in various forms. The results are often devastating, whether it’s rising groundwater, overwhelmed city sewers, intense rainfall, melting snow, or sudden flash floods. Flash floods happen suddenly and are hard to predict, usually coming from heavy rain or storms. They’re extremely dangerous and fast, strong enough to carry away cars, animals, and even buildings. Urban sewer floods are also a big problem in crowded cities. Heavy rain and old or poor sewage systems can quickly spread dirty water. This is not only a health risk but also expensive to fix.
Take the 2013 floods in Canada, for example. Cities like Calgary and Toronto faced a perfect storm. Extreme rainfall pushed already limited drainage systems past their breaking points, and many buildings were situated in areas prone to flooding. This wasn’t just a one-off event but rather a wake-up call, highlighting several weaknesses in city planning and infrastructure.
Discovering a flooded basement can be a jarring experience, but keeping your cool and acting swiftly to mitigate damage and save money in the long run is crucial. Here are the steps to take.
Immediate Safety First
Before diving into the problem, make sure you’re safe. While the instinct to salvage your belongings can be strong, you’ve got to consider potential hazards you might not think about. To avoid the risk of electrical shock from submerged outlets or appliances, immediately turn off your home’s main electrical switch and unplug any reachable electronic devices without stepping into the water. You may also want to switch off the main water supply to prevent more flooding, especially if you’re uncertain about its source.
Wear protective gear if you have to enter the basement, even if the water source is clean. Goggles, gloves, and waterproof boots can protect you from potential injuries. Consider contaminants that might be in the water, especially if they come from an external source. Water that has seeped in from the outside may contain bacteria or hazardous chemicals.
When in doubt, seek professional help. Electricians, plumbers, and even biohazard experts are trained to handle these situations safely and efficiently, and their services could very well be part of what your insurance is there to cover.
Document the Situation
Before you start bailing water and tossing damaged items, grab your phone and take photos and videos of the entire scene. This visual evidence will be invaluable when you’re filing an insurance claim. Take note of the water level, any damaged appliances, and the overall condition of the basement. Take wide-angle shots that give an overview of the basement to establish the extent of the flood. Also, don’t just focus on what’s ruined; capture the high-water marks on the walls or any debris patterns.
Call Your Insurance Broker
Contact your home insurance broker as soon as possible to report the situation. They’ll guide you on what to do next and what documentation they’ll need for your claim. If you’ve taken photos and videos, you’re already one step ahead.
Start Removing Water
The longer the water sits, the more damage it can cause. The growth of mould and mildew can start to appear within just 24 to 48 hours. The cost of mould remediation can be quite high and may not be covered by your insurance policy.
You can use a sump pump, a wet-dry vacuum, or even buckets to remove water. Make sure to use extension cords designed for outdoor or wet conditions. Standard extension cords can short out and create an electrical hazard. Take into account not just the visible water but also hidden moisture in walls, under floors, or in mechanical systems. Consider hiring a professional water removal service, especially if the flooding is severe. Professional water removal services often include thermal imaging and other advanced techniques to identify these hidden pockets of moisture. If your insurance policy covers this service, all the better.
Sort Damaged Goods
Separate items into salvageable and unsalvageable piles. Some items may be restored through professional cleaning; don’t hastily throw things away that might be saved. It’s also a good idea to make a quick inventory list of damaged items, complete with their estimated value and any available receipts or proof of purchase. This list will create a more compelling and comprehensive case for your insurance claim.
Keep All Receipts and Document Expenses
Keep all receipts related to the flooding, from equipment rentals to repair services. Include incidental costs such as gas for trips to and from hardware stores, rental charges for storage units, or even hotel expenses if you’re forced to vacate your home due to the flooding. Most insurance policies cover these “additional living expenses,” but you’ll need receipts to back up your claim. Keeping thorough records isn’t just about insurance claims. It can also boost your home’s resale value down the line. Buyers will likely appreciate knowing that any flooding issues were handled professionally and supported by a clear history of repairs.
Review and Update Your Insurance
Once you’ve managed the crisis, take some time to review your current insurance policy. If you found gaps in your coverage, now’s the time to consider updating it to better protect against future incidents. Two key terms to know are Replacement Cost Value (RCV) and Actual Cash Value (ACV). Replacement Cost Value (RCV) covers the cost of replacing damaged items with new ones without accounting for depreciation. On the other hand, Actual Cash Value (ACV) factors in depreciation so that you might get less money in a claim. RCV generally results in a higher payout but comes with a higher premium. Check out flood mitigation programs offered by your province. This can save you some money on your premium.
Safeguard your home from floods and other natural disasters. With over 35 years of experience in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, and the Niagara Region, Keller & Associates Insurance Brokers can provide the right water protection. Our team will look at your financial situation and help you pick an insurance plan that’s both effective and affordable. Plus, we’ll guide you through the details so you know exactly what’s covered. Reach out to us today to get started on securing your home.