When you discover that your basement is flooded, the first thing that you will probably wonder is how you're going to get it dried out, or whether you'll be able to save the items that you have stored down there. But there's another important question that you need to worry about first: are you safe? A basement flood can be a dangerous situation, both in the immediate aftermath of the flood and during the cleanup phase. Take a look at some tips that will help you and your family stay safe after a basement flood.
Find Out if Your Foundation is Solid
Before you do anything else, you need to know whether or not you have structural damage. If your basement is flooded because of a broken hot water heater or pipe located in the basement, you're probably safe. However, if your basement is underwater because of flooding in your region due to a storm, you're at risk of foundation damage.
It may surprise you to learn that water traveling at just 10 miles per hour carries the same force as winds traveling at 270 miles an hour. For reference, remember that a hurricane is considered to have reached Category 5 when the wind speeds hit 157 miles per hour. A fast moving flood has the ability to do severe damage. It can actually separate the sides of your home from the foundation.
Some of the signs of foundation damage include cracks in the walls, ceilings, or floorboards, cracked bricks in the outdoor foundation, and separation between the walls, ceilings, and floors. If you even suspect that your foundation may be damaged, do not attempt to go into the basement. Call a foundation expert to assess the damage before proceeding.
Use Generators and Pumps Carefully
It should go without saying that the electricity needs to be completely off before you can start pumping out your basement. The last thing that you want to do is risk electrocution by walking into a flooded basement with the power on. That means that you'll need to use a generator, or a pump powered by gas, if you're going to pump out the water yourself.
Never start one of these devices inside the house. Gas powered pumps and generators can release deadly carbon monoxide that can build up inside of your home. Even if you think that the area is well ventilated, it's not worth the risk to your health and life. Place the generator or pump outside the home, as far away as possible. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for use to the letter when setting up, refueling, or using your generator or pump.
Take Mold Precautions
Where there is standing water, there is the possibility of mold growth. Mold can grow more quickly than you might think – depending on the type of mold and the surrounding conditions, mold growth can start in as little as 24 hours, or it could take up to 10 days. If you evacuated from your home for a few days to escape the storm that caused the flooding, your basement could easily be a hotbed for mold by the time that you return.
Mold can be extremely harmful to breathe. If you have asthma or allergies, your best bet is to stay well away from the area where the mold is growing. Even if you don't have a medical condition that increases your sensitivity to mold, you should take precautions, like wearing a mask and rubber gloves when you enter the basement. Be sure to thoroughly wash any part of your skin that touches the standing water. Also, wear shoes with non-slip soles and watch your step in the basement – in addition to any other considerations, patches of mold growth on the floor are slick and can increase your chances of a slip and fall accident.
If you have doubts about your ability to safely dry out your basement by yourself, or if it's simply too large a job, contact a water damage cleanup and restoration service for help as soon as possible. The sooner you begin the cleanup process, the more damage you'll be able to mitigate.