By: Andrea Moyer
I am extremely careful to not plagiarize anyone else’s work, especially when it involves a topic that is more or less in constant circulation. I don’t want to rewrite what has already been written or reopen a discussion that’s been hashed to death. Not surprisingly, water damage falls into this category. So much has been written about this and how to prevent or deal with it. The last thing I want to do is reinvent the wheel.
On the other hand, maybe the reason why this continues to resurface is because there’s a lot to be said on this topic and its subtopics. In the wake of heavy rainfall, hurricanes, winds and floods, there’s simply too much that needs to be impressed upon consumers regarding water damage response. Quite recently in our region the average temperatures plummeted from the mid-80’s down to the 30’s almost overnight, so the threat of pipes freezing and bursting is now very real as well. I feel very strongly that this information needs to be projected so I’m going forward with it, but I’ll try to be as brief and concise as possible. My aim in writing this is to ignite your thoughts and get the wheels spinning about what kind of coverage you have and whether it is adequate to cover unforeseen disasters such as water damage. My hope is that you’re reading this before anything major has occurred and not during the emergency!
What You Need to Know About Water Damage
Flood vs. Water Damage – Use of the term “flood” should be limited to reference to flood plains or flood insurance, but little else. It is simply too broad a term. What you need to ask yourself – and what your insurance agent will most certainly ask you – is where the source of the water damage is located. Is it coming from a burst pipe or a malfunctioning dishwasher? Maybe your sump pump has failed or is unable to keep up with the heavy rainfall. There are a number of reasons why you’re suddenly standing ankle-deep in what was meant to be contained in a drinking glass.
Why You Need a “Sewer and Drain” Endorsement
What most people do not realize until it’s far too late is that not all types of water damage are covered by most homeowner’s policies. I confess that I did not know this, either, but I am so glad I found out! Thankfully, there’s an endorsement called Sewer and Drain that can been added to your homeowner’s policy and will provide additional coverage. Talk to your insurance agent about this and it will cheer her heart no end when you request this addition to your policy. Aside from that, it comes at a reasonable cost. Ask your agent to quote it for you.
What About Flood Insurance?
The geography surrounding our properties is constantly changing due to demolition, construction and other factors. These impact the designated flood zones, so it is to your benefit to know whether your property is now within the designated flood zone. Your local municipality should be able to provide you with this information, but it is wise to consider purchasing flood insurance regardless of whether or not you’re in a flood zone.
Responding to Water Damage
I’ll be honest: this section of the blog was a bit gross to put together. I didn’t enjoy writing about growing mold and floating sewage, but it had to be done, especially with all the heavy rains our region has experienced of late. Much has been written about this, but it bears repeating. Even if you live on the top of a hill in a relatively dry area, water damage can occur. Knowing what to do within the first twenty-four hours of water damage is invaluable, so here goes!
- Safety - Make sure you have a working flashlight in case power has been lost. Wear waist-high boots or waders and rubber gloves. Turn off the main power source. Remember that even if the water appears clear, it is probably contaminated and may have sharp objects and debris floating in it. Depending upon the depth of the waters and whether your home has lost power, you may need to address food spoilage. Discard any contaminated or spoiled food and thoroughly clean and sanitize any contaminated dishware. Boil water until it is deemed safe to drink and use.
- Contact Your Insurance Company – Remember to photograph everything in your home before you begin to remove water. Your insurer will assist you in determining the source of the water damage and answer any questions about your claim, but they will also need photos and video of what items were damaged.
- Stop and Remove Water - Once your insurer has given you the OK, remove the water. Your insurance agent will be able to recommend professional removal services. If you choose to remove the water yourself, a sump pump is a good investment. For removing smaller amounts of water, a shop vac is the best way to go. Remember that water is heavy! It has a cubic foot weight of 10 lbs., so avoid undue stress or strain by trying to move too much at once.
- Mitigate Mold Damage - Mold can develop within 24 to 48 hours, so after you’ve photographed them, remove wet contents such as carpets, bedding, clothing, etc. Treat mold growth on surfaces (test a small area first) with a non-ammonia detergent or pine oil cleaner and disinfect with a 10% bleach solution. Do not be tempted to mix bleach with ammonia, as the fumes from this combination are highly toxic!
- Secure the Property - It is your responsibility to secure your property against further damage. Put up boards against broken windows or secure a tarp over an exposed roof to guard against further damage.
And Now for Some Good News!
I’ve saved the best for last! After all of the ponderous things I’ve given you to think about and mull over here, I’ve got some wonderful news: we are currently offering our customers an opportunity to take part in a Smart Leak and Freeze Detector pilot. Call our office at 215-723-9805 and we will be happy to share more about this exciting opportunity. It’s a great FREE way to add extra protection in your household against a water event. Contact our agency today to take advantage of this opportunity while supplies last!