Inspecting Utilities in a Damaged Home
When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Hurricane-driven flood waters may have damaged buildings where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you take.
- Wear sturdy shoes. The most common injury following a disaster is cut feet.
- Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. Battery-powered lighting is the safest and easiest, preventing fire hazard for the user, occupants, and building.
- Examine walls, floors, doors, staircases, and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
- Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. Cracks and damage to a foundation can render a building uninhabitable.
- Look for fire hazards. There may be broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical circuits, or submerged furnaces or electrical appliances. Flammable or explosive materials may come from upstream. Fire is the most frequent hazard following floods.
- Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas, using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
- Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
- Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company, and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.
- Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes, that may have come into buildings with the flood waters. Use a stick to poke through debris. Flood waters flush many animals and snakes out of their homes.
- Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that could fall. Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
- Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
- Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage. If the water is pumped out completely in a short period of time, pressure from water on the outside could cause basement walls to collapse.
- Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are health hazards.