How to clear up after Flooding

This page sets out sets out some first steps to take when buildings have been flooded.

Flooded street

It can take many months to clear up buildings that have been flooded (Photo: Keith Moseley, Creative Commons via Flickr)

By Annette McGill

As well as putting people and animals at risk, flooding can damage buildings and equipment, and have a significant impact on your charity's activities.

If your charity's premises or other facilities have been impacted by flooding, here are some basic steps to take:

1. Always think about safety first!

Electricity:

If you are in danger of being flooded, turning of the electricity and gas supplies is an important safety measure. Always keep all appliances out of water.

If you have been flooded and these services were left on, turn off the electricity supply. Wear rubber-soled shoes or boots to avoid the danger of electrical shock. If your consumer unit (fuse box) has been flooded, don''t switch the power back on until the system has been checked by a qualified electrician. Before you switch the electricity back on, make sure all appliances are switched off.

Portable electrical appliances: Any portable electrical appliances that have been in contact with floodwater should also be checked by a qualified electrician.

Gas:

If your gas meter or a gas appliance has been under water, contact British Gas before switching on any appliance. Even if appliances appear to be working normally, flues may have become blocked by mud. Get all appliances checked by a Gas Safe Engineer.

Flood Water:

Don''t assume that you know what is under flood water! Mud and silt can hide hazards like glass or uneven surfaces. Flood water is very likely to be contaminated. Don''t let children play in it.

When cleaning, wear strong rubber gloves. Cover any cuts and grazes with waterproof dressings and use disinfectant.

Food:

Throw away any food that has come into contact with floodwater. Throw away any frozen food that has defrosted. (You may be able to claim on the insurance for these losses. ) All food storage areas and crockery need to be washed down with hot water and disinfectant. Be especially careful to disinfect and rinse all cooking areas and equipment - including sinks, taps -- and your hands!

Drinking water:

Don''t drink the tap water unless you have been told it is safe.

2. Insurance - Record Everything

Make sure you have your insurance documents in a safe place. Check your policy and find out what cover you have.

You need an accurate record of all damage. Do not throw anything away or undertake any work until you have made contact with your insurance broker or company, as it may prejudice your claim.

Before you do anything take photos or videos of all the damage. Mark the level that any water reached in indelible pen.

Inspect your property thoroughly and record of all damage. Be aware that some problems may take a while to show, so keep checking your properties for changes.

Inform your insurance company. Keep a record of all correspondence. 

Also contact your local council. If you are a tenant, your landlord, ask them about what help they may be able to offer.

3. Clearing and Cleaning up

Don''t attempt to use a building that contains standing water. When most of the water has drained away, sweep or shovel away the dregs. Then rinse away all the dirty water, silt and dirt with clean water. Hose down the outside walls.

Remove all soft furnishings that are wet. All bedding, curtains, clothes, etc. should be washed on the hottest temperature allowed on the label. Some items may need dry-cleaning. Unfortunately, many may be beyond saving. Once they have become mouldy, many items will have to be thrown away.

Wash down all hard surfaces using hot water and disinfectant or soap, and allow to dry. If mould or mildew appears, wash the surfaces down with disinfectant. Mould can cause allergic/respiratory reactions, so wear a face-mask.

Clean and oil all hinges and locks to prevent them from corroding.

Kitchens:

Kitchen units are usually made of chipboard or mdf. Neither of these materials is good with water, and if units have been submerged, they will need to be replaced. Scrub any surfaces used for food preparation thoroughly with disinfectant that is food-safe. After cleaning, rinse them with clean water.

Rubbish

Flooding generates a lot of waste. Put all damaged items in hard bins or in sealed rubbish bags.

Contact your local council about what help they are offering and about arranging for skips.

4. Drying out the Building:

Ventilation: As with condensation, you need to get moisture out of the building. The single most effective thing you can do is to get fresh air moving through the property. This will take the moisture-laden air out and replace it with dryer air. Open the windows and doors and get a breeze moving through the space. If you have covered air bricks, make sure you remove the covers. Fans can also help to circulate the air.

Heating: If it is safe to use, turn on the heating and leave it on.

Dehumidifiers: while they can help, opening the windows will be more effective.

Generators: Do not use petrol or diesel generators indoors as exhaust gases can be dangerous.

Flooring: Remove floor coverings that have been immersed to allow the floor to dry. 

Wall-coverings: Non-breathable wall-coverings such as vinyl wallpaper can stop moisture from evaporating and may need to be removed.

Be aware that it can take months to fully dry out a building. Although it may be hard to resist, don''t redecorate for at least a few months after the walls have dried.

Resources

The gov.uk website has advice on what to do in a flood

The government has also published a leaflet on how to clean up safely after a flood.

The Association of British Insurers has published a booklet on Responding to major floods (PDF)