Janelle D. By Janelle D. • March 22, 2019

Helping Clients Deal With the Devastation of Flooding

Flooding is unavoidable in the spring as snow melts off in the north, the rainy season begins, and rivers and streams overflow. Help prepare your real estate clients for flood season, and the aftermath, to keep their family and pets safe.

1) Flood insurance. When clients buy a house, recommend flood insurance. They may not need to use it for the entire time they live in the home but, if they happened to need it one year, it could make the difference between keeping their home or having to abandon it. (Remind clients that homeowners insurance doesn't cover flooding.)

2) Emergency kit. Your clients need to have an emergency kit which should include a flashlight, waders, rubber gloves, face mask, contact information for their insurance company and representative, medications, high calorie snacks, water, blankets, ponchos, pet collar/leash, extra batteries, chargers, medical cards, cash, waterproof matches, toilet paper, first aid kit, etc. They can buy flood survival kits if they don't want to build their own.

3) Evacuation plan. In the event of quickly rising flood waters, your clients will need to know how to get out of their house safely. If the roads are impassable, they need to have another form of transportation (ex. rubber raft). Each year as the flood season approaches, mail your clients flood evacuation information and safety tips. Remind them to evacuate when authorities tell them to, not hours later when it could be too late.

4) Move belongings to higher ground. Before water levels rise, suggest clients move their belongings up high (ex. spaces above kitchen cabinets; attic space). If flood waters rise 2-3 feet, items that are stored on high shelves might be recoverable.

5) Turn off power and water. Before leaving their home, have clients turn off the main power (fuse box) and the main water source. Turning off the power will help protect them from the risk of electrocution when they return to their home.  Authorities can advise your clients on when it's safe to turn on their electricity.

6) Protective gear. After the flood, remind clients to wear waders or high waterproof boots to avoid being exposed to contaminated water (ex. sewage, chemicals, dead animals). Rubber gloves and hospital masks are also important protective measures.

7) Evaluate structure. Clients should do a quick evaluation of the structure of their home before entering. If there is obvious foundation damage (ex. cracking or shifting), holes in the side or roof of the home, or other obvious unsafe conditions, they should not enter the house. Best to contact, or wait for, authorities before entering the home.

8) Photos. Have clients begin by taking photos of the interior and exterior, before attempting to clean out their home or make any repairs. This will provide the best chance of getting the full extent of coverage from their insurance company. Photos of the entry, floors, walls, ceiling, damaged possessions, etc. may prove highly beneficial. The more photos, the better.

9) Contact the insurance company. The sooner your clients contact their insurance representative, the better. They can start by sharing pictures and discussing next steps (ex. waiting for an adjuster to visit the property before making repairs). They should document the name of the representative they spoke to and any information discussed.

10) Professional inspector. Have your clients contact a professional inspector to determine the extent of damages. An inspector can look at everything from the roof all the way down to the foundation, providing details on what it will take to restore the home. A free estimate is offered by most companies.

11) Dangerous water creatures. Depending on the area, advise your clients to be aware of venomous snake, alligators, crocodiles and the like.

12) FEMA. Although Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was created, in part, to coordinate with local governments to help those affected by flooding disasters, clients shouldn't rely solely on them for help. Due to the massive amount of devastation our country has been experiencing, it's challenging for FEMA to keep up with demands.

13) Flood insurance claims. Prepare your clients for the reality of waiting to receive a check from their insurance agency, as there are usually long delays when entire counties have been affected by flood waters.

14) Immediate cleanup. As soon as it's safe to return to their home, clients should begin cleanup. Many clients will need help from professional cleaners. As part of your mailing campaign, provide a refrigerator magnet with a list of disaster-based professional cleaners; this could make a difference between recovering quickly or having to remove everything from the home, down to the studs.

15) Dispose of clothing. Although it seems like a thorough washing would take care of any mold or mildew on clothing, experts recommend throwing clothes away. If clients can get back in their homes within 24-48 hours, there may be a chance of beating the mold and recovering clothing. If they meet that timeline, clothes should be washed at a high temperature and dried quickly or sent to a professional cleaner.

Conclusion

There are many factors to consider when preparing your clients for flood season. For the best chance of safe evacuation and survival, share educational information throughout the year, not just before flood season. The more prepared your clients are, the higher the likelihood of their safety.