The Big Unchill: Bunker Hill’s Tips on Protecting Your Home from Flooding

Highwater_SignApril showers bring May flowers and potentially a whole lot more. That’s because in addition to rain, the warm weather brings melting snow which is a commonly overlooked cause of flooding and water damage.

According to Floodsmart.gov, all 50 states are flood and flash-flood prone—even the states we think of as being land-locked and bone-dry. Did you know that in flood-prone states like Massachusetts, homes are more likely to be damaged from flooding than fire?

It just takes an inch…

While flash floods make the news and cause everyone to sit up and take notice, an inch or two of flood water can cause extensive damage to your home, so it’s a good idea to understand the dangers of flooding and have a plan.

One of the key things to remember is, if you can safely do so, Stay Put. Don’t wade or drive through flood waters.

  • Your car could be quickly carried away by floodwaters a mere two feet deep, or the roads ahead could be washed out. If you get stuck and your car stalls out in rising waters, get out immediately, head for higher ground, and wait for help to arrive.
  • Don’t take the chance on foot either: you could accidentally touch downed live power lines, be exposed to sewage, or bump into poisonous water snakes among other hazards. Head to the highest point and wait for help. Keep children away from deadly currents, including culverts and storm drains.

Before a flood…

  • Have a bag packed and ready to go with some cash, changes of clothes, medicines, eye glasses and other essentials for you and your family. Don’t forget to include copies of your insurance policy numbers (with your agent’s contact info) and other important documents.
  • Shut off your gas and water valves and disconnect all your electrical appliances.

After a flood…

  • Toss it out. Food, cosmetics and medicines could be tainted by sewage or other hazards.
  • Don’t slip. The ground and floors can be very slippery with mud and other debris; tread carefully (or better yet, stay away until it’s safe).
  • Be on the lookout for snakes and other animals.
  • Use flashlights to inspect for damage in dark places. Don’t use matches or lighters, candles or open flames until you’re 100-percent sure the gas is turned off and the area is properly ventilated.
  • Use generators outside where carbon monoxide won’t reach dangerous levels.

Other things you can do…

  • Pump it and dump it. A sump pump, properly installed with drain tile, can help prevent your basement from suffering from water damage. Battery powered sump pumps cost around $150-$400 and are a smart bet when the power’s also out. Make sure the water drains away from your house (and your neighbors’).
  • Have a professional fix leaks in your roof, windows and foundation as soon as possible before they cause more damage. Close foundation cracks with masonry caulk and mortar or hydraulic cement.
  • Keep it clear. Maintain those drains and gutters and clean them twice a year (more if yours tend to collect debris).
  • Move your bling. Put your valuables in a safer (higher) location in your home – ideally the second floor if you have one, or attic, where they’ll be safe from all but the most terrible floods.

While most homeowners insurance does not include coverage for flood damage (now’s a good time to check with your insurance agent and review your policy—flood coverage is typically a separate endorsement), if you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or other high-risk area and have a mortgage backed by the federal government, you must have flood insurance to qualify for a mortgage.

Since it usually takes at least 30 days for a policy to go into effect, it makes sense to buy flood coverage well before you think you’ll need it.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.