Most homes and office spaces take the sewer system, gutters, and water handling systems for granted. Right up until there is a problem. Suddenly the seemingly simple task of diverting effluent water away from your home or office building can turn into a severe problem threatening the health and safety of everyone in it. Not to mention the very real risk of suffering major property damage from a flood or sewer backup.
Understanding the Threat of Unwanted Water
If you’ve got the wrong kind of water pooling or gushing into your home or office building, you are officially in an emergency situation. Even the smallest amount of water and/or sewage can be a major health and safety hazard.
Any time a residential or commercial building has excess water in it the porous building materials and furnishings are going to absorb some of it. These are thirsty materials and water is pervasive in nature.
Structural Weakness Caused by Water
The further the water of effluent sewage is allowed to spread through a porous material, the more likely the damage is going to be. In just a short period of time, these water-affected materials will weaken structurally, which can compromise critical habitation areas.
The Threat of Mold
Compounding this problem is the fact that mold spores, which live everywhere in the air around us, love to use moist, porous materials as a breeding ground. Some of the more aggressive strains like Stachybotrys chartarum of “Toxic Black Mold” can go from spores to an active colony in as little as 24 to 48 hours!
The Threat Sewage & Water-Borne Pathogens
Sewage backups can come from a lot of different sources. Municipal sewer system faults are always a threat no matter where you are in the country. All it takes is one serious clog or line rupture in the massive pipes buried out in the street to send hundreds if not thousands of gallons of effluent sewage toward your home, office, or commercial property.
Compounding this threat is that most of the time when a region suffers from flooding, all the excess water finds its way into the sewer or storm sewer system, causing it to release into the streets. This can bring with it bacteria, viruses, and other severely dangerous pathogenic materials.
Having a Plan of Action
Once you have a clear idea of the potential threats caused by floods and sewage backups, you can move proactively toward a plan of action. This includes a step-by-step approach to managing and/or minimizing the damage caused by effluent water.
Minimize the Flood Source If Possible
Some sources of flooding can be directly addressed. If the water is coming from a ruptured pipe, a pipe leak, or a failure of the building’s internal plumbing, you might be able to simply turn the water off to minimize the threat of further water damage. In the case of a roof leak, a gutter failure, or a clog in the roof’s water management system, you might be able to contain the leak or clear the clog manually, until the storm is over.
If the flooding is caused by a backup of the sewer system or a major weather event that’s caused widespread flooding throughout the region, there might not be anything you can safely do to prevent water ingress.
In a situation like this, the wisest course of action is to turn off the electricity to the entire building, and evacuate people to the safest possible location. If you can’t turn the utilities off yourself, then you should call your utility companies and ask them to do it for you.
Notify the Local Authorities
In the event of a severe flood, or a failure in the municipal sewer system, notifying the local authorities is the next wisest step. They might have emergency response personnel who can help manage the situation. It might also be a critical step in documenting the event for insurance purposes later.
Contact Your Insurance Company
It’s important to reach out to your insurance provider as soon as possible to start the process of filing a claim. In times of a severe weather emergency, they are often over-taxed with incoming claims and will process each situation on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, contact them immediately, will put you higher on their list for the fastest possible response.
Just bear in mind that not all homeowner’s insurance policies cover flood damage restoration. So, contacting your insurance company right away will also help you get a better idea of what’s covered and what isn’t under your current policy.
Assuming your smartphone is in good working order, try to take as many photos as you can of the damage. This might factor in insurance coverage and/or any later liability litigation.
Just be wise and make safety a top priority. Your life, health & safety isn’t worth capturing a dangerous photo of flood damage!
Salvage Personal Belongings
As you escape the flooding and sewage backup, take a moment to salvage whatever unharmed contents and personal belongings you can. Though do so within reason and always with safety in mind. This is about minimizing the flood damage costs, not being heroic, and risking your life to save a flatscreen TV from rising sewage water!
Contact Water Restoration Professionals
A lot of water restoration professionals and remediation specialists have equipment that can help extract water and speed up the drying process. This is a major benefit for reducing the risk of structural water damage, as well as minimizing the risk of mold problems developing on moist porous surfaces.
These are experts in the field of water removal and restoration. Their years of experience can help you understand what is in your power to deal with, and what isn’t. Many have commercial-grade equipment and cleaning products to help minimize health threats and water damage to your home or place of business.
Water restoration professionals also add an additional layer of third-party documentation, which might play a critical role in the weeks and months to come when it’s time to address insurance claims and legal liability litigation.