It’s heartbreaking to see all the hard work you’ve put into maintaining your home be thrown away overnight. Pennsylvania was one of the states that got hit the hardest during the hurricane Ida fallout. However, flooding has always been at the top of the list when it comes to natural disasters in the Commonwealth. Whether it was from the previous 2 hurricanes (Sandy and Ike), or from frequent storm surges, the damages can sometimes be expensive to repair or downright catastrophic.

Keystone State residents are aware of these risks, with more than 7500 of them having purchased additional flood insurance for their homes, on top of their standard homeowner’s insurance policies. But understanding the dangers and being prepared for it are two separate concepts. Let’s discover what steps you can take before and after a flooding disaster strikes.

Minimizing the risks

As a homeowner, you are likely to pay lots of attention to the looks and cleanliness of your home. However, it is just as important to fit those two pieces within the bigger picture of a safe, risk-free home. Here are a few pointers towards achieving that, especially in a flood-prone zone:

  • Elevate your electric panel, furnace, water heater, electrical appliances, or anything combustible
  • Install flood vents in areas below the base flood elevation (BFE) level to allow any floodwater to flow out of the home
  • Do not keep items that cannot be cleaned with bleach in areas that may get flooded, as floodwater can contain chemical substances or infectious diseases
  • Keep important paperwork and valuables in waterproof containers
  • Where possible, put up barriers to prevent water from spreading to other areas of the house
  • Get an emergency supply kit and have an emergency plan

Preparing during a flood warning

If you already know the inevitable is coming, try not to panic. All is not lost yet. Here are a few more steps you can take to minimize potential risks:

  • Keep an eye on the news for instructions and guidance
  • Move essential items to a higher floor, though not the roof as that can incur damage as well
  • Bring in outdoor furniture and electrical items, including grills, lamps, and items stored in a shed
  • Unplug electrical appliances and close the main gas valve
  • Sanitize and fill bathtubs, sinks, jars, and any containers with tap water
  • If you need to evacuate, empty the fridge and cupboards, and leave them open

Also, make sure you are not driving when the rain hits. Only 6 in of water is what it takes to reach the bottom of your car and burry your wheels in water, causing you to lose control. Hurricane Ida brought between 5 and 7 in of water on the streets of Pennsylvania, making them completely unsafe.

Recovering from a flood

Resuming your life after a natural disaster is going to be taxing in a number of areas, including emotionally, financially, mentally, and logistically. As far as your home is concerned, after a flood, you’ll likely need to throw away a number of items, replace a few, clean and sanitize, dry and rearrange existing furniture, and possibly establish new routines. Leave the building damages and electrical issues to the experts and avoid moving in floodwater. If a flood occurred during a state of emergency then you will benefit from professional emergency assistance, and possibly even some federal aid. FEMA is currently assessing post-Ida damages in Pennsylvania to see additional federal help is needed.

Most flood policies are backed by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), covering the most common flood zones. However, more than 20% of flood claims happen in NFIP’s low-risk areas. So, even if your property is not in the danger zone, you should still get protected by additional flood coverage. If you are uncertain about which policy is best for you, our agents at Gilmartin Insurance can advise you on your best options.

If you already have flood insurance, here are the steps you need to follow to file a claim:

  • Contact your insurance agency. If your claim is with Gilmartin Insurance, reach out to us by calling or coming into one of our 3 offices (Scranton, Pittston, Lehighton)
  • As soon as you’re able to return to your home, document the damages by taking photos and videos of both the inside and outside areas; if possible, take some pictures from inside the building structure as well
  • An insurance adjuster will be assigned to your case and inspect your property; make sure to check his/her Flood Control Number (FCN) and identification card
  • Submit your claim, as per the adjuster’s instructions and before any applicable deadlines
  • Wait for your claim payment amount

In the end, natural disasters will definitely take a toll and affect your life in ways you could never imagine. But you can buffer those consequences and minimize the risks by following some of our tips above. If you are one of the flood claimants following hurricane Ida, keep strong and don’t lose hope. We will do our best to assist you with your claim and get you back into your home as soon as possible.