Flood waters rising at Wappingers Creek (C) Daniel FriedmanFlood Damage Repair Procedures: Introduction
FEMA/ARC booklet, expanded & annotated
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Earthquake, hurricane, flood or storm & wind damage to buildings - action & repair priorities:

If your building has been flooded, this website provides an easy to understand guide for flood damage assessment, setting priorities of action, guarding personal safety, and taking safe, organized and effective steps to inspect, diagnose, clean-up, and repair a flooded building as well as steps to prevent future damage.

This article series describes how to enter and assess damaged buildings safely, how to set priorities of repair, how to clean up earthquake, flood, storm or wind-damaged buildings, and how to rebuild using methods and materials to reduce future building damage and hazards.

We also discuss earthquake, flood, storm or wind damage insurance including private insurance and the NFIP. We include extra depth of detail about safe building entry, returning mechanical systems to operation, and special information about avoiding or minimizing mold damage. Adapted and expanded from Repairing your Flooded Home, American Red Cross & FEMA & from additional expert sources.[1] NOTICE: neither the ARC nor FEMA have yet approved the additions & expansions we have made to the original document.

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FIRST PRIORITIES: What to Do After a Building Has Been Flooded or Damaged by Earthquake, Hurricane, or other Storm or Fire

Earthquake damaged bulding (C) Daniel Friedman
  • If You Have Been Injured seek medical care at the nearest hospital or emergency facility. Floodwaters are often contaminated by sewage and there is risk of serious infection if wounds are not cleaned and treated.
  • Check on Neighbors to see if there are elderly or infant neighbors who are trapped, injured, or otherwise need assistance.

    Help a neighbor who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.

    Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance.

    People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.

This article series gives action & repair priorities if your building has been flooded, or damaged by another disaster in an easy to understand guide. We describe procedures for for flood damage assessment, setting priorities of action, safe entry procedures for damaged buildings, first steps to protect a building from further damage, how to dry out the building, how to return the utilities to operation, how to clean up a flooded or damaged basement or building, how to rebuild a damaged building, and how to prepare to minimize danger and damage hazards from future disasters.

We also provide special information about avoiding or minimizing mold damage in wet or flooded basements or buildings.

Warning: Do Not Enter a Flooded, Storm Damaged, or Earthquake or Hurricane Damaged Building in The Following Conditions

Also see BUILDING ENTRY for DAMAGE ASSESSMENT for additional details.

  • If the building is still flooded: Flood waters often undermine foundations, causing sinking, floors can crack or break and buildings can collapse.
  • Collapse hazards: If the building is damaged or has moved off of its foundation: Damage to the building may mean that there is a risk of collapse. buildings which have moved off of their foundation - ruptured gas or electrical lines are extremely dangerous.

    Even the smallest shift of a building on or off of its foundation, possibly less than an inch, can rupture gas piping or electrical wiring, creating a dangerous condition.
  • Electrocution hazards: If there are live electrical systems or wires: Where electrical wiring is live and wet or under water or even simply standing in water or on a wet surface without special protection can lead to a fatal electrical shock. See How to Turn Off the Power main fuse in a building that has been wet or flooded in Step 2, and see ELECTRICAL SAFETY for FLOOD DAMAGE INSPECTORS. At Step 2 we also warn about use of electrical generators.
  • Gas explosion hazards: If there there are damaged, loose, or broken gas piping or other fuel spills that could result in a fire or explosion. Make sure that all of the utilities, electricity, gas, even water, have been safely shut down. Turning off gas to a building is also discussed at Step2.
  • Buildings that have not been declared safe: Avoid entering ANY building (home, business, or other) before local officials have said it is safe to do so. buildings may have hidden damage that makes them unsafe.
  • Avoid disaster areas: Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations, and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods, such as contaminated waters, crumbled roads, landslides, mud flows, and other hazards.

Wet crawl space unsafe to enter (C) Daniel Friedman

    Flooded crawl spaces may be contaminated with sewage bacteria, mold, rodents, or chemicals.

    Flooded crawl spaces may be in danger from collapse of the structure overhead.

    There may be a danger of electrocution in crawl spaces, especially wet ones, if electrical power remains on.

Key Personal Safety Advice For Entering & Repairing a Building After a Disaster

Frost and water in basement ceiling (C) Daniel Friedman
  • Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio: or local radio or television stations and return home only when authorities indicate it is safe to do so. Flood dangers do not end when the water begins to recede; there may be flood-related hazards within your community, which you could hear about from local broadcasts.
  • Do not work alone: if you fall or are injured and are alone you may not receive prompt assistance. If you must work alone despite this advice, be sure you have a working radio or cell phone to use to summons assistance
  • Do not walk through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Most of these drownings occur during flash floods. Six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. Use a pole or stick to make sure that the ground is still there before you go through an area where the water is not flowing.
  • Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Don’t drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out.

  • Drinking water may be unavailable or it may be contaminated. Do not assume that municipal water or water from private wells is safe to drink.
  • Electrocution hazards: When leaving a building because of impending flooding, leave the electricity turned OFF. Do not turn electricity back on until the building is dry and safe. Using a portable electricity generator in a waterlogged or damaged home in a disaster area after hurricanes, earthquakes, floods can be very dangerous, risking death by electrocution, gas explosion, or by carbon monoxide poisoning. Above we also warned about electrocution hazards in buildings where the electricity has not been shut off. Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Electrocution is also a major killer in floods. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to your utility company or local emergency manager.
  • Gas leak risks: Watch out for gas leaks in flooded buildings - flooding moves buildings & causes gas line leaks.

    Do not Smoke Near or Inside buildings that Have not Been Declared Safe
    - a ruptured gas line or leaking gas from appliances could cause a gas explosion and fire. Do not smoke inside buildings. Smoking in a confined area can cause a fire or gas explosion. Do not turn electricity back on in a building where gas leaks could be present. Use a sealed flashlight for inspection, not a plug-in light.

    Don’t smoke or use candles, lanterns, or open flames unless you are sure that the gas has been turned off and the area has been aired out. Carbon monoxide exhaust kills. Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machine outdoors. The same goes for camping stoves. Fumes from charcoal are especially deadly-cook with charcoal only outdoors.
  • Mold, Muck, Insects, Toxic Sludge & Toxic Dust Hazards exist in flooded or storm damaged buildings - a mixture of household chemicals, paints, stored gasoline, lead, sewer or septic system backup, debris and possibly asbestos. Do not begin cleanup efforts without understanding the hazards that may be present and be sure to use the necessary protective clothing and equipment.
  • Report broken utility lines: such as electrical, gas, water or sewer piping to the appropriate authorities. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury. Check with your utility company now about where broken lines should be reported.
  • Septic system hazards: include sewage-contaminated floods in buildings and risk of collapsing septic systems.
    See Septic & Cesspool Safety; rope off and prevent access to areas over or close to the septic tank until its condition has been investigated.

    See SEPTIC SYSTEM FLOOD DAMAGE REPAIR for advice on repairing septic systems that have been flooded.

    If your septic system has been flooded we link to an article on flooded septic systems outlining what to do about that system as well.
  • Turn off your electricity when you return home. Follow the instructions in Step 2. Give Your Home First Aid. Some appliances, such as television sets, can shock you even after they have been unplugged. Don’t use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.

    Watch out: do not touch electrical equipment, not even to open the electrical panel door if you are standing in water or on a wet surface unless you have special training and protective gear as there is a risk of death by electrocution. Call your emergency services who can turn off power to the building from outside, typically at the power pole or by pulling the electric meter.

  • Watch for animals, especially snakes. Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may shelter in yours. Use a pole or stick to seek poke and turn items over and scare away small animals.
  • Watch out for broken glass, nails, debris: Look before you step. After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris including broken bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can be very slippery.
  • Clean [or dispose of] everything that got wet. Floodwaters have picked up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories, and storage buildings. Spoiled food and flooded cosmetics and medicines are health hazards. When in doubt throw them out.
  • Take good care of yourself. Recovering from a flood is a big job. It is tough on both the body and the spirit. And the effects a disaster has on you and your family may last a long time. Read Step 1 on how to recognize and care for anxiety, stress, and fatigue.

What to do to Prevent Mold Growth After a Building Flood or Burst Pipe

  • FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT & CLEANUP PRIORITIES lists key actions you should take after building flooding to minimize mold damage, and includes some safety warnings. These are quick, simple steps to minimize mold damage in a flooded building.
  • Separately at INEFFECTIVE MOLD PRODUCTS we also list after-flood "anti-mold" procedures that do not work or are unsafe - to help you avoid unnecessary expense in dealing with mold after a building flood.
  • If your building has just been flooded by rising flood waters, a burst pipe, a waste line leak, a sewer backup, or other event, immediate action may prevent a very costly mold cleanup. Review this checklist. If your building already has an actual or suspected mold problem, review
    the Mold Action Guide web pages (seelinks listed at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article ). If you did not take the steps in "Building Floods" below and are reading this section days or weeks after the flooding event, a comprehensive building survey for hidden mold or other contaminants may be needed before a full building cleanup plan can be made.
  • FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP lists the very first priorities for health and safety after a flood and during building damage assessment following flooding. This post-flooding priority advice has been prepared by combining information from expert sources. It applies to flood damage and hurricane damage relief and assistance workers, FEMA, Red Cross, and other volunteers, as well as home owners and home inspectors. The article also includes a checklist of building entry & damage control steps following an earthquake, flood, fire, or other disaster.

Hazards in and around flooded buildings include risk of structural collapse, risk of septic system collapse, trip and fall injury hazards, electrical shock hazards, fire and explosion hazards where natural gas or bottled gas are present, toxic sludge and materials containing waterborne bacteria, such as the E. coli and Enterococci bacteria, toxic mold growth indoors.

If your building is already moldy or if you suspect mold related illness in your building, we link to a step by step
Mold Action Guide
dealing with toxic or allergenic indoor mold and other indoor contaminants: when and how to inspect or test for mold, when to hire an expert, how to clean up a moldy area, when and how to perform post-remediation mold testing. Extensive, technically detailed in-depth articles on other mold detection, testing, and prevention methods are organized at
our Mold Information Center.

Before Accessing the Expanded/Annotated FEMA/ARC Book on Rebuilding Your Home After a Flood

The online version of the original FEMA/ARC book gives step-by-step advice you can use to clean up, rebuild, and get help after a flood. Before you start, read the safety precautions at the top of this document and review the nine steps that are summarized on the contents pages.

Your home and its contents may look beyond hope, but many of your belongings can be restored. If you do things right, your flooded home can be cleaned up, dried out, rebuilt, and reoccupied sooner than you think. While you are doing the job ahead, you should remember these three important points:

  1. Play it safe. The dangers are not over when the water goes down. Read the safety precautions at the top of this document. Your home’s foundation may have been weakened, the electrical system may have shorted out, and floodwaters may have left behind things that could make you sick. Many flooded items, such as wallboard and mattresses, will hold mud and contamination forever. When in doubt, throw it out. Don’t risk injury or infection.
  2. Ask for help. Many people can do a lot of the clean up and repairs discussed in this book. But if you have technical questions or do not feel comfortable doing something, get professional help. If there is a federal disaster declaration, a telephone “hotline” will often be publicized to provide information about public, private, and voluntary agency programs to help you recover from the flood. Government disaster programs are there to help you, the taxpayer. You’re paying for them; check them out.
  3. Floodproof. It is very likely that your home will be flooded again someday. Floodproofing means using materials and practices that will prevent or minimize flood damage in the future. Many floodproofing techniques are inexpensive or can be easily incorporated into your rebuilding program. You can save a lot of money by floodproofing as you repair and rebuild. See Step 8. You should also prepare for the next flood by buying flood insurance and writing a flood response plan.

Continue reading at Step 1. Take Care of Yourself First - separate article - Protect yourself and your family from stress, fatigue, and health hazards that follow a flood.


Original FEMA/ARC Article, Herein Annotated, Expanded, and Linked to Additional Details found at InspectApedia.com

  1. Step 1. Take Care of Yourself First - separate article - Protect yourself and your family from stress, fatigue, and health hazards that follow a flood.
  2. Step 2. Give Your Home First Aid - separate article- Once it is safe to go back in, protect your home and contents from further damage.
  3. Step 3. Get Organized - separate article - Some things are not worth repairing and some things may be too complicated or expensive for you to do by yourself. A recovery plan can take these things into account and help you make the most of your time and money.
  4. Step 4. BUILDING DRY-OUT PROCEDURES - separate article - Floodwaters damage materials, leave mud, silt and unknown contaminants, and promote the growth of mildew. You need to dry your home to reduce these hazards and the damage they cause.
  5. Step 5. RESTORE UTILITIES AFTER FLOODING - separate article - The rest of your work will be much easier if you have heat, electricity, clean water, and sewage disposal.
  6. Step 6. FLOOD DAMAGED BUILDING CLEAN-UP - separate article - The walls, floors, closets, shelves, contents and any other flooded parts of your home should be thoroughly washed and disinfected.
  7. Step 7. Check on Financial Assistance - separate article - Voluntary agencies, businesses, insurance, and government disaster programs can help you through recovery.
  8. Step 8. Rebuild and Floodproof - separate article - Take your time to rebuild correctly and make improvements that will protect your building from damage by the next flood.
  9. Step 9. FLOOD & STORM INSURANCE - separate article - Protect yourself from the next flood with flood insurance, a flood response plan, and community flood protection programs. This step also includes sources to go to for additional assistance.

The original version of this information is published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross to help flooded property owners. It is designed to be easily copied. Permission to reproduce all or any section of this material is hereby granted and encouraged.

Copies of this book are available

  • Online in expanded, annotated format right here at FLOOD DAMAGE CLEANUP & REPAIR GUIDE
  • From your local Red Cross chapter
  • By writing: FEMA at P. O. Box 2012 Jessup, MD 20794-2012 Following A Flood


The original form of this book was prepared for the Federal Emergency Management Agency under Contract Number EMW-89-C-3024 and EMW-91K-3738.

InspectApedia has added annotations, comments, and links to online articles giving corrections or greater depth to the original EPA/ARC document.

FEMA and the American Red Cross gratefully acknowledge the thoughtful assistance provided by the many individuals who reviewed this book. Reviewers included repair and reconstruction contractors, mental health professionals, sociologists, researchers, disaster assistance specialists, insurance experts, underwriters, structural engineers, public health agents, floodplain managers, emergency managers, education specialists, editorial experts, and graphic designers.

Continue reading at Step 1. Take Care of Yourself First - separate article - Protect yourself and your family from stress, fatigue, and health hazards that follow a flood.

FEMA Regional Office Contact Information & Telephone Numbers

How to Contact FEMA
FEMA WEBSITE - how to contact FEMA directly for disaster aid - https://faq.fema.gov/ci/documents/submit
FEMA Region States in the FEMA Region FEMA Contact Information
FEMA Region I CT, ME, MA NH, RI, VT FEMA Region I J.W. McCormack POCH, Rm. 442 Boston, Massachusetts 021094595 (617) 223-9561
FEMA Region II NJ, NY, PR, VI FEMA Region II 26 Federal Plaza, Rm. 1337 New York, NY 10278-0002 (212) 225-7202
FEMA Region III DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV FEMA Region III Liberty Square Bldg., 2nd Floor 105 S. Seventh Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106-3392 (215) 931-5750
FEMA Region IV AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN FEMA Region IV 1371 Peachtree St., N.E., Suite 700 Atlanta, Georgia 30309-3108 (404) 853-4400
FEMA Region V IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI FEMA Region V 175 West Jackson Street, 4th Floor Chicago, Illinois 60604-2698 (312) 408-5533
FEMA Region VI AR, LA, NM, OK, TX FEMA Region VI Federal Regional Center., Rm. 206 800 N. Loop 288 Denton, Texas 76201-3698 (817) 898-5127
FEMA Region VII IA KS, MO, NE FEMA Region VII 911 Walnut Street, Room 200 Kansas City, Missouri 641062085 (816) 283-7002
FEMA Region VIII CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY FEMA Region VIII Denver Regional Center Building 710, Box 25267 Denver, Colorado 80225-0267 (303) 235-4830
FEMA Region IX AZ, CA, HI, NV FEMA Region IX Building 105 Presidio of San Francisco San Francisco, California 941291250 (415) 923-7176
FEMA Region X AK, ID, OR, WA FEMA Region X Federal Regional Center 130 228th St., S.W. Bothell, Washington 98021-9796 (206) 487-4682
FEMA Publications   Federal Emergency
Management Agency
Attn: Publications
P. O. Box 2012
Jessup, MD 20794-2012

FEMA Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief & Emergency Assistance Act

The Stafford Act, (properly named as below) defines the scope and authority of the assistance to be provided by the U.S. Federal Government to state and local governments in alleviating both human suffering and property damage resulting from various disasters. For access to the full details of the act use the web link provided below or see the document directly from the link we provide. Two definitions in the act are helpful in understanding the scope of responsibility of the federal government. The first explains that the U.S. President has the authority to declare a disaster and the second defines "Major Disaster" - Quoting [9]

“Emergency” means any occasion or instance for which, in the determination of the President, Federal assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States.

“Major disaster” means any natural catastrophe (including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought), or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion, in any part of the United States, which in the determination of the President causes damage of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant major disaster assistance under this Act to supplement the efforts and available resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby.

  • Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief & Emergency Assistance Act, June 2007, full document [large PDF] Retrieved 12 /3/2012, original sourc: https://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=3564, [copy on file as Stafford_Act_FEMA_2007.pdf] Quoting:

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-707), signed into law on November 23, 1988; amended the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-288). The Stafford Act constitutes the statutory authority for most Federal disaster response activities especially as they pertain to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and FEMA programs. [9]

Important Telephone & Insurance Policy Numbers You Should Record for Your Home

Important Telephone Numbers for Your Home or Building
American Red Cross AMERICAN RED CROSS WEBSITE - how to contact the Red Cross - ARC -
Disaster Hotline (announced if there is a federal disaster declaration)  
Cooperative Extension Service  
Electrical & Gas Power Company  
Emergency Management Office  
Family Members  
Flood Insurance Policy Company Number  
Gas Company  
Hardware Stores & Building Suppliers  
Health Department  
Homeowner’s Insurance Policy Company Number  
Insurance Agent  
Lumber Companies  
Poison Control Center  
Wind and/or Hail Insurance Policy Company Number  



Continue reading at Step 1. Take Care of Yourself First or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

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FLOOD & DISASTER BUILDING DAMAGE REPAIR PROCEDURES at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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