Last week's violent storms were a reminder of what Mother Nature is capable of.
"Until somebody sees this can actually happen, they don't always realize it can," says Mark Kremer, an agent with Dupaco Insurance Services. "I've had customers say they've been in their house 40 years and have never had water in their basement like this."
If your home took on water, here's a look at the steps you should take, and some tips to help protect your home against flooding in the future.
- If your basement was flooded, get the water and any wet possessions out of there as fast as possible. "Once stuff is wet, it can start to mold and mildew very quickly, especially this time of year," Kremer says. "Mold is a bad word to insurance companies." Take proper safety precautions: Kill power to the basement before entering the water, and be careful with exposure to the water, which could contain any number of unknown substances.
- Call your insurance agent. Find out whether your insurance company will cover any of the damage. "Worst case scenario is they're going to tell you that you don't have any kind of coverage, but let them be the one to tell you that," Kremer says.
- Take pictures - both before you start removing water and during the cleanup process to document the damage for your insurance provider.
- Save any receipts related to the damage: fan purchases or rentals, a new sump pump, you name it. Your insurance provider might reimburse you for some of those purchases.
- While memories of the surreal rainfall are fresh, review your homeowner's policy. If you have a sump pump or floor drains in your basement, consider adding water-sewer backup coverage to your policy. It will cover those times when your sump pump fails to do its job, when a power outage prevents your sump pump from running or when water or sewage enters your home through your floor drains. But remember: No homeowner's policy covers floods.
- A couple of times each year - in the spring and fall - make sure your gutters and downspouts are free of debris and secured appropriately.
- Periodically check to make sure your sump pump is working by testing it with a bucket of water. Ideally, the sump pump should be on its own circuit and not run through an extension cord.
- Keep landscaping sloped away from the house.
- Keep possessions in your basement elevated and away from areas known to take on moisture.