a Flood: The First Steps
home has been flooded. Although floodwaters may be down
in some areas, many dangers still exist. Here are some
things to remember in the days ahead.
Roads may still be closed because they have been damaged
or are covered by water. Barricades have been placed
for your protection. If you come upon a barricade
or a flooded road, go another way.
Keep listening to the radio for news about what to
do, where to go, or places to avoid.
Emergency workers will be assisting people in flooded
areas. You can help them by staying off the roads
and out of the way.
If you must walk or drive in areas that have been
on firm ground. Moving water only 6 inches deep
can sweep you off your feet. Standing water may
be electrically charged from underground or downed
Flooding may have caused familiar places to change.
Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways. Flood
debris may hide animals and broken bottles, and
it's also slippery. Avoid walking or driving through
Play it safe. Additional flooding or flash floods
can occur. Listen for local warnings and information.
If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, get out
immediately and climb to higher ground.
A flood can cause emotional and physical stress. You
need to look after yourself and your family as you
focus on cleanup and repair.
Rest often and eat well.
Keep a manageable schedule. Make a list and do
jobs one at a time.
Discuss your concerns with others and seek help.
Contact Red Cross for information on emotional
support available in your area.
Cleaning Up and Repairing Your Home
The American Red Cross can help you by providing you
with a voucher to purchase new clothing, groceries,
essential medications, bedding, essential furnishings,
and other items to meet emergency needs. Listen to
the radio to find out where to go for assistance,
or look up American Red Cross in the phone book and
The Red Cross can provide you with a cleanup kit:
mop, broom, bucket, and cleaning supplies.
Contact your insurance agent to discuss claims.
Listen to your radio for information on assistance
that may be provided by the state or federal government
or other organizations.
If you hire cleanup or repair contractors, be sure
they are qualified to do the job. Be wary of people
who drive through neighborhoods offering help in cleaning
up or repairing your home. Check references.
for the Care of Water-Damaged Family Heirlooms and Other
Following a disaster, people often lose family heirlooms
and other valuables to water damage. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) has obtained general information/recommendations
from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic
and Artistic Works (AIC) and the National Institute
for the Conservation of Cultural Property (NIC) for
homeowners regarding the recovery of water-damaged belongings.
Ten Tips for the Homeowner:
the object is still wet, rinse with clear, clean water
or a fine hose spray. Clean off dry silt and debris
from your belongings with soft brushes or dab with
damp cloths without grinding debris into objects.
Air dry objects indoors if possible. Sunlight and
heat may dry certain materials too quickly, causing
splits, warpage, and buckling.
The best way to inhibit growth of mold and mildew
is to reduce humidity. Increase air flow wi th fans,
open windows, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers.
Remove heavy deposits of mold growth from walls, baseboards,
floors, and other household surfaces with commercially
available disinfectants. Avoid the use of disinfectants
on historic wallpapers.
If objects are broken or begin to fall apart, place
all broken pieces, bits of veneer, and detached parts
in clearly labeled open containers. Do not attempt
to repair objects until completely dry or, in the
case of important materials, until you have consulted
with a professional conservator.
books, photographs and works of art on paper may be
extremely fragile when wet; use caution when handling.
Free the edges of prints and paper objects in mats
and frames, if possible. These should be allowed to
air dry. Rinse mud off wet photographs with clear
water, but do not touch surfaces. Sodden books and
papers should also be air dried, or may be kept in
a refrigerator or freezer until they can be treated
by a professional conservator.
Textiles, leather, and other "organic" materials
will also be severely affected by exposure to water
and should be allowed to air dry.
Remove wet paintings from the frame but not from the
stretcher. Air dry, face up, away from direct sunlight.
Furniture finishes and painting surfaces may develop
a white haze or bloom from contact with water and
humidity. These problems do not require immediate
attention. Consult a professional conservator for
Rinse metal objects exposed to flood waters, mud,
or silt with clear water and dry immediately with
a clean, soft cloth. Allow heavy mud deposits on large
metal objects, such as sculpture, to dry. Caked mud
can be removed later. Consult a professional conservator
for further treatment.
Because the information given above is general,
FEMA, AIC and NIC strongly recommend that professional
conservators be consulted as to the appropriate method
of treatment for historic objects. Professional conservators
may be contacted through the FREE Conservation Services
Referral System of the American Institute for Conservation
of Historic and Artistic Works, 1717 K Street, NW, Ste.
301, Washington, DC 20006; (202) 452-9545; fax: (202)
452-9328. Based on a complete description of the artifact,
a computer-generated list of conservators will be compiled
and grouped geographically, by specialization, and by
type of service provided.
Reclaiming Precious Heirlooms and Other Items
from Flood Waters
Flood waters leave significant structural devastation
in their wake, but sometimes the most wrenching losses
are the smallest - personal items such as heirlooms,
photographs, textiles and books. With proper handling,
however, some of these items may be reclaimed from the
The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers these
tips based on recommendations of the American Institute
for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and
the Heritage Preservation.
wet photos carefully; the surfaces may be fragile.
Wet photos may be rinsed in clean water and sealed
in a plastic garbage bag with a tie or a Zip-Lock
type plastic bag. If possible, put wax paper between
each photo. If a freezer is available, freeze the
photos immediately. Later, photos may be defrosted,
separated and air-dried.
If no freezer or refrigerator is available, rinse
wet photos in clean water and dry them, face up, in
a single layer on a clean surface (a table, window
screen or clean plastic laid out on the ground). Don't
dry photos in direct sunlight. Don't worry if the
photos curl as they dry. A photo expert can be contacted
later about flattening them.
Valuable textiles, such as quilts, laces, needlework
or tapestries, will be weaker and heavier when wet
and will require extra care. Wear plastic disposable
gloves, protective clothing, goggles, and if possible,
use a respirator while working on flood-damaged textiles
Do not attempt to unfold extremely delicate fabrics
if the fragile layers are stuck together. Wait until
they are dry and consult a conservator.
To remove mud and debris, re-wet the textiles with
gently flowing clean water or with a fine hose spray.
Gently press water out with the palm of your hand.
Don't wring or twist dry. Remove excess water with
dry towels, blotting paper or blank newsprint, especially
if the dyes are bleeding. Avoid stacking textiles
while drying. Reshape the textile while it is damp
to approximate its original contours.
Don't place textiles in sealed plastic bags. Air dry
indoors with the lights on to inhibit mold and circulate
the air with air conditioning, fans and open windows.
Use a dehumidifier in the room with the wet textiles
and drain the collecting container often.
If heirloom items are broken or begin to fall apart,
place broken pieces, bits of veneer and detached parts
in labeled open containers. Don't attempt to repair
objects until completely dry or, in the case of important
materials, until you consult with a professional conservator.
Documents, books and works of art on paper may be
extremely fragile when wet. Free the edges of prints
and paper objects in mats and frames, if possible.
These should be allowed to air dry. Sodden papers
should also be air dried or may be kept in a refrigerator
or freezer until they can be treated by a professional
Remove wet paintings from the frame but not from the
stretcher. Air dry, face up, away from direct sunlight.
If the books are underwater or soaking wet, pick up
each one with both hands and place it in a non-paper
container (milk crate, wire basket, etc.) so it can
be transported safely to an area where it can dry.
Keep the book closed while you move it; wet books
are very fragile. Remember: the wetter the book, the
heavier it is and the more likely to be damaged by
The best way to dry books is with cool, dry, circulating
air. Never dry them by using an oven, microwave, hair
dryer or iron. If the volume is very wet, place it
flat on a clean table or bench that is covered with
absorbent material. Carefully place sheets of absorbent
material (paper towels, blotters or uninked newsprint)
between sections of pages. Don't distort the binding,
though. Change the sheets as they become wet. To speed
drying, change the location of the blotters each time
they are replaced. With books that have coated pages,
use waxed paper instead of absorbent sheets between
If the volume is damp or only partially wet, stand
it upright on its driest edge with its pages fanned
open. If you are using fans to keep the air circulating,
make sure the spines or covers are facing the breeze.
If needed, insert blotting materials between pages.
Once the book is dry but feels cool to the touch,
close it and place it on its side with a slight weight
on it. Check regularly for mold growth. You can also
freeze the books to be defrosted and dried later,
when conditions improve.
Professional conservators may be contacted through
the free Conservation Services Referral System of the
American Institute for Conservation of Historic and
Artistic Works, 1717 K Street, NW, Ste. 301, Washington,
DC 20006; (202) 452-9545.
Product Safety Commission Alert
Courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission,
Washington, D.C. 20207
Safety Tips for Flood Victims
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends
several safety tips to the victims of floods. This safety
alert illustrates some dangerous practices which consumers
may be tempted to engage in during efforts to rebuild
or while staying in temporary housing, tents, or partially
damaged homes. This information is provided in an effort
to prevent injuries and deaths from consumer products
as flood survivors make new beginnings. "We hope
this information helps prevent product-related injuries
and deaths during these difficult times." -- Chairman
Do not use electrical appliances that have been
wet. Water can damage the motors in electrical
appliances, such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators,
washing machines, and dryers.
If electrical appliances have been under water,
have them dried out and reconditioned by a qualified
service repairman. Do not turn on damaged electrical
appliances because the electrical parts can become grounded
and pose an electric shock hazard or overheat and cause
a fire. Before flipping a switch or plugging in an appliance,
have an electrician check the house wiring and appliance
to make sure it is safe to use.
Electricity and water don't mix.
Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help
prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries.
Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available
at prices ranging from $12 to $30.
When using a "wet-dry vacuum cleaner,"
be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions to
avoid electric shock.
Do not allow the power cord connections to become wet.
Do not remove or bypass the ground pin on the three-prong
plug. Use a GFCI to prevent electrocution.
NEVER remove or bypass the ground pin
on a three-pronged plug in order to insert it into a
NEVER allow the connection between
the machine's power cord and the extension cord to lie
To prevent a gas explosion and fire, have gas
appliances (natural gas and LP gas) inspected and cleaned
If gas appliances have been under water, have them inspected
and cleaned and their gas controls replaced. The gas
company or a qualified appliance repair person or plumber
should do this work. Water can damage gas controls so
that safety features are blocked, even if the gas controls
appear to operate properly. If you suspect a gas leak,
don't light a match, use any electrical appliance, turn
lights on or off, or use the phone. These may produce
sparks. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater.
If you smell gas or hear gas escaping, turn off the
main valve, open windows, leave the area immediately,
and call the gas company or a qualified appliance repair
person or plumber for repairs. Never store flammable
materials near any gas appliance or equipment.
Check to make sure your smoke detector is functioning.
Smoke detectors can save your life in a fire. Check
the battery frequently to make sure it is operating.
Fire extinguishers also are a good idea.
Gasoline is made to explode!
Never use gasoline around ignition sources such as cigarettes,
matches, lighters, water heaters, or electric sparks.
Gasoline vapors can travel and be ignited by pilot light
or other ignition sources. Make sure that gasoline powered
generators are away from easily combustible materials.
Chain saws can cause serious injuries. Chain saws can
be hazardous, especially if they "kick back."
To help reduce this hazard, make sure that your chain
saw in equipped with the low-kickback chain. Look for
other safety features on chain saws, including hand
guard, safety tip, chain brake, vibration reduction
system, spark arrestor on gasoline models, trigger or
throttle lockout, chain catcher, and bumper spikes.
Always wear shoes, gloves, and protective glasses. On
new saws, look for certification to the ANSI B-175.1
When cleaning up from a flood, store medicines
and chemicals away from young children. Poisonings can
happen when young children swallow medicines and household
Keep household chemicals and medicines locked up away
from children. Use the child resistant closures that
come on most medicines and chemicals.
Burning charcoal gives off carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide
has no odor and can kill you. Never burn charcoal inside
homes, tents, campers, vans, cars, trucks, garages,
or mobile homes.
WARNING: Submerged gas control valves, circuit
breakers, and fuses pose explosion and fire hazard!
Replace all gas control valves, circuit breakers, and
fuses that have been under water:
GAS CONTROL VALVES on furnaces, water
heaters, and other gas appliances that have been under
water are unfit for continued use. If they are used,
they could cause a fire or an explosion. Silt and corrosion
from flood water can damage internal components of control
valves and prevent proper operation. Gas can leak and
result in an explosion or fire. Replace ALL gas control
valves that have been under water.
ELECTRIC CIRCUIT BREAKERS AND FUSES
can malfunction when water and silt get inside. Discard
ALL circuit breakers and fuses that have been submerged.