Flooding Cleanup: Tips on How to Stay Safe, Repair Your Home - NBC Chicago

Flooding Cleanup: Tips on How to Stay Safe, Repair Your Home



    Evacuations Begin Along Flooded Illinois River

    Some residents in LaSalle County are being urged to leave their homes voluntarily as floodwaters rise on the Illinois River. NBC 5's Ash-har Quraishi has the details. 

    (Published Thursday, May 2, 2019)

    Dealing with flooding - and not sure what to do? There are several important steps to take to repair your home and ensure that you and your family stay safe.

    From sources like the American Red Cross, the National Weather Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are a few tips for dealing with the aftermath of a flood:


    • Continue listening to local radio and TV stations for the latest information and updates
    • Turn off power and water mains if told to do so by local authorities
    • Boil tap water until water sources have been declared safe
    • Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula
    • Avoid contact with floodwater, which could be contaminated with sewage or contain dangerous insects
    • Don't use gas or electrical appliances that have been flooded
    • Dispose of any food that comes into contact with flood water, including canned goods, plastic utensils, sealed containers. When it doubt, throw it out
    • Do not walk, swim or drive through floodwater. Remember: Turn around, don't drown
    • If caught on a flooded road with rising waters, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground
    • If evacuated, only return when authorities say it is safe to do so
    • Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater
    • Ask a building inspector or contract to check your home's structure before entering
    • Check the outside of your home for loose power lines, broken gas lines, foundation cracks, missing support beams or other damage
    • Do not step in puddles or standing water if power lines are down outside your home
    • Report any downed power lines immediately to the power company
    • Don't force open a jammed door - it could be supporting the rest of your home
    • Sniff for gas. If you smell natural or propane gas, or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and call the fire department
    • If you have a propane tank system, turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier to check it out before using it again
    • Beware of animals like rodents, snakes, spiders, etc. that may have entered your home. Tap the floor loudly and often with a stick to give notice that you are there
    • Be careful when moving near damaged objects like furniture or stairs, as they could be unstable
    • Don't hold, push or lean against damaged building parts
    • Check to see if your ceiling is sagging. If so, that means it got wet, which makes it heavy and dangerous and it will need to be replaced
    • Check to see if the floor is sagging. If so, be very careful as it could collapse under your weight. Small sections that sag can be bridged with thick, strong boards or plywood panels
    • If the weather is dry, open windows and doors to ventilate your home
    • If the power is out, use a flashlight to see. Do not use any open flame, including candles, to inspect for damage or as alternate lighting
    • Make temporary repairs, like covering holes, bracing walls and removing debris. Save all receipts
    • Take pictures of home damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes
    • If you see sparks, broken or frayed wires, or smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker
    • If there is a pool of water on the floor between you and the circuit breaker, use a dry wooden stick to try to reach it but do not step or stand in the water
    • If you see a tripped breaker, do not turn it on. It may indicate damaged wiring and you should call an electrician
    • If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using sinks, showers or toilets and call a plumber
    • If water pipes are damaged, turn off the water at the main valve and call a plumber
    • If you have a heating oil tank system, turn off all valves and contact a professional before using it again
    • Disconnect and check all appliances for damage before using them, including major ones like your home's air conditioner
    • Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots, when cleaning up. Wear a protective mask to prevent breathing mold spores
    • Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected, like mattresses, carpeting, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys
    • Use a wet-dry vacuum and pumps to remove water from inside and pump it away from your home
    • Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage. If you pump too quickly, pressure from the water-saturated soil outside could cause basement walls to collapse
    • Take steps to ensure that more water doesn't come into your home from the area you just drained. This could include sandbagging or diverting the water by creating channels for it to flow away
    • Inspect the roof and ensure any leaks are tarped or sealed
    • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible
    • Put together a work list and determine what you can do yourself and what you will need a professional for. You should always ask professionals if you need to: raise your furnace, water heater and electric panel to higher floors, install check valves in plumbing, construct barriers like levees or flood walls, and seal walls in basements to avoid seepage
    • If your walls are impacted, you will need to cut out the wet drywall at least to the flood level, then treat the wood and wall against mold and put up new drywall
    • Plaster and paneling can often be saved, but air must be circulated in the wall cavities to dry the studs and sills
    • Styrofoam insulation may need to be hosed off, while fiberglass insulation should be thrown away if muddy, but reused if dried thoroughly. Loose or blown-in cellulose insulation should be replaced as it holds water and can lose its anti-fungal abilities
    • You will also have to treat the floors and determine what you need to do to restore your floors to normal. With wood sub-flooring, the floor covering (vinyl, linoleum, carpet) must be removed so the sub-flooring can dry thoroughly
    • Clean every surface by scrubbing with hot water and a heavy-duty cleaner, then disinfect with a solution of 1/4-cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water
    • Immerse glass, porcelain, china, plastic dinnerware and enamelware for 10 minutes in a disinfecting solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of hot water. Air-dry dishes and do not use a towel
    • Disinfect silverware, metal utensils, and pots and pans by boiling in water for 10 minutes but do not use bleach as it reacts with many metals
    • Clean and rinse cupboards and counters with a chlorine bleach solution before storing dishes
    • Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to remove moisture, and fans to circulate air in the house
    • If mold and mildew have already developed, brush items off outdoors to prevent scattering spores in the house
    • Vacuum floors, ceilings and walls to remove mildew then wash with a disinfectant
    • Take furniture, rugs, bedding and clothing outside to dry as soon as possible. Upholstered furniture soaks up contaminants from floodwaters and should be cleaned only by a professional
    • Wood veneered furniture is usually not worth the cost and effort of repair. Solid wood furniture can usually be restored, depending on the severity of the damage
    • Photographs, books and important papers can be frozen and cleaned later. Wash any mud off and store them in plastic bags in a frost-free freezer to protect from mildew and further damage until you have time to thaw and clean them or take them to a professional
    • Be careful with your emotional recovery by paying attention to your mental health: eat healthy, drink plenty of water, get some rest, be patient, ask for support, tackle tasks in small steps

    Here's When Chicago Area Will See Flooding Relief

    [CHI] Here's When Chicago Area Will See Flooding Relief

    When will the Chicago area see relief from flooding? Meteorologist Joey Miller tracks the river gauges.

    (Published Thursday, May 2, 2019)

    Get the latest from NBC Chicago anywhere, anytime

    • Download the NBC Chicago App

      Download the App

      Available for iOS and Android