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Florida is a state with ample coastline and a subtropical climate, complete with monsoon-like rains. As such, it’s important to be prepared for possible flooding. Over $17 million in flood claims were paid to Floridians from October 2015 to September 2016 alone, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP. It’s safe to say that flood awareness and preparedness should be standard knowledge in every Floridian household.

Dealing with the water damage quickly and safely is vital to getting the home repaired. Here are some of the first things to do if your home is flooded:

Get help for essential needs

Getting to your flooded home may be foremost in your mind, but you should first make sure you and your family are safe.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends seeking help from the American Red Cross, which will likely be in the area. It can provide vouchers so you can buy new clothing, groceries, essential medications, bedding, essential furnishings and other items for emergency needs.

How to travel

Flooded roads may be closed, so if you see a barricade or flooded road, go another way, the Red Cross and FEMA recommend. Listen to the radio about what to do, where to go and places to avoid.

If you’re going to walk in areas that have been flooded, stay on firm ground. Moving water only six inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Flood debris may hide animals and broken bottles, and everything will be slippery.

Avoid electrical risks

Standing water may be electrically charged from downed power lines, so avoid it.

If you can safely turn off the electricity and water to your home, do so. If you’re unsure, call your utility company to see if they can turn them off.

Even if the power to your home isn’t working, turn off the main breaker in your fuse box and all the individual fuse connections. This will prevent any risk of electrocution if you are standing in charged water when the power does come back on.

Take photos

After your home is safe to enter, start taking photos or videos of the home and your damaged personal property. Don’t start cleaning up immediately, removing water or making repairs.

The photos will help insurance adjustors determine the amount of damage. Removing water or cleaning up before taking photos could lessen the extent of the damage and thus your insurance coverage.

Call your insurer

You hopefully have the phone numbers of your insurance company and local agent in your disaster kit. Your agent may be busy handling their own flooding or dealing with an overload of clients, so call your insurance company’s headquarters too.

Tell your insurance representative what shape your home is in and the immediate repairs it needs. Follow their directions regarding whether you should wait for an adjustor to inspect the home before making repairs.

An insurance claim for minimal damage may take only a week to resolve, while it can take up to six months for major repairs to be completed with a contractor and insurance adjustor.

Removing water and mold

If your insurer has given you the green light to begin making repairs, you can start doing the work yourself or hire professionals.

A sump pump or water vacuum can be used to remove water. If doors and windows can be opened safely and don’t allow in more water, open them to let fresh air in to circulate.

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