Seeing houses and property affected by flooding can be both frightening and sad. Many questions may arise once the waters recede. Here is some advice for those returning home after a flood.
Injuries from flooding are treated by medical personnel on site or in a hospital. Some people may experience psychological reactions after the incident itself. If you are concerned about your own or someone else's health after a flood, please contact your family doctor or the emergency room.
Also remember to check what municipal services may be available to you. In extreme weather incidents, a separate hotline or point of contact is often set up for people who need someone to talk to.
It may be unsafe to stay in a dwelling or on a property that has been subject to flooding. If you had to leave your home due to an evacuation order, do not return until the evacuation order is lifted by the police. Never enter a restricted access area – even if you own the property.
After a flood, you should contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Consider taking pictures of the damage if it is safe to do so. Make a list of destroyed belongings and keep receipts if they have not been destroyed by the water. Be aware that the house or building and the contents are often insured by two different insurance policies – sometimes even by different companies. Remember to notify both if this is the case. Your insurance company will guide you through the process.
After a deluge or flood, there may be a risk of being exposed to infection from unclean water and soil. A few simple precautions can protect those who enter to clean up. When entering a previously flood-affected area, there may be obvious causes of infection risk, such as sewage and runoff from a farm's manure cellar. Even if there is no visible contamination or no odour is detected, there may still be infectious agents from other sources that are not detectable. That is why you should always take into account that anything that has been in contact with floodwater may be contaminated.
The fire department can help pump out water that has accumulated in a house during a flood. There will always be a high demand for fire department resources following major incidents. As a result, you may not be able to get help as quickly as you would like.
There are companies that provide services and machines that make the cleaning job easier, especially in the event of major water damage. There are also private companies that can repair documents and valuables that are damaged by water. Other companies offer cleaning with special appliances that can remove odours and moisture.
Unless the police have restricted access to the property, it is your responsibility to look after your house and belongings. This is especially important if you are going to apply for compensation for damages from your insurance company. If it is impossible to live in the residence, close and lock windows and doors if possible. Doors and windows that cannot be closed in the usual way can be covered with boards or planks that are nailed down. If it is safe to do so, remove valuables and other belongings that are not damaged.
The electrical system in your home may be disconnected or damaged as a result of flooding. Before putting a flood-damaged electrical system back into service, it must be checked by an electrician. If you come home to a flood-damaged home where the power is still on, provided you can reach the fuse box safely, turn off circuits where equipment or electrical outlets have been exposed to water. Electrical appliances that have been exposed to water must be disposed of or inspected by a professional before use.
Flooding can damage water pipes below ground, causing drinking water to become contaminated or destroying the pipes completely. In such cases, the municipality will provide you with information on what to do; for example, if it is necessary to boil water before drinking it. Floodwater can also damage water pipes inside a home. If you know or see that the floodwater has been in contact with the plumbing system in your home, a plumber should inspect it to make sure it is not damaged before turning on the water.
Do not drink water from wells that may be exposed to floodwater. If necessary, clean the well, and consider taking water samples before using the water for drinking again. Water should be boiled before use if there is any doubt about water quality.
In extreme weather and situations of severe flooding, the municipality often provides shelter for those who had to evacuate their homes. If your home is so damaged by flooding that you cannot stay there, check if you can stay overnight with friends or relatives. If you are in an emergency situation with nowhere to stay, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) is obligated to help you find temporary shelter within the municipality. You can read more about Temporary housing in case of emergencies on NAV's website (NAV.no).