It's a homeowner's nightmare. You wake up in the morning to find a couple of feet of water in your basement. Once you get over the shock of what has happened, it's time to take quick action. The sooner you act, the more likely it is that you can save some of your personal items. Here is what to do should you ever wake up to this catastrophe.

Safety is Your Priority

You need to make a quick assessment of two things:

  • Are there any electrical outlets or wires under water?
  • What is the source of the flood water?

Water and electricity don't mix and put you at risk of getting electrocuted. Circuit breakers may have already tripped off for the area; in that case, you're safe. If they haven't and you can get to the circuit breaker panel, shut off everything in the basement. If you can't get to the circuit panel without walking through the flood water, contact an emergency plumber or water damage specialist to handle the electricity for you.

Once the electricity has been taken care of, find out where the water is coming from. Based on the water source and the contaminates in the water, there may be health risks in the flood water.

Categorizing Flood Water

Companies specializing in water damage restoration classify flood water one of three ways:

  • Category 1 - This is clean water with no contaminates that will harm you, even if you swallow the water. A broken water supply pipe, overflowing kitchen sink or bathtub are examples of category 1 flood water.
  • Category 2 - This is called grey water and it contains contaminates that could harm you if you swallowed it. This would be water from an overflowing toilet or a dishwasher.
  • Category 3 - This water is highly contaminated and will harm you if you get it on your skin. This is black water and comes from places like a backed up sewer.

You should only work in the flood water if you know the source to be clean. Allow a plumber or water damage service to deal with water that is contaminated in any amount.

Salvaging Personal Items

If you know the source of the flood water to be clean and there is no risk of electrical shock, you can save some of your household items with the following tips:

  • Get damp or partially submerged items out of the water first, followed by items that are soaked.
  • Place wet items in a dry area with one or more fans blowing on them.
  • Put large pieces of furniture up on blocks or something else substantial to get them up out of the water.

The first step is to dry these items thoroughly, then assess whether they can be saved.

  • Paper items, such as books and magazines, will swell and likely cannot be saved.
  • Important papers can be dried out and photographed or copied.
  • Photos may be saved by sandwiching them between paper towels and putting something heavy on them to prevent curling.
  • Any fabric and upholstery must be washed and dried to prevent the development of mildew.

Should your items become soaked with category 2 or 3 water, they must be disinfected before saving which will likely damage the items. They will also be very expensive to try to save.

For more information, talk to a company like Servicemaster Of Martinsburg & Hagerstown.