Thursday, July 19, 2001

Be wary of flood water

        Who knows where that flood water has been?

        Probably someplace dirtier than your basement, so treat it like it's dangerous, experts say.

        Here are tips on cleaning and staying healthy:

        • Use commercial disinfectants or a bleach solution (1 cup maximum for every gallon of water) to clean and disinfect.

        • Wear sturdy boots, heavy-duty gloves, long sleeves, insulated clothes and masks to avoid germs and fungi.

        • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or open cuts.

        • Put contaminated furniture, insulation and carpet in plastic bags if they have mildew or fungus.

        • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap before eating and after going to the bathroom.

        • Saturated upholstered furniture, mattresses and fabrics should be scrapped because of the bacteria drawn from contaminated water. Thorough cleaning is probably impossible or prohibitively expensive.

        • If rising water touched your things for only a short time, you might be able to save some items. Some rugs and carpets — nylon, those that weren't submerged or weren't submerged for long — can be saved, but moistened carpet pads should be discarded.

        • For items you want to save, rent a water extractor or hire a professional cleaning service to remove dirty water, then treat with deodorizer, fungicide and anti-mildew chemicals, available at hardware stores and cleaning services.

        • Don't be surprised if wooden furniture frames come apart when the components dry. They might need to be reglued or rescrewed.

        • Throw out perishable foods that have touched floodwater and canned goods that are bulging, leaking or dented; jars and cans of foods with screw-on and peel-off lids; pop-tops; wax seals, and paper juice boxes.

        Kevin Sullivan, owner of Kevin L. Sullivan Inc. in Anderson Township — an agent of Nationwide Insurance — said basement flooding is generally caused by one of three events:

        • Sump pump failure: An electric-powered sump pump automatically pumps water to prevent flooding in newer homes, but if the electricity goes out, the sump pump will not function. If the home owner has a water backup endorsement as a part of their homeowner's policy, flooding damage will be covered.

        • Window/door seepage: If water has flooded through a window or door — usually evident by water stains on walls — it usually is not covered by a water backup endorsement. It is considered flood damage and is covered by a separate flood policy.

        • Sewer backup: If a storm sewer backs up into a homeowner's basement, this is covered by the water backup endorsement as a part of their homeowner's policy.

        To prevent damage, Mr. Sullivan suggests:

        • Buying a battery backup for the sump pump if the power goes out.

        • Storing possessions at least 1 foot above the floor.
       Insurers can add coverage for future

        The Ohio Insurance Institute advises that homeowners concerned about flood damage inquire with their insurer about adding coverage to their policy.

        “Most companies offer sewer and drain backup as optional coverage, meaning that it can be added to your policy as an endorsement,” said Daniel J. Kelso, president of the institute.

        Such coverage runs about $50 annually.
       Enquirer reporters Mike Pulfer, Allen Howard and Emily Biuso contributed.


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