Monday, March 10, 1997
Advice for flood victims

Get electrical inspection

Electric service to flooded homes should not be reconnected without having building, electrical and gas inspections. A significant risk of electrical damage and fire could occur without the proper inspection. Inspections are an absolute necessity for any building that was flooded.

The Ohio Department of Commerce is scheduling building, electrical and plumbing inspections for residents and businesses affected by the flood. Property owners who wish to schedule inspections should call (800) 523-3581 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily. Residents of Hamilton and Clermont counties should contact their local building permit office.

Officials in Kenton and Campbell counties are working with the Northern Kentucky Building Inspectors Association to offer free initial-damage inspections to residents whose homes were damaged by flooding. They also will provide information about how to get the certified electrical inspections before electricity is restored. There will be a fee for electrical inspections.

Residents who need inspections should call the Kenton County Emergency Operations Center at 658-5188. Kenton County residents who need an electrical inspection should call 431-0777. Campbell County inspections are being done street-by-street in affected areas.

Food precautions

Ohio Department of Agriculture food safety experts offer the following food-related tips:

Dispose of canned foods that show signs of rust, leaking, swelling, damaged seams or dents.

Undamaged cans can be scrubbed in clean water with a stiff brush, then submerged in a solution of chlorine bleach (2 tablespoons of bleach to one gallon of water) for 20 minutes.

After a power outage, all perishable foods requiring freezing or refrigeration should be thrown out regardless of water damage. Contaminated food should be placed in insect-and rodent-proof trash containers.

Check operation of refrigerators/freezers. If motor was submerged, make sure it is thoroughly dried or that a service rep checks before restarting.

Food-related questions can be answered by calling the Ohio Department of Agriculture's consumer hot line, (800) 282-1955, or its Division of Foods, Dairies & Drugs, (614) 728-6250.

Avoiding scams

Legal experts in the Tristate are warning consumers to be cautious when choosing a contractor to repair damage from the flood.

These tips may help consumers avoid complications and scams:

Be cautious of a contractor who does not provide proper identification, does not have a permanent place of business, cannot provide references or who insists on a large payment before work begins.

Never sign over insurance checks to contractors. Instead, arrange for a certificate of completion with your pay.

Before paying any bill, insist that the contractor provide you with a sworn statement that all materials have been paid for and all subcontractors have been paid. This protects you from liens that may be placed on the property.

Get estimates. Talk to more than one contractor and get a written estimate from each.

Find out what the work will involve, how long it will take, how much it will cost and what warranties are included.

Read the contract. Never sign or initial any document until you understand its purpose.

Sewers/drains

Roto-Rooter will deduct 20 percent of all labor charges for flood victims who need assistance from plumbing or sewer/drain cleaning technicians.

Call (513) 541-3840.

As the cleanup process begins, Roto-Rooter suggests these tips:

Before calling a plumber, try to use a plunger to clear stopped-up drains.

Don't sweep mud and grime down the drain. This can cause major back-up problems in drains. Try to shovel it outside instead.

Make sure water heaters and furnaces are cleaned and operational before lighting the pilot light. Failure to do this could cause an explosion in the unit.

Commuting

Metro's downtown and Cinergy Field circulator buses have been discontinued.

Metro shuttle service to the Museum Center at Union Terminal resumes today, and some additional service will be provided to Beechmont Mall. The company will determine whether those services will be needed after today.

Information about road conditions, including weather, accidents and delays, is available via the Internet and phone. The Kentucky Road Report can be reached at (800) 459-7623. The Web site is http://www.kytc.state.ky.us

For information in Ohio, call the Ohio Department of Transportation's office in Lebanon (covering Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Greene, Hamilton, Preble and Warren counties) at (513) 932-3030, (513) 421-9320 or (800) 831-2142. The state's Web site is http://www.state.oh.us

Temporary housing

Federal and state officials have issued a call to rental property owners in southern Ohio to come to the aid of the nearly 20,000 flood victims still unable to return to their homes.

''Thousands of Ohioans can't return to their residences until floodwaters recede and their homes are made safe,'' said David Skarosi of the Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA). ''Meanwhile, these individuals and families need short-term rental space, and FEMA will provide them with financial assistance.''

Anyone needing disaster housing assistance is urged to call the toll-free FEMA application hot line - (800) 462-9029.

FEMA's disaster housing program assists homeowners and renters whose primary residences have been damaged by a disaster to find a safe place to live until their homes are repaired.

Owners and managers of available rental properties are urged to fax the following information on those properties to (817) 591-7161:

Name and phone number of property owner or manager to contact.

Complete address of property, including county.

Rental costs of unit.

Number of bedrooms in unit.

Security deposit requirements.

Children and pets allowed?

Handicap accessible?

Lease requirements.

HUD or Section 8 certification.

IRS information

People whose homes or property have been damaged by recent storms and flooding may be able to get an immediate tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service.

To claim the loss on your 1996 return, your area must have been declared a federal disaster area. People need to claim a tax deduction called a non-business casualty loss. If you've already filed and want to claim the loss now, you can file a 1040X form to amend your claim.

For more information, order IRS Publication 547, titled Nonbusiness Disasters, Casualties and Thefts; Publication 584, titled Nonbusiness Disaster and Theft Workbook; and Form 4684, titled Casualties and Thefts by calling (800) 829-3676.

Information on claiming business losses is in IRS Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business.

Also, the IRS will offer tax relief to taxpayers in counties declared disaster areas in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana:

The IRS will suspend examination and collection activities through at least April 7. Taxpayers in the affected counties who receive notices should call the IRS to have actions suspended.

The agency will expedite refunds to taxpayers in the disaster areas and will help track refunds lost in the flood.

It also has begun putting systems into place to quickly obtain tax account transcripts needed for disaster-related loans.

Taxpayers whose returns are due March 15 will not be late filing or late payment fines or penalties if they file and pay by April 15.

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