We all know the importance of being prepared before disaster strikes, but what should you do after a flood?
When a flash flood hits, your top priority should be getting to a safe spot ASAP. Once the immediate danger has passed, you’ll need to assess any damage and move forward with recovery.
But few people know that the aftermath of a flood can be just as dangerous as the actual event. Surviving a flood is only part of the battle. Learn how you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your property after a flood.
6 Surprising Threats to Avoid After a Flood
Floods are more common (and more dangerous) than you might think.
All 50 U.S. states have experienced floods or flash floods in the past 5 years, and flooding is actually the number 1 natural disaster in the country.
All it takes is a few inches of water to cause thousands of dollars in property damage, and a car can easily be carried away by as little as two feet of rushing water.
And the danger doesn’t go away after the flood waters recede. Below are six surprising threats that you’ll need to keep an eye out for after a flood.
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1 – Scam Artists
To some, a natural disaster is just another opportunity to scam innocent people in need of help.
After a flood, large pieces of debris like trees or even cars can be swept away by floodwaters and wind up smack dab in the middle of your yard. Removing this debris requires additional manpower along with special equipment.
One popular scam involves offering clean up services but demanding payment upfront. The contractor gets paid, but the work is never done. Worse still, the general chaos caused by a flood can make it difficult or even impossible to track these frauds down for a refund.
Scammers will even go so far as to post fake rental properties online in order to target people whose homes have become uninhabitable. Like in the previous scam, the trick involves getting people to send money in advance and giving them nothing in return.
The key to avoiding scammers is to stay skeptical and keep your wits about you. If an offer seems suspicious, trust your gut and avoid any deals that appear too good to be true.
If someone wants to do business with you, make sure that person is actually a member of your community and that you have some way to hold them accountable if things go bad.
2 – Looting and Vandalism
If a flood threatens your town, there may be calls for residents to evacuate their homes ahead of time.
And these empty houses make a tempting target for looters and vandals.
In addition to cash and jewelry, thieves will also be on the lookout for firearms to steal. Stolen firearms pose a substantial threat to public safety as they are often used to commit violent crimes.
This threat is so serious that sometimes it’s the police themselves who break into evacuated homes and confiscate legally-owned guns.
In 2013, Jane and Donald White were forced to evacuate their flood-stricken home in Alberta. When they returned, they discovered that someone broke in after they left.
“The door was completely destroyed. The bolt from the door was sitting halfway up the stairs on a landing. There was a large amount of mud brought into my home, taken up the stairway on my new carpet.”
Shockingly, it wasn’t a thief who broke in. During the floods, the local police had broken down the White’s door and confiscated eleven registered weapons from their gun safe.
3 – Mold and Mildew
Areas in a home that have been exposed to floodwater should also be inspected for mold and mildew.
Mold and mildew in your home can cause serious problems to your health including everything from headaches to severe lung infections. Black mold, in particular, is so toxic that its presence can cause a home to be condemned.
A 5-to-1 mix of water and bleach should be enough to kill any mold or mildew you discover in your house, but to be completely safe you should have your home inspected by a qualified technician.
4 – Bacteria and Disease
Uncontrollable floodwaters can come into contact with a number of harmful contaminants including oil, gasoline, and raw sewage.
This means you need to be especially careful when interacting with floodwater and anything it touches including your personal belongings.
It also means that you could end up getting sick or an infection if you have to get into the water to save someone.
And if you’re currently storing water in your home, make sure it’s in a safe container like the ultra-durable WaterBrick.
5 – Stray Animals
Flooding can drive domesticated pets from their homes and destroy the habitats of wild animals. As a result, all of these creatures will seek shelter elsewhere.
If an animal decides to turn your house into its home, it can spell big trouble for you and your loved ones. Even if they aren’t vicious, these animals could still carry a number of diseases.
Typically, smaller animals like snakes will try and move in, but flood victims have even had to contend with tigers walking the streets.
6 – Contaminated Gardens
Dirty floodwater can also settle into the soil and contaminate your survival garden. Even worse, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether your crops are still safe to eat after a flood.
One rule of thumb is that any produce that gets damaged or has cracks in it should be discarded outright.
Another helpful guideline comes from the National Organic Program’s instructions for harvesting food from soil that was fertilized with non-composted manure.
Composting is a process that kills bacteria in manure, and using non-composted manure can lead to some of the same health hazards as floodwater.
The NOP recommends that there should be a 90-day period between planting and harvesting produce grown in soil fertilized with non-composted manure.
If the plant itself has come into contact with non-composted manure, there should be a 120-day period between exposure and harvest.
Unfortunately, this means that if your food was exposed to floodwater right around the time it was ready to harvest, it’s best to throw it out. Of course, in a SHTF scenario where food is scarce, you also have the option of peeling and cooking the food to kill off bacteria.
Note: One way to protect your survival garden from the elements is to grow it inside. Learn about hydroponic techniques to create an indoor garden by reading this blog.