Flood Survival Guide

FLOOD SURVIVAL GUIDE

Flood Terms:
Flood Watch:
Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
Flood Warning:
Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
If You Are Ordered to Evacuate:
You should never ignore an evacuation order. Authorities will direct you to leave if you are in a low-lying area, or within the greatest potential path of the rising waters. If a flood warning is issued for your area or you are directed by authorities to evacuate the area:

  • Take only essential items with you (medication, forms of identification, insurance contact numbers and forms, etc).
  • If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water.
  • Disconnect appliances to prevent electrical shock when power is restored.
  • Follow the designated evacuation routes and expect heavy traffic.
  • Do not attempt to drive or walk across creeks or flooded roads.

If You Need Temporary Housing:
Listed Below are the names and numbers of several local hotels. In times of disaster, some may provide discounts to refugees displaced by flooding.

  • Hilton Harrisburg & Towers, (717) 233-6000, 1 N Second St. Harrisburg, PA 17101 (1-800-HILTONS)
  • Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel, (717) 564-5511, 4650 Lindle Road, Harrisburg, PA 17111 (1-800-325-3535)
  • Crown Plaza Harrisburg Hershey Hotel, 717-234-5021, 23 S 2nd St., Harrisburg, PA 17111 or (1-888-897-0084) or 1-800-2CROWNE.

Hilton Garden Inn, 635-7299, 3943 Tecport Dr., Hbg, PA 17111 (1-800-HILTONS)
Holiday Inn, Hotel Reservations: 1 877 410 6667 Hotel Front Desk:   1-717-9397841 4751 LINDLE RD
HARRISBURG, PA 17111 (1-800-HOLIDAY)
Four Points by Sheraton, 561-2800, 800 E Park Dr., Hbg., PA 17111 (1-800-368-7764)
Holiday Inn Express, (717) 561-8100, 4021 Union Deposit Rd, Harrisburg, PA 17109 (1-877-410-6667)

Returning Home:

  • Don’t return to your flood-damaged home before the area is declared to be safe by local officials. Returning home can be both physically and mentally challenging. Above all, use caution.
  • Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. If you must move an unconscious person, first stabilize the neck and back, then call for help immediately.
  • Keep a battery-powered radio with you so you can listen for emergency updates and news reports.
  • Use a battery-powered flash light to inspect a damaged home.
Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering – the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
  • Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Use the phone only to report life-threatening emergencies.
  • Stay off the streets. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.

Before You Enter Your Home:
Walk carefully around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.

Do not enter if:

  • You smell gas.
  • Floodwaters remain around the building.
  • Your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Clean up household chemical spills. Disinfect items that may have been contaminated by raw sewage, bacteria, or chemicals. Also clean salvageable items.
  • Call your insurance agent. Take pictures of damages. Keep good records of repair and cleaning costs.

Reentering your Home:

  • When returning to a home that’s been flooded after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, be aware that your house may be contaminated with mold or sewage, which can cause health risks for your family.
  • When You First Reenter Your Home
  • If you have standing water in your home and can turn off the main power from a dry location, then go ahead and turn off the power, even if it delays cleaning. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off. NEVER turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • Have an electrician check the house’s electrical system before turning the power on again. Call your electrician and make an appointment while you are still waiting to get back into the neighborhood! The electrician must be registered with the city of Harrisburg.
  • If the house has been closed up for several days, enter briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for awhile (at least 30 minutes) before you stay for any length of time.
  • If your home has been flooded and has been closed up for several days, presume your home has been contaminated with mold. (See Protect Yourself from Mold.)
  • If your home has been flooded, it also may be contaminated with sewage. (See After a Hurricane or Flood: Cleanup of Flood Water.)

Dry Out Your House:

  • If flood or storm water has entered your home, dry it out as soon as possible. Follow these steps:
  • If you have electricity and an electrician has determined that it’s safe to turn it on, use a “wet-dry” shop vacuum (or the vacuum function of a carpet steam cleaner), an electric-powered water transfer pump, or sump pump to remove standing water. If you are operating equipment in wet areas, be sure to wear rubber boots.
  • If you do not have electricity, or it is not safe to turn it on, you can use a portable generator to power equipment to remove standing water. Note: If you must use a gasoline-powered pump, generator, pressure washer, or any other gasoline-powered tools to clean your home, never operate the gasoline engine inside a home, basement, garage, carport, porch, or other enclosed or partially enclosed structures, even if the windows and doors are open. Such improper use can create dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If weather permits, open windows and doors of the house to aid in the drying-out process.
  • Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture. Fans should be placed at a window or door to blow the air outwards rather than inwards, so not to spread the mold.
  • Have your home heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system checked and cleaned by a maintenance or service professional who is experienced in mold clean-up before you turn it on. If the HVAC system was flooded with water, turning on the mold-contaminated HVAC will spread mold throughout the house. Professional cleaning will kill the mold and prevent later mold growth. When the service determines that your system is clean and if it is safe to do so, you can turn it on and use it to help remove excess moisture from your home.
  • Prevent water outdoors from reentering your home. For example, rain water from gutters or the roof should drain away from the house; the ground around the house should slope away from the house to keep basements and crawl spaces dry.
  • Ensure that crawl spaces in basements have proper drainage to limit water seepage. Ventilate to allow the area to dry out.

After the Flood: Clean up
When returning to your home after a hurricane or flood, be aware that flood water may contain sewage. Protect yourself and your family by following these steps:

Inside the Home

  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.
  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.
  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.
  • Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.
  • After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).
  • Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of ⅛ teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of ¼ teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup or contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens. Use a Laundromat for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until you are sure your waste water system is working properly.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

Cleaning Up and Repairing Your Home:
Getting Help

  • The American Red Cross can help you by providing you with a voucher to purchase new clothing, groceries, essential medications, bedding, essential furnishings, and other items to meet emergency needs. Listen to the radio to find out where to go for assistance, or look up American Red Cross in the phone book and call.
  • The Red Cross can provide you with a cleanup kit: mop, broom, bucket, and cleaning supplies.
  • Contact your insurance agent to discuss claims.
  • Repairing Your Flooded Home is available free from the American Red Cross or your state or local emergency manager.

Mold:
What is mold?

Molds are microscopic fungi that live on plant or animal matter. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. Most are thread-like organisms and the production of spores is characteristic of fungi in general. These spores can be air-, water-, or insect-borne.
Fungi (mold) are present almost everywhere in indoor and outdoor environments. They can cause discoloration, odor problems, and possible destruction of building materials.  They also may lead to health problems for building occupants, which may include allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

What are the most common symptoms of fungal exposure?
People most commonly complain of symptoms similar to what is seen with a “common cold” (i.e., runny nose, eye irritation, cough, congestion, and/ or aggravation of asthma).

What health effects have been linked to mold in offices and homes?
Reports have linked health effects in office workers and residents to moldy building materials and elevated levels of fungi in the air. Symptoms, such as fatigue, respiratory ailments, and eye irritation, were observed in some cases.

What steps should be taken to assure a healthy environment when fungus is found in a building?
Building materials supporting fungal growth must be remediated as rapidly as possible.  Repair of the defects that led to the accumulation of water damage, or elevated humidity should be conducted in conjunction with or prior to fungal remediation.  The simplest and most expedient remediation that is both reasonable and proper, while safely removing fungal contamination, should be used. Extensive contamination, involving the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems or large occupied spaces should be assessed by an experienced health and safety professional.  Personnel with specialized training and experience in handling environmentally contaminated materials should do the remediation. Lesser areas of contamination can usually be assessed and remediated by trained building maintenance personnel.

Can fungi in a building cause or worsen respiratory problems such as allergic disease or asthma?
Yes, fungi in buildings may cause or worsen symptoms of allergies (such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, and eye irritation), especially in persons who have a history of allergic diseases such as asthma and rhinitis (inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose).

What should individuals do if they suspect that fungi in their environment may be contributing to their respiratory difficulties?
Individuals with persistent health problems that appear to be related to fungi or other bio-aerosol exposure should see their physicians for treatment or referral to practitioners who are trained in and knowledgeable about occupational or environmental medicine or related specialties.

What is the best response to problems of mold indoors?
Prompt remediation of contaminated material and repair of the building is the primary response to fungal (mold) contamination.  Emphasis should be placed on preventing contamination through proper building and HVAC system maintenance and prompt repair of water damage.

Is there a state agency that regulates indoor air quality problems, such as mold?

No state agency has specific regulatory authority related to indoor air quality. The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has provided health consultation and information to the public and others on issues and questions that relate to mold problems.

For More Information:

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/moldresources.html

http://www.cdc.gov/mold/cleanup.htm

Tips for Filing an Insurance Claim:

  • If possible, photograph the outside of the premises, showing the any damage or flooding. Also, photograph the inside of the premises, showing the damaged property and the height of the water if your property was flooded.
  • Call your insurance agent to report your claim.  If you have seperate flood insurance, also call your flood insurance agent to report your claim. Your flood insurance agent will prepare a Notice of Loss form and an adjuster will be assigned to assist you.
  • Separate the damaged from the undamaged property and put it in the best possible order for the insurance adjuster’s examination. If reasonably possible, protect the property from further damage.
  • When the adjuster visits your property, let him or her know if you need an advance or partial payment of loss. Again, good records can assist your insurance companies and the NFIP in giving you an advance payment. Use your inventory to work with the adjuster in presenting your claim.
  • Damaged property which presents a health hazard or which may hamper local clean-up operations should be disposed of. Be sure to adequately describe and photograph discarded items so that, when the adjuster examines your losses and your records, these article are included in the documentation.
  • Good records speed up settlement of your claim. Compile a room-by-room inventory of damaged goods, and include manufacturer’s names, dates and places of purchases, and prices. Try to locate receipts or proofs of purchase, especially for major appliances, and note manufacturers’ names, serial numbers, prices, and dates of purchase.

COMMON MISUNDERSTANDINGS MAY CAUSE SOME VICTIMS TO MISS DISASTER ASSISTANCE

Following a disaster, residents may be misled by half-truths and rumors they hear about the various assistance programs. Misinformation can hinder someone who is on the road to recovery.

Some facts disaster victims should know:

Q. Do I have to wait for an inspector to visit my property before I begin cleaning up?

A. Do not delay cleaning up. Mold growth is common in flood-damaged homes. It is important to clean and dry completely any areas that have gotten wet. Try to photograph the damage or otherwise document what was damaged or lost because of floodwaters. To avoid health problems from mold and mildew, begin the clean-up process as soon as possible.

Q. Do I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance or make repairs?

A. You do not have to wait for an agent or adjuster’s inspection before applying for aid or making repairs needed to make your house safe, sanitary and functional. However, if you have insurance, you should find out what your policy covers, and be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work. FEMA will not duplicate your insurance. But if you still have unmet disaster-related needs, you should call FEMA to apply. You could qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by your insurance.

Q. Do I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for disaster assistance?

A. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which handles low-interest loans, has its own criteria for determining each loan applicant’s eligibility. The SBA will decide whether or not you are able to repay a loan. If you are not qualified for a loan, you may be eligible for other assistance, but it is necessary to go through the SBA application process first.
Q. I rent an apartment. Can I still get help to replace my damaged property?

A. A renter may qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan or a cash grant to replace personal property. One type of grant may be available to an eligible individual or families with serious disaster-related needs and expenses that are not covered by insurance or other disaster assistance programs.

Q. If I am self-employed and out of work, can I still qualify for unemployment benefits?

A. Disaster unemployment assistance, funded by FEMA and administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, provides benefits for workers who would not normally qualify for unemployment compensation, including farmers, farm workers and those who are self-employed. Anyone interested in filing for disaster unemployment assistance should visit the nearest employment services office.
Understand Disaster Events:

  • Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster is affected by it in some way.
  • It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your family and close friends.
  • Profound sadness, grief, and anger are normal reactions to an abnormal event.
  • Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover.
  • Focusing on your strengths and abilities helps you heal.
  • Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.
  • Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping.

Contact Information:

FEMA-Correspondence-Unit@dhs.gov
Telephone: 1 (800) 621-FEMA (3362)
TDD: 1 (800) 462-7585
Fax: 1 (800) 827-8112
PEMA Central Area Office
2605 Interstate Drive
Harrisburg PA 17110
Telephone & Fax Numbers
Office Telephone Number: (717) 651-7060         Toll Free in Pennsylvania: 800-272-7362
Office Fax Machine Number: (717) 651-2293

Websites:

http://fema.gov/nfip   Flood Insurance and Mitigation Information for State/Local Officials and general public.

www.floodsmart.gov    Complements the advertising campaign, provides access to agents, general information about possible flood risk and premium ranges.

Predicted Susquehanna River Levels:

http://newweb.erh.noaa.gov

http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=ctp&gage=harp1&view=1,1,1,1,1,1   (update once on the website)
*THIS INFORMATION IS GENERAL IN NATURE AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE USED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFRESSIONAL ADVICE.

Shipoke-Specific Flood Information from a Survivor
(Glen Dunbar)

Smart living in Shipoke means: (1) storing as little in basements as possible; and (2) always being prepared to move items from the basement and first floor to the second floor.  Even the elevated town houses in Shipoke are affected as everything in the lower parking area and entrance-way closets are likely to be ruined even if the river never goes over its bank.  Keep a supply of boxes on hand and store things high—always.
The Susquehanna River does not come over the bank at Shipoke until it reaches a depth of nearly 24 feet, but you need to start taking action well before then.  Water from Paxton creek starts coming out of the drains and flooding the lower part of Shipoke (where Race turns into Nagle) at about 19.5 feet).  At that that point ground water is also likely to be seeping into many basements. The city is good about providing warnings and will require evacuation of the area when the river reaches about 21 feet—but never argue about their decision regardless of the depth. When the city says “Evacuate” you MUST leave.  That includes taking your vehicles with you.  Any vehicles left on the street are likely to be towed.  But more importantly, they are likely to be ruined by the flooding even if they are parked in your carport/garage.  It depends on the vehicle, but once the water reaches floorboard level it is likely to be ruined as far as resale value goes.
Once you leave you will not be allowed back into the area until the city permits you to come back.  The entrance streets will usually be barricaded and manned by police 24/7.  Do not give the guards a hard time.  They are there to protect the neighborhood. Take your medicines, pets, identification, insurance information and valuables with you when you leave! Turn off the electricity and gas at the main switches and blow out any candles.
Call your relatives and friends to let them know what is happening.  If possible, also let your neighbors know where you are going and how you can be reached if you need to be contacted—exchange cell phone numbers.
Once you are allowed back into the area, start the clean-up as soon as you finish taking pictures of the damage (for insurance purposes).  The flood gunk is hard to scrub off, but sooner is easier than later.  Most residents should plan on hiring help from contractors that have power washers, but don’t delay.  They get booked quickly.  Neighbors and community volunteers often pitch-in to help with the recovery, but depending on the nature of the flood, your neighbors may have their own problems to deal with first.
Even when you are allowed back in, the tap water may not be drinkable for a few days.  Watch for updates from the city.  They usually have people coming around distributing flyers.  You may need to spend a few extra nights out.
Expenses related to the evacuation and clean-up are often reimbursable through insurance or at least tax deductible.  Keep all related receipts, but do what you need to do to stay safe and sane.  Living in a lovely riverside area like Shipoke comes with a price.