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story.lead_photo.caption The first actions you take after a home flood are vital. Make sure you contact the right professionals. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Whether it’s caused by a late spring rain, a broken water main or a backup from some other cause entirely, a flood in your house can be destructive and expensive to repair. How you react immediately following a flood is critical. The steps you take in the minutes and hours after the water starts flowing can make a big difference in hassle, cost and personal safety. Here are some steps to take as quickly as possible to minimize the damage, the cost and the headaches.

1. Shut off your utilities.

Regardless of the cause of flooding in your home, additional water can only make it worse. If it’s safe, shut off your water so there’s no risk of it adding to the flood. Also, remember water and electricity are a dangerous mix, and any contact between your system and the water can be dangerous for everyone. Shut off your electricity and call an electrician to help you determine the steps necessary to safely re-enter the house.

2. Call your insurance company.

Even if it’s the middle of the night, call their emergency hotline number. You want your claim on file as quickly as possible, and your provider can help guide you to the best emergency services. In some cases, the insurance company will only cover water damage repair costs if you use pros they select, so it’s a good idea to get them involved early on. If your flood is caused by an external event, such as a rainstorm, there will be many others contacting insurance as well, so the quicker you get into the system, the better.

3. Document everything.

Before you repair or clean anything, take photographs of all the damage. Whenever you talk to a pro or your insurance company, take written notes of the conversation and any commitments made on both sides. Save emails and texts related to the flooding. All of this will act as proof to support your insurance claims.

4. Clear out the water and dry the area.

After the flooding stops, start drying out the area as quickly as possible to minimize the threat of mold. Open all the windows and doors, then set up fans to blow air outside. Make sure air is blowing toward external walls and away from the center of your home. If you have a wet-dry shop vacuum, sump pump or other method to remove water, now’s the time to use it. This immediate work will help begin the cleanup process, but it should be followed by a thorough cleaning from a local pro, who will ensure the right steps are taken to prevent any long-term damage.

5. Get rid of what you can’t save.

Some things are a total loss if they’ve been hit by a flood. Damaged carpets and padding can’t be saved, so pull it up and throw it out. Flood-soaked drywall and insulation can’t be salvaged, either. Mattresses, rugs, paper products and upholstered furniture should be checked closely and discarded if they’re heavily damaged. Keeping anything that’s soaked beyond repair will invite in more mold and mildew.

6. Take stock of the situation and start calling the right pros.

Depending on the extent of the flood and the damage, you may need different pros to help you complete the problem. Drywall, mold remediation and plumbing pros are some of the most common service providers you’ll need. If the flood involved the roof or foundation in any way, get thorough inspections as quickly as possible. Water damage only gets worse — and more expensive — with time, so deal with it right away.

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