Before the Flood
It is not always possible to know when a flood will
happen. It may be caused by an inundation of rain fall. Cities
in Iowa were affected in this way when the Cedar and Iowa Rivers
swelled with over 10 inches of rain in only one week.** This can
then be compounded when man-made structures give way. This was
seen in New Orleans when 50 levees broke during Hurricane
Katrina.* So what can you do to protect your business or home
before a flood happens?
Find out about the land your structure is on. Does it
sit on a flood plain? What is the threat level? Geologists or
your county planning department will list these areas by the
probability of a flood. For instance, Cedar Rapids has areas
designated as 100 or 500 year flood plains. The flood in June
was a 500 year flood.
FEMA Offers flood maps detailing
current flood risk. Simply type in your address and you can
look at it online. You also have the option to buy a map, but
as long as you are looking online, the service is free.
Now that you know where your home or business stands,
what kind of insurance is available? Talk to your insurance
agent first. If you want to now more about insurance options,
especially in higher risk areas, also check out the National
Flood Insurance Program at www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/.
Whether a household or a business, you should have an
evacuation plan in place. Let family members and employees know
what evacuation route to take if water is rising swiftly and an
evacuation is ordered. For households you should include a
place for everyone to meet whether it is a local shelter or a
relative's/friend's house. Also, families should have an out of
state contact that everyone may call to locate each other in
case they are separated.
Create an emergency kit to be ready at any time.
Depending on the needs (home or business) some items to
Clean water (enough for at least 3 days for every
person and animal - generally 5 gallons per person)
Nonperishable food for 3 days (don't forget a can
Suitcase with an extra pair of clothes and extra
blankets or sleeping bags
- Baby Kit - Baby food, diapers and other supplies
Pet food, leashes, vaccination info for your pet -
you may have to leave your pet at a local pet shelter if you
are evacuated as emergency shelters do not allow pets
First Aid Kit - try to include some extra
prescription medications (not expired!) or details about any
prescriptions so you can refill them if lost in the flood
Personal Hygiene Kit - sanitary wipes or gel, soap,
toothpaste, feminine supplies, deodorant, etc.
Flashlights, radio or small TV, and batteries - you
may also consider crank flashlights and radios
Some items to have on hand particular to a flood
threat: insect repellent, rubber boots and gloves, and thick
Back up your documents! If you are evacuated due to a
flood there are certain documents you will need for claims and
getting back on your feet. Keep a copy of these documents with
your emergency kit, at a safe location other than your home or
both. At the very least these documents should include:
insurance information, social security number, and medical
records including any active prescriptions. It would also be a
good idea to make a list of emergency contact information
including family and friends as well as local and state numbers
you may need.
Prepare your business or home to resist flood damage.
Suggestions include: install sump pumps with a back-up source
of power, install backflow valves or plugs to prevent sewage
entering the home, and make sure any fuel or propane tanks are
securely and properly installed.
During the Flood
Once a flood watch or warning is given call local
authorities and let them know of anyone who may have special
needs and cannot leave the flood area easily. It is extremely
helpful for authorities to know who needs help evacuating if an
evacuation becomes necessary. Ideally, have a friend or family
member who will try to get this person out first if it is still
safe to do so. This way there is less chance of separation.
Get your emergency kit and keep it at hand in case of
an evacuation. If you have some prep time before, fill up the
gas tank to make sure you can go at a moments notice. If an
evacuation is ordered there may be heavy traffic and you may
need to go some distance to a shelter.
Secure any items outside that might become hazards in
water such as garbage cans, lawn furniture, grills, etc.
If an evacuation is imminent: turn off the power and
If an evacuation is ordered, evacuate immediately. Use
the route the authorities have given and make certain not to
drive through flooded roads.
If you are not ordered to evacuate, stay home and
listen to any future announcements. Unless helping a family
member or friend for a specific purpose, stay off the roads and
out of the way of emergency crews. Going to watch is not
helpful and can be potentially very dangerous.
After the Flood
First you will want to contact your insurance company.
Even if you are not covered for a flood, you will need to
contact your agent. This is why it is important to keep
documentation with your emergency kit. You need to know your
company, agent (if applicable) and your policy number. In the
case of evacuation, make certain to specify the address and
phone of where you can be reached now. This may also be a
friend or relative who can act as a point of contact if you are
not immediately near a dedicated phone. They will set up an
appointment to meet with you and discuss your losses. If they
do not get back in a few days be persistent and call again,
just keep in mind they may be overwhelmed with claims.
Work with authorities about your return. Although this
part can be extremely frustrating, in the case of major floods
they will want to assess the safety of your return before you
may enter any neighborhood or structure. Choose
representatives, as in the case of Cedar Rapids the first look
at the property was restricted to 1-3 people depending on
location. The authorities may have also set up a grade system
for the status of your structure. In Cedar Rapids there were
green, yellow and red signs letting owners know whether a
structure was safe to enter, enter only with caution or too
dangerous and deemed a total loss.
Once it has been deemed safe by the authorities for you
to return, start the process of sorting your property. Do not
throw out all items as you will need your insurance agent to
see these. However, if the items are considered too toxic to
keep around, get pictures and samples of the items before
disposing of them. Make sure to take all precautions necessary
before entering a flood damaged building!
Take many pictures of the inside and outside of your
structure before cleanup. Photograph any standing water, items
that have to be disposed of immediately and general survey
pictures of each room. Also, take pictures of the items that
will have to torn out such as the walls, floors, etc.
Make a list of all damaged and lost items. This will
help when you work with your insurance agent to process your
claim. With your agent you will make a Proof of Loss. This
statement is your testimony to the damages suffered. It should
be filed within 60 days unless circumstances have allotted more
time. Once this is filed with your insurance company your claim
will be processed, however, it may take some time if the area
was hit especially hard.
Flood DAMAGE and CLEAN UP
After the Flood: Home and Family Recovery - Working with
FEMA stands for the Federal Emergency Management
Agency. As they state on their website they define their type
of disaster assistance as "money or direct assistance to
individuals, families and businesses in an area whose property
has been damaged or destroyed and whose losses are not covered
by insurance. It is meant to help you with critical expenses
that cannot be covered in other ways. This assistance is not
intended to restore your damaged property to its condition
before the disaster." In essence they are there to help those
who could not or did not get flood insurance.
Items FEMA will cover are: temporary housing in the
instance of evacuation or unlivable conditions, repair for what
the insurance company will not cover (this is just until the
home is safe, not necessarily with the same materials as
before), and permanent housing construction. This last is only
available to those who cannot get flood insurance at all due to
FEMA can help with recovery costs that are not directly
related to the home. These additional expenses can only be
claimed if you live in a disaster area as designated by the
President, you have already filed with your insurance company
and find you are not covered, and you have serious needs
directly related to the disaster. Some of these costs listed on
the FEMA website include:
- Disaster-related medical and dental costs.
- Disaster-related funeral and burial cost.
Clothing; household items (room furnishings,
appliances); tools (specialized or protective clothing and
equipment) required for your job; necessary educational
materials (computers, school books, supplies).
- Fuels for primary heat source (heating oil, gas).
- Clean-up items (wet/dry vacuum, dehumidifier).
- Disaster damaged vehicle.
Moving and storage expenses related to the disaster
(moving and storing property to avoid additional disaster
damage while disaster-related repairs are being made to the
Other necessary expenses or serious needs as
determined by FEMA.
Other expenses that are authorized by law.
You can reach FEMA by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or
When making any claim, you should have the following at
hand: your social security number, current and damaged address,
current phone contact, insurance information, household annual
income, routing number to your bank to receive funds, and a
detailed description of the losses.
You may be referred by FEMA to SBA which offers
low-interest disaster loans. "Homeowners may borrow up to
$200,000 for disaster related home repairs. Homeowners and
renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace disaster-damaged
personal property including vehicles." However, you can not
receive duplicated aid already received from FEMA.
To find currently approved disaster areas you can go
After the Flood: Business Recovery - Working with SBA
SBA stands for the Small Business Administration which
has a specific branch for disasters the Office of Disaster
Assistance (ODA) that offers federal low-interest, long term
loans for "homeowners, renters and non-farm businesses." An
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) is available to small
businesses specifically geared towards helping with day to day
expenses so a business may continue to operate.
SBA can release disaster loans if one or more of the
following conditions are met: Presidential Disaster
Declaration, Agency Physical Disaster Declaration (based on a
minimum amount lost), Governor Certification Declaration,
Secretary of Agriculture Declaration, Secretary of Commerce
Declaration, or Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster
Loan (for businesses that lose key personnel who are called to
For Physical Disaster Loans which help replace an
uninsured or under-insured property, an inspection team from
SBA's ODA will review the site and claims.
Applicants do have to show some reasonable ability to
pay back the loans. However, since they are low-interest and
can be as long as 30 years, they are easier to qualify for than
Especially with real estate, the SBA's ODA will
continue contact with the borrower to make certain construction
is on schedule and funds are being used appropriately.
You can reach SBA by calling 1-800-659-2955 8am-9pm
EDT. Or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cleaning Up after a Flood
The Return: Again, do not enter until the
authorities have given the go-ahead. You may be instantly
charged if you do not comply with their precautions. Remember,
they are trying to help by checking structures for integrity
and other hazards such as possible gas leaks. Also check to see
how the authorities want you to return to the site. They may
limit the number of people you take in, have check in/out
points, or other rules in place.
Tetanus: Make sure you have a current tetanus
vaccination. Although the CDC has stated on their website that
it is now not required to work in a flood disaster area, they
do mention that it is beneficial in case an accident does
occur. Tetanus should be boosted every 10 years. You should
have a good idea if you have this beforehand. In Cedar Rapids,
tetanus vaccinations were offered to those who had need.
However, with the new information on government websites like
the CDC, these programs may not happen at future floods.
Therefore, know if you have one so if you do get injured
treatment can be simplified.
Gear: Protect yourself with goggles, masks,
watertight boots, shoes with thick soles, thick rubber gloves,
and a hard hat if necessary. Depending on equipment used you
may also need earplugs. Bring in a first aid kit and bug
repellent. Wear long sleeves and pants. Remember that water may
possibly have dead fish, sewage and chemical residue. It is not
pleasant and the less it touches your skin the better!
Water: Bring in a lot of clean water for while
you work. Some agencies may offer water, however, due to need
it may not be enough. When working at the office we were not
able to get more then one 8oz bottle per person and this only
if they came in person. If working with a crew or team, bring
in your own. Also bring in jugs of water for washing hands as
well as sanitation wipes and/or gel cleaners. The cleaner you
can get your hands at breaks the better. Also, keep fire
extinguishers at the recovery site as there will not be running
water if a fire does break out.
Lighting: Bring a lot of flashlights. Only go
during the day when you have the daylight to assist you in
recovery. However, even with sunlight, without electricity
there will be many rooms and areas that will need the extra
lighting. Do not use matches or smoke when working in the
structure. If you use a generator, make certain it is outside
and only run according to manufacture directions.
Camera: Remember your camera or video recorder
and make certain to document the losses before removing items.
You will need this for your records when working with your
insurance company and relief agencies.
Work Safely: Do not overdo the work. Take breaks
often. You will be in an environment with poor lighting,
terrible air quality and slick obstacles at every turn. Keeping
your energy up and your body healthy should be the first
priority. Wash your hands. Drink clean water. Get healthy
snacks. Get outside and try to get fresh air. Keep in mind that
in an area hard hit, even the outdoors will be filled with
repugnant odors. You may need to leave the site to get some
fresh air! Really keep an eye on your breathing and body's
reaction to the environment. At our office it took only a day
for black mold to begin to grow along the walls after the water
receded - it is nasty to look at and terrible on your health -
Keep Organized: It is overwhelming all the items
that have to be discarded from the flooring to pictures on the
wall. Try not to get overwhelmed and organize items for
disposal and recovery. Put all lost building and general waste
in one area, all computers, chemicals and other special items
in another area and finally anything deemed possibly
salvageable in another location. Check with local authorities
for any special preferences as they may set up a process for
Drying: Open all windows and doors possible. If
you are working with a generator, you may bring in fans and
dehumidifiers to get out moisture. The fans should be at
windows pointing outside, this way they will be taking moist
air out of the structure and not kicking up mold inside. Use
caution when using anything electrical with the generator. Keep
extension cords up from the water and removed from the work
path to avoid tripping.
- Don't bring along any children or pets!
Battling Mold after a Flood
According to the CDC, anything that has been wet for
two days has mold whether you can see it or not. Get these
items out to dry as quickly as possible.
- If it cannot be washed in hot water it will need to go.
Wear a mask, rubber gloves and long sleeves and pants.
Limit direct skin contact with damaged items.
Hard surfaces that do not adsorb water can be cleaned
using a mixture of bleach and water. Ratio suggested by the CDC
as 1 cup of bleach to every gallon of water.
Make sure doors and windows are open when cleaning with
bleach. When possible try to do some recovery outside.
Once washed leave items out to dry - the sun can be
your friend if it is out. Especially if working with paper
documents this can help destroy some of the mold. We were able
to salvage many documents by pealing them apart when wet and
laying them in the sun to dry. Not perfect, but important
information can then be retrieved. However, for businesses,
most documents can be salvaged by professional cleaners. Only
immediate documents or household documents could be pealed
apart as it is a daunting and time consuming task!
Some Ways to Help Our Neighbors
Aidmatrix Network - Iowa
Iowa Partnership and the Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council
have partnered to provide the Aidmatrix Network, an easy way to
make monetary and product donations to the nonprofit
organizations that are assisting in the response and recovery
efforts following recent disaster events in Iowa.
Cedar Rapids Czech & Slovak Museum
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library staff and
board continue to work through the challenges of flood recovery.
Our five museum buildings are cleaned out and secure. Visitors
from across the country have been calling to plan summer visits.
Some have already made their way here and are shocked and
dismayed to find a sight they never expected - boarded up
buildings, sandbars in the garden, and piles of debris. We are
assuring them we will survive and be back in business, but it
will take time. To us it's surprising there's still a world out
there that doesn't know about the flood!
Cedar Rapids Public Library
Our public library lost all of the first floor which included
books and magazines for adults. The children's book section was
mostly recovered. They are currently looking for temporary
space: "07 July 2008 - Librarians are compiling a list of
books and other materials that the CRPL's book distributor will
hold until the library has a place to put them. The books will
arrive pre-processed, which means that staff will be able to
shelve them immediately, saving an enormous amount of time.
Once the list is compiled, individuals will have an opportunity
to select a book from the list to donate. "Many of our patrons
and supporters have been asking what they can do. This will be a
way to help rebuild our library," says Glise. "By fall, we hope
to have a wish list available." For future information on
donating books or cash please visit:
Corridor Recovery is a not-for-profit partnership
between government, civic, business and faith-based
organizations, created to respond to the Flood of 2008. As the
flood waters peaked, Corridor Recovery quickly became the
primary resource for materials and information for Linn County
and Cedar Rapids. We provide resources for local governments and
agencies to distribute flood-recovery information to the public
in a critical time of need, and to coordinate volunteer efforts
in the clean-up and recovery process.
Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation
The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation opened the Flood
2008 Fund on June 15. The Flood 2008 Fund is for flood relief
and recovery donations. One-hundred percent of financial
donations to the fund will support response, recovery and
rebuilding efforts throughout the Cedar Rapids-metro and
surrounding communities. The first priority will be to work with
local nonprofit organizations to support individuals and
families affected by the floods. The GCRCF is committed to
helping individuals, families and the nonprofit community
recover and rebuild from the catastrophic flood.
Embrace Iowa 2008 Disaster Fund
Embrace Iowa is a program of statewide outreach by the Des
Moines Register. Since it already has an established logo,
identity, and donation tracking mechanism, the Iowa Disaster
Collaborative is using the Embrace Iowa website as one way for
donors to make a donation and learn more about the 2008 Iowa
Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service
If you are interested in helping in a particular area of the
state, please use this section of our Web site to get in touch
with local officials, who are collecting a list of where and
when volunteers are most needed.
University of Iowa Foundation
Sources for this article which include even more
For those wishing to support the University as it struggles to
recover from flood-related damage not covered by insurance or
other resources, we encourage contributions to the UI Flood
Center for Disease Control
is your online
source for credible health information and is the official Web
site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC is committed to achieving true improvements in people's
health. CDC applies research and findings to improve people's
daily lives and responds to health emergencies—something that
distinguishes CDC from its peer agencies. Working with states
and other partners, CDC provides a system of health surveillance
to monitor and prevent disease outbreaks (including
bioterrorism), implement disease prevention strategies, and
maintain national health statistics. CDC also guards against
international disease transmission, with personnel stationed in
more than 25 foreign countries
FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency
FEMA has more than 2,600 full time employees. They work at FEMA
headquarters in Washington D.C., at regional and area offices
across the country, the Mount Weather Emergency Operations
Center, and the National Emergency Training Center in
Emmitsburg, Maryland. FEMA also has nearly 4,000 standby
disaster assistance employees who are available for deployment
after disasters. Often FEMA works in partnership with other
organizations that are part of the nation's emergency management
system. These partners include state and local emergency
management agencies, 27 federal agencies and the American Red
National Flood Insurance Program
Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
to address both the need for flood insurance and the need to
lessen the devastating consequences of flooding. The goals of
the program are twofold: to protect communities from potential
flood damage through floodplain management, and to provide
people with flood insurance.
SBA - Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953
as an independent agency of the federal government to aid,
counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business
concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to
maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. We
recognize that small business is critical to our economic
recovery and strength, to building America's future, and to
helping the United States compete in today's global marketplace.
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