Tips for handling flooded basements in New Jersey from a pro
The 8-10 inches of rain dropped by Ida in several hours caused flooding both indoors and outside — leaving many homeowners with a basement full of contaminated water that can lead to fires, wall collapses and explosions if not handled properly.
In the case of a basement in Cranford, a wall came crashing down moments after a family member walked past it allowing several feet of water to pour inside as seen in a video tweeted by CBS New York.
Several buildings also exploded in Rahway and Manville because of flood waters.
What should you do if there's water in your basement, even if it's just from a burst pipe?
Greg Tanner, the owner of FS Plumbing Heating Cooling & Electrical of Freehold Township told New Jersey 101.5 he advises not to touch the water or try removing it on your own. Or to rescue any belongings.
"We let them know not to go into any of that type of danger zone, don't go down into the water," Tanner said. "Flood water is mixed in with storm water, could be sanitary sewer mixture, could be oils from the street. There's so many contaminants in the runoff water that you wouldn't want anyone touching it unless they're wearing the proper protective gear to protect themselves."
He also said not to immediately start pumping out the water.
"If you start pumping water out of a basement that's filled with water now you're taking pressure away from the foundation but you still have heavy groundwater against the foundation on the outside. You want to make sure you that you're not going to cause any collapses inside by pumping water out so quick," Tanner said.
Tanner said he uses licensed, professional companies to pump out water for his jobs.
Where's you electric panel?
If the main circuit panel is under water the next step is to not touch anything in the house and to get out of the house and call 911 or a reputable contractor to assess the situation.
"We can see what really needs to be done to get rid of the water as well as to dry the house out and prevent any mold or growth or anything like that," Tanner said.
Tanner said that after his company assesses the situation, he can recommend professionals he works with to bring dehumidifiers in to dry out the basement, move around the air and get rid of contaminants to prevent mold growth.
"They'll remove any affected sheet rock carpets and hardwood floors so it's really like a restoration company that we will refer," Tanner said.
Tanner said his experience has been that flood waters can dislodge gas lines, or that appliances that had been submerged in water can then possibly cause a fire.
Preparing for a possible flood
Besides water damage, another potential financial impact is that many homeowners don't carry flood insurance, because they don't live in what is considered a flood zone.
"The best advice would be to tell every homeowner to really take a look at their insurance policies they have in place to make sure they have what's needed. Sometimes it's called water backup coverage which covers up to $10,000," Tanner said. "The little bit of money spend each year at least their house will be put back together."
The Metuchen Fire Department also has offered suggestions on being prepared for a possible basement flood:
- Get a sump pumps and shop vac
- Install a French drain to help capture and divert water to sump pumps
- Consider a backup generator
- Know the location of your electric panel and what breakers control basement outlets
- Know the location of your gas meter.
- Unplug any powered items that may become submerged
- After the event contact your insurance company, take lots of pictures and document everything.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ