None of us ever like to think about what might happen if our basements were to flood or if the sewer were to back up onto our properties. But, the fact of the matter is, sometimes accidents happen – even despite our best efforts and proper maintenance. So, it’s important to have a “game plan” in case these types of events occur. Our tips below can help you come up with a solid plan that will keep you and your family safe while reducing further property damage.

First Steps

If water or sewage is backed up into your basement, always follow these steps first:

1. Call a Professional
You need a professional on hand to check the toilets, sinks, and waste pipes to clear any blockages and to ensure the water buildup is not due to an internal plumbing problem.

2. Don’t Use Toilets or Sinks
Unless it is absolutely necessary, you should avoid using all the toilets and sinks in your home. This is because any water or waste that’s sent down the drain will likely end up in your basement and add to the mess.

3. Assess the Damage
Take a look around and see how much damage you’re really dealing with. If you have a finished basement, you’ll want to immediately call a restoration company. Sewage may have seeped into carpet or floors and even into drywall. If not dealt with properly, it can create dangerous mold and bacteria as well as unpleasant smells. Restoration companies will work with you and your insurance company to get the job done.

Assess Risk

Backed up sewage can sometimes bring nasty things with it, like bacteria or viruses that can affect your health. The major health concerns in these situations are coming into contact with organisms that affect the gastrointestinal tract which may cause vomiting or diarrhea (gastroenteritis) as well as being exposed to organisms that affect the liver (hepatitis A and yellow jaundice). Skin irritation or infection is also a possibility, especially if open cuts or sores come into contact with contaminated water.

These bacteria and viruses are not transmitted through the air, so with proper cleanup you should be safe. If you know or suspect you’re dealing with a sewage leak, it’s better to play it safe and simply assume it’s contaminated. Then you should:

1. Put on Protective Clothing
Before getting started with the cleanup, put on protective clothing. This should include overalls, gloves, protective eyeglasses, rubber boots, and a facemask. It’s a good idea to get these items now, before a backup occurs, and put them in an easy to find “cleanup kit.”

2. Add Bleach
Immediately add a small amount of chlorine bleach to standing water to help kill any bacteria or viruses.

3. Get Rid of the Water
Remove the bulk of the water with pumps or pails and suck up what’s left with a wet/dry vacuum.

4. Clean & Dehumidify
Clean the affected areas with chlorine bleach and water. Also disinfect the wet/dry vac and any other used tools. Dehumidify the house until it is completely dry, and open windows to allow fresh air in.

5. Wash Hands and Clothes
After cleanup, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands, clothes, and shoes before doing anything else.

Documentation & Insurance

Finally, make sure to take plenty of photos and videos of the damage caused by the flood. Your insurance agent will want to have adequate “evidence” of the damage before they issue any settlements. Thorough documentation will encourage your insurance company to move faster, which will help you to get reimbursed or get your home back to normal more quickly.

Although floods and sewage backups aren’t any fun to think about, these situations can be a lot less stressful if you’re prepared and know how to handle them the right way. So, get your cleanup kits together and keep these tips on hand for easy reference. Also, keep up with your plumbing line maintenance and checkups to, hopefully, avoid these situations altogether.

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