The amount of water and the length of time makes this flood different, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator said.
"First and foremost when dealing with this flood, people have to be patient and stay away until authorities have deemed areas safe to enter," said Carroll Welte, UNL Extension educator in Burt County. "My advice is to err on the side of caution rather than on the side of carelessness."
Welte said when property and homeowners do return, before entering the home, it is important that all electric power has been disconnected from the electrical grid. As a precaution, shut off the power at the meter pole outside the home if it is safe to do so. No one should be standing in water or on damp surfaces using any electrical equipment.
"People don't want to go back to their homes and be working on cleaning up water and then all of a sudden have the electricity come back on. That would be very dangerous, especially if there are appliances in standing water or other electrical hazards," she said. "With this particular flood situation, it might be good to communicate with the power company as to when you plan to re-enter your property."
Welte said it also is important to inspect for structural damage from the outside to determine if the property is safe to enter.
Once inside, people should watch for settled or bulging floors or cracked walls, particularly in basements. These are signs of structural damage.
In addition, before any cleanup happens, according to a University of Missouri Extension "Resources for Your Flooded Home Publication", it's also important for people to:
- Watch for electrical shorts and live wires.
- Turn off outside gas lines.
- Wear sturdy shoes, rubber gloves and eye protection.
- If mold is present, wear a respirator that can filter mold spores.
- Never mix bleach with ammonia or vinegar.
It's also important to contact an insurance agent immediately, take pictures of the damage before cleaning up and keep accurate records of all cleanup and repair bills.
It's also been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control that children not enter flooded areas. Children are especially vulnerable as they are in a critical period of development when toxic exposures can have profound negative effects, and their exploratory behavior often places them in direct contact with materials that adults would avoid, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Read more information about children returning to flooded areas.