If you arrive home to a soggy mess like the one in the video below from Consumer Reports, remember SAFETY FIRST. Never step into water deep enough that it may have come in contact with electrical current. Also, you should assume the water could be electrified if it has penetrated through the floor and is dripping into the space below or if it appears to have seeped into wall cavities.
To remove the risk of a life-threatening shock, shut off power to your home immediately or call your local utility. Then follow steps in the video to turn off your home's water. (Note: In many Northwest homes, the main water shutoff is located in the garage, which the video doesn't mention. Also, if you own an older home with brittle valves, your best bet might be turning the water off at the underground box near the street using a special water meter valve "key," available at hardware stores.) Turn on a few faucets to relieve pressure in your pipes and decrease the chance of a second pipe break.
Once water has stopped flowing from the broken pipe, go online or call 1-800-GO-PEMCO to report the damage and get a referral for expert help. For all but very minor leaks, we now recommend you enlist the services of a reputable water mitigation specialist.
The experts may test for the presence of asbestos in things like ceiling coatings. They'll also know whether or not the walls will need a "flood cut" to facilitate drying and how much equipment to bring in (fans and dehumidifiers) to stop a potential mold bloom, which can happen quickly. They'll also be able to assess if the water has been contaminated with chemicals or waste matter, which adds complexity in how they address the cleanup.
As you're waiting for the experts to arrive, you can consider taking these steps on your own to help minimize further damage:
- Remove excess water by mopping and blotting with a towel or cloth, particularly on wood surfaces. Don't use your household vacuum to remove water.
- For area rugs, remove the pad and prop up the carpet to help it air-dry.
- If your furniture isn't too heavy, lift it enough to put its legs on dry aluminum foil, saucers or wood blocks to prevent rust and water stains.
- Take lamps and other items off wood furniture. Mop up excess water.
- Open drawers and doors for maximum aeration and drying. Don't force them open if they're stuck.
- Open suitcases to dry in the sunlight if possible.
- If it's safe to use electricity, turn on the heat, open windows and use fans to speed drying.
Flooding caused by burst interior pipes – not theft or fire – is the No. 1 cause of homeowner insurance claims at PEMCO. To reduce your risk of water damage, check out our Unnatural Disasters video series.