Coping with the aftermath
A traumatic event turns your world upside down
Experience shows that after a disaster, people can have a variety of reactions. In spite of the crisis, some people feel happy to be alive.
However for most of us we may feel dazed, numb or tired all the time. Some people feel sad, helpless and anxious. Our normal coping abilities are often affected so everything we try to do is hard work, exhaustion and confusion can be entirely normal. It is not unusual to have bad memories or recurring dreams.
You might avoid places or people that remind you of the disaster. You might have trouble sleeping, eating, or concentrating. Some people have short tempers and get angry easily. All of these reactions to being flooded are normal human responses. You have been through a crisis and each of our bodies cope with the aftermath in different ways.
It will take time before you start to feel better often weeks or even months so be patient with yourself.
You might have strong feelings right away. Alternatively, you might not react until much later, after the crisis is over. You might notice that you and your family are affected in ways you had not been aware of before. It will take time for all of you to feel better and for your life to return to normal.
Give yourself time to heal, but if you feel concerned that things are not getting better soon enough, talk to your G.P. The Scottish Flood Forum will have details of people who are able to support you following a flood event we understand and know what it is like and can provide a listening ear at our flood drop-in centres.
Remember – Flooding brings about loss, loss of home and personal effects. This ‘bereavement’ like any similar experience will often take a lot longer to get over more than you think.
Dealing with the aftermath – These steps may help you feel better
A traumatic event disrupts your life. There is no simple fix to make things better right away. But there are actions that can help you, your family, and your community to heal.
- If you are worried about the insurance repairs, builder and drying out your property or even if you were not insured please contact or phone us or find us at a local flood drop-in centre for help and advice.
- Family, friends and work colleagues can often make a real difference in helping don’t be afraid to ask for help, its not a sign of weakness but of our humanity.
- Follow a normal routine as much as possible.
- Eat healthy meals. Be careful not to skip meals or to overeat. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake they can sometimes make you feel worse.
- Exercise and stay active.
- Help neighbours or other people in your community. Stay busy.
- Accept help from family, friends, co-workers, or faith leader. Talk about your feelings with them.
- Limit your time around the sights and sounds of what happened.
- Don’t dwell on TV, radio, or newspaper reports on the crisis.
- Remember children are also affected – be patient with them don’t overload them with information but also don’t shut them out they are part of the family too.
Dealing with rogue traders
After a flood, beware of doorstep callers who may trick or steal from you. They may try to gain entry by asking to turn off water or check the electricity.
Always put on the chain when answering the door and make sure windows and other doors are locked (just in case an accomplice tries to enter elsewhere while you are talking). Check the caller’s ID and phone the company they say they represent to check they are genuine if you have any doubt.
Call a neighbour or Police for assistance if you are worried.
Some people will offer to look after the flood claim for you – and remove from you the worry and fear of the insurance claim. Be very wary of people who offer you a easy way out, and say it will cost you nothing as the insurance company will reimburse them. Sign nothing – if in doubt contact the SFF and we will advise. Many people have been left with huge bills once they sign contracts like these.
If callers offer to do work, the Association of British Insurers recommend that you should:
- Beware of tradesmen who can start the next day – reputable ones are usually busy.
- Ask to be put in touch with past clients to see samples of work.
- Beware of someone who gives only a mobile number and no business address.
- If someone calls and says that they are from the Insurance Company – check first.
- If in doubt contact your insurance company / insurance adjuster or the Scottish Flood Forum on information line number 01698 839021
- Don’t pay in advance, do pay in stages as guided by the insurance company and don’t make the final payment until you are happy with the work.
- You can use your own builder so book a local reputable builder early. There could be a real shortage of builders if you don’t book them early.
- Don’t sign anything if they are bonefide they will come back – try to have a friend with you.
Remember trust no-one unless you know them – If in doubt speak to the Scottish Flood Forum on information line number 01698 839021
If you have insurance
If you have household insurance then read on – whether tenant or home owner.
Ring your insurance company immediately – they will send a loss adjuster as soon as they can (usually in a day or so). Do not use this as an insurance “opportunity”. Fraud is a criminal offence and will lead to your claim being cancelled. Loss adjusters are professionals who are keen to help honest people and they like claimants who do everything reasonable to mitigate their own loss.
Communicate clearly and clarify what terms of reference the insurance company feels is reasonable regarding your claim.
Fully insured; new for old – You should get full recompense of all expenses, less any excess on your policy.
Fully insured – You may get full recompense but the policy may adjust downwards for fair wear and tear and general depreciation since new. A 15 year old kitchen does not always justify a new kitchen!
Under-insured – You should get the “fair percentage”. The insurance company will take the rebuild cost you have insured for, when compared with the current correct rebuild cost of your whole house. In simple terms a house of rebuild value £100,000 insured for only £75,000 will result in a flood claim of £25,000 being reduced by 25% due to the under-insured loss.
Try to remain calm and courteous at all times. Keep a book with a record of all conversations and communications with your insurers, and various contractors and consultants. One tip we advise is to ensure that all communications with your Insurance company and Loss Adjuster is done by e- mail to enable you to have a continuous record of what has been decided and what is planned to be done. The next phase is a complex project and will benefit from as many organisational skills as you can provide.
Our advice is right now to take photographs of everything from floor to ceiling in every room both upstairs and down – this will help you in your claim and don’t forget the front and back yard / drive as well. Keep the insurance company informed of what you are doing. Try to “stop” and make a plan, as a reminder photograph everything – structure, appliances, furniture and contents, watermarks, etc. If you or your family have to move out or need to leave the area, make realistic decisions – how will this affect getting to work or school what changes need to be made.
Many houses will take 6 – 12 months or even longer (depending on type of construction), to dry and become habitable – this is not a two week problem! You may have to live in your house until the loss adjuster arrives and tells you what will happen – but ask your insurance company if you can move out to alternative accommodation as a temporary measure. In the meantime, make a list of what has been damaged and keep this somewhere safe.
To repeat the information – if you have a camera (a disposable one will do) or a camcorder, take pictures or film everything. Ask if your insurance covers you for alternative accommodation. If so, you may be able to move into a hotel, while you look around for a rented property. Recover valuables and put them somewhere safe. Use rubber gloves when you are handling items and put them in bags or boxes. Most articles can be professionally restored. Don’t make rash decisions.
Your insurance company (via your loss adjusters) will arrange for a drying company to come and undertake work, or if the damage is severe, appoint a “strip-out” contractor to remove flood-damaged walls and floors plus damaged goods. This may include kitchen units, and all electrical fittings. Take a note of your gas and electric meter readings, and keep copies of all receipts, you may be able to claim for some items including the electricity costs for drying out your property.
If you are a tenant and have taken out contents insurance, household contents, fixtures and fittings should be covered. It’s normally the responsibility of your landlord to provide building insurance. However you are advised to check with your landlord and your policy.
No household insurance? The following is good advice for everyone
- Not having insurance cover is a situation best avoided.
- If you’re un-insured you will most likely be responsible for covering all costs of flood damage. Remember to keep records of damage (photos etc.)
- Firstly make contact with the SFF as soon as possible so we can help and advise you – we have helped many people in a similar situation to get their lives and homes back.
Local supplies of disinfectant, brushes, driers, generators, pumps, builders and tradesmen will run out fast. Make a full list of emergency cleaning items to get ahead of the game by arranging for someone to collect these for you, from perhaps outside the local area.
When the floodwater subsides, it’s vital to clear standing water as quickly as possible. Bricks and concrete floors soak up water relatively slowly, but conversely take months to dry out if they have been left standing in water for a long period (1 inch per month). Fast action at this stage will save months of drying time later. Dehumidifiers and fans can be hired from most good hire shops and will reduce the risk of health problems associated with dampness.
Repairing your property
If your property has been flooded, when you are undertaking renovations and repairs, do bear in mind the advice listed on this page when talking to your builder and/or loss adjuster. The diagrams here may also help you.
- Don’t just build it back: build it better. See Planning Advice Note 69.
- Always seek help before making structural changes. Get advice from a specialist flood surveyor or from RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors).
- Flood protection products may give you more time to move your possessions off the ground floor to safety and often any water that does get in is cleaner because mud and silt stay outside. However, if floodwater is likely to be more than 1m deep, you may cause more harm than good by keeping the water out. The force of the water may cause structural damage to your home or business.
- Look for kite marked products – it means they have been independently tested.
- For independent advice on flood protection products call us on 01698 839021
- Grants towards the cost of flood protection measures may be available from your local council.
- Consider the impact of any outdoor works on your neighbours – e.g. hard landscaping will increase levels of water runoff.
- If possible fit plug sockets, boilers, service meters higher up on walls.
- Choose flood water resistant door and window frames and ensure window frames are adequately sealed if at flood height.
- Get a chemical damp proof course below joist level if your house does not have a DPC; and install air bricks with removable covers or automatic air bricks.
- Replace mineral insulation within walls with closed cell insulation.
- Consider non-return valves in waste water and sewage pipes to prevent flood water backing up into the house.
- Check access points for pipes and cables (e.g. washing machines) for gaps and fill.
And if there’s a choice, you can:
- Go for solid flooring (concrete covered with treated timber or sealed tiles) – more resistant than floor boards or chipboard.
- Have wood or plastic kitchen/bathroom units rather than MDF/chipboard.
- Pick lime or waterproof cement render – more water resistant than normal plaster.
- Replace ovens with raised, built in units.
- Choose rugs rather than fitted carpets.