The dangers of salvaging flooded homes
Flood victims in Southern B.C. are desperately trying to put their lives back together as more heavy rain threatens the area on Thursday. However, taking matters into your own hands to limit water damage and reduce repair costs is hazardous.
"There's a grave potential for catastrophic electric shock," said Jim Mandeville, senior project manager for First Onsite Property Restoration.
Entering flooded homes without precautions can be deadly. If the water connects with electrical outlets, things could go terribly wrong. You can't just rely on circuit breakers to trip.
"You trust that it works but you don't know and that's not something I'd be willing to trust my life with," explained Mandeville.
First Onsite Property Restoration says it has received in excess of 500 requests from B.C. flooded property owners to remediate and salvage their homes. Fortunately, most of those people have some kind of insurance.
However, resources are strained and not everyone can wait or afford to bring in the experts.
Erik Timmermans and his family needed to rescue the family cat. On Saturday, long-time friend Menno Koehoorn took them by boat to their flooded property on the eastern edge of Sumas Prairie.
When they arrived, the water was about 20 centimetres deep on the main floor and they were surprised to see the power was still on.
"That's the wrong time to ask that question," said Mandeville.
Koehoorn and Erik immediately turned off the main breaker. Fortunately, the water hadn't reached the electrical outlets.
After Joey was rescued the family went about salvaging precious items like passports, photo albums and other things of value.
"If you're going to take on something like this yourself or with volunteers, it's really critical that you properly protect yourself and anyone else who may be helping you," explained Mandeville.
Before going inside, inspect the outside of the property looking for major structural damage, like leaning porch steps, collapsing walls and compromised support systems. In addition, make sure the power and gas are turned off. Also, be cautious walking in floodwater.
"Oh what am I stepping on?" asked Timmerman's daughter Nancy, while wading through a flooded hallway.
"There's a lot of nails and pointy things in that water and in that muck that will cut you," said Mandeville.
Make sure you wear protective footwear, like steel toe rubber boats. In addition, protect your skin and your eyes from floodwater. It's nasty stuff, mixed with sewage, dead animals and other contaminants.
"You don't want to get it on your skin and you most certainly don't want to get it in your eyes or in your mouth. It could cause major long-term health issues," added Mandeville.
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