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What to do if your home floods?

In natural disaster-free Singapore, we don’t ever expect our house to be flooded in. This is especially if we are one of the many people here living in high-rise apartments.

But more intense and frequent storms have been hitting Singapore as a result of climate change, increasing the risk of floods for homeowners here. This is especially if you live in a landed property in a low-lying, flood-prone area.

And even if you live in a high-rise apartment, your belongings could still be damaged during a thunderstorm when heavy rainfall overflows from the roof or seeps into your house from the common corridors.

Read on to find out what to do in the event of a flooding to save all that is near and dear and prevent massive damage to your home.

What to do when your home floods

Find the source

It may seem obvious, but the first and most important thing to do is to cut off the water source to prevent more water from inundating your house.

If it is your bathroom that is flooding, turn off any faulty taps that are causing the leakage. If that fails or you find out a pipe has burst, you should turn off your home’s main shut off valve (turn it clockwise) to stop the water flow completely. If you are unable to stop the flow of water yourself, call a plumbing expert for help immediately.

If you see rising waters from the sanitary floor trap of your house during flooding, inform national water agency PUB by calling its 24h Call Centre at 1800-CALL-PUB (1800-2255 782).

If the flooding is coming from outside, use absorbent items such as stacks of old newspapers and magazines, old clothes or rags, or sandbags to divert or block the flow of water rushing in.

Switch off the electricity

Electricity and water make for a very nasty combo which could get you killed.

To avoid getting electrocuted, quickly turn off all powerpoint plugs and electronics near the flooded area. If you are too late and any appliances or powerpoint plugs have already been flooded, keep away from the water and try to get to the fuse box to turn off all the electricity in your house.

If you see any sparks or flames, leave your house immediately and call 995 for the fire department.

Move everything up

As much as possible, try not to leave any of your belongings, especially those that are valuable on the floor. Move them to higher ground, such as on top of a tall, heavy table or the top of the stairs.

You may have expensive things (such as a grand piano) that are heavy or fixed and cannot be moved. Be sure to take as many photos as you can of the extent of damage to your belongings and house fixtures for insurance claims purposes

Fixing and prevention

Next, all that’s left is the laborious task of cleaning up the mess by draining and soaking up all the flood water in your house. Open all the windows and doors to improve the air circulation, which could help air dry everything faster. Call your plumber to get all your faulty pipes or taps repaired and/or replaced before you turn on the water supply to your house again.

PUB also advises house owners to consider installing a one-way valve at the last inspection chamber which will close to stop the accidental backflow of used water from the public sewer into the sanitary drainage system and hence prevent the overflowing at the floor trap.

If you live in a flood-prone area, try to keep your drains unclogged through regular maintenance. Also, consider installing a flood panel, such as the “Dam Easy Flood Panel” by PUB to prevent flood water from flowing into your home.

| Related: Home insurance: do I need it and how much do I need? |

Does basic fire insurance cover flood damage?

You have to purchase a fire insurance policy when you buy a house — be it an HDB flat, condominium, or landed property. Many of us end up just ticking the box and opting for the cheapest, most basic one with the lowest premiums.

However, basic fire insurance only covers the cost to rebuild or repair any damage to the interior structure of your house (floors, walls or pillars provided by HDB or its approved developer) and any original fixtures (such as the water closet).

It does not cover your personal belongings and renovations — much less any damage caused by flooding.

Which home insurance provides flood damage coverage?

For greater peace of mind, especially if you are living in an area with high risk of flooding, consider getting a home content insurance policy. Such policies protect not just your house’s structure, but also what’s inside — renovation works, built-in fixtures, furnishings, decor, collectibles and even valuable personal belongings like jewellery and money.

There are two main types of home insurance policies you can get: insured peril and all-risk home insurance.

Insured peril policies, which tend to be cheaper, only cover loss or damage in highly specific disasters, such as fires and burst pipes. You may not be covered in the event of a burglary.

For the best protection your money can get, opt for the more expensive comprehensive or all-risk home insurance. This policy covers all types and sources of disasters.

It is also important to note that not all losses from fire or flood damage are payable. This is why it is so important to read the fine print in your policy wording — claims for losses are dependent on your policy coverage, especially the specific and general exclusion terms. No two home insurance policies are alike: they may cover the same perils but may not have the same exclusions.

Also, in the event of an insured loss, you will need to submit details of your belongings and proof of their existence in order to get a payout. This is why it is so important to prepare an inventory of your belongings and valuables. Be sure to include copies of receipts, photos or other kinds of evidence to prove your ownership of said items.

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