Weather in Panama Brings FloodingTorrential downpours have meant the weather in Panama has been wetter than normal this year.  Floods have affected thousands in La Chorrera, Arraiján, Colón and the Caribbean Coast.  If you have been affected by this years flooding, you know what a mess it can make.  But sometimes, the costs are even higher than you realize.

Estimating the full cost means evaluating both the direct and indirect costs of a flood.

Direct costs are the items that are directly damaged – Your home, belongings, etc.  These are mostly obvious.

Indirect costs are expenses incurred because of the flood – But not direct water damage.  For example, hotel stays while your home is being repaired, lost business, etc.

Direct costs can be further broken down into structural and belongings.  And this is the order that you should begin your inspection.

Structural costs include all of the damage that was actually done to your home.

Direct Costs

Structural

Start your inspection from the top down.  Depending on the cause of the flooding, this will usually start with the roof.

Inspect the roofing materials to make sure that no further rain can enter from the top, causing further damage.

Then work your way down the exterior.  Check the siding or other surface material, etc.

Pay special attention to the windows and doors, as once again, those can invite further water damage, even if the brunt of the storm has passed.  Besides, with the weather in Panama you know the next storm is right around the corner.

Spend a lot of time investigating your foundation.  Make sure that it is still structurally sound, there are no cracks and there is no chance of collapse.  This is one area where it pays to bring in a professional.

Actually in most cases of flood, a professional should be brought in for everything.

Since you are working on the exterior anyway, this is the time to investigate your front and back yard.  Check and record any plants that may have been damaged. Pay special attention to large trees which could have been weakened, and are in danger of falling on people, cars or your home.

Belongings

Moving to the interior, the first things you need to do is check and clean out your belongings.

It is critical that personal belongings that have gotten wet are removed so they can be dried out.  This includes carpeting.

You need to make a decision as to what personal belongings you want to clean and dry, vs. what you just want to dispose of.  Keep a record of both.

If there is any chance that sewer waters have entered, err on the side of disposal.  Also, anything with staining will be very difficult to clean, so try to dispose of items like mattresses, couches, etc.

If you have items that are irreplaceable, there are professional restoration companies that might be able to clean and disinfect appropriately, but these can be very expensive.

If you have installed carpeting (very rare here in Panama) bring in large fans to try and dry them out.  Except in the case of sewer damage or staining, in which case, disposal is your best option.

After your belongings are removed and drying, you need to check the ceilings, walls and floors.  Look for wet or cracked ceilings and walls.  If you home has insulation, make sure that it is not wet, and if it is, get a plan to dry it out – quickly.

Investigate your counters, sinks and showers for damage.

In a flood situation, it is likely that electrical wiring got soaked.  If you power is out, do not attempt to turn it back on until after a thorough inspection by a professional electrician.  The same is true of gas lines.

Finally, investigate your foundation.  Look for cracks and staining.

The most important thing is to get everything dry.  This includes hidden water.  Most structural building materials won’t be too damaged by flooding, but if they are not dried out completely and quickly, mold can form which can threaten the health of your family and cause smells that you will not be able to get rid of.

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs are much more difficult to estimate.  Some are obvious, like the costs of hotels.  But others are less so.  For starters, you will probably be eating out more often than if you had the ability to cook.

You also have to consider the costs of lost income.  This could include closure days if your business was damaged, but could also include days off work while you deal with insurance and repairs.

Another indirect cost that you might not think about is your future insurance costs.  Depending on your policy and the type of flood, your premiums in the future could go through the roof.

Estimating, calculating and assessing flood damage is difficult and time consuming.  There are many items that you may not think about, and these can end up costing thousands.

With any type of flooding situation, it is usually best to call in professionals.  Both from your insurance company and from professional flood restoration firms (or your qualified contractor).  Do not rely on only one source.

It is critical that as you are estimating your flood damage you keep accurate notes.  Write down everything you notice.

And, as you begin your repairs, keep all of your receipts.  These will come in very important when you are dealing with your insurance company.

Flood damage, especially when caused by storms like we have seen in Panama this year can be devastating.  But by taking a methodical approach to assessing the flood damage you can go a long way towards rebuilding your “broken” home.