Should there be structures that can be repaired, local permit officials must make certain that they are made safe and sanitary before anyone reoccupies them. Everything that can absorb water or grow mold, especially insulation and wallboard, must be removed in buildings that got wet. Wood frames must be thoroughly cleaned and dried, and must be tested for bacteria and moisture before they are salvaged. There should be no shortcuts to restoring what can be preserved.
Concurrently, substantial damage determinations are needed using more accurate procedures than a rapid “windshield” survey. FEMA has software to do this and offers training programs to local officials after disasters. Property owners need to know how they can provide additional information and/or appeal a determination.
The building department should assure that all repaired structures are properly cleaned and dried before walls and floors are recovered. This may necessitate an extra inspection after the walls have been stripped and dried and before new insulation and wallboard are allowed to be installed. Wood frames must be thoroughly cleaned and dried, and must be tested for bacteria and moisture before they are salvaged.
The local government is responsible for enforcing the building code and floodplain management regulations. If a building in the regulated floodplain is substantially damaged and the owner wants to repair it, it must be rebuilt protected to the base flood elevation plus any local freeboard requirement or other higher protection level (see Step 2). Options for the owners of substantially damaged buildings in the regulated floodplain are to (1) relocate out of the hazardous area, (2) implement the protection requirements (usually elevating the structure above the required level), or (3) tear down what is left of the structure and build a new one on the site, compliant with all the rules for new construction.
There often are sources of financial assistance for mitigation projects that bring a structure into compliance. Increased Cost of Compliance is a benefit for owners of substantially damaged buildings that have a flood insurance policy. It provides up to $30,000 to help cover the cost of meeting the code requirement. Other mitigation grants can help, but it will take time to process applications. Available grant programs are publicized to local officials by the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) and/or the Joint Field Offices.
Full Repair Resources
- The Red Cross’ Repairing Your Flooded Home has step by step instructions for cleaning and drying a flooded building.
- See several universities’ fact sheets on dealing with mold and cleaning flooded buildings. Here’s Cornell’s, and here’s another from Extension.org.
- Here’s the official federal guidance on mold.
Regulating Reconstruction Resources
- Section 27.2 in the Floodplain Management Desk Reference provides ideas for managing code enforcement in a post-disaster situation.
- See Step 1 for resources on administering the substantial damage rule.
- The Town of Highland, Indiana, issued instructions on repairing flooded buildings.
- FEMA has information on Increased Cost of Compliance.