What we learned from tropical storms Irene and Lee is that homes that were never flooded before, flooded in the past few weeks. And we’re not out of the water yet: Hurricane season doesn’t end until Nov. 30.

Many homeowners are horrified to learn their standard insurance policies do not cover flooding. Only flood insurance, available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program is available. Equally important to keep in mind is that after water has invaded a home, mold follows. Mold damages structure, furniture, and can cause a host of medical problems, including asthma and allergy-like symptoms.

So, a word to the wise: Take these steps immediately before the next storm materializes:
1. Determine if your building is in a flood plain. Visit www.freeflood.net, type in your address, and within seconds you will find out the flood danger level.
2. Do a home inventory, a detailed list of your personal possessions and their estimated value. Some savvy consumers include pictures of their most valuable items to keep with the inventory.
3. Make sure your insurance is up-to-date. According to the Insurance Information Institute, you should have enough insurance to rebuild your home and replace all of its contents. If you rent, get enough insurance to replace your possessions.<
4. Devise a family evacuation plan – both out of the house and out of your neighborhood. Try to have more than one option, and contact family and friends who would be willing to have you stay with them in an emergency.
5. Have your home tested for mold. Mold is often hiding, so it’s important to test to determine mold’s root cause and identify all affected areas. Do-it-yourself kits can be unreliable; qualified, trained mold inspection services offer the best protection.
6. If you can see the mold on hard surfaces, clean it off with detergent and water. Be sure to dry the surface completely. Often, the mold infestation is too large to clean by yourself, and a commercial cleaning company is your only solution.

Past exposure to lead may be to blame for over 400,000 deaths in the United States every year (The Lancet Public Health.)

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