Shortly after purchasing my first home, I discovered how destructive water can be thanks to a faulty water heater. In less than 24 hours, I was left with ruined floors, carpet, walls, electronics, and everything in between. It seemed that the only thing that managed to go down the drain was my mental health.

Water damage is the leading cause of home damage and shows up in all sorts of ways. It can erupt from heavy rains, leaky pipes, sump pump malfunctions, sewer buildup, and yes, even water heaters. A water emergency can happen when we least expect it and disrupt our lives.
We can’t always prevent a water emergency, so knowing how to respond is crucial. Below, we’ll cover the three most important steps you must take when the water levels start to rise so that you’re dried out and back on your feet in no time.


1. Call an Expert
Most posts or blogs you read on water damage have “if all else fails, call in the pros” as the last step. Unless you’re an expert, this will be a key decision no matter what…so why not start with success?

Finding a trusted property damage expert who is both knowledgeable and empathetic can help you understand the extent of what you’re facing. The best teams can advise when or if your insurance agent should be involved, give you vital tips on next steps, and teach you how to best handle your valuables.

Also, a key reason to call in a professional is that water damage is categorized into three tiers: “clean water,” “grey water,” and “black water.” Depending on your water category, an expert may advise you that your home or office is unsafe. According to the IICRC S500, “grossly contaminated water can contain toxic and harmful agents that can cause adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed.” Calling in an expert early can help keep you and those around you safe and healthy.


2. Find the Source
Perhaps this should be number one, but there’s a glaring reason it’s not. Sometimes locating the source can be more dangerous than the water damage itself. Simply put: water and electricity don’t mix. Loose wires, power outlets, and compromised electronics all pose dangerous and potentially deadly threats. If you feel unsafe, wait for a professional.

If you can safely turn off the source, then go ahead. Sometimes it’s as easy as switching off a pipe or a toilet. In cases of extreme water loss, you may even consider turning off the water line to your house altogether. Should you choose to proceed, exercise extreme caution, and survey your surroundings before taking action.


3. Protect your Valuables
When water damage strikes, our minds immediately go to all the items that need to be protected. Instead of concentrating on the things with the biggest price tag first, think of the items that can’t be replaced, such as photos, memorabilia, and hand-me-downs (also, this resource from FEMA can assist in salvaging water-damaged items). Just remember, televisions and furniture can be rebought. Memories can’t.

Once you’ve handled the sentimental items, work smart. Unplug any electronics that might come into contact with water. Use empty Tupperware containers on the feet of couches and coffee tables to protect from standing water. Also, plastic storage boxes can be your best friend – they’re waterproof, so if you run out of table-top or shelf space, items can be on the floor and remain safe from water.

However, depending on the category of water, it may be unsafe to touch your items. Use gloves and be mindful of your environment. Even the simple act of drying out a rug over a banister can ruin wood and finishes and circulate dangerous airborne bacteria. If it’s in the warmer months, consider drying fabrics outside and placing any contaminated items in a sealed storage bin.


Water damage can be so much more than an act of nature and is far more common than you might think. Globally, water damage ranks 3rd in total insurance claims and 8th when it comes to loss of valuables. With statistics as staggering as that, shouldn’t we be more prepared? We’ve been primed to dial 911 in an emergency, but when it comes to water, who do you call?

Zoe Facility Services is equipped with a 24/7 response team to give you peace of mind any time, day or night. Once on-site, our knowledgeable team will guide you every step of the way with the care and respect you deserve. We understand firsthand just how devastating water damage can be, and we’ll do our best to make you feel safe, secure, and satisfied.

We’ll handle the details, so you don’t have to.