Time is of the essence if your home has been damaged or flooded because of the remnants of Hurricane Ida. There is much to do, from salvaging your belongings to warding off potential scammers.
Here are some consumer tips to help you recover.
1. Move fast. The first 24 to 48 hours are critical when it comes to salvaging your home, said Ron Papa, president of NFA, a public insurance adjuster with an office in Nutley.
“You need to dry it out right away,” Papa said.
That means opening windows, spraying anti-mold disinfectant and air drying with fans.
Determine the source of water and cut off that supply, said Howard White, executive vice president of First Onsite, a remediation property restoration company. If the water is a few inches, try to remove it and the carpet before professionals get to your home. If the water is a few feet deep, do not try to do it yourself, White said.
2. Beware of floodwaters. Floodwaters can spread illness and disease, said Rutgers New Jersey Medical School experts Diane Calello and Bruce Ruck. Standing water may contain sewage, snakes, dangerous chemicals and housing and building debris. Floodwaters can contaminate food, drinking water and medicines. If there’s a chance any of these items have come in contact with floodwater, do not use them. Throw the items out.
3. Rip out the walls. If your home is heavily damaged, it is often less expensive and healthier to rip out the walls instead of trying to air dry them, Papa said.
Service companies are currently busy right now with regional damage. If you do the work yourself and have flood insurance, you may claim your time and labor for reimbursement from your insurance company, Papa said.
First Onsite received more than 1,500 calls for remediation in the New Jersey and New York metro areas this week, White said.
4. Power outage. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that gives no warning — you cannot see it, smell it, hear it or taste it. Gas-powered equipment, including generators, pressure washers, grills, camping stoves and vehicles, produce carbon monoxide. Generators must be kept outdoors at least 20 feet away from doors, windows and vents. Do not use fuel-burning appliances or tools indoors.
It is unsafe to idle your car in the garage even with the garage door open. If you need to charge your phone, pull your vehicle completely out of the garage with the exhaust facing away from home. Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can build up quickly in your home, apartment, or vehicle, poisoning those inside, including pets, according to Calello and Ruck.
Every home should have working carbon monoxide detectors. Detectors should be on every level of the home.
5. Food safety. Power outages increase the risk of food and medicine poisonings. Foodborne illnesses come from eating food contaminated with harmful bacteria. The symptoms of foodborne illness are flu-like and may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever.
Food in refrigerators and freezers can quickly spoil when the power is out. Limit the use of refrigerators and freezers — only open doors when necessary. Be mindful of medicines that need to be refrigerated as they too can spoil.
If any food looks or smells odd or if you are just unsure, remember the saying: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
6. Safety in cleaning. Use gloves and eye protection, Calello and Ruck said. Do not mix chemicals which could create toxic fumes. Open doors and windows to ensure there is plenty of air circulation. Follow the directions on cleaning products, including directions on how to dilute the chemical safely.
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7. Beware of price gouging. Acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck and the state Division of Consumer Affairs are warning state residents to beware of price gouging and consumer fraud following Gov. Phil Murphy’s declaration of a state of emergency.
Gouging of prices for food, gas, hotel rooms, generators, or other necessary items and taking financial advantage of residents as they struggle to recover from the storm damage are illegal. Residents are encouraged to immediately report any suspected instance of price gouging or consumer fraud.
New Jersey’s price gouging law prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency and for 30 days after its termination.
An excessive price increase is any price that exceeds 10% of the price the product or service was sold at during the normal course of business prior to the state of emergency.
8. Tips on home repairs. Victims of natural disasters are often faced with thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs to make their homes livable again. Homeowners can protect themselves from dishonest home improvement contractors by shopping around and obtaining at least three written estimates. Ask the contractors if they have liability insurance and whether they will be using subcontractors on the project.
Call Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Service Center at 800-242-5846 or 973-504-6200 to find out if the contractor you are considering is registered or has been the subject of complaints or action by the state.
9. Look for red flags. Be wary if a contractor tells you that he or she needs a large payment before the home repair, said White. Unscrupulous contractors circle flood damaged neighborhoods looking for victims, White said.
Check with your insurance company for recommended contractors, White said. Also, search online to determine their reputation.
10. Stop mold. Mold grows when there is water and a food source, White said. Stop mold before it grows by removing the source of water and materials such as carpet and paper.
Mary Chao 趙 慶 華 covers the Asian community and real estate for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news out of North Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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