One week of heavy downpours in November 2016, caused considerable infrastructural and property damage throughout the Caribbean. The reported fallout from a tropical disturbance that brought heavy showers and thunderstorms included blocked roads, broken bridges, and flash floods. Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines experienced significant flooding and landslides. And more recently, Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria all left their mark on the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the southern United States with severe flooding and subsequent devastating damage due to extensive rainfall and storm surge beyond the capabilities of the drainage systems of these nations.
One of the major lessons learned from these experiences was the immense power of water, especially where it isn’t wanted.
Another major lesson was that in the absence of comprehensive pre-planning, like taking extra precautions in flood-prone areas and locations prone to land slippage, such situations could threaten the lives and personal safety of occupants or residents and present a nightmare for individuals or corporations tasked with the subsequent clean-up and rebuilding.
However, natural disasters may not always be the source. Water damage in the Caribbean can also result from plumbing leaks, roof damage, broken pipes and drains, air conditioning leaks and seawater surges.
Ideally, moisture sensitive materials will be delivered “just in time” for use.
Here is how you can reduce or eliminate water damage on your property:
- In the design stage, it involves locating mechanical and electrical equipment away from areas where water may collect, such as basements. Building plans should locate water lines in heated areas, away from crawl spaces or closets to avoid frozen water lines.
- Site development or grading plans should divert water accumulations from the construction area. Connections to permanent sewer and storm water systems should be made before building construction begins.
- Design and install moisture and air infiltration barriers or retarders to allow water to exit the exterior wall systems and ensure that external walls have appropriate drainage planes behind them.
- Include waterproofing designs to all roofs, foundations, windows, doors, gutters, and drainage systems and specify the types of flashing, waterproofing components, moisture barriers and retarders in building plans.
- Ensure that roof drains are not blocked with leaves or debris.
- Check sink drains from time to time to ensure that they are not clogged.
- Make sure that storage areas are dry and well ventilated.
- Have important materials raised off the floor by pallets for storage before a weather system approaches.
In the event that you cannot take any of the previously mentioned steps to protect your home from water damage, there are some great insurance providers who offer plans that include water damage, whether marine or on land.
Sun General Insurance (SGI) covers clients across the Caribbean region and, with water damage as part of their portfolio, they routinely give property owners advice on water damage. According to SGI, “time is of the essence when it comes to water damage”. SGI adds that the process of water damage restoration and water clean-up should begin immediately after the disaster. There are several good reasons for this advice.
Quick reaction results in significant cost savings compared to a delayed response.
If water is left to sit for too long it can cause even more damage and lead to the growth of mold, which can cause adverse health effects.
SGI also says that after you have discovered that you have been the victim of water damage, “you should turn off the water supply, take photos and call us immediately. Start the process of water damage restoration and you can begin getting your life back to normal”.
In cases of significant water damage, pump water out of your basement gradually to avoid damage. The walls may collapse and the floor may buckle if the basement is pumped out while the surrounding ground is still waterlogged. You should also contact your insurers immediately.
Ultimately, we must all bear in mind that the impact of weather systems is not always limited to the traditional hurricane season, an ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure before.
In short, don’t wait for the next named storm to prepare your home or business. Act now!