Skip to Main Content

Mitigating Flood Danger & Damages

Jul 5, 14

It’s been an unusually rainy season for Sioux Falls. The month of June brought record rainfall, with the region getting more than 10 inches above the average amount. All of that extra water caused problems for many homeowners when it seeped into basements, caused sewer backup, and burst pipes.

Everyone is at some risk for flooding and sewer backup. While the wet weather has slowed so far in July, here are some important reminders for how to stay safe if waters rise – and how to mitigate the damage and danger to your health if water accumulates in your home.

Safety Precautions

  • Know your flood risk. You can search your home address in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website to view a flood map of the risk levels in your area.
  • Create a flood emergency file with a household inventory (written and photographed) and a copy of your insurance policy, along with copies of other important personal documents.
  • Develop a family emergency plan with a safe home evacuation route on higher ground and an out-of-state emergency contact.
  • Create a safety kit with drinking water, canned food, blankets, first aid, flashlights and a radio.
  • Plan how to protect your pets.
  • Prepare your house by ensuring your sump pump is in working order, moving valuables to a higher level and elevating the furnace, water heater, washer, and dryer on cement blocks.

Ways to Mitigate Damages & Health Risks

  • If your basement is mostly submerged, pump out only two or three feet of water per day. Draining the basement too quickly will cause the walls and floors to crack and collapse.
  • Dry everything out as soon as possible. Standing water and wet materials can cause disease, allergic reactions and continue to damage materials long after the initial flooding.
  • Reduce moisture and humidity as soon as possible to prevent your space from becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.
  • When you’re around water accumulation wear protective rubber clothing.
  • Be careful with water-logged furniture as it will be heavier than usual.
  • Discard all food, drinks, and medicine exposed to floodwater (including canned goods).
  • Discard all items that absorb water (including drywall, insulation, mattresses, carpeting, cosmetics, stuffed animals).
  • Remove or thoroughly wash all contaminated materials (including clothing) with a chlorine bleach disinfecting solution (for standard washer this is one cup chlorine bleach per load).
  • Act quickly to prevent mildew and odor.
  • Clean hard surfaces with hot water and detergent.
  • Shut off the electrical system until it can be repaired by an electrician.
  • Clean off any mud and then freeze photos, books and other important papers until you have time to carefully dry them.
  • Have ducts, heating and cooling systems inspected.


Floodwater carries with it bacteria that can cause serious illness, so it is vital to disinfect everything that has been contaminated. Remember that not all water damage is visible.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program, the average flood insurance claim from 2008 to 2012 amounted to nearly $42,000. Because water in your home and drain pipe back up can be difficult and expensive to repair, you should seek legal advice if you suspect the damages may have been caused, or even contributed to, by another party. An attorney can help you determine who bears responsibility for damages, and help you seek legal recourse for repair costs. 

It is great to work with the attorneys at Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah. They always provide excellent advice and service that is second to none.

Mike Miller | former NBA player

The lawyers at Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah are consistently ranked as the top business lawyers in the state. Our business can always count on them to aggressively fight for our rights and provide straight-forward advice on complex issues.

Mark McNeary | Primrose Retirement Communities, LLC

Lawyers from Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah regularly participate in legal education by judging intramural student skills competitions; helping prepare our nationally competitive litigation skills teams; serving or leading the South Dakota State Bar's Law School Committee; and, from time to time , providing guest lecturers. The Law School is grateful for the generous participation of lawyers like those from Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah.

Tom Geu | former Dean, USD School of Law