7On your side: Tips for flood victims - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

7 On Your Side: Tips for flood victims

We still don't know just how many homes the flooding damaged over the weekend.

The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury is still collecting information from homeowners and businesses.

And Police Jury President Shannon Spell said it's crucial for anyone who flooded this weekend to inform the parish so that information can be used for future planning and grants.

Some who did get water are beginning cleanup and recovery. The water in residential areas is down, but a drive through flood stricken areas reveals who got water. They spread out their belongings, rip up carpet and try to dry out.

Kelly Spence was thinking about cleanup even as she waited for the water to recede this weekend.

"We're going to have to move the furniture out to get it dried out. We're going to have to start cutting sheet rock and lifting up the vinyl and the insulation to dry out and it will probably take at least a month to dry out," Spence said.

The Better Business Bureau advises getting in touch with one's insurance agent as quickly as possible in order to collect all the necessary documentation for a claim and to double check what's covered. BBB President Carmen Million said beware of potential contractor scams.

"Before you hire any company, do your homework. You can get tips from the BBB. You can verify that they're a properly licensed business and you can get a review from the BBB website," said Million. 

For those who escaped damage, the flooding is a reminder to check policies and prices and take a household inventory in case next time it's your house.

"What we recommend is that you take a video tape and photos of your home inside and out," said Million.

Meanwhile, Spell said they are improving drainage in the area hit.

"The Joe Miller Road area in the Ward One area, the first phase of that project has been completed -- which is the new bridge on the North Perkins Ferry Road span over the Bel Field drainage lateral. The second phase of that project is in the works with securing funding for design and engineering. Then would be construction. So, we are moving forward with major improvements," said Spell.

And he said the improvements are throughout Calcasieu, undertaken as they secure funding for various projects.

Spell said residents who have a drainage issue that needs to be addressed -- such as a plugged pipe or lateral -- should contact their District Drainage Board or Calcasieu Public Works.

Following this story is a list of tips for flood victims from the BBB.

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Tips for flood damage clean-up immediately following a disaster:

Call your insurance agent immediately to file a claim. Be sure to ask for specific procedures or paperwork needed to move forward with repairs.

If possible, take photos of any water saturation. An insurance adjuster may need to see what's been damaged in order to process your claim.

As soon as the majority of water is drained away, all wet items should be discarded or cleaned and thoroughly dried within 48 hours of flooding to prevent the growth of mold, according to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Following the recent flood event, the BBB of Southwest LA. urges everyone to be careful of potential repair contractor scams such as the home repair rip-off artist, who may overcharge, perform shoddy work, or skip town without finishing your job. Start with trust. Check them out at lakecharles.bbb.org before signing a contract or allowing work to begin on your home.

Tips for homeowners looking for repairs:

Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy.

Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact.  Be pro-active in selecting a company and not re-active to sales solicitations. Make temporary repairs if necessary.

For major repairs, take time to shop around and get 3-4 estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are at least one year-old, verify with the local licensing agency that the businesses are permitted to do work in your area.

Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job "down the street" or who do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people go do-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.

Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it.

Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor. Be sure their name, address, license number and phone number along with a start and end date for the work is included in contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, don't sign a blank contract and a copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature.

Once you have found a contractor, request proof of a current insurance certificate covering workman's compensation, property damage and personal liability.

Never pay in full for all repairs in advance, and do not pay cash! While many companies may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more one-third of the job be paid up front. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor.

Consumer complaints may be filed with the BBB at www.lakecharles.bbb.org as well as with the state attorney general.

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