uncovering and repairing water damage in the home

How Can You Fix (And Prevent) Flood Damage To Electronic Devices?

If you've recently been evacuated from your home or community due to rising flood waters, you may be anxious to try to regain access and survey damage to your home as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, if waters rose high enough to submerge your home's wiring, you could find yourself returning to a house filled with overloaded or water-damaged electronics. Read on to learn more about how (and when) you can repair flood-damaged electronics, as well as the steps you can take during the cleanup process to prevent similar damage during future storms. 

What should you do if your electronics or appliances have been affected by flood water?

Floods can damage electronics in one of a few ways. The first is by compromising the home's electrical system and causing a surge of power to the appliance. As flood waters rise and come into contact with live electrical wires beneath your floors or behind your drywall, this moisture can interfere with the transmission of electricity. In some cases, this water will cause the electrical supply to short out, causing electronics to shut down or go to a backup battery source. In other situations, a sudden surge of power to an outlet could overload the circuits of the appliance plugged into this outlet, causing permanent damage.

If your electronics appear dry but are not working (even after being plugged into a generator or alternative source of electricity), you're likely dealing with an internal computer or processor problem best handled by a professional repair person. In many cases, after replacement of the motherboard or another main processor, your electronic device will function just like new. In other cases, you may be looking at replacement. Be sure to take copious photographs of these electronics to ensure you have enough documentation for your insurance company to pay for replacement of these items. 

Floods can also have a more obvious impact on electronics if these devices are actually submerged in water, even if only for a minute. If this is the case, removing the device from the water source and taking steps to immediately dry it is often your only chance at salvage. 

First, you'll want to disassemble as much of the device as possible -- removing the battery, memory cards, and other easy-to-access components. If the battery has already been in direct contact with the water, be careful when removing it to avoid any chemical burns. Carefully drain or wipe up the water that seeps out of the device and use packets of silica gel (or even dry white rice in an emergency) to wick out any remaining moisture. 

Because flood water can contain a number of contaminants and toxins -- from raw sewage to heavy metals -- you'll want to consider having a partially or fully submerged device cleaned by a professional, even if it appears to be functioning normally. The metallic or acidic residue left behind on delicate circuit boards and other components could compromise your device's performance over time if not corrected. 

What steps should you take to prevent future flooding damage to your electronics?

Once you've begun the recovery process, you're likely interested in ways to help prevent similar damage to your home in the future. The installation of a whole-house surge protector can provide you with some protection against floods, lightning strikes, electromagnetic pulses (EMPs), and other situations in which the amount of current being sent through a particular outlet far exceeds its capacity. A surge protector will immediately cut off access to the affected outlet before this surge of current can reach or damage appliances. While you can purchase "power strips" that include a surge protector, having each of the outlets in your home outfitted with this protection from a central source is often more cost-effective.

If much of the flood water affecting your home came from nearby drains (or even your own toilets and bathtubs), you could help avoid future damage by installing a backflow valve or pump that will help avoid sewage backups at times when ground water levels are rising quickly. While these valves and pumps won't do much to keep water out if your house is partially submerged, they can provide tremendous protection against more minor floods that impact the sewer system.