The Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois is warning residents of flood-related scams.
“There will be dishonest businesses that will exploit the situation and try to scam homeowners and businesses that are in need of making repairs,” president Steve Bernas said in a news release. “While there may be a sense of urgency, we encourage consumers and business owners to carefully consider repair contracts and not rush into making decisions that can aggravate an already stressful time.
The Better Business Bureau also provides a free online service to locate accredited contractors at www.bbb.org.
Tips to consider for those with water damage include:
• Research contractors.
• Request bids from two or three different companies.
• Base all bids on the same criteria.
• Do not automatically pick the lowest bid.
• Do not give in to demands to make excessively large down payments, and do not make a full payment until all the work is done to your satisfaction.
• Determine whether the contractor has the proper insurance.
• Ask to see any required state or local permits, or licenses.
• Check with your local and county units of government to determine if permits or inspections are required.
• Work with contractors who have a verifiable track record.
• Get all estimates in writing.
For more information, visit www.bbb.org.
STAYING SAFE DURING AND AFTER A FLOOD
The Energy Education Council in Springfield has also offered tips for residents to stay safe during and after a flood.
• Do not drive in flood waters. It is difficult to tell by sight how deep floodwaters are. It only takes 6 inches of water for a car to lose control and stall. The car could be swept out of control and into electrical dangers.
• Stay away from downed power lines or damaged equipment, warn others to stay away and notify your utility company.
• Do not enter flood waters on foot or in boat. Floodwaters hold unknown dangers. The water could be energized or could sweep you into electrical equipment. Six inches of moving water can knock a person off his or her feet.
• Use extreme caution when entering a flooded basement or room because water could be in contact with plugged in appliances or outlets, energizing the water and making it dangerous to step in. If there is any question that water could be energized, do not enter the area.
• Do not stand in water to turn on or shut down electrical power. Never do projects or tasks involving electricity if you are wet or standing in water.
• If instructed to do so, turn off utilities at the main switch before evacuating. Unplug appliances and electronics. Do no re-enter your home until you are certain it is safe. Never turn on natural gas. Only professionals should turn on natural gas.
• Have a sump pump with a back-up battery in case the power goes out and an alarm to alert you of flooding.
• Replace appliances and electronics that are water damaged.
• Elevate the water heater, electric panel, and furnace if your home is flood-prone.
SANDBAGS ARE AVAILABLE
The McHenry County Emergency Management Agency is reminding residents that sandbags are available through their township or municipality to protect homes from flooding.
Those living in incorporated areas of the county can contact their municipality or local township for sandbag supplies.
It is recommended that plastic sheeting, available at local retailers, be used with sand bags.
Instructions on setting up an effective sandbag barrier are available online from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency by visiting www.co.mchenry.il.us.
Tips from the Army Corps of Engineers when sandbagging include:
• Use a treated burlap sack that is 14 inches wide and 24 inches long. Fill two-thirds full if untied. Use tied bags (filled slightly fuller to hold plastic sheeting or straw bales in place).
• A two or three person operation works best.
• Consider vehicle transportation and access to flood site when bags are filled at a distant location.
• Fill the bags with sand, silt, clay, or gravels. Straw bales, concrete jersey barriers and ecology blocks can also be used.
• Remove debris from areas where you plan to place sandbags.
• Place bags lengthwise and parallel to direction of flow with the open facing upstream.
• Fill low spots first and start at the downstream end and 1 foot landward from river.
• Fold the open end of the bag under the filled portion.
• Place succeeding bags tightly against and partially overlapping the previous one.
• Offset adjacent rows by one half bag length.
• Use proper lifting techniques.
• Use work gloves and avoid contact with eyes.
• Wear adequate layered clothing and wear boots.
• Use caution around heavy equipment operations.
• Wear with reflective material for night work.
For more information, call the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency at 815-338-6400.
OFFICIALS WARN OF HEALTH RISKS
The McHenry County Department of Health cautions residents that flood waters can contaminate both food and drinking water with bacteria, viruses and other organisms.
Common water-borne illness symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
If persistent symptoms develop after long exposure to flood water, residents should seek immediate medical attention.
Parents should also restrict children from playing in flood waters, and people who come in contact with flood water and have open wounds should made sure their tetanus shots are up to date.
If private well caps have been submerged, the water could also be contaminated. To reduce the risk of illness, water from the wellsshould not be consumed unless tests confirm it is clear of coliform bacteria.
The health department will perform free testing for flooded pricate water wells after flood waters have receded.
Other tips include:
• Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before handling, preparing or eating food.
• Disinfect any foor preparation surfaces that may have been contaminated by flood water.
• Any food or beverage containers should be carefully examined.
• Flooded, non-permeable surfaces of indoor areas must be scrubbed with warm, soapy water.
• Wash all linens and clothing in hot water or dry clean.
• If there is sewage backup in the basement, it can be disposed of by pumping it into the toilet or floor drains if they are connected to the sewer system.
• Do not pump seage-contaminated water into the yard or street.
For more information, visit www.mcdh.info or call 815-334-4585.