How to waterproof your belongings

Last updated: January 1

Whether it comes from a leaky appliance, overhead sprinklers or a flood, water can cause unexpected damage. That’s why it’s a good idea to be prepared when it comes to protecting certain items. Here’s a look at some ways you may be able to help protect important documents and belongings from water damage.

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Use waterproof containers

Waterproof containers may come in handy when it comes to protecting a variety of items, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Think about items that can't be replaced or documents that would be difficult to replace, such as paperwork you may need to identify yourself and other members of your household. These may include birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, Social Security cards and passports, FEMA says. In addition, it may be a good idea to safeguard documents such as mortgage records, wills, your home inventory, the deed to your house and vehicle titles. You may also want to include family photos, FEMA suggests.

If your area faces a flood watch or warning and you don't know the date of your last tetanus shot, add immunization records to your waterproof box, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests. It may also be a good idea to make sure you're current on your tetanus vaccination before beginning cleanup after a flood, says the CDC. This is because floodwater can carry objects like glass or metal that may cause an injury, which can subsequently become infected by contaminated water.

Buy water alarms

A water alarm can be an useful tool in various parts of a home. Water alarms are small devices with sensors that can be placed on the floor near potential water sources, such as water heaters, sump pumps and washing machines. If a sensor detects water, it's designed to sound an alarm to help alert you. FEMA suggests installing a water alarm in your basement as an extra line of defense after ensuring your lowest level is waterproofed and your sump pump is functioning.

Store items carefully

Even if you've stored items in waterproof boxes and installed water alarms, you may want to take precautions when storing important belongings. The Library of Congress suggests not storing photographs or negatives in a basement or other place where they may encounter humidity or be at risk from leaks. And, FEMA says, even waterproof boxes should be stored off the ground.

Make backup copies

Important electronic files should be backed up so you can access them even if your computer is damaged. Consider copying them onto a password-protected flash drive that you keep in your waterproof box, FEMA suggests, or give backup copies to a trusted relative for safekeeping.

Water damage can happen when you least expect it. By having a plan to help protect hard- or impossible-to-replace belongings, you can rest assured knowing that you've taken steps to allow continued access to important items if water enters your home