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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

Returning to flood affected areas

When the water finally subsides, what you can’t see can be more dangerous and costly than the first graphic viewing of the site. Things you should investigate.

The floods across many states in recent months have caused immense damage to properties and lives. In coming days and weeks, affected state Governments are likely to produce information for all residents on how they would prefer people ‘return home’ and begin to deal with the damage to individual homes and business.

The following information is provided as a “guide only” for members to assist in returning to areas affected by a natural disaster or emergency to help them return to their communities in a safe, timely and orderly fashion. Below are a number of steps that should be considered to ensure a cautious approach and the effective delivery of support after an event has occurred.

Safe access

Do not travel to the affected area until official notice has been provided that the area can be re-entered. Road congestion only blocks emergency service vehicles. A planned approach coordinated by the State Emergency Services (SES) and other emergency services in the initial stages of the return is necessary to provide coordinated and effective relief.

Damage to buildings and structures

Buildings in affected areas will all be impacted in different ways. Some buildings will be completely destroyed; some will be partially damaged while others will be unaffected. Regardless of the external appearance of the building it is important to be aware of the possibility of collapse of weakened structures that are still standing. Buildings may also be impacted by fallen trees or other objects.

You must always be mindful that entering a damaged building is a risk and your movement in the building and anything you move or remove from the home may cause something that at first appeared safe, to become unsafe.

When in doubt about how safe the house is after flooding has occurred, be on the safe side and consult a professional.

  • emergency disaster agencies personnel
  • structural or civil engineer
  • building surveyor
  • experienced builder

Inspection issues

  • A structural check for damage i.e foundation movement, impact from moving/falling objects, trees, water, wind etc should always be carried out before any ratification/clean-up works are started.
  • If you note structural or health issues, you may suggest if the home is occupied that the occupants do not stay in the home until it has been thoroughly assessed/checked as it may be unsafe or detrimental to their health.
  • Buildings under construction which may have partially completed frames are at a heightened risk and are particularly vulnerable to potential movement and cracking arising from flooding.
  • Older homes not built to our current building codes and standards are more susceptible to damage, particularly those with brick or blockwork walls.
  • Hillsides homes can also be more susceptible to damage due to foundation movement resulting from heavy rain & flooding.


  • Check for obvious damage to the structure such as cracks in walls and foundations
  • Check that the integrity of temporary bracing, props and formwork has not been undermined
  • Check for things that could have been dislodged such as materials stored at height and trench walls for dislodged or about to be dislodged material
  • Any scaffolds on site should be re-inspected by the scaffold supplier or a licenced scaffolder
  • Check to ensure no damaged plumbing pipes both sanitary and supply and at point of connection to building
  • Check all critical connections points of the structure with particular attention on fame to base, wall and roof frames, roof trusses or rafter connections, steel columns and beams and any structures connected to main structure
  • Check any bracing for brick or block walls or concrete precast panels, and if necessary, place some additional bracing to provide further support to the structure
  • Where possible, apply temporary hoardings to adequately protect or screen off any damaged areas.

Safety issues

  • Check whether electrical services have been switched off or disconnected
  • Check whether photo voltaic cells or solar hot water systems are continuing to generate electricity in day light hours
  • Be careful of slips, trips and falls due to debris or hidden holes
  • Protect yourself from potential contamination in the immediate area from chemicals stored in the home that may have exploded or spilled
  • Protect yourself from broken glass and sharp objects

Health issues

  • Check the availability of drinking and washing water
  • Protect yourself with appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) when removing materials such as metal and glass
  • Be aware of potential insects and dead animals

Once it is safe to do so it’s useful to make a record of the property before, during and after the clean-up. Taking photographs and videos of the condition of the site and buildings noting both damage and debris, is an easy way to make a record before undertaking any repairs or restoration of the property.

Demolition of structures

Demolition of larger buildings and structures generally requires approval from local council and the work must be undertaken by appropriately licensed demolition contractors. Check with your local council and state WHS authority for further information if you are required to demolition any structures.

Rebuilding work

Rebuilding or repair work may not be able to undertaken immediately upon returning to homes particularly where significant damage has occurred or if say the house frame has been substantially impacted by the flooding.

State governments play an important role in setting rules for rebuilding work in relation to approval processes and building standards, so contacting your local council for the latest information can help avoid mistakes and ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

It is important to understand that older homes and buildings were built to different standards and new buildings will need to meet today’s requirements. This may change the cost of reconstruction and builders and property owners need to work together with the local council regarding what can be rebuilt on a property.

The normal rules regarding who can undertake residential building work, requiring contracts, insurance and licenses will continue to apply.

For Queensland please download a detailed breakdown of the permit requirements for rebuilding and repair work

Key things to remember

When carrying out building work remember:

  • Keep your clients informed of progress (or otherwise) of the rectification work.
  • Document all contractual variations to avoid any ambiguity in your dealings with clients.
  • Do not allow anyone under your authority to perform any work without the relevant license.
  • Follow all State Laws with respect to workplace health and safety.
  • Be aware of the local environmental conditions (i.e. ongoing flood risk, wind warnings, etc)
  • Ensure the availability of necessary building materials during the tendering period as there may be pressure on materials suppliers due to short term increased demand. These conditions may affect any committed time frames.  Make allowances under your contract for building delays.

For information on flood and further Emergency information in your state visit:









To find out more, contact HIA’s Safety Services team.

Email us

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