Did you know that a sinkhole ‘swallowed’ a bus in Pittsburgh this Monday? It weakened the pavement which fell apart as soon as the bus made a stop at the site.
Multiple cranes were sought to pull the bus out from the site which was closed for traffic for 8 to 10 hours. The incident came as no surprise as Pennsylvania is one of the two cities prone to sinkholes, the other one being Florida.
Some people tend to think that sinkholes are restricted to roads or large construction sites where there is a large ongoing industrial activity. But contrary to this perception, sinkholes can appear in any residential area, especially if it is situated in one of the two aforementioned cities.
While a sinkhole in the street may be relatively easy to deal with, one in your house can cause the entire structure to collapse. Hence, the wisest thing to do for the residents is to get sinkhole insurance in Lakeland Florida.
How to Detect a Sinkhole in Your Property?
It is better to take some remedial measures in order to ensure that you have calculated the risk and are prepared to deal with it. Let’s look at some of the steps to spot an underlying sinkhole in your property.
1. Notice Changes in Your Structure
Any changes in the structure of your house are the first signs that there is an underlying sinkhole. If you notice any cracks, these can be a signal that the sinkhole is not only present, but it is in a potentially dangerous state. It is sometimes difficult to tell if the cracks are due to sinkhole or due to a plumbing issue or the ageing of the structure.
Cracks that form due to sinkholes are stair step-shaped and these may appear around the exterior of your house or its foundation. If you see the cracks in your walls, ceiling or around the window frames, these may well indicate that the sinkhole could appear at any time.
2. Notice the Depletion of Water
If there is a persistent sinkhole in the foundation, the condition of the plants in your backyard or other areas of the house will deteriorate. This is because much of the water that you supply in your garden may get consumed in the sinkhole and may cause the plants to go dry.
Likewise, you may also notice rainwater draining quickly that it used to in the area where there is an underlying sinkhole. Over the period of time, the water that keeps accumulating in this sinkhole contributes to the weakening of your structure and might cause it to suddenly collapse.
3. Look for a Cavity in Your House
Look for a hollow space or a small cavity in all parts of your house, which is a sign that the sinkhole has enlarged. Structures that have not aged will be able to resist being sunk, but those that are already dilapidated will not be able to withstand such pressure for long.
The cavity is indeed a danger sign and requires that you seriously consider sinkhole insurance in Lakeland Florida.
4. Notice for a Surge in Your Water Bill
If you suspect that a sinkhole is developing underneath, keep a close watch on your water bill. The water that gets drained and absorbed will likely cause a consistent surge in your bills. Sometimes, this drainage is slow and will require that you compare your water bills each month and look closely for any unexplained hike in the numbers.
5. Notice the Appearance of the Trees
Another visible sign of a sinkhole is that the trees in your backyard or around the exterior may start to lean on one side. This carries multiple potential hazards, as not only a sinkhole may cause a sudden collapse, but also the falling tree may cause damage to your house or cause an injury to any of the residents.
6. Notice Hardening of the Structure
An underlying sinkhole will harden your structure and take a lot of effort to function. The doors and windows of your house will become hard to move due to the erosion of the foundation or because small cavities or gaps are appearing underneath due to the sinkhole.
What Should You Do If a Sinkhole Appears
If you have spotted a sinkhole, it is time to act quickly. In addition to immediately seeking sinkhole insurance in Lakeland Florida, you can take the following steps to sustain the possible damage.
1. Cordon Off the Affected Area
If you have already detected the place affected by an underlying sinkhole, mark the site and cordon it off with a tape to restrict activity to it. Moreover, draw a circular line around the cavity so that you can notice clearly and immediately when the cracks widen. Measure the diameter of the cavity and communicate these details to your insurance company to expedite the process of restoration and recovery.
2. Vacate Your House
If the cavity is too large, then the second step would be to vacate your house or stop the use of the affected area, depending on the extent of the damage. It is usually very difficult to predict as to what extent the sinkhole has damaged your structure’s foundation. But oftentimes, any minor movement in the base can lead to a massive collapse. So it is wise to leave your property until you are certain that you are out of danger. While vacating your house, remember to contact the relevant government departments to find out whether they provide services of a professional evacuation agency. Such an agency might assist you in assessing your damage and reporting the sinkhole to other authorities concerned.
3. Be Vigilant
Once the cracks start to appear, they might silently damage more structure underneath which would lead to more collapse. That is why it is best to stay out of your property until you are sure that the damage has been restricted to one place.
4. Cover the Cavity
If the cavity that has appeared isn’t more than 1 to 3 feet deep, then it is a good idea to fill it up with sand and concrete so that you are able to walk freely around the affected area. Level the surface properly with an appropriate tool so you are able to tell if it widens further.
Remember that you should not dump the cavity at all if it is deeper than the said diameter as it can contaminate the groundwater and may even damage your structure further.
5. Get In Touch With Your Insurer
After you have moved to safety, call your insurer and provide them as accurate information as possible about the potential hazard. One smart idea is to keep a handheld camera ready and document the damage as soon as it takes place. This will authenticate your information and validate your claim for insurance.
If the sinkhole is in its initial stages, then you should still get in touch with your insurer who will send an engineering expert to begin testing the property for further damage.
6. Notify Occupants
In order to fully avoid any potential hazard, it is indeed wise to notify all other occupants as well as your neighbors about the sinkhole. Inform the local Water Management District to avoid any unnecessary hassle and prolonged recovery processes.
Until a government representative arrives, try to divert any more water from entering the sinkhole to avoid further damage to your foundation. Remember, you should not attempt to repair or restore the affected area by yourself as this can backfire and result in a loss. Above all, it is advisable to consider sinkhole insurance in Lakeland Florida.
7. Clean Up Debris
Once your property is restored to its original condition, remember to have the debris cleaned up or else it would deteriorate the situation. Again, do not fill the sinkhole with any sort of debris as this will contaminate the groundwater and make you liable for the damage caused.
Given the number of incidents in Pennsylvania and Florida, it is becoming increasingly important to sign up with an insurance company. But remember to choose insurance that offers the maximum benefits and provides comprehensive coverage. It is also important to be vigilant for sinkholes during torrential rains or floods as these might make the foundation more susceptible to damage.
If you are dealing with a worsening sinkhole, it is indeed wise to vacate the house to avoid a sudden collapse. So, before a sinkhole incident may take you by surprise, act smart and sign up for insurance right away!
If you have any insurance needs, please call us at 407-344-1228 or email us at [email protected].