10 Tips for Safe Flood Clean-up
As soon as the rain subsides, flood victims can follow a few simple steps to reduce property damage and limit exposure to health risks.
"When you have rising water from rivers and streams, it flows across the ground and picks up all kinds of contamination," said Jeff Bishop, technical advisor for the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification.
"The water can be contaminated with all types of hazardous waste, including decaying insects, animal droppings, oils and fluids from roadways, and fertilizers from fields and gardens."
Bishop offers these tips to clean up after floods:
1) Use precaution when entering buildings. Make sure the power is off and the structure is sound before you enter a flooded building.
2) Be wary of the air you breathe. Wear an organic vapor respirator, available from paint and construction shops. Keep the affected rooms ventilated by placing a fan in the window. Work outward from the fan as you clean.
3) Cover up. Try to keep the contaminated water away from your skin. Animals may also seek shelter inside, so wear leather or canvas gloves.
4) Know what items to throw away. Items that absorb water shouldn't be restored, as the water may be contaminated. Drywall, carpeting, mattresses, pillows, box springs, carpet pads, particle board and possibly plywood should be discarded if wet. Always slash pillows and mattresses so they won’t be re-used by dumpster divers later.
5) Clothing may be salvageable. A 10-minute soak in detergent and hot water should remove most stubborn stains.
6) Remove damaged walls. Find the water line and measure 15 to 20 inches above it. Everything below that may need to go.
8) Prevent mold growth. Although it takes a few days to appear, mold thrives with a moist environment, organic material (such as paper or particle board), and temperatures between 68 and 86 degrees.
9) Dry out before you rebuild. Lumber moisture meters, although not found at local hardwood stores, are available online. These typically cost between sixty and several hundred dollars. To prevent dry rot and infection, don't cover wood until its moisture content falls below 16 percent.
10) Consider hiring a professional. A professional water damage restoration company has trained technicians, specialized cleaners, biocides, extraction, drying and dehumidifying equipment, and moisture measuring and monitoring instruments. Call the IICRC hotline at (800) 835-4624, or go to www.CertifiedCleaners.org for a list of certified restorers in your area.
Beware of scam artists targeting storm victims. The IICRC requires its registrants to have liability insurance and a business license and to adhere to a code of ethics.
When approached by any company for water restoration services, ask to see the technician’s official IICRC wallet card that confirms his or her training and certification.
You may also call the IICRC hotline to confirm the certification of a company that has contacted you.