Days of rain across the Midwest and the impact of hurricane season cause widespread flooding across the country. Already saturated ground means that additional rainfall could cause rivers to overflow banks. Low-lying urban areas are also at risk. (Photo credit: Alexandru Chiriac)
If your facility is in a high-risk area, this reference guide from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, Restoration and Certification (IICRC) can help you minimize the damage.
1. Be prepared.
If the storm is imminent and you know your facility is in danger, round up valuable items or documents and store them in a secure and dry location.
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Clean out gutters and downspouts and ensure your sump pump is working. Move items to higher floors or raise them off the floor to minimize damage.
2. Stay safe.
Did the flood waters reach your building? If so, shut off all electricity in the affected areas, even if you think there’s an outage – power is often restored without notice, which could present a shock hazard.
(Photo: Flooded building entrance caused by Hurricane Sandy, seen on October 29, 2012, in Brooklyn, NY. Credit: FashionStock.com)
When you enter your damaged building, be aware of its structural integrity and other potential hazards, such as falling debris. Stay out of the floodwaters as much as you can to avoid the risk of injury or potential sickness from what may be in the water.
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Also, make sure you’re wearing the right personal protective equipment – protective clothing, sturdy shoes, gloves, eye protection and a paint respirator can help protect you from microorganisms that grow quickly after floods.
3. Clean quickly.
Control or minimize the speed of mold growth by keeping air moving through the space with open windows and doors.
Mold thrives in moist environments (particularly ones with stale air, food sources like paper and wood, and temperatures between 68-86 degrees F.), so maintain a steady supply of fresh air. This discourages the growth of mold and other microorganisms and also helps guard against inhalation risks.
4. Be thorough.
Remove and dispose of anything wet and porous, such as mattresses, pillows, molding, insulation, and damaged portions of walls.
(Photo: Serious flooding in the buildings at the Sheapsheadbay neighborhood due to impact from Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., on Tuesday, October 30, 2012. Credit: FashionStock.com)
Floor coverings like carpet, pads, laminate, tile, and sheet vinyl must also be disposed of. Wood flooring should be removed so you can expose, dry, and clean wet saturation pockets underneath.
Some items, such as furniture and clothing, can be salvaged by washing them in hot water, soaking them in detergent and using a disinfectant solution.
You’ll also need to disinfect structural areas such as wall cavities, studs, and other fixtures – this can be done by pressure washing with detergent solutions from top to bottom.
5. Dry everything.
After disinfecting, the entire space needs to dry thoroughly before you can begin reconstruction. (Photo: Hose pipes laid out after being used to pump water from flooded buildings. Credit: AC Rider)
Surfaces may feel dry to the touch, but that doesn’t mean they are truly dry. If you start reconstruction too early, you may end up with dry rot, ongoing structural damage, or adverse effects on human health. Consider a professional moisture assessment to make sure it’s safe to proceed.
This article was first published in 2014. It was updated in September 2018.
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