A wetter-than-usual spring and the impact of Subtropical Storm Alberto are causing widespread flooding across the East Coast. The storm made landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Memorial Day and quickly moved inland, creating flash flooding, mudslides and power outages throughout the South. Meanwhile, Baltimore, MD, experienced its seventh-wettest May on record with more rain on the way throughout the first few days of June. The downpour worsened the existing flooding in Baltimore and Howard counties.
Flooding forecasts are always a possibility during summer storm season. 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 at risk, round up valuable items or documents and store them in a secure and dry location. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 June 2018.