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Flood Recovery Risk Mitigation

After a hurricane or major flooding event, trying to return to “normal” can sound like a daunting task. In this stressful time, it is important to keep your health, your family’s health and the health of your building’s occupants at the forefront while trying to rebuild your home or business. Companies, school officials, health officials and community leaders have to make decisions based on health and safety risk. Who do they turn to and what is the process that helps inform their decisions? The Risk Assessment process helps the decision makers make informed conclusions to protect you and others from the many hazards found after a natural disaster. The following are some health and safety risk mitigation steps to consider during a flood recovery:

Assessing Damage

  • Hurricanes and flooding may have caused structural damage to your home or business. Use extreme caution when re-entering your home or building after a storm. Do not enter a building that is leaning or sagging and do not enter if standing water surrounds it, as it will be extremely difficult to tell if there has been any structural damage. If anything seems unsafe, call a building inspector to make sure the structure is clear to enter again.
  • The local power company may have turned off electricity to your area, but be sure that electric and gas lines are shut off to the building.
  • Be aware that animals or insects could have entered the home during the storm.

Avoiding Hazards

  • Flooded homes can be especially susceptible to moisture and mold In as little as 24 to 48 hours, mold can grow on wet organic materials, such as drywall, upholstered furniture, carpets and clothing. Inhalation exposure to mold can cause adverse health effects in some people. You can mitigate this risk by wearing a respirator (one that can specifically filter mold spores), gloves, long sleeve shirts and pants and goggles.
  • Floodwater itself has its own set of health hazards, which can include water borne pathogens, stagnant water which can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitos or accumulation of agriculture and industrial wastes.

Cleaning

  • Dry out your home. Your best friends during flood recovery are box fans, dehumidifiers and desiccants like cat litter or calcium chloride. When working to remove mold, wear protective gear and isolate the area you are working in. Mold spores can be released into the air and can relocate to other parts of the house if it is not cleaned and quarantined properly. Seal off air vents, open windows and use a box fan to remove contaminants from inside the building to the outside.
  • Remove of or dispose of any moldy items or furniture. Upholstery and mattresses that have been fully submerged in floodwater should be disposed of or cleaned by professionals. Porous or plastic items that have touched floodwater cannot be properly disinfected and should be immediately thrown into the trash. Nonporous material can be disinfected with a bleach solution thoroughly to remove bacteria and mold.
  • Remove and replace wet carpet and foam pads. To restore valuable rugs, professional cleaners should be used.
  • All appliances, light fixtures, and electrical wiring should be replaced if exposed to saltwater. Appliances exposed to freshwater should be serviced by a professional before use.
  • Throw out any perishable food, especially if you lost power. Discard any food (even canned goods) that may have come into contact with floodwaters. Be sure to not let garbage pile up outside, as it can attract more health hazards such as insects and rodents.

For more information on health flood recovery or if you have a potential hazard in your building, location, facility or community and would like to request a risk assessment from the experts at Cogency, please contact us at solutions@cogencyteam.com.

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