Mother Nature doesn’t stop for anyone, including your place of business. Floods are one of the most frequent natural disasters. In fact, they can happen at any point during the year due to conditions like heavy rain, melting snow and even a hurricane. Emergency preparedness is a necessity, but most plans commonly neglect a crucial component: the aftermath. So what do you do after the dust (or rather, water) has settled? Cleaning up after a natural disaster requires an all hands on deck approach. Here’s our checklist on flood cleanup and recovery:
First things first: safety is a priority. Ensure that everyone involved in the cleanup isn’t subjected to any harm. Inspect any structural damage both inside and outside of the facility before beginning your cleanup task. Check for any contamination threats such as electrical systems, gas leaks and fire hazards. Be sure that all electrical and gas systems are turned off before entering the building, and proceed with caution.
Protecting you and your team from any harmful materials requires the right equipment. Here are some must-haves:
- Long work pants, coveralls or rainwear for minimal exposure.
- Durable and water-resistant footwear.
- Rubber gloves.
- Protective goggles.
- N-95 masks for protection against fumes.
2. Equipment and Appliances
Unfortunately, water can be one of the most threatening elements, particularly when it comes to electrical equipment. Although some items may look and work fine, water finds a way to seep through gradually. In order to salvage equipment, first diligently dry everything off. Most appliances can be washed and dried completely and still work—unless they were operating during the flood.
Any appliances or equipment made of stainless steel or other non-absorbent materials can typically be salvaged. Be sure to clean each device thoroughly with a disinfectant solution, which can also help reduce odors. Discard anything that is moldy, deteriorated, rusted or damaged beyond repair. Just use your best judgment.
3. Food, Water and Other
Discard any food or beverage items that may have come in contact with floodwater. Use the state of the container as a guide; toss it if it’s rusted, dented, pitted, swollen or leaking. Some canned goods can be saved if you remove the labels, and thoroughly wash and rinse the cans with a sanitizing solution. Be sure to purify any water you use post-flood until your local water management department declares it safe.
4. Floors and Walls
Both floors and walls are two components most susceptible to damage, mold and structural decay. Remove any liquid with water suction and discharge hoses, and ventilate the areas immediately. Thoroughly clean all the surfaces with a disinfectant to kill any germs, mold and fungi. Note: Delay any extensive repairs until the building is completely dry (which could take weeks depending on the damage and size).
Take all furniture outside for inspection and cleaning. Dispose of any upholstered furniture that has come into contact with floodwater. For pieces that can be saved, be rid of any mud or dust. Remove and dry off all parts of the furniture like drawers or doors. Fully clean each piece with a disinfectant, and let it dry out slowly. Tip: Keep furniture out of direct sunlight to prevent any warping.
One of the biggest threats to you, your building and everything inside is mold. Take initiative to control mold throughout the first couple of weeks and months after the flood. Circulate air and expedite the drying process by opening windows, using fans or air conditioners. The key is ventilation, so try to limit the use of appliances that add moisture into the air.
Though we can’t control the weather, we can control our reactions. With the right flood recovery and cleanup plan, your business will be back to working order before you know it.