Post Flood Recommendations for Safe Cleanup

If your home or business has been flooded in the recent weeks, it is important to take precautions in the clean up process to prevent any continuing damage. There are various components of a building that are affected from flooding, from the electrical system and structural support to the heating and cooling systems, and when not properly assessed can negatively impact air quality, microbial growth, and disease.

Before entering a building after being flooded, make sure it still has its structural integrity and windows are open for ventilation. Take caution of electrical wires that could be wet and turn off all electrical power. If you smell any gas, contact emergency authorities.

Once inside, the first task is to take note of all damages and losses, taking photos and recording serial numbers of appliances, for insurance purposes. Make sure to wear protection, such as gloves, when handling wet items that could be holding bacteria.

To prevent any further damage, remove all standing water, making sure there is proper ventilation, and have the space dry completely. If items are still wet or absorbant after 48 hours coming in contact with water, microbes and bacteria have probably begun to grow, and in order to prevent disease and poor air quality, should be discarded. Some of these items include carpeting, mattresses, wood, and upholstered furniture. Also take note of any combustion devices in the building and move them outside, as they will increase carbon monoxide in the air.

If any items in your heating or cooling systems come in contact with water, dispose and replace them. Take caution with items that may contain lead or asbestos. Items that typically contain asbestos are siding, pipe and furnace insulation, floor coverings, and textured surface materials. Contact a removal contractor to handle materials with asbestos and the National Lead Information Center if you suspect any products containing lead.

When cleaning, especially the basement, make sure there is plenty of ventilation when using chemical cleaners. Disinfect after sewage leaks and read instructions on the containers of cleaners before mixing them with others. Detergent should be used to clean up any oil spills and concrete walls, wood, and wood beams should be painted and sealed with epoxy after drying.

If you own a private drinking water well and floodwater reaches the well casing, have it tested and disinfected. If you have a septic tank and notice backups or slow drain movement, plug drains in the basement and try to conserve water.

For further information and help in other areas, visit the fact sheet provided by the EPA, or another information sheet here.

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