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Flood Survival Part II: Cleaning Up & Battling Mold
Cleaning Up after a Flood
- The Return: Again, do not enter until the authorities have given the go-ahead. You may be instantly charged if you do not comply with their precautions. Remember, they are trying to help by checking structures for integrity and other hazards such as possible gas leaks. Also check to see how the authorities want you to return to the site. They may limit the number of people you take in, have check in/out points, or other rules in place.
- Tetanus: Make sure you have a current tetanus vaccination. Although the CDC has stated on their website that it is now not required to work in a flood disaster area, they do mention that it is beneficial in case an accident does occur. Tetanus should be boosted every 10 years. You should have a good idea if you have this beforehand. In Cedar Rapids, tetanus vaccinations were offered to those who had need. However, with the new information on government websites like the CDC, these programs may not happen at future floods. Therefore, know if you have one so if you do get injured treatment can be simplified.
- Gear: Protect yourself with goggles, masks, watertight boots, shoes with thick soles, thick rubber gloves, and a hard hat if necessary. Depending on equipment used you may also need earplugs. Bring in a first aid kit and bug repellent. Wear long sleeves and pants. Remember that water may possibly have dead fish, sewage and chemical residue. It is not pleasant and the less it touches your skin the better!
- Water: Bring in a lot of clean water for while you work. Some agencies may offer water, however, due to need it may not be enough. When working at the office we were not able to get more then one 8oz bottle per person and this only if they came in person. If working with a crew or team, bring in your own. Also bring in jugs of water for washing hands as well as sanitation wipes and/or gel cleaners. The cleaner you can get your hands at breaks the better. Also, keep fire extinguishers at the recovery site as there will not be running water if a fire does break out.
- Lighting: Bring a lot of flashlights. Only go during the day when you have the daylight to assist you in recovery. However, even with sunlight, without electricity there will be many rooms and areas that will need the extra lighting. Do not use matches or smoke when working in the structure. If you use a generator, make certain it is outside and only run according to manufacture directions.
- Camera: Remember your camera or video recorder and make certain to document the losses before removing items. You will need this for your records when working with your insurance company and relief agencies.
- Work Safely: Do not overdo the work. Take breaks often. You will be in an environment with poor lighting, terrible air quality and slick obstacles at every turn. Keeping your energy up and your body healthy should be the first priority. Wash your hands. Drink clean water. Get healthy snacks. Get outside and try to get fresh air. Keep in mind that in an area hard hit, even the outdoors will be filled with repugnant odors. You may need to leave the site to get some fresh air! Really keep an eye on your breathing and body’s reaction to the environment. At our office it took only a day for black mold to begin to grow along the walls after the water receded – it is nasty to look at and terrible on your health – be safe!
- Keep Organized: It is overwhelming all the items that have to be discarded from the flooring to pictures on the wall. Try not to get overwhelmed and organize items for disposal and recovery. Put all lost building and general waste in one area, all computers, chemicals and other special items in another area and finally anything deemed possibly salvageable in another location. Check with local authorities for any special preferences as they may set up a process for waste disposal.
- Drying: Open all windows and doors possible. If you are working with a generator, you may bring in fans and dehumidifiers to get out moisture. The fans should be at windows pointing outside, this way they will be taking moist air out of the structure and not kicking up mold inside. Use caution when using anything electrical with the generator. Keep extension cords up from the water and removed from the work path to avoid tripping.
- Don't bring along any children or pets!