After the water recedes … what now?

The Department of Land and Natural Resources has issued the following information for dealing with the aftermath of recent weather related events.

Recovery: Picking up After the Storm In the wake of recent flooding blamed on a late winter storm system, many unsuspecting island residents and business owners are now faced with the daunting task of picking up after the storm.

While shoveling out the mud and ripping out the water- logged carpet may be at the top of your immediate recovery efforts, FEMA cautions property owners to be on the look out for potential hazards. Although floodwaters may have receded, there may be physical dangers that are not easily recognized at first glance.

Flooding can cause structural, electrical and other hazards. FEMA urges care in returning to a flooded home by following these safety tips:

• Check your home before you go in. Carefully check outside your home for loose power lines, gas leaks, foundation cracks or other damage. See if porch roofs and overhangs still have all their supports. If you see damage, a building inspector or contractor should check the building before you enter;

• Turn off the electricity. Even if the power company has turned off electricity to the area, make certain your house’s power supply is disconnected;

• If you suspect a gas leak or smell gas, leave your home immediately and call the gas company from a neighbor’s house;

• Enter carefully. If the door sticks at the top, it could mean your ceiling is ready to fall. If you force the door open, wait outside the doorway in case debris falls;

• Check the ceiling for signs of sagging. Wind, rain, or deep flooding may wet plaster or wallboard. It is very heavy and dangerous if it falls;

• Make sure the electricity is off and hose down the house to remove health hazards left behind by floodwater mud. Shovel out as much mud as possible. Remove water quickly using a mop or squeegee.

Dealing with mold and mildew Mold, a common term for fungus, attacks organic material such as paper, cloth and leather. It can stain or destroy these articles, if left untreated.

Mold grows from spores, which are everywhere in our environment and usually inactive. However, they grow when the humidity is more than 75 percent. When temperatures rise above 65 degrees, the likelihood of mold increases.

To stop mold from spreading, lower the humidity and temperature. Open the windows if humidity outside is less than inside; otherwise use air conditioning. Install dehumidifiers and empty them often. To dispose of moldy objects, seal them in plastic bags and remove them as soon as possible.

Objects you want to save should be dried and cleaned as soon as possible or frozen until you can clean them.

To clean moldy objects, air-dry them away from other objects. Mold spores spread easily.

Spread out papers, stand books on end and fan pages open. Use blotting materials such as clean towels or absorbent paper between layers of cloth or paper affected by mold.

Increase air circulation with a fan, but don’t aim it directly at the objects.

Once the mold is dry (and inactive) gently wipe or brush away the residue. Work outdoors, if possible, and wear protective clothing and respirator.

Be sure items are free of mold before you return any clean objects to its display or storage place. Re-inspect objects from time to time for new mold growth.

To remove mold from walls, baseboards and storage spaces, wash them with a mixture of household bleach and water.

Water-damaged carpets and rugs When faced with flood-damaged carpets and rugs, recommendations for leaning or replacing depend on the contamination level of the water and the length of time the carpet or rugs were saturated.

Unsanitary water contains organisms that can infect carpets and rugs and cause health and safety problems.

Clean water may include broken water supply lines, tub, or sink overflows with no containments or rainwater.

“Gray water” or unsanitary water, may include discharge from dishwashers or washing machines, punctured waterbeds, or broken aquariums.

“Black water” contains pathogenic agents and is extremely unsanitary. It includes flooding from seawater, rivers, or streams.

“Gray water” that remains untreated for longer than 48 hours may change to the “black water” category as microorganisms multiply.

If water damage is from a clean water source and it was identified within 48 hours, then cleaning the carpet yourself is an option.

If water damage is from a gray or black water source, call a professional.

General guidelines:

• Remove and dispose of carpet saturated with “black water”. Remove and dispose of carpet padding saturated with “gray” or “black water” (no exceptions);

• Carpet padding can be restored if it has been wet from clean water less than 48 hours and only part of the padding in a room is wet;

• Carpet saturated with “gray water” may be cleaned by a professional using a biocide allowing appropriate contact time and using the hot water extraction cleaning method. (Other cleaning methods including absorbent compound, bonnet, dry foam or shampoo are not adequate and can redistribute contamination);

• Valuable area rugs should be cleaned by a professional. Extensive cleaning and a biocide application should be used. Rugs must be restored to a sanitary condition. If this is not possible, then they must be discarded;

• Washable throw rugs usually can be cleaned adequately in a washing machine with hot water and a biocide. For extra large capacity automatic washers, use 1 1/2 cups of chlorine bleach per load. For standard (large capacity) automatic washers, use 1 cup per wash load. Be aware that this quantity of chlorine bleach may affect the color in the rugs;

• Flood waters can contaminate a private well. Do not attempt to wash washable throw rugs until you know your water is not contaminated;

• Quickly remove any furniture that may be damaged or cause stains or damage to the carpet;

• Limit traffic over the wet carpet. Moisture can weaken the latex backing and walking on the carpet can cause the backing to separate. When the backing dries, it regains most of its original strength.

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