When dealing with burst pipes and flooding, we often focus our attention downward – on the soggy carpet, warped floorboards, and pulpy drywall. While all of these are valid concerns following a water damage event, anxieties should extend beyond what is visible to the naked eye.
Once a water damage event has occurred, the clock is ticking. You have 48 hours to extract the water before mold begins to grow. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, delayed action can even result in serious long-term health risks. Standing water and lingering humidity create a breeding ground for microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and mold, that can cause disease and trigger allergic reactions.
But even when you act quickly, be sure to take precautions. The risks extend beyond the indoor air quality complications caused by microbial growth. The cleanup process can expose you to carbon monoxide, lead, asbestos, and cleaning products—all of which can also affect your health.
Keep reading to learn the other potential effects of flooding on your facility’s indoor air quality and the steps you can take to lessen these consequences.
TAKE A STAND AGAINST STANDING WATER
The sight of a flooded room can be overwhelming and panic-inducing. Where do you even start to address the mess?
Typically, you will need to bring in professional help. These pros use powerful pumps and truck-mounted vacuum units to quickly remove hundreds or thousands of gallons of water from your property. If you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, however, there are steps you can take while waiting for reinforcements.
But first – safety, safety, safety! NEVER enter a flooded facility with live electricity. Turn off circuit breakers before getting to work. Also, investigate the source of the destruction. If it was caused by the building’s sewage line or outdoor floodwater, do not try to extract the water yourself. Toxic materials and biohazards should always be left to licensed experts.
If you are in the clear, arm yourself with the appropriate PPE and clear out all furniture and belongings. Removing the water with buckets, mops, and wet-dry vacuums. You may even need to remove any carpeting and carpet padding. As you work, keep the affected room(s) ventilated to mitigate indoor humidity.
DRY, DRY, DRY
The pools of water and the dripping carpet are gone. Now what?
Building materials, such as drywall and wood, are often porous. This means they will retain water which will then cause warping, swelling, disintegration, and mold. Continued humidity and moist materials also foster the growth of microorganisms and dust mites that can cause allergic reactions, asthma, and other health complications when released into the air.
A few straightforward (but labor-intensive) steps can nip this in the bud.
- Move air through the building. If humidity levels allow, open windows and doors to move air naturally. Amplify airflow by running fans and/or mechanical air movers. Be sure to open closet doors and cabinets to allow air to move and dry out all impacted areas.
- Rent or purchase a commercial dehumidifier. Capable of drying 18 gallons per day, these machines will expedite removing excess water vapor from the air.
- Pull up the flooring. Carpeting, vinyl, and linoleum often trap water after a flood. Pull up as much as possible to allow the subfloors to dry.
- Address the walls. Remove all drywall from one foot above the waterline down. Remove all damp insulation. It may also help to remove a six-inch section of the wall where it joins with the ceiling to improve airflow within the walls.
- Be patient. Drying out a structure can take several weeks. Although it is a time-consuming process, it must be done correctly to avoid the spread of musty odors and airborne microorganisms.
And remember — safety first. Older building materials may contain toxic substances. Take care to avoid airborne asbestos and lead dust when removing wet materials.
BRING IN THE PROS
Sometimes the dirty work is best left to the professionals. If there is a large amount of mold or flood damage, you may want to hire a professional to help you remediate your facility. This can ultimately save you time and money by ensuring it is comprehensively and correctly handled from the get-go.