Dealing with the devastating aftermath of a flood is overwhelming—something residents across South Louisiana know all too well. In the wake of destruction – when normality seems so far away – where do you even begin picking up the pieces?
While it’s natural to want to jump right into the cleaning process as soon as the waters begin to recede, it’s important you are aware of the hazards associated with floodwater cleanup as it can sometimes prove to be more dangerous than the flood itself. At Doug Ashy, we’re here for the long-haul—ready to help you clean and rebuild here in Acadiana. Together, we will get through this.
Prior to beginning the cleanup process, it’s important that you contact your insurer immediately. If possible, take clear pictures and videos to record the damage to your home. Try to be as comprehensive and thorough as possible. A loss adjuster will be sent by your insurance company to assess the damage and confirm what will be covered within the terms of your policy. Your insurance provider may recommend and provide professional cleaning services or a contractor to manage the damage affecting your home.
With the potential of carrying disease, chemicals and displaced wildlife, floodwaters are capable of damaging more than just the structural and electrical integrity of your home. It is important that you and others assisting with the cleanup process are knowledgeable in recognizing potential hazards and are equipped with the proper tools needed to safely sort through debris (e.g. hard hats, protective goggles, waterproof gloves and steel-toed boots). These things in mind, it’s also a good idea to make certain your tetanus shot is current—within the last 10 years.
As we begin clean-up in the aftermath of the Great Flood of 2016, keep in mind the following six most-common hazards associated with floodwater cleanup:
Electrical Hazards—Be sure that the power has been completely shut off at the main breaker before entering flooded areas to prevent the chance of electrical shock which can occur when you come into contact with energized electrical equipment. Remember to never touch downed power lines or electrical equipment when wet or when standing in water.
Structural Hazards—Do not enter or walk on a flood-damaged structure before it has be cleared as structurally sound and safe for passage. If you hear or see the building or structure shift in any way, immediately remove yourself from the structure and seek cover. Before starting construction on any damaged walls, be sure you know which are load-bearing and consult a contractor for guidance on structural safety.
Contamination Hazards—Floodwater mixes with sewage and other chemical waste from agricultural, industrial and residential sources which contain contaminants and microorganisms that can cause disease. Clean and disinfect all salvageable items and surfaces that have come into contact with floodwater. Throw away any furniture, carpet and other items that were exposed to floodwater for more than 24 hours—this includes drywall and insulation. Do not eat or drink any food items that have come into contact with floodwater.
Hazardous Materials—Pipes, tanks and drums of hazardous materials may have been damaged or loosened during a flood. Do not handle containers of unidentified chemicals; instead, reach out to your local hazardous materials personnel or fire department for proper disposal.
Explosions—It is important to be aware of the possibility of exposed chemicals or broken pipes which may be leaking natural gas. Do not use or keep sources of ignition close to gas lines, and call your utility provider with any questions or concerns.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning—Be smart when using gas or diesel-powered generators, pumps or pressure washers which may emit carbon monoxide. Do not use this kind of equipment indoors or in confined spaces unless wearing a respirator mask with the proper filters.
According to the National Flood Forum (NFF), it can take anywhere from six to 12 months for a home to properly dry out and be made habitable again. While this is a frightening and stressful time for many residents across South Louisiana, we’ve seen firsthand how resilient of a community Acadiana truly is. We’re armed and ready with the knowledge and tools to help rebuild the region we call home—no matter what it takes.
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