The aftermath of a disaster is devastating to anyone affected. The sight of returning to damaged property can be overwhelming. Sometimes, the only way to begin healing the pain is to immediately start the clean-up process. Here are some helpful hurricane cleanup tips from the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Emergency Management Agency when returning to damaged property.
Most importantly, make sure your home or business is safe before entering to begin hurricane cleanup work. That may require examination by a building inspector or other government authority. Standing water from flooding, live electrical wires, or leaking gas lines are just a few of the hazards which may be present in a damaged structure, as well as when driving or walking into an affected area. You must know it is safe before going back. Once you’ve received permission to enter, open doors and windows to allow maximum ventilation. Take photos of damage.
Use a radio or other device to keep abreast of breaking news and weather. Have a mobile phone charged and ready to use in case additional emergencies occur.
Wear proper safety equipment. Eye protection is a must! Hard hats, work boots and gloves, ear plugs or headphones, should be worn at all times. Wearing a respirator will make breathing easier, especially for those with allergy issues, but disaster locations always have additional airborne impurities, so these are highly recommended. Keep a first aid kit handy for minor injuries, cuts, and scrapes. When flood waters are involved, wear watertight boots and gloves. Remember, flood water is filthy. It is not comprised simply of sea or river water, but also sewage, fuels, and every other substance the storm surge has picked up along the way. Assume that everything it has contacted is contaminated, and must be dealt with accordingly.
Keep in mind hurricane cleanup will be extremely difficult, intense labor. Pace yourself. Do not overwork. Start with one task, and get it done before moving on to the next. Eat properly, and avoid alcohol. If you become tired, rest, or call it a day. If you become faint or injured, seek medical attention immediately. If using fuel-powered generators, keep them outside, away from windows, to avoid carbon monoxide buildup inside. The Solar Power Generator uses renewal energy from the sun, is quiet, and gives off no emissions.
When flooding has occurred, as is most often the case with hurricane cleanup, take extra precautions to assure safety. Storm surge and heavy rains are major calamities associated with hurricanes and tropical storms. Standing flood water may contain hidden hazards. Do not assume it is safe to walk through. Water and electricity do not mix. Turn off electrical circuits and electrical equipment only if you can do so without standing in water. Call an electrician for assistance if this is the case. Never attempt to turn power on or off, nor use electrical tools, when you must stand in flood waters.
The Environmental Protection Agency advises disposing of all items that have been in standing water for more than 48 hours. Any items capable of soaking up flood waters that became wet should be discarded. Carpeting and rugs, including their padding, mattresses, upholstered sofas and chairs cannot be cleaned and should be thrown away. In addition, stuffed animals and baby toys, books, and paper products must be thrown out. Tear down and discard drywall, wall coverings, and insulation that have been contaminated by flood waters. Wet clothing should be laundered in hot water and detergent before being worn again.
Get help with larger and heavy items. Water-logged items will have added weight than when dry. Be sure you are on solid footing when working and when removing damaged items. Along with hiding obstacles, flood waters can make surfaces slippery.
In order to combat the infestation of mold, all hard surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned with hot water and laundry or dish detergent, then disinfected with a 1-to-5 ratio of bleach to water. This includes flooring, concrete, appliances and counter tops, metal furniture, and moldings. Keep doors and windows open, and use fans when available to keep air moving. It is recommended that a dehumidifier be used if you have a generator, or once power is restored. The key to eliminating mold and mildew is to eliminate moisture.
Be sure to maintain proper hygiene to the fullest extent possible. Flood waters contain many kinds of pollutants and contaminants. Wash thoroughly with soap and water when you’ve finished working. Any cuts or sores should be washed, then covered with an antibiotic ointment to stave off infection. Launder clothing that has come in contact with flood waters separate from other laundry. This includes not only the clothes you’ve just worked in, but the clothing in your home that became wet in the flooding.
Hurricane cleanup outside your home or business can be just as labor-intensive. Be sure downed electric lines are no longer live before attempting to work near them to remove fallen trees or other debris. Wear proper safety equipment if a chainsaw will be needed. Any trees leaning precariously after the storm should be dealt with by a professional tree feller.
If the task of cleaning up in and around your home or business becomes too much to handle, and you must hire someone to do it for you, be sure to employ qualified professionals. There are those who would prey on folks in unfortunate predicaments. If you suspect someone has attempted to scam you, contact authorities immediately. Once they’ve moved on from your home, they’ll try to lure someone else into their scheme.
For further information on hurricane cleanup and being safe during the aftermath of a disaster, you are encouraged to go to the CDC’s site or contact FEMA for assistance.