Before entering into any flood-damaged property (even if the flood was contained to a smaller portion of the home), be sure to get the “all clear” from a professional. Once you have done so and are returning to a flood-damaged home for the first time, you will want to take the following steps to help you stay safe:
- Wear the right safety equipment. Remember that there can be falling materials, sharp glass, metal, and other items that can easily hurt you. Hard hats, safety gloves, protective clothing, and durable rubber-bottom boots (preferably steel-toed boots) will help protect you from the common hazards you may encounter.
- Get a high-quality face mask. You’ll want to reduce your exposure to dust, chemicals, and molds, so be sure to get a mask with NOISH approval and a N-95 rating. If the mask is disposable, throw it away at the end of the day and use a new one the next day.
- Don’t start your day tired or impaired. Being aware is probably the best way to prevent injury, as your brain is the most important safety tool you can use. As American as it might seem, getting a case of beer with some friends is not a good way to start the day in a flood-damage cleanup effort.
- Don’t eat or drink in the home. Keep your food items in the cab of your car or truck. Taking them into a home exposes them to hazardous materials, chemicals, and molds that can make you very sick.
- Wet down mold—even if the material it is growing on is wet. Using a soapy spray solution, spray down mold before moving whatever it is that the mold is growing on. This doesn’t prevent the mold from entering the air, but it helps reduce the spreading of mold spores significantly.
- Make sure you have had a tetanus booster in the past few years.
- Be careful when lifting—use your legs, not your back.
- If you smell any chemical odors, open the windows and leave the home immediately. Contact a professional to investigate the odors, as well as where those odors are coming from.
These tips will help keep you safe when entering a flood-damaged home for the first time. Make sure to be careful and alert, use common sense, and take all precautions available.
Henry Duckstein Jr.