When a flooded home has not been cleaned and dried within a few weeks of the flood event, mold
contamination should be expected, and specific steps are needed to clean and restore the home.
Initial Restoration for Flooded Buildings FEMA, specifies five steps for post-flood building restoration, including (1) air out, (2) move
out, (3) tear out, (4) clean out, and (5) dry out. This Fact Sheet builds on the last two of these steps and assumes that the majority of the muck-out and gutting process has been completed and the home is ready for cleaning and drying.
Floodwaters carry a variety of contaminants such as bacteria, oil, heavy metals, and pesticides. While first responders’ initial evaluations of Hurricane Sandy floodwaters indicated that exposure to such items are below current limits for safe occupancy, proper cleaning and preparation for rebuilding is critical to protect workers and occupants from both short-term hazards and long-term risk.
Other hazards are present in addition to the substances brought in with the floodwaters, especially in homes that were not dried out within a week of the flooding. Safety issues related to wet mechanical and electrical systems, exposure to lead and asbestos released from building materials, and mold growth need to be
Mold is a serious health hazard if the home is reoccupied without proper cleaning. Although a variety of products and techniques can reduce and control mold, the cleaning and drying process described in this Fact Sheet also helps to remove other floodwater contaminants.
Flooded buildings can pose a number of health and safety risks, for both individuals who wish to maintain occupancy and those who work to repair them. Eliminating hazards is the best way to protect occupants and workers; however, until conditions can be returned to normal, anyone working in a flooded building should use appropriate personal safety equipment and take appropriate safety precautions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Fact Sheet, Hurricane Sandy Cleanup PPE Matrix, provides information on personal protective equipment (OSHA-FS-3612, 2012).
The impact of Hurricane Sandy extended far beyond the structures destroyed by the storm surge. Although the water has receded and most structures have been pumped out, the large number of properties that need repair means that restoration will go on for months.
Protection from electrical shock:
Because of the danger of shocks and fire, electrical receptacles that were flooded should not be used to operate cleaning or drying equipment. An electrician should evaluate the condition of flooded components prior to use. As a rule, all flooded receptacles should be removed and replaced after the appropriate circuit breakers or fuses are deactivated and the interruption of power to the receptacle confirmed.
Protection from mold contamination:
Anyone entering a house with visible mold growth should wear a disposable suit to prevent contamination of their clothes and vehicle, rubber gloves or other hand protection, and respiratory protection. A disposable respirator marked with an N-95 rating (when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions) offers the minimum lung protection that should be used when in the presence of mold. A full-face respirator is recommended for mold cleaning to protect both the eyes and the respiratory system. If a full-face respirator is not used during cleaning, goggles or a face shield should be worn with the disposable respirator. The OSHA Fact Sheet, Mold Hazards During Hurricane Sandy Cleanup, provides information on mold (OSHA-FS-3619, 2012).
Protection from asbestos and lead paint:
Asbestos in floor tile, pipe and boiler insulation, and electrical wiring is common in many homes built before 1980 (Figure 1). Breathing asbestos fibers released from building products can increase the risk of cancer and cause a number of serious lung diseases. Similarly, paint in homes constructed prior to 1978 may contain lead. If lead paint is aerosolized during muck-out or gutting activities it can damage a person’s health and is especially dangerous to child occupants if not cleaned up properly. If asbestos or lead paint is suspected, obtain the services of a specialist to perform material testing, and do not disturb the material until testing has been completed. If testing confirms the presence of lead, remediation should be conducted by a licensed professional. If materials containing asbestos are present, remediation must be performed in accordance with applicable State and Federal regulations.