Still cleaning up after Harvey? Here are some important things you should know:
It’s hard to believe that nearly two weeks have gone by since the devastating rains Hurricane Harvey brought to Houston finally stopped. We have all felt the effects of the storm in some way or another, but for almost a third of the city, those whose homes were flooded, life will never quite be the same.
Houstonians have been working hard these past two weeks pitching in and helping one another with the Herculean task of cleaning up the mess. We have ripped out carpeting and drywall from the homes of neighbors and strangers alike, knowing the only way we will get through this is together.
As my mother always says, “Many hands make light work.” Together we have managed to tackle this overwhelming job in record time, knowing that the clock is ticking, and we have almost made it. We have almost gotten to all of those flooded homes—but not quite.
The problem now is, more than two weeks have passed. Mold and bacteria begin to grow in as little as 24 to 48 hours, so If you are still cleaning up water damage, extra caution should be taken to protect yourself against the long-term effects of harmful airborne particles.
Here are some basis essential safety tips if you find yourself or someone you know involved with the initial clean-up of a flooded home or business.
- Wear a properly fitted ventilation mask. When working with sheetrock, floor removal, or other demo projects inside the home, you should wear a properly fitted half-mask. These come in small, medium, and large, and work with a variety of filters. Be sure to choose the “particulate filter” for mold. Additionally, men should be cleanly shaven to get a proper tight fit. If you are inside the house, but not working with demo debris, you need to wear a particulate respirator at the very minimum.
- Use safety eyewear at all times. Do not touch your eyes with your hands. If you happen to get something in your eye, flush with water as soon as possible
- Assume there is asbestos. If you are unsure about the presence of asbestos, assume there is asbestos present and take all proper precautions. This includes wearing masks, using safety eyewear, and covering arms and legs.
- Throw away clothes. If clothes and other fabric items have not already been laundered, they should be discarded.
- What to keep/What to throw away. All saturated items including carpeting, rugs, cloth furniture and draperies should be moved out and discarded. Metal, plastic, and other impervious materials may be kept, but must be properly cleaned with mold killing agents.
- How to handle trash piles. Create tall trash piles that are near the curb, rather than wide and long. The debris collection trucks may not be able to reach materials stacked too far back in the yard and may leave them. You want this debris gone and away from your home as quickly as possible.
- Dry it out. Ensure that all wood materials inside the walls, such as wood framing, are completely dry, otherwise, you will have mold issues later on. This is done with dehumidifying appliances.
- How to use a dehumidifier. While using a dehumidifier, turn off the AC unit, and set the furnace heating system to between 90 and 95degrees. This warm dry air and high temperature will accelerate the drying process. Keep all windows and doors shut, dump the buckets and reservoirs often, and continue until all the water has been removed from the home.
Keeping these tips in mind will help ensure the safety of the clean-up crew, as well as properly prepare the home for reconstruction.
We may not be there yet, but we are closer today than we were yesterday, and together we will make it.
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