Cleaning Up After a Flood


        Restoring Your Business After a Flood

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Once floodwaters start to recede, you may want to immediately get your hands dirty and start the cleanup effort. Fight that urge. Never re-enter premises until you are absolutely sure they are safe. Floods leave multiple hazards in their wake, such as exposed wires, weakened buildings and contaminated water. Your first priority should be the safety of yourself, your employees and anyone else who might enter or pass near your business.

Local insurers often visit flood-damaged premises and offer guidance after floodwaters start to retreat. Until then, use extreme caution when visiting your business. Before entering your flood-damaged building:

     • Notify your insurer. Take pictures of contents and damage for your
     insurer—the more the better—but only if it is safe to do so.

     • Turn off your building’s gas and electricity, and any fuel taps. Never
     touch sources of electricity when standing in floodwater.

     • Check for structural damage before entering the building. Do not
     enter if there is any chance it may collapse.

     • Assume that all water-damaged structures are unstable until proven
     otherwise.

     • Treat all stairs, floors, roofs and overhangs as unsafe until they
     are inspected.

Your insurer will send a loss adjuster and other specialists to assess your business’ damage. After ensuring that your property is stable, it is time to get dirty. When beginning cleanup efforts, follow this guidance:

     • Ensure you and your employees follow every health and safety
     precaution, such as wearing boots, rubber gloves and other personal
     protective clothing.

     • Use caution when handling debris—it may be contaminated or
     harbor unseen sharp objects.

     • Dispose of equipment only after notifying your insurer.

     • Disinfect your property with ordinary household cleaners, but
     follow the manufacturer’s directions to ensure you are disinfecting
     properly. Let cleaned surfaces dry completely.

     • Open a window and leave the building if you smell gas or hear
     blowing or hissing—these may be signs of a gas leak.

     • Operate electrical equipment only if the ground is dry — never
     operate electrical equipment that is in or near water.

     • Clean any water taps that were submerged in contaminated floodwater
     with a bleach solution. Let the water run for 30 seconds prior
     to using it.

     • Drain water in stages to avoid disparity between the water pressure
     inside and outside your building.

     • Shovel mud out in stages so the pressure inside and outside remains
     equal. Remove the rest with a hose, but make sure it is not a
     high-pressure one—these hoses can blast contaminants into the air.

     • Use a pump and generator to remove water. Position the generator
     outside in the open air if it produces carbon monoxide. Only pump
     out water once the flood levels outside your property are lower than inside.

     • Keep windows and doors open, weather permitting, to expedite drying,
     but never sacrifice building security.

     • Dry your building using a combination of fans, industrial heaters
     and dehumidifiers. Your insurer may provide these tools.

     • Leave central heating on at 68° F or above to encourage drying if
     it is safe.

Floods can be miserable ordeals, even with extensive preparation. They can spring up with little to no warning and saddle you with the responsibility of a lengthy, expensive restoration period. Your business could be underwater in a flash, and you could be faced with mounting repair bills and extended interruption to your business.

But floods can also be regenerative. Large-scale damage to your business is an opportunity to rebuild and minimize potential damage and disruption that could be caused by future floods. If your business has sustained flood damage, do not panic. Think of it as a chance to fortify your business against future flood damage rather than nothing but a ruinous misfortune.


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