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Reducing the Health Ramifications of Flooding

Time is of the essence and proper techniques are crucial when dealing with flood water and its adverse health effects.

October 5, 2022

As Florida deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian’s devastation, building managers statewide will be tending to flooded facilities. Of course, it doesn’t take the strength of a hurricane to produce a flood. Persistent rainstorms, rising waterways, sewer line breakages, and leaks in a building’s plumbing system can all result in flooding.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a dangerous consequence of flooding is the resulting mold. Not only can the mold damage building materials, but it can also be inhaled, causing adverse health effects, including allergic reactions. In addition, flood water can contain microorganisms, such as bacteria, which can also affect one’s health. This mold can build up within just a couple of days, so it’s extremely important to address the problem quickly.

However, cleaning up can introduce its own hazardous situations. Using the wrong sanitizer or using one incorrectly, for example, can also adversely affect one’s health.

EPA offers a number of resources that specifically deal with the cleaning and sanitizing of floors after a flood. Of particular note is the Flood Cleanup Webinar, a free online video course. The course covers many flood-related issues, including specific remediation requirements for various types of water damage; use of biocides and personal protective equipment; best methods to reduce health and safety risks; and how to determine when remediation is complete.

In regards to mold, EPA also has a guide specifically designed for both employers and workers on the basic procedures for mold remediation, with an emphasis on worker safety.

Another health concern for building and facility managers is the facility’s drinking water, which can be contaminated by flood water. Until the quality of the water is confirmed, make sure any occupants or workers drink bottled water rather than water from a tap. Follow EPA guidelines to ensure that the water is indeed safe to drink.  

For more after-storm cleanup advice, be sure to also read Look to Efficiency and Safety When Cleaning After a Hurricane.

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