Natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes wreak havoc on your company’s bottom line. Even after the worst of the disaster is over and your employees are able to return to work, you might find yourself facing other potential issues that could threaten health. One such issue is mold, as standing water or excess moisture can contribute to the growth of potentially toxic mold. After a major flood or other natural disaster, it is important that you are aware that mold might be present. Furthermore, it is essential that you know how to spot the potential signs of mold growth and that you know what to do to safely clean up the mold to ensure the workplace is safe to return.
How to Safely Prevent Mold Growth. If you can return to the workplace soon after the flooding, you will have a much better chance of stopping mold before it becomes a serious problem. Mold begins to grow extremely quick. If you are unable to clean up the building and ensure that everything is fully dried out 24 to 48 hours after the flood, there is a high chance that mold will already have begun to develop. Therefore, it is essential that you immediately take action and begin the clean-up process as soon as possible.
If you can get back into the building immediately, the very first thing you’ll want to do is clean up any excess water and begin to take steps to dry everything out. This means opening the windows, turning on fans and using the heater in an attempt to dry out the floors, walls, etc.
If any items or materials were wet for more than 48 hours, it is usually best to simply toss these materials in the trash rather than risk them allowing mold to grow. This is especially true for more porous materials, as these tend to be much harder to dry out and will create the perfect conditions for mold to start growing. In most cases, you will need to remove the carpet and carpet padding, drywall, insulation, wallpaper, ceiling and floor tiles and any other porous building materials. As well, you may need to toss out anything made from wood, leather, cloth and paper, as these are also prime spots for mold growth.
After removing or drying out any items that got wet during the flood, you should then thoroughly clean all of the remaining items and surfaces with a strong cleaning solution and water in order to prevent mold growth.
Mold Exposure Prevention. Since mold will begin to grow after 48 hours or so, it is necessary to take precautions to prevent being exposed to potentially harmful mold. In this case, you will need to take steps to actually remove the items contaminated by mold without harming your health.
Mold generally isn’t that difficult to remove and can often be cleaned using either a commercial mold remover or a solution of water and household bleach. However, you will need to make sure that you wear non-porous gloves, protective eyewear and a mask or respirator to prevent mold exposure. You also need to make sure that you fully open all windows and doors prior to cleaning to ensure you have a steady supply of fresh air.
Depending on the size of the affected area, you might be able to easily eliminate the mold growth yourself. However, if the space is much larger than 10 square feet, you might want to consider hiring a professional mold remediation company to simplify the task and ensure that the job is performed properly. Otherwise, there is a risk that the mold may return and cause you to have to start all over.
Potential Health Risks of Mold Exposure. People with certain allergies and respiratory issues are usually worst affected by mold. Those who are particularly sensitive to mold may suddenly start coughing, sneezing, having runny eyes or develop skin rashes due to exposure, while individuals with chronic lung diseases or a weakened immune system could potentially develop dangerous mold infections in their lungs. If you do notice that you start experiencing any symptoms following mold exposure, it is always best to immediately contact your doctor just to be safe.
Mold is definitely one of the biggest issues you’ll have to deal with following a flood or other natural disaster. Luckily, by taking a few simple steps to protect your health and ensure that the problem is tackled immediately, you should be able to either prevent or clean up the mold fairly easily. Nonetheless, time is of the essence. Therefore, it is imperative that you follow the above tips to ensure that mold doesn’t become a more serious issue.
FEMA recommends everyone understand the risk of flooding in their area. To check the flood risk in your area, the FEMA Flood Map Service Center is a great tool to search specific locations.
360training.com, the leading resource for online continuing education, offers a NAMP Mold Inspector Certification Course. This intensive 6-hour course, produced in partnership with the National Association of Mold Professionals, will help you understand identification, control, and removal methods for mold along with key items such as testing procedures and legal requirements.