For Americans living in and around the Gulf of Mexico, the experience is mostly a pleasant one. The weather is warm, the vegetation is lush and green, and the people are some of the friendliest you can find. Unfortunately, there is a downside; the threat of flooding from weather patterns is an unwelcome reminder that living on the Gulf comes with a catch.
Yes, it is true that in the past 5 years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods and that everyone technically lives in a flood zone, according to the National Flood Insurance Program. However, some areas are defined as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), where the likelihood of a flood that will cause damage is significantly higher. So high in fact, that in high-risk areas, there is at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during the typical 30-year mortgage. For these areas, it is good to keep in mind that:
- It only takes a few inches of floodwater in your house to cause tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.
- In just two feet of rushing water, a car can be carried away.
- Flooding is not just associated with hurricanes and rain; winter storms and snowmelt are two overlooked sources of damaging flooding.
- Flash floods can be extremely destructive, bringing walls of water 10 to 15 feet high.
When a residence does get flooded, quick action is needed to help control the harmful effects that moisture will cause. The lingering effect of moisture from flooding is often the most destructive element to your home. It is important to not only remove the standing water, but any contaminated materials that are moisture traps. Couches, beds, and carpeting for example, are huge problems when left inside the home saturated with water. Wet materials inside the home are serious breeding grounds for viruses, bacteria, and mold. Often, these trigger ailments in residents ranging from allergic reactions to diseases. Since children are often more susceptible to these problems, more caution must be taken in these circumstances.
Health Effects of Mold
Not all individuals will notice effects from mold. However, when mold spores are inhaled or touched, it can cause an allergic reaction in some people. The symptoms may include sneezing, runny nose, irritated eyes, or a rash on the skin. For those with asthma, inhaling spores can bring on an asthma attack. If a person has a chronic lung illness like obstructive lung disease, or has a compromised immune system, mold can cause serious lung infections. Since research is ongoing into the health effects of mold in humans, our best bet is to remove the mold or mold causing items from the residence after a flood.
Getting Into Cleanup
The biggest issue with floods is standing water, since floodwater often carries with it sewage, decaying animal carcasses, and harmful microorganisms. And unless your residence is made out of solid rock, standing water can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of structural damage in a matter of days. As quick as possible, every effort should be made to eliminate the water from the home.
“There is always some mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. Molds have been on the Earth for millions of years. Mold grows where there is moisture.” – CDC.gov
After the water is removed from the home, the next step is to get rid of all the excess moisture. Ideally, the humidity level indoors should be below 60%. This will help to inhibit the potential spread of mold and the growth of other allergens such as dust mites. If the house continues to have a musty odor, this is an indicator that there is a growth of microorganisms and more drying is needed. This process isn’t quick; most often you can expect the drying process inside the home to take several weeks.
- As part of this process keep in mind to remove from the home any wet materials. Items like couches and beds should be placed outside to dry. Improving ventilation inside can help dry carpeting, insulation, and walls. As a general rule, if the items cannot be dried and clean within 24-48 hours, they should be discarded.
- Cleanup of the home means that a thorough washing and disinfecting takes place all over. The floors, shelving, closets, and walls need to be cleaned. For most cases, household cleaning products can be used. Remember to always ventilate, read the labels, and pay close attention to any health effect you experience.
- Unfortunately, it is not always possible to return an area covered with mold to its original appearance. Simply painting over mold is not advisable, since it can cause the paint to peel. Thoroughly clean, disinfect, and dry any area before painting.
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.