Floods pose plenty of dangers, but once the water has receded there's none so treacherous as the growth of mold in your building. In the days and weeks following a major water disaster, you may find yourself having to assess and scrub down your entire facility. It's not an enviable job, but it's essential maintenance management, both for the integrity of the building, as well as the health and safety of your tenants.
Mold may be recognized either by sight or smell. Walls will become discolored or covered in a speckled green, and there is usually a foul, musty or earthy smell in the air. Apart from being offensive both to eyes and nose, the presence of mold can also be a health hazard. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mild exposure could lead to stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing and skin irritation. People who are particularly susceptible to mold infections - including people with asthma, allergies or breathing conditions - may suffer from shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. It could even be possible to get mold infections in the lungs, which could lead to more serious health effects
As such, it's important to tackle mold growth before it really starts to spread. Mold will grow in damp, dark places, meaning that floods provide the perfect conditions for it to develop in every nook and cranny of your facility. The longer surfaces and objects are allowed to remain wet, the more likely mold will spread. Quick cleanup is key. The United States Environmental Protection Agency divides cleanup stages into two parts, the first pertaining to immediate preventive response in the first 24 to 48 hours. It's important to note that its recommendations are only applicable to clean water floods. If the flood water has been contaminated with sewage or chemicals, then you will want to contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Those first 48 hours are your window of opportunity to minimize or even prevent the spread of mold in your facility. First you will want to reduce the humidity of your facility with dehumidifers to speed up the overall drying process. The EPA recommends discarding and replacing materials including non-valuable books and papers, ceiling tiles, cellulose insulation and fiberglass insulation. Carpet and backing should be vacuumed with a water extractor and then dried with fans. Hard surfaces should also be cleaned and treated with a water extractor. Wallboard, too may be dried in place if there is no swelling and seams are intact. Otherwise it will need to be discarded and replaced. Be sure to check vents and other parts of the HVAC system and clean thoroughly.
The long-term approach
Mold may still have grown after a cleanup period, especially if items are still wet after 48 hours. If you're in doubt, you will need to consult the EPA's mold remediation guidelines. Generally, you will want to approach cleanup with better equipment and protective gear for your own health. Wet vacuums and high-efficiency particulate air vacuums are essential tools. Meanwhile, gloves, respirators and eye protection are minimum health requirements, though it may be necessary to get full disposable body clothing.
Generally, if the affected surface area is under 10 square feet, you may still be able to clean and salvage damaged materials. If the space is any larger, though, it becomes smart practice to dispose of potentially moldy items. If much of your facility is damaged, your best course of action may be to contact professionals who specialize in mold cleanup.
Flood cleanup requires a lot of action in a very short period of time. At the very least you will want to consult the EPA's full guidelines for the proper approach, though it may also be necessary to contact outside help. Additionally, you may consider maintenance management software to keep track of those guidelines.