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Flooding and Business

What to do after a flood

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Cleaning up a flood-ravaged business can be a difficult and disheartening task. It can also be dangerous. Before you can even enter your property to assess the damage and begin clean-up and repair, you must take steps to protect the health of workers and volunteers who have come to help.


Before entering a flood-damaged building

  • Remember that buildings that have been submerged or have withstood rushing flood waters may have suffered structural damage and could be dangerous.
  • Check for structural damage before entering a building. Don't go in if there is any chance that the building, or parts of it, may collapse. If you see damage, have a qualified person check the building before you enter.
  • Never assume that water-damaged structures or ground are stable.
  • Assume that all stairs, floors, roofs, and overhangs are unsafe until they are inspected.

When you enter a flood-damaged building

  • Once you are certain that the building is safe to enter, make sure the electricity is turned off at the meter or at the street before you enter. Determine that all electrical hazards are controlled.
  • Enter the building carefully. Leave immediately if shifting or unusual noises signal a possible collapse.
  • If the door sticks at the top, that could mean your ceiling is ready to fall. If you force the door open, wait outside the doorway in case debris falls.
  • Check the ceiling for signs of sagging. Wind, rain, or deep flooding may wet plaster or wallboard. It is very heavy, and will be dangerous if it falls.
  • If you suspect a gas leak or smell gas, of if you hear blowing or hissing, open a window and leave the building and premises immediately. Call the gas company from a different location. Do not re-enter the building.
  • Be aware of the possibility of electrical shock and the possibility of injuries caused by hidden sharp objects.
  • Turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel (if you can reach these without stepping in water); otherwise, have your utility company disconnect the power at the meter. Take this important step even if the power is off in your community.
  • Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
  • Shut off the water.
  • Never touch electrical equipment if the ground is wet, unless you are absolutely certain that the power is off.

Be cautious about hazardous materials

Flood waters can dislodge tanks, drums, pipes, and equipment, which may contain hazardous materials such as pesticides, chemicals, or fuels.

Do not attempt to move unidentified dislodged containers without first contacting the local fire department or hazardous materials team.

If you are working in potentially contaminated areas, wear appropriate protective clothing and respirators.

Thoroughly wash all clothing and parts of your body that may have come in contact with sewage or other contaminants or with hazardous substances or chemicals. Use soap and clean water. Use waterless sanitizers if uncontaminated water is not available.


Be cautious about contaminated floodwaters

Floodwaters are often contaminated with biohazards (sewage, medical waste, animal waste and carcasses) or other hazardous materials (fuels, asbestos, farm chemicals, etc.). Flood-damaged buildings may also have damp areas where moulds, mildews, and other organisms thrive.

Assume that anything touched by floodwater is contaminated.

Use appropriate personal protective equipment, including goggles, respirators, gloves, etc., if you must come in contact with flood waters.

Make sure that all workers have up-to-date tetanus shots.


Secure the property

Post security guards to monitor your property and facilities, since alarm systems may not be functioning, and since buildings may have to be left open during salvage and restoration.

Provide guards with names of staff or contractors who have permission to be at the site.


Document the damage

Once it is safe to enter the building, make a preliminary tour of all affected areas. Wear protective clothing.

Do not move equipment or other objects without documenting their location and condition.

Use a camera or video camera to record conditions of structure, equipment, and furnishings. Make sure images clearly record the damage. Supplement these with better quality photos when necessary.

Make notes and voice recordings to accompany the photographs.

Assign staff to keep written records of contacts with insurance agents and other investigators, staff decisions on retrieval and salvage, and costs associated with clean-up and salvage.

Make visual, written, and voice records for each step of salvage procedures.


Cleaning up after a flood

Tips for cleaning up after a flood can be found in the 'After flooding' section of this website.