Whether it’s hurricane season or spring-time flooding, many facility managers face the inevitable challenge of building water damage. Unfortunately, when it occurs, the clean-up process is not easy and goes well beyond the daunting task of drying everything.
Even if a building has minimal standing water on the ground, the drywall will retain the moisture, causing discoloration and deterioration. Mold contamination and infestation often follows and is challenging to clean. Furthermore, if the space is not disinfected properly, mold can cause adverse health effects, ultimately harming individuals who are exposed to the spores.
When water damage occurs, there are several steps that facility managers should consider in order to restore the structure, and properly disinfect any mold contamination. Below are some steps that may be followed to help remedy water damage at a facility where this problem has occurred.
1. Ensure you are equipped with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) prior to entering or working in a water-damaged space in an effort to protect your eyes, nose, mouth, or skin.
2. Remove standing water and wet materials from the facility. This may or may not include flooring and dry wall. Removing standing water can be done by using a wet vacuum, a hose, or a pump. After water has been removed, focus on drying out the facility as quickly as possible. It is advised to have this done within 24-48 hours. Until the building is completely dry, facility managers typically won’t be able to see the true extent of the damage.
3. It is also advised to open all doors and windows to help facilitate air flow within the facility, and to promote drying and maintaining fresh air for safety reasons. Once safe to use, utilizing fans or dehumidifiers to remove moisture can be beneficial as well. Do not use fans if mold has started to grow because the fans will then spread the mold, as well as make the mold spores airborne.
4. Once the facility structure is stable, the next step is to properly clean and disinfect the walls and floors for any potential mold contamination. If mold has infested into the walls or mold spores have gone into the air system, a mold remediation expert should be consulted prior to the selection of a disinfection process. It is advised that a mold inspection or remediation professional be affiliated with or certified by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), or American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC), if they are to inspect, repair, and restore the damaged parts of your building. The state may also regulate mold remediation. If it is determined that the appropriate approach is to use a cleaning chemical or disinfectant to remedy the problem, it is critical to choose an effective, surface compatible, and easy-to-use disinfectant, such as 3M™ C. diff Solution Tablets, which can act as an alternative to bleach. In addition, by utilizing a disinfectant that doesn’t require a chemical management system and that easily dissolves in water, the cleaning process will be expedited.
5. It is important to clean up mold right away to prevent further spreading, damage, and potential health concerns. It should be noted that painting or covering up mold will not prevent mold from growing. Disposing of items that cannot be cleaned or dried within the first 24- 48 hours is highly recommended.
The clean-up process for water damage and mold is tedious, but patience is important in order to take the necessary steps to effectively restore the facility. It is ultimately up to the facility managers or respective parties to determine the best course of action for the disinfection protocol. Fortunately, by utilizing CDC recommendations and processes, as well as by cleaning and disinfecting the contaminated areas, facility managers can have confidence that there are solutions to remedying a water-damaged facility that will ensure the safety of those within the building in the long-term.
By Patrick Kehoe, Marketing Supervisor, Cleaning Chemicals Portfolio, 3M Commercial Solutions. To learn more about products that can aid with water damage clean-up, visit 3m.com/facility.