Water and Mold FEMA Facts

The Federal Emergency Management Administration published the
Hurricane Sandy Fact Sheet describing some of the precautionary measures and the reasons for them in restoration of flooded properties. The same measures should be utilized in a variety of water damage scenarios.

Hurricane Sandy Fact Sheet: Cleaning Flooded Buildings FEMA-DRs-4085-NY and -4086-NJ / March 2013

Key Issues

• Floodwaters carry a variety of contaminants such as bacteria, oil, heavy metals, and pesticides. While first responders’ initial evaluations of Hurricane Sandy floodwaters indicated that exposure to such items are below current limits for safe occupancy, proper cleaning and preparation for rebuilding is critical to protect workers and occupants from both short-term hazards and long-term risk.

• Other hazards are present in addition to the substances brought in with the floodwaters, especially in homes that were not dried out within a week of the flooding. Safety issues related to wet mechanical and electrical systems, exposure to lead and asbestos released from building materials, and mold growth need to be addressed.

• Mold is a serious health hazard if the home is reoccupied without proper cleaning. Although a variety of products and techniques can reduce and control mold, the cleaning and drying process described in this Fact Sheet also helps to remove other floodwater contaminants.

Personal Safety

Flooded buildings can pose a number of health and safety risks, for both individuals who wish to maintain occupancy and those who work to repair them. Eliminating hazards is the best way to protect occupants and workers; however, until conditions can be returned to normal, anyone working in a flooded building should use appropriate personal safety equipment and take appropriate safety precautions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Fact Sheet, Hurricane Sandy Cleanup PPE Matrix, provides information on personal protective equipment (OSHA-FS-3612, 2012).

Protection from electrical shock: Because of the danger of shocks and fire, electrical receptacles that were flooded should not be used to operate cleaning or drying equipment. An electrician should evaluate the condition of flooded components prior to use. As a rule, all flooded receptacles should be removed and replaced after the appropriate circuit breakers or fuses are deactivated and the interruption of power to the receptacle confirmed.

Protection from mold contamination: Anyone entering a house with visible mold growth should wear a disposable suit to prevent contamination of their clothes and vehicle, rubber gloves or other hand protection, and respiratory protection. A disposable respirator marked with an N-95 rating (when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions) offers the minimum lung protection that should be used when in the presence of mold. A full-face respirator is recommended for mold cleaning to protect both the eyes and the respiratory system. If a full-face respirator is not used during cleaning, goggles or a face shield should be worn with the disposable respirator.
The OSHA Fact Sheet, Mold Hazards During Hurricane Sandy Cleanup, provides information on mold (OSHA-FS-3619, 2012).