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Everything You Need to Know About Conducting a Disaster Cleanup

Everything You Need to Know About Conducting a Disaster Cleanup

Disasters are an all-American phenomenon. The United States has experienced more than 300 natural disasters where damages exceeded $1 billion. 

Disaster cleanup has become increasingly complicated. If you want to hire a team or participate in disaster cleanup operations, you have to understand what it entails. 

What must occur before a cleanup crew can start their work? How do cleanup crews promote the structural integrity of a damaged building? How do they sort through and clean up pieces of property? 

Answer these questions and you can find a comprehensive cleanup solution in little time. Here is your quick guide. 

Securing the Scene 

Disaster cleanup cannot occur until the site for the cleanup is safe. There are numerous threats to a cleanup crew, including looters and wandering animals.

These threats must be dealt with before the scene can be accessed. A building may need to have a fence around it so people cannot enter it. 

Once the scene is secure, an inspector may need to evaluate the area. They should check to see if there are dangerous chemicals, pathogens, or walking conditions. They should file a report and send it to disaster cleanup companies. 

A building owner can help with securing the building. They should place boards over their doors and windows. They should give cleanup companies a layout of their home so they know how to move safely.

Keeping the Disaster Cleanup Crew Safe

Every person who goes to the cleanup scene must wear protective equipment. Each scene is different, and clothes should be specific to the threats at the scene. 

At a minimum, full clothing that covers up all exposed skin is necessary. Pools of water can contain harmful bacteria and chemicals that damage the skin. Walls and flooring may be broken, and fabric can provide some protection against cuts and scrapes. 

The hands should be covered with gloves. A person can wear thin gloves if they are handling smaller objects like nails. Heavy work gloves are essential if someone is working with large objects like furniture and vehicles.

A worker's face should be covered with a mask. Toxins may be airborne, and the paint and dust in a house may be harmful to the lungs. 

Anyone going into or near a damaged building should wear a hard hat. Parts of the ceiling or objects from shelves may fall toward them. Earmuffs may be necessary if objects fall frequently or if heavy machinery is being used. 

Anyone cleaning up sewage should wear rubber boots, gloves, and goggles. These materials should be removed before the worker moves somewhere else. 

Workers should be able to clean themselves up with a range of tools. They should use hand sanitizer to disinfect their hands, and they should wash their clothes with hot water and chemical disinfectants. 

Making Repairs

Once workers have put on protective equipment, they should promote a damaged building's integrity. If a building is unstable, they cannot clean it. Promoting a building's integrity may involve several repairs, which workers may need to perform simultaneously. 

Stagnant water in the basement needs to be removed. It can seep into the foundation and damage it. A building inspector should then examine the foundation to make sure it can withstand stress. 

Damaged windows and doors need replacements. Replacements will support the building's walls, and they will prevent more water or debris from entering the building. 

If a crew cannot secure a building, they will close it off. They may be able to go inside and obtain important pieces of property, but this is not always the case. All crews should follow the EPA's guidance for structurally unsound buildings

Sorting Through Property

Once a building is secure, workers can start sorting through the property inside. Even in a very damaged house, there may be pieces of property that are not broken. 

Workers should try to sort through the property room by room. They should put anything that has mold or toxic chemicals on it into disposal containers. Anything that may be salvageable can go in a separate container. 

Perishable goods, household cleaners, and medicine should get thrown away. Anything in a room with a burst sewage or oil pipe should also get thrown out, even if the item does not appear to be damaged.

Everyone working disaster cleanup jobs should know how to dispose of chemicals safely. In addition to being a health risk, chemicals can damage the environment if they fall into the soil or water.

Cleaning Property

Materials that are not broken should not go to their owners right away. A cleanup crew should disinfect the materials and test to see if there are any pathogens on them. 

Wet materials should dry out in the open air. Rugs, upholstery, and clothing can lie in a yard or a parking lot. If there is no space nearby for drying materials, the disaster cleanup services should take them to their facilities.

Workers should clean hard surfaces with detergents, soaps, and hot water. Once these surfaces dry off, they can disinfect them. The building owner can help, spraying bleach on pieces of furniture. 

Recovering From Disasters

Disaster cleanup can help a community recover from disasters. Cleanup crews take all precautions to keep themselves safe. They make sure a building is safe to enter and they wear protective equipment. 

They can start cleaning by making repairs that will promote the integrity of a building. Once the building is secure, they can sort through the property inside it. Any destroyed or toxic objects can get thrown out, while wet objects can be air-dried.  

You are not alone when you need to clean up a disaster site. HCI serves Southern California businesses and communities. Request a service today.


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