Winter is the season of festivity. From Hanukkah and Christmas to New Year’s Day and the Lunar New Year, this time of the year is when families gather to celebrate the holidays and spend some quality time together. However, winter also brings about a lot of extreme weather conditions that typically affect some countries more than others. If you live in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, or any part of the world where storms are a common occurrence, you need to devise a plan as to how you’re going to deal with their aftermath.
Cleaning up after a big storm is never easy. But with the following tips in mind, you’ll be able to fast-track the process and minimize the damage as much as possible, or at least prevent further damage.
Make Sure the Place is Safe
Your own and your family’s safety should be the first priority after a big storm. So, first off, make sure you seek medical attention if needed, and keep children and pets away from the area until it you’re done cleaning it up. Before you start clearing up the mess, you must survey the scene and make sure your home or property is safe to enter. It’s best to wait until it’s daylight so you can easily spot and avoid any hazards. If the building has sustained visible damage, you must get it examined by a building inspector or emergency authority who can verify whether or not it’s safe. If you smell gas or suspect that the gas line running through your property is damaged, stay away from the building, and don’t turn on the light, smoke, or light matches.
If you hear strange noises or shifting sounds coming from the walls, roof, or foundation, clear the area immediately because this could indicate that the building is about to collapse. If your house has flooded, don’t walk through the water as it can hide many unseen dangers, including snakes, sharp objects, hazardous waste, untreated sewage, or power lines that could electrically charge the water. When surveying the scene, take pictures of the damage and make sure you document everything. Once you have assessed the damage, contact your insurance company to start the claim process.
Move Toppled Trees and Branches Out of the Way
Once you have made sure that the area is safe, it’s time to move toppled trees and branches out of the way so you can start cleaning and disinfecting the place. You must be very careful around power lines, whether they’re in the ground or on a tree, as they could pose a serious risk if they’re still working. Damaged trees can also be a hazard both to you and your property. In areas like Houston, where storms often uproot entire trees, it’s wise to enlist the help of reputable tree removal services or certified arborists. Never try to remove trees with cracked trunks, branches that have fallen across power lines, or uprooted trees on your own. These are a safety hazard, so it’s best to have an expert take care of them.
To minimize your risk of injury, you should only remove damaged branches that have fallen down or those that you can reach from ground level. If you’re thinking of grabbing a ladder or climbing a tree to cut damaged branches, we strongly urge you to reconsider. This should be done by an experienced arborist or tree service. As for the fallen twigs, leaves, and debris, you can easily remove those using a leaf blower to clear the area before you start cleaning.
Get Your Cleaning Supplies and Safety Gear Ready
Now it’s time to start cleaning, but first, you have to dress for the occasion. Before you start cleaning or repairing the post-disaster mess, make sure you put your heavy-duty work gloves, safety goggles, and proper footwear on – rubber boots or steel-toed boots will do. You should also wear long sleeves and pants to protect yourself against insect bites. Other safety gear you might need include hard hats, N95 masks, earplugs, and fire extinguishers with a 10A UL rating – at least two of them.
As for the cleaning supplies and tools, you’ll need buckets, sponges, scrubbing brushes, cleaning rags, towels, bleach, garbage bags, flashlights, household cleaners, and liquid disinfectant soap. If you have to move heavy objects out of the way while cleaning, make sure you have at least one or more people helping you. Otherwise, you might strain your back or get badly injured. If there’s anything that you suspect can’t be cleaned or disinfected thoroughly, it’s best to throw it out to avoid injury or infection.
Dry the Place Out to Prevent Mold Growth
After you’ve finished cleaning, you need to make sure the place is completely dry to prevent mold from growing. Mold grows on all types of surfaces, including carpet, drywall, wood, ceiling and floor tiles, paper, and cardboard. In moist and humid environments, the spores can begin to grow within one or two days of water exposure, posing serious health risks and triggering allergic reactions. To prevent mold growth after a flood, dry out the wet areas as soon as possible.
To speed up the process, open the doors and windows to circulate the air and allow the moisture to evaporate faster – that is if the weather permits. You can also use fans and dehumidifiers to eliminate moisture. Thoroughly clean all wet items and surfaces, including the floors, appliances, countertops, furniture, as well as the fittings and fixtures, using hot water mixed with laundry detergent. As painful and costly as it may be, you should throw away anything that is soaked and can’t be dried quickly enough. That includes books, pillows, mattresses, stuffed animals, clothes, drywall, insulation, carpet, wooden furniture, etc.
The damage created by storms can be quite devastating. However, by following the right steps and taking the necessary precautions, you’ll be able to minimize property damage and salvage as many of your personal belongings as possible. You might be able to take care of the smaller repairs on your own. But, when it comes to structural or electrical damage, you must hire licensed professionals to avoid putting yourself or your property at risk. With the above tips in mind, you will be able to clear up the mess after a big storm and get a better idea of whether or not you need to seek expert help.