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Flooding & Water Loss Resources

PSA: Best Practices in Assessment and Cleaning of River Flooding

Hello, neighbors affected by the 2022 Montana River flooding,

We understand that you are all going through one of the worst experiences in your life, and we are here for you. We want YOU to know of the potential health risks involved in mitigating floodwater damage to your property. Most importantly we take YOUR safety very seriously over the protection of the material property. We ask that you please read the following below as a guide to help you avoid potentially dangerous situations in your home if you choose to do the work in your home yourself.

Our goal is to inform you, not scare you and let you benefit from our 30 plus years of experience.

Please remember that the water in your home or business does contain contaminants from dead animals, fecal matter, fertilizers, and who knows what other chemicals as it has passed through upstream of its final resting place in your home.

We understand that swimming in our Montana rivers is a common practice. The difference here is that river water is now in an enclosed environment and is much different than being outside where it belongs.

Health Concerns

  • Bacteria carried in by floodwater
  • Asbestos in building products
  • Chemicals and pesticides
  • Underwater hazards inside the building
  • If you have a respiratory condition like asthma or COPD or a weakened immune system, stay away from moldy spaces.
  • Avoid Exposure to floodwater if you have an open wound
  • Sharp objects
  • Slip and trip hazards

As the time from the flooding passes 72 hours, mold and bacterial growth can begin to become more severe, posing a hazard to workers and occupants in buildings.

Recommended PPE

  • Breathable coveralls to prevent debris and contaminated materials from following you after you leave the work site.
  • A minimum of a P-100 dust mask to protect your respiratory system
  • Electrically insulated (shockproof) watertight boots with steel shank and toe. (Tennis shoes or sneakers will not prevent punctures, bites, or crush injuries).
  • Hip Waders (To prevent contact with flood waters)
  • Heavy water-resistant/cut-resistant gloves.

Thorough Evaluation and Recommended Cleaning Procedures

Begin with a site safety inspection to identify potential hazards such as electrical shock, building collapse, hazardous building materials (lead and asbestos), and slip and trip hazards

  • Be aware of any contracts that may be presented to you before you sign them. Unfortunately, there are many storm chasers offering assistance; however, beware of the nuances of their contracts, as they can be extremely one-sided.
  • Security of the property to prevent looting.
  • Isolation of non-impacted upper levels from lower levels (if applicable) with barriers such as plastic
  • Minimize tracking of dirt, etc, into areas that were not directly affected by the flood waters.to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Thorough evaluation and cleaning of contents contaminated by flood water and disposal of items that cannot be cleaned
  • Establish mechanical air exchange for the affected portion of the building at a minimum of four complete whole-house air exchanges per hour. For example. Think of how a bathroom fan works as an exhaust)
    • How to calculate proper air exchange 1,000 square foot house 8 feet tall is 8,000 cubic feet multiplied by a minimum of 4 exchanges per hour is 32,000 cubic feet of fresh air needed per hour. Hit fan airflows are rated at CFM cubic feet per minute, so multiply the fan CFM by 60 to get how much air it moves per hour.
  • Please consider that fans blowing directly on surfaces will aerosolize and spread contaminates and create a more hazardous environment. This can be minimized through air exchange and continuously supplying fresh air to the work environment.
  • As soon as practical, it is important to remove all wet porous materials such as (Drywall, particle board, underlayment, any cloth, carpet & pad, MDF Trim). Be sure to avoid disturbing asbestos and lead paint.
  • Post removal of all the damaged finishes a deep cleaning is required.
    • Deep contamination requires deep cleaning. Basically, what goes in with water should come out with water. An application of soap such as simple green will be needed after all silt and debris are visually removed through shoveling, scraping, and rinsing the affected areas.
  • Dispose of effluence down the sanitary sewer system to keep our rivers free of chemicals.
  • Dilution is the solution to pollution. Simple soap and water are great cleaning agents.
  • Bleach is a destructive and ineffective antimicrobial and should not be used
  • Removal of cleaning chemicals and debris using a power washer with a low volume setting for structural members and squeegee/wiping for finish materials.
  • Thorough drying of cleaned structural materials below 15% moisture content before repairs begin

Personal Property Considerations

  • Identify the priority levels of your content items that are of high sentimental or monetary value and dry them first. These items could be:
    • Family heirlooms, firearms, or jewelry
  • Identify items that you consider essential in your day-to-day life. These items could be:
    • Clothing and work-related materials
  • The following items are considered non-transportable by Buffalo Restoration:
    • Combustible liquids, explosives, corrosive liquids, consumables, flammables, firearms, over-the-counter medications, live plants, etc.

We are a trusted advisor to our community. We know that every situation is different, and we also know that this is a very stressful time for all affected. If you have any questions or need help, please get in touch with us (406) 306-0501.

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