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How to Properly Clean Up After a Disaster

How to Properly Clean Up After a Disaster

Did you know that 400 natural disasters occur every year?

The disasters you might face all depend on where you live, but it’s still important to have a plan. Water damage and downed trees can occur in almost every disaster, and both can lead to an entire world of other problems. How can you prepare ahead of time, though?

Luckily, we’re here to help. Read on to learn about how to clean up after a disaster.

Take Proper Precautions

It’s no secret that hurricane clean-up is a messy job. With all the debris, broken windows, stray shingles, and even rotting wood that might be present, things can get dangerous fairly quickly. That’s why it’s important to have safety materials on hand before the storm starts.

Here are a few things you can grab to prep for cleanup:

  • Goggles
  • N95 masks
  • Heavy work gloves
  • At least two fire extinguishers
  • Rubber boots
  • Rubber gloves

It’s also important to have at least two people working together when you’re moving heavy objects or bulky items.

Evaluate Your Property

Once you’re prepped for safety and are sure the storm has passed, take a preliminary walk around the property. There are a few initial things you can look for:

  • Window damage
  • Roof damage
  • Clogged gutters
  • Exterior damage
  • Water damage

All four of these things are usually obvious, but sometimes problems can hide. It’s important to get up close to your windows and also your roof to check for small holes, cracks, or other signs of damage. Instead of climbing on the roof yourself, however, you should call a professional out to help.

Besides that, things like loose siding, peeling paint, or even broken stucco can all happen easily, so it’s important to keep track of it all. If you need, make a checklist to follow. From there, you can also keep a running list of any damage you find.

Take Photos

Experts say taking photos of your home before the storm can actually help speed up the claims process. That being said, you should also take photos while you’re assessing your property.

It’s easy to assume that your insurance company will simply pay up at the first sign of damage, but you’d be wrong. It’s common for companies to want the homeowner to prove the damage wasn’t there beforehand, so having before and after photos can help you avoid a lot of headaches later down the line.

If you want to take it one step further, you can also take videos of your home before and after the hurricane. Once you have everything, you should also send them to a separate place (like Google Drive or Dropbox) so you’re covered if something happens to your phone or other electronic devices. Using a cloud service for this step is a great idea because it can be accessed anywhere from any device.

Call Your Insurance Company

From there, it’s time to call your insurance company. There’s likely to be a long line of people filing claims, so it’s important to get started with yours as soon as possible. In any case, however, your insurance provider is likely to visit those with the most extensive storm damage first.

You should prepare a detailed description to provide your insurer. Also, be sure to explain any special needs your family might have — especially if it means you need priority. It’s also a good idea to ask about how long you can expect it to take to hear back from an insurance broker.

If your home has water damage, you’re going to need to file a flood insurance claim. To start this process, be sure to call the agent who sold you the policy.

You’ll also need to have a professional cleanup, like The Steam Team, come out and clean up water or flooding around your home. They’ll also be able to ensure everything is dried so you don’t risk mold or mildew growth.

Restore Your Utilities

The most important thing to remember after a natural disaster is to conserve your water. Water treatment plants are likely to be operating at limited capacity, meaning reduced pressure for you and other limitations. One flush too many could cause overuse in your system, leading to backup in your home.

Here are a few ways you can conserve water:

  • Take shorter showers
  • Avoid using the dishwasher or washing machine
  • Avoid pressure washing
  • Limit the amount of toilet flushing
  • Turn off all your sprinklers

In some scenarios, it can take a few weeks to restore your power or other utilities. If you have a generator on hand, it’s best to get it set up as soon as possible (before the storm if you can) and to have plenty of gas on hand (which you should also get before the storm hits).

If your family has needs that need to be met, make sure you prioritize having those up and running as quickly as possible, and then move to the other areas of your home that aren’t as vital.

Generator Safety

If you’re using a generator, make sure it’s kept outside in a covered area. Also, don’t connect them to your home’s electrical circuits without approved, automatic-interrupt devices.

In the event that your generator is running when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard and become dangerous to the line workers in your area.

Also, make sure any extra gas you have on hand is kept outside in a covered area. If necessary, wear gloves and other protective clothing when you’re filling the generator with gas, and make sure you clean your skin once it’s been done.

Pick Up Debris

After a hurricane hits, you’re likely to have stray branches or fallen trees around your yard and even in the street. Be sure to pick up what you can to make room for trucks or other vehicles that need access to the roads.

If there are trees or other large blockages in the road, make sure you call out professionals to get the problem cleared as quickly as possible.

Make sure you place the debris by the curb, as your local garbage pickup is likely to come by within days after the storm. Make sure you only place yard waste by the curb, though, and avoid chemicals or other potential fire hazards.

Dry Things Up

If you have water damage or flooding, it’s important to have things dried up within 24 to 48 hours if it’s possible.

Start with airing out your home by opening windows and doors. Use fans to dry out the wet areas, and position them to blow out doors or windows.

Throw away anything you can’t dry quickly, like mattresses, carpeting, furniture, makeup, stuffed animals, pillows, books, wall coverings, and other paper products. You should also remove and throw away any drywall or insulation that’s been exposed to sewage or floodwater.

From there, thoroughly clean any wet items and surfaces that can be dried quickly. All you need is hot water and laundry or dish detergent for your floors, concrete, wood and metal furniture, counters, appliances, and other plumbing fixtures. You should also clean any necessary toys or other small items.

Disinfect Where Needed

If you find mold, you can clean it up with bleach and water. Make sure you’re wearing the proper personal protective equipment (goggles, an N-95 mask, and protective gloves) to protect your eyes, nose, mouth, and skin as well.

To make your cleaner, simply mix one cup of bleach with one gallon of water, and then work to clean everything with mold on it.

Remember, never use bleach in a closed area. Make sure you open any windows or doors. If this isn’t possible, then make sure you have a fan providing ventilation during cleanup.

Toys can also be disinfected using one cup of bleach to five gallons of water. Once you’ve carefully washed everything, leave them to air dry in a safe spot away from children or pets. If the toys can’t immediately be cleaned, throw them out.

Have a Plan Before You Clean Up After a Disaster

No matter what steps you take to clean up after a disaster, it’s important to remain intentional. Areas of your home or property could be dangerous, and it’s important to have a plan of action before you start moving things around. Most importantly, if you need professional help, remember to call them first.

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