Over recent months the UK has experienced a sharp rise in rainfall, with heavy rain causing people to evacuate their homes in the South West. Floods often come with little notice and can have a devastating effect on both residential and commercial properties. In the Thames Valley region in the winter of 2013, for example, major flooding incurred clean-up costs of more than £1bn.
Knowing what to do in the immediate aftermath of a flood can be overwhelming, but there are a few simple steps you can follow, to help make the process as painless as possible.
Flood water often contains hazardous substances, such as sewage and rat urine, so be sure to wear protective clothing - gloves, overalls, facemasks. Rats carry Leptospires, which can cause leptospirosis (or Weil’s disease) in humans, so protection is vital if you’re conducting the clean-up, to prevent contracting what is a potentially fatal disease.
Before clean up, you should reach out to trained experts to evaluate the affected property and identify all the damage and structural hazards. This allows the clean-up and rebuilding process to take place as efficiently and safely as possible. It’s also worth consulting a qualified electrician, as they can check all electrics in the building are safe, and establish what equipment can be used during the clean-up process.
Using a pump and generator, pump out any of the remaining flood water. If using fuel type generators, then always ensure there’s sufficient room ventilation, or there’s a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s also crucial that you only pump out water when flood levels outside your property are lower than inside; this helps to reduce the risk of structural damage.
Next, all furniture, fittings and appliances will need to be removed to dry as quickly as possible. This helps prevent and reduce any further structural damage and limit the chance of mould developing. Flood water is hazardous to health, so make sure any contaminated objects are properly disinfected.
Remove any large silt or mud deposits that may have settled against internal walls. If it is on two sides of the wall, take care to remove it from both sides equally, otherwise it can cause the structure to become compromised.
Now you can clean all the floors, walls, doors and other surfaces. This should always involve the use of disinfectant, which helps to prevent mildew from forming and to keep the microbiological risks as low as possible. It’s also important to hose down the outside of your property.
Once the clean-up process is complete, make sure you wash everything thoroughly afterwards, particularly your hands and equipment. Pathogens are most easily spread through hand contact, so failing to fully clean equipment can lead to cross contamination.
Finally, after any flood you may see an increase in rat activity. These creatures become displaced from burrows or sewers as water levels rise. Be extra vigilant and shore-up any damage which could allow the rodents to access your home.