Best Safety Practices during Hoarding Cleanup
Safety is the primary concern.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding disorders occur in an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the population and often lead to substantial distress and problems functioning. While the emotional and physical impact of this growing disorder is significant, the potential health and safety concerns including fire hazards, biohazards and health code violations are paramount and a major focus for the restoration and remediation industry today. While well-trained in restoring properties from fire, water or smoke damage, restoration professionals called upon to address a hoarding environment must consider a number of additional key factors. In particular, the very real threat of biohazard dangers including bloodborne pathogens carrying potential diseases like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS.
The following article provides best practices, based on 30 plus years of experience, in successfully remediating a hoarding environment including biohazard dangers, for the safety of all involved.
- Safety is the primary concern. Engage with fire, police and other relevant authorities to understand all the potential hazards before the cleanup begins.
- Often times biological hazards are present in hoarding situation including animal or human feces, mold, bacteria, and/or insects. Assume one or more of these hazards are present and wear full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including suits, mask, and nitrile gloves at all times.
- Bloodborne pathogens may be present as well within the hoard including contaminated needles or sharp objects. Dispose of these hazards within appropriate containers and make hand washing facilities readily available.
- Provide specialized training on biohazard cleanups for employees annually.
- Offer employees post-exposure evaluations and follow-up with medical personnel in the case of an exposure incident.
- Have an emergency action plan in place. Exit routes are likely obstructed and the greater amount of contents present a greater risk of fire. Communicate the action plan at the onset of the job and ensure all employees are present.
- Create a cleaning and staging area. This is preferably done outside as there isn’t typically enough space inside. If weather dictates that cleaning must take place indoors, empty one room and clean and disinfect the room completely with an EPA approved disinfectant.
- If working outside, be prepared with cleaning tables and if needed, pop up tents to create shade and shelter for employees.
- Be courteous and respectful to the hoarder at all times, sensitive to the individual’s feelings in the cleanup process.
- Enlist the assistance of one of the hoarder’s relatives and ask them to be present on the job to make decisions on what is discarded and what should be salvaged.
It is important to note that if a hoarding cleanup job does present biohazard concerns, the timeline of the service will increase given the additional number of precautions necessary. For example, in a recent hoarding clean up experience, the team at ARS was called upon to address a one-bedroom apartment filled with clothing, boxes, and paper goods piled from floor to ceiling. Upon arrival, the team was notified that the resident was HIV positive and syringes were found within the property. As a result, the crew needed to use tongs to individually remove several contaminated items to avoid contact. This slowed down the process significantly but ensured the safety of the crew in completing the job.
Given the sensitivities in a hoarding cleanup, it is also important to provide daily communication with the property owner and his or her family to ensure they are well informed as they navigate this difficult process. Daily email updates and personal phone calls are critical to keep the hoarder, and family up to date on the project timeline and set expectations. In doing so, you become a partner to the client, eliminate issues and build trust. The intangible elements often become the most important part of a job well done.
Hoarding presents a very real danger to all those involved. As the epidemic continues to rise, it is critically important for the restoration industry, called upon to safely and effectively decontaminate and sanitize properties, to understand and address all the potential hazards to keep both property owners and their own crews safe in the cleanup process.
Mold Growth and Mold Damage
How different surfaces are affected by mold damage
Our customers often ask us what is salvageable after mold damage in their home. Asking this question is understandable – of course, you do not want to throw away more items than necessary. We understand that the sight of mold-damaged belongings is a distressing one, and we work with you to save as much as possible.
The answer to what is salvageable after mold damage depends on several factors. There are some general guidelines which hold true in many cases, but it always comes down to assessing the individual situation and the extent of the damage.
The less porous a surface is, the more likely it is to be salvageable. Very smooth non-porous surfaces such as glass and ceramic are the easiest to clean. In many cases, SERVPRO technicians find that a gentle scrub or damp wiping is enough to remove spores and leave the surface clean once more.
Porous surfaces such as carpets, rugs, and drapes are more complicated. In many cases, porous items, unfortunately, have to be discarded because it is not possible to remove the mold once it has taken hold. However, in cases where the item is wet, but mold has not had a chance to grow, it might be possible to dry the item and save it before fungus takes hold.
Although clothes are fabric, which is porous, it is often possible to save them by washing them immediately. We recommend looking for a dry cleaner who has experience in dealing with mold.
Semi-porous surfaces such as wood and stone can sometimes be saved, depending on the level of contamination and damage.
When you call SERVPRO for help, you can rest assured that our IICRC-certified remediation experts provide a thorough assessment of the situation. We examine the extent of mold damage and the affected items so we can advise you on what can we can save, and what must be discarded.
After the assessment, our team sets to work cleaning all salvageable items using a range of cleaning actions, including damp wiping, abrasion, and HEPA vacuuming. We also dry the area to reduce moisture and discourage regrowth.
Limit Humidity in Your Home to Reduce the Risk of Mold Infestations
Constant use of your shower, as well as cooking and cleaning appliances, can cause mold to spread throughout your property. There are several ways for this type of infestation to run rampant in your home, but what is it, and how can you help decrease exposure?
If you suspect that your home has water damage locate a certified professional to assist with the repairs and cleaning before things get out of hand.
At SERVPRO as we become more aware of molds and fungi, it is our responsibility to understand them, find out why they exist and get the proper help to control the spread within our homes.
We experience new species regularly; no one knows how many types there are, yet. Mold exist indoors and outdoors, within our environment, in the air that we breathe, the food and water that we consume, everywhere around us. We also know that various types of airborne molds and spores may cause health effects in certain people if exposed to the right quantity.
However, we have also learned that mold and fungus grow at the highest rate, inside of warm, damp, humid environments, and spread quickly, through the reproduction of microscopic spores. They can even survive harsh dry or cold environments that limit or completely stop normal mold growth, mainly waiting for the right conditions to exist.
Mold growth inside of your home is controllable; it is when things get out of control that you need professional help from a company like SERVPRO. We can help you learn how to control your humidity levels inside and properly ventilate your showers and cooking areas to prevent growth from forming.
SERVPRO technicians can also help you learn which products to use for cleaning smaller contaminated areas. However, when the area exceeds 10 square feet, professional assistance may be necessary to clean the area and mitigate damages properly. It is unlikely that you have the experience or equipment needed to handle a job of larger size and most homeowners find that they make the problem bigger by attempting to do it themselves. We suggest leaving grappling with mold in the hands of the professionals.
At SERVPRO, we recommend maintaining an indoor humidity level of no higher than 50%. Both air conditioners and dehumidifiers can help you keep your humidity low. Install the proper exhaust fans for cooking appliances, dishwashers and clothes dryers. Cleaning the surfaces in your bathroom, kitchen and other constant moisture source areas with mold killing products help as well.
SERPVRO Offers Fully Certified Water Removal Services 24/7, 36
Whether you purchase a brand new home or have something with a little more history, water entering your home can cause a great deal of stress and take a severe toll on your living environment. Humidity, condensation, and water intrusions are all things that every homeowner has to face at some point in their lives.
Using professional water removal methods can help prevent a variety of damages in your Minneapolis area home. Regardless of the source of the problem you face, a company that provides these services can efficiently assist with protecting essential documents, furniture, appliances, carpeting, and personal items affected by this type of event and help you restore your home to its former glory.
SERVPRO’s fully-certified IICRC water removal and restoration professionals have access to a variety of water removal and drying equipment. Portable hand-held or truck-mounted extractors of various sizes make drying and cleaning carpeting, flooring, and upholstery items more successful and give you a higher chance of significantly reducing possible damages caused by water intrusions in your home.
SERVPRO technicians can put the extractors heater, pump, and vacuum system to use, providing you with both damage mitigation and restorative functions for many contents found in your home. If you have over two inches of standing water, we can put submersible pumps to work, extracting a higher volume, faster and help dispose of any possibly contaminated water the correct way.
SERVPRO is locally owned, open 24/7, 365, proudly providing water removal, cleaning, and restoration services you can count on to get your home water-free, fast. We can explain our services in detail, keep you informed throughout the removal process and communicate with your insurance company to make the entire situation is as stress-free as possible.
SERVPRO of Pearl River/Hancock and Southwest Harrison Counties offers expert water removal and restoration services throughout the Gulf Coast areas, providing quality solutions to members of our local communities that help make your house feel like a home again. Call us anytime, day or night for qualified help you can trust. 228-467-4450
Floods: How to be Ready
There are several times throughout the year when there is potential for flooding. Examples would be melting snow, heavy rain fall for a long period of time, and quick heavy rain that can cause flash flooding. Please read below on how to be prepared and how to stay safe during a flood emergency.
What you can do before the flood
- Know your flood risk.
- Make a flood emergency plan.
- Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
- Consider buying flood insurance.
- Familiarize yourself with local emergency plans. Know where to go and how to get there should you need to get to higher ground, the highest level of a building, or to evacuate.
- Stay tuned to your phone alerts, TV, or radio for weather updates, emergency instructions, or evacuation orders.
Basic Flood Safety Tips:
- Turn Around, Don’t Drown! ®
- Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
- Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
- If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground. Flash floods are the #1 cause of weather-related deaths in the US.
- If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.
- Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning. Please visit Ready.gov for more information on how to stay prepared for all types of emergencies!
Our region is an area that has flooded in the past, and has the potential to flood again the future. It is extremely important to know how to stay safe during a flood emergency, and also how to prepare in advance of a flood.
Please visit Ready.gov for more information on how to stay prepared for all types of emergencies
SERVPRO Storm Response
When it comes to fire & water damage, or specialty cleanup needs, it’s the SERVPRO brand that comes to mind. Our TEAMS work endlessly to make sure our customers are happy, and have one objective in the aftermath of disaster, to make their loss Like it never even happened.
No matter the job or the size, our SERVPRO teams are ready to handle any size loss. With 1,700+ franchises nationwide, we have access to numerous highly trained personnel and thousands of pieces of equipment. Our SERVPRO Disaster Recovery teams are strategically placed throughout the country to respond when needed. Our Teams have a proven track record for success, assisting with cleanup of floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and damage caused from frigid temperatures.
Whether it’s a major storm event, or faulty appliance, we will be there with one call 228-467-4450
Mold Damaged Documents
If your home or business has important documents that are affected by Mold, we can HELP!
We use a specialized process called Gamma Irradiation. This is used for cleaning/ disinfection and decontaminating documents or other consumer goods. In gamma irradiation, high-energy photons are emitted from an isotope source (Colbalt 60) producing ionization(electron disruptions) throughout a product. In a CAT 3 situation (sewage or flood water), documents are not only deteriorating but are also infected with all types of bacteria. In most storm situations you are dealing with CAT 3 water: therefore, most of the affected documents that you will encounter will be contaminated. If this is the case then decontamination is always a must. In Living cells, these disruptions result in damage to the DNA and other cellular structures. These photon-induced changes at the molecular level cause death to the organism or render the organism incapable of reproduction. The gamma process does not create residuals or impart radioactivity in processed products.
For additional information or questions on processes involving fire, water, or mold damaged documents please call our office, and we would be happy to further discuss and provide a free estimate for services
Secondary Damage to Hardwood Floors
There are many ways water damage in your home or business can occur. Some of the most common examples are broken or leaking pipes, appliances malfunctioning, or flooding. The key to keeping the extent of water damage to a minimum is a quick response to start drying. Otherwise secondary damage to the property will be inevitable. Secondary damage can be many things from, delaminated carpeting, discoloring of building materials, musty odors, mold, or warped flooring. In this case we are talking about hardwood flooring in particular and what happens. Wood is semi porous material that absorbs water slowly between the wood joints. If wood has been affected by water damage, and is caught in a short amount of time, there are drying mats that can extract the water out of the wood and bring it back to its original state. If a wood floor has absorbed a significant amount of water and has dwelled for an extended period of time, then the wood floor will begin to cup and stain. If the floors are left in this condition it will get worse to the point of no return and must be removed. If wood floors are treated as soon as you see cupping, there is still a chance of them being saved. Water will get extracted, and then once dry, the wood can be sanded and refinished to get a smooth surface again.
If you or someone you know ever experiences water damage, the first thing you should do is call in a SERVPRO professional and start the drying process to prevent unnecessary damage from occurring! If a water damage occurs and has gone unnoticed, call us in and we will survey the damage. Our goal is to save as much as we can and assist in the replacement of materials if absolutely necessary.
NOAA Storm Data
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NOAA Storm Data
The Storm Events Database contains the records used to create the official NOAA Storm Data publication, documenting:
- The occurrence of storms and other significant weather phenomena having sufficient intensity to cause loss of life, injuries, significant property damage, and/or disruption to commerce;
- Rare, unusual, weather phenomena that generate media attention, such as snow flurries in South Florida or the San Diego coastal area; and
- Other significant meteorological events, such as record maximum or minimum temperatures or precipitation that occur in connection with another event.
The database currently contains data from January 1950 to November 2017, as entered by NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS). Due to changes in the data collection and processing procedures over time, there are unique periods of record available depending on the event type. NCEI has performed data reformatting and standardization of event types but has not changed any data values for locations, fatalities, injuries, damage, narratives and any other event specific information. Please refer to the Database Details page for more information.
You can register your email address with NCEI to receive future information regarding access system downtime, data issues, new features and general news about the Storm Events Database.
NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information Storm Events Database:
Hazards to Avoid After a Flood
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10 Most likely Hazards After a Flood
- Electrical and Gas Hazards
- Take caution and treat all electrical lines, wires, equipment and fixtures as if they are energized until proven otherwise.
- Immediately evacuate buildings if a gas leak or odor is detected, and notify the site supervisor or competent person.
- Motor Vehicles
- Monitor local road conditions and obey closure signs. Don’t drive though flowing water. Six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle and two feet of water will carry most cars away.
- Standing water may not carry you away, but you may not be able to tell how deep it is. Unless you know how deep it is, it’s best to not drive through standing water.
- Be aware of seen and unseen road hazards such as building debris, tree limbs, and pot holes. Also floods bring mud and roads can become very slick.
- Respiratory Hazards
- Gasoline, propane and diesel-powered equipment (such as portable generators, power washers, compressors and pumps) should only be operated in well-ventilated outdoor areas to prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
- Stay upwind of or away from dust-generating activities, in particular involving crystalline silica-containing materials like concrete, brick, tile, drywall, mortar, sand, or stone.
- Identify building materials such as painted surfaces and pipes that may contain lead.
- If an area is known or suspected to contain asbestos, ensure that an assessment has been done by a competent individual before entering the area; if asbestos is present, wait until it is removed or contained.
- Notify the supervisor immediately if asbestos is identified at the site and stop work until it has been removed or contained.
- Refrain from entering areas with extensive mold buildup.
- Chemical Use/Exposure
- Be aware of your surroundings. If there is evidence (sight or smell) of chemicals or their use, avoid that area and request an Industrial Hygienist accompany you.
- Sharp, jagged debris
- Tree limbs.
- Construction or demolition debris.
- Broken glass.
- Animal bites, both stray pets and wild animals.
- Roofing and Working from Heights
- Ensure the use of fall protection systems: guardrails, safety nets or fall arrest systems.
- Identify areas of structural weakness.
- Identify ladder hazards and ensure their safe use.
- Power Tools
- Ensure guarding on power tools is in good working order and always used.
- Inspect all extension cords, remove from service those that are damaged, cut or have exposed wiring and inner insulation.
- Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) or double-insulated power tools that are approved by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.
- Flood Waters (Drowning/Walking)
- Same as with driving, six inches of moving water may cause you to lose your footing and two feet of water will carry you away. Stay out of moving water.
- Even standing water can present similar hazards. The water most likely will not be clear; therefore you won’t see how deep even a small puddle is. Avoid walking in standing water unless you know it is safe to do so.
- Be aware of seen and unseen hazards such as building debris, tree limbs, and pot holes. Also floods bring mud and walkways can become very slick.
- Ensure the use of hearing protection when noise levels exceed 85 decibels. Generally, if you cannot hold a normal conversation at arm’s length due to noise, then hearing protection should be worn.
- Personal Decontamination
- Always wash hands with soap and water before eating, drinking, smoking, applying lip balm or cosmetics to prevent contamination of the mouth, nose or eyes with hazardous materials or infectious agents. Use a waterless alcohol-based hand cleaner if water is not available.
- Decontaminate raingear and rubber boots that have been exposed to potentially hazardous materials.