Dealing with flood fallout: DISASTERS I CMHC sessions were invaluable for homeowners dealing with water damage

Vancouver Sun
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Page: F11
Section: West Coast Homes
Byline: Brian Morton
Source: Vancouver Sun

Victor Elderton knows too well the importance of getting solid information on dealing with the consequences of a serious flood.

Elderton is the principal of the North Vancouver Outdoor School in Squamish's Paradise Valley. Like dozens of homes in the area, the centre was completely flooded in last October's major flood.

Although the school buildings escaped relatively unscathed, many foundations were damaged, as well as a couple of classrooms.

Elderton says that a series of public meetings for affected homeowners and others sponsored by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation provided excellent information on how to deal with a flood's aftermath.

"We had a couple of classrooms that got water in and we started mitigation work right away. So a professional company put these dehumidifies into the walls and drew out the moisture. Where we had crawl spaces, and floor insulation was damaged, that was all removed and replaced. Electrical junction boxes that might have been submerged were all inspected and replaced or repaired."

Elderton says the CMHC sessions were very helpful, especially for the homeowners who attended. "We went to several sessions and they were outstanding at listing the things we needed to do. They told us how extensive the issues could be and they were things you wouldn't think of. For example, as a principal of the school, I wouldn't know anything about electrical junction boxes, which might corrode over time. For a homeowner, I think those kinds of sessions would be really valuable."

To help people and organizations hit by flooding, residential indoor air quality investigator Hugh Poole gave a series of CMHC-sponsored talks at public meetings in Squamish, Mount Currie and Pemberton on the steps people should take in dealing with flood damage.

"The first step after returning to your home is to remove all soaked and dirty materials as soon as possible," says Poole. "Carpeting and fabric upholstery are likely candidates for disposal. Carpet underlay does not dry out so it too must be discarded. Contaminated insulation and drywall must also be removed."

Poole notes that mould can become a serious problem, because it takes little time to establish itself.

He says the best way for homeowners to protect their property, belongings and the health of their families is to restore the house to good order as quickly as possible.

He cites several important precautions before beginning restoration work, including avoiding electrical shock by wearing rubber boots; keeping extension cords out of the water and shutting off power to the flooded area;

recording the details of the damage with photos or video; and contacting an insurance agent and registering with the municipality.

He says flood victims should not only remove all remaining water, mud and other debris, but dispose of contaminated household goods, rinse away dirt and disinfect contaminated surfaces, and dry out the house and any salvageable possessions.

Other tips: assemble all the equipment and supplies you'll need in advance, including gloves, masks, pails, mops, squeegees, plastic garbage bags, chlorine bleach, non-ammonia dishwashing detergent and large containers for soaking bedding and clothing; and store valuable papers in a freezer until you have time to work on them.

During the actual clean up, Poole recommends keeping a checklist of chores close at hand to ensure the work is carried out in an order that will minimize the damage.

They include:

* Remove standing water with pumps or pails and a wet/dry shop vacuum, and remove all soaked and dirty materials and debris, including wet insulation and drywall, residual mud and soil, furniture, appliances, clothing and bedding.

* Work from the top down, breaking out ceilings and walls that have absorbed water, removing materials at least 500 millimetres above the high-water line and replacing any flooring that has been deeply penetrated by flood water or sewage.

* Clean surfaces not directly affected by the floodwater with a solution of detergent and water, and allow it to dry.

* Hose down and thoroughly rinse all surfaces wetted by the floodwater.

* Ventilate or dehumidify the house until it is completely dry.

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