(04/01/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — If the recent storms caused wind damage to your home, you’re understandably eager to restore it as soon as possible.
“However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that damaged homes as well as the cleanup and repair process can pose many health hazards, ranging from injury to invisible health hazards like lead-based paint dust,” said LSU AgCenter professor emerita Claudette Hanks Reichel. “Pause and prepare to make sure family and workers don’t end up harmed too.”
Reichel offered the following 10 tips adapted from “Rebuilding Healthy Homes — Guide to Post-Disaster Restoration for a Safe and Healthy Home,” a free U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidebook developed for homeowners and volunteers. The publication is available at https://bit.ly/3Luc7jY.
1. Remind yourself often to put people before property. Make health and safety your top priority.
2. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective clothing and a NIOSH-approved respirator if possible, every time you set foot in a damaged or moldy building. If you can’t find N95 (minimum rating) or P100 (better) masks, at least use KN95 masks and take extra precautions to reduce exposure. Best yet, order a half-face respirator with P100 cartridges.
3. Assess structural stability and hidden hazards before you enter. Check for a sagging roof ridge, bulging or leaning walls, leaning or cracked foundation and signs of structural damage. A professional inspection may be needed. Be on the lookout for hiding animals, broken glass and other safety hazards.
4. Prepare a plan (supplies and methods), make a map (disposal and cleanup site layout) and review insurance policies and disaster assistance resources.
5. Act fast to dry out to prevent and remove mold. Copy and share the LSU AgCenter’s two-page publication, which you can find by searching for “mold removal guidelines” on www.lsuagcenter.com.
6. Always remove wet insulation and foam padding, even if surfaces look dry and clean.
7. Assume lead-based paint and asbestos is in homes built before 1978, unless verified not present. Be mindful that disturbing such materials increases the hazard. Hire only EPA Lead-safe Certified contractors to repair pre-1978 homes.
8. Control dust, capture debris and contain contaminants with wet methods, drop cloths, debris bags, HEPA vacuums and workers trained in safe work practices.
9. Check credentials and hire only licensed or registered and insured contractors. In Louisiana, search for licensed residential contractors, mold remediation contractors and registered home improvement contractors at www.lslbc.louisiana.gov.
10. Restore for more than before. Install wind-resistant roofing systems, materials, connectors and building systems. Include energy-saving and healthy home improvements in the restoration project to end up create a silver lining of a home that offers you more benefits than before.
More information for each tip is in the HUD rebuilding guide — a comprehensive manual with detailed how-to’s and answers to common questions about home damages from various types of disasters, hazard assessment, disposal, cleanup, repairs and restoration with a special focus on ensuring your home ends up a healthy place to live. It was published by HUD, which enlisted Reichel to be its primary author.
For additional information, search the LSU AgCenter website for “Storm Damage Cleanup Highlights,” a four-page fact sheet.