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Safeguarding Your Property from Water Damage
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Minnesota Community Living May/June 2010

Safeguarding Your Property from Water Damage – What to Do Until Help Arrives

By Joni Stulac, Servpro of Brooklyn Park / Champlin

It is recommended to take a proactive approach to property maintenance in order to safeguard from potential water damage risks.

The exterior of the property is an ideal place to start. The roof is exposed to the harshest extremes and should be properly inspected and maintained. Inspect for loose, missing or deteriorated shingles, and take appropriate action. Gutters should be thoroughly cleaned and inspected. Windows and shutters should also be inspected and any necessary repairs made to prevent water intrusion or damage from high winds.
Moving to the interior, large appliances with water connections should be checked regularly for leaks, especially washing machines. Hot water heaters should be inspected for signs of wear and replaced when necessary. Plumbing and fixtures should be properly maintained, and any signs of escaping moisture should be addressed as quickly as possible.

Water damages are always unwelcome visitors. Regardless of the invading water’s source, be it a leaky roof, malfunctioning home appliance or even a plumbing failure the threat to a property is very real. Water damages require prompt mitigation to prevent further damage, and just as important to eliminate the risk of costly mold and structural problems in the future. In as little as 24 – 48 hours visible mold growth may appear within a structure. Fueled by excess moisture that may have soaked into the walls or seeped beneath the flooring, mold will begin to feed off structural components such as drywall and woods. What was once a small, water damage has now become an expensive mold remediation situation.

Below are some tips on what to do and not to do until your restoration professional arrives:

Water Damage From Clean Water

DO

  • Shut off source of water if possible or contact a qualified party to stop the water source.
  • Turn off circuit breakers for wet areas of the building, when access to power distribution panel is safe from electrical shock
  • Remove as much excess water as possible by mopping and blotting.
  • Wipe excess water from wood furniture after removing lamps and tabletop items.
  • Remove and prop up wet upholstery cushions for even drying.
  • Place aluminum foil or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpeting.
  • Remove to a safe, dry place any paintings, art objects, computers, documents and other materials that are valuable or sensitive to moisture.
  • Use wooden clothespins to keep furniture skirting off of damp floors.
  • Hang draperies with coated hangers to avoid contact with wet carpeting or floors.
  • Hang furs and leather goods to dry separately at room temperature.

DON’T

  • Enter rooms with standing water where electrical shock hazards may exist.
  • Enter affected areas if electrical outlets, switches, circuit breakers or electrical equipment are exposed to water. Always avoid electrical shock hazards.
  • Leave books, newspapers, magazines or other colored items on wet carpets or floors to cause staining.
  • Leave Oriental rugs or other colored rugs on wet wall-to-wall carpets to cause staining.
  • Use your household vacuum cleaner to remove water, possibly causing electrical shock or damage to the vacuum cleaner.
  • Use TV’s or other appliances while standing on wet carpets or floors, especially not on wet concrete floors.
  • Turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet or enter rooms where ceilings are sagging from retained water.

Water Damage From Contaminated Water

DO

  • Avoid all contact with sewage and items contaminated by sewage.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after contact with contaminated items.

DON’T

  • Spread contaminated water by walking unnecessarily on damaged or wet areas.
  • Turn on HVAC system if there is a possibility of spreading contaminated air.
  • Use household fans to dry the structure and spread contaminants.
  • Use products for personal hygiene and cleanliness if exposed to the contaminated areas.

Harmful Waste

DO

  • Stay out of affected areas.
  • Call emergency service personnel if the situation is life-threatening.
  • Treat all bodily fluids as if they are contaminated.

DON’T

  • Attempt cleanup of any kind.
  • Touch or handle items that might be contaminated with bodily fluids.

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