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The foundations of dealing with a flood event

13 min read
Insights flooding

As the threat of flooding continues to grow year-round, it is crucial that water damage restoration teams are equipped with the tools and knowledge to deal with these events as efficiently and comprehensively as possible. Discover how this is achieved in this helpful guide.

It is no secret how devastating the repercussions of a flood event can be for individuals, families, businesses and more. The initial damage and destruction can undoubtedly be massive – but the water damage left behind can escalate the problems significantly if not dealt with properly.

Whether it is standing water left in the wall cavities and foundations of a property that eventually leads to further damage and costly repairs, or the threat of mould and bacteria spreading and endangering the health of those living or working there, the long-term consequences of a flood can be substantial.

Take the UK for example. An estimated 1 in 6 properties are located in areas deemed a major flood risk, a trend that is becoming more common across Europe due to climate change. Consequently, it is critical that the aftermath of a flood is handled as thoroughly as possible to limit the impact of these awful events.

In this article, we will outline exactly how this can be achieved, and how four core areas of restoring a property following a flood should be approached to prevent the repercussions from growing over time.

The threat of flooding is growing…

Before that though, it’s helpful to emphasise exactly why knowing how to deal with a flood event effectively is crucial right now – and is set to become even more important in the future.

Due to the effects of climate change, the likelihood of excessive rainfall throughout the year – particularly in the summer and winter – has noticeably grown in the last couple of decades.

Sticking with the UK as an indicator of these shifting patterns, research conducted by The Met Office revealed that, from 2010-2019, summers were 13% wetter and winters 12% wetter than they were from 1961-1990.

UK flood facts

This paints a clear picture that the risk of flooding is more prevalent now than in past decades – and this extends beyond the UK into other areas of Europe and worldwide.

Therefore, knowing how to manage the fallout from these events as thoroughly and efficiently as possible is exceedingly vital - not only to limit the threat of continued damage to a property, but to enable water damage restoration professionals to take on as many projects as possible.

Understanding the impact of water damage over time

Speed is of the essence when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of a water damage event, and in the case of a flood event it is even more critical. Even in the best-case scenarios, water damage that is left untreated in a property can quickly spiral out of control, making it more difficult to treat and sending the costs involved skywards.

Here is a depiction of how the problems involving standing water can evolve in just a few weeks…

Fallout of flooding timeline

As you can see, in a relatively short window of time, the water left behind following a flood can transform from an unwanted nuisance to a full-blown health risk. This again illustrates the need for the handling of the aftermath to be efficient and comprehensive, using the right equipment to handle all aspects of a restoration project.

Dealing with a flood event

When handling the water damage left behind after a flood, there are some key areas of concern that water damage restoration experts must address:

  1. Extraction of water and sanitisation

  2. Managing the air quality

  3. Controlling the humidity

  4. Drying out the building

Meeting all of these components requires the right assortment of equipment – wet vacuums, chemicals, dehumidifiers, heaters, ventilation units, air purifiers, etc. – sourced from trusted providers like Aerial, Dantherm, Heylo and Master.

#1 Extraction of water and sanitisation

Prior to any drying equipment being installed, the building needs to be sanitised, dealing with any sediment and bacteria left behind by the heavily contaminated floodwaters. Equipment such as water pumps, wet vacuums, containment systems, air filtration devices, and ventilation are all key elements of this initial containment and stabilisation phase.

It is at this stage that contractors are assessing which materials can be restored to a pre-loss condition and which materials need to be removed and disposed of in a safe manner. There is little point wasting time and energy trying to dry materials that are intended to be stripped out later in the process.

After assessing the affected area through moisture measurement and mapping, and ensuring that any areas of persistent water intrusion are closed off, the following three essential steps must be pursued to eliminate damage as extensively as possible.

#2 Managing air quality

The longer moisture is allowed to seep into furnishings and building materials, the greater the risk of mould proliferating becomes. When this happens, toxins, bacteria and pathogens can soon enter the atmosphere and, in a matter of days or weeks, the area becomes a significant health risk. In the case of a flood, the property is almost certainly heavily contaminated by the floodwater from day one.

How does this contamination occur? In several different ways:

How does flood contamination happen?

As a result, ventilating and purifying the air is a top priority in protecting the health and wellbeing of those in the property. HEPA filters are the key to achieving this - these trap mould spores, bacteria, dirt and other contaminants contained in the atmosphere in a system, meaning that only clean, pure air is released back into the air.

Solutions such as the Aerial AMH 100, Master MAS 13 and Heylo air purification series all provide unique and innovative solutions to this challenging situation.

Drying systems like the Aerial AERCUBE guide warm, dry air flow into inaccessible areas of a water-damaged property. This helps target any hidden, contaminated water that is trapped in the building layers, which is then captured and, thanks to its own HEPA filters, ensures the dry air released by the system is entirely healthy. Where bad odours present a problem, the AERCUBE can be fitted with an activated carbon filter to remove airborne VOCs.

Over time, this will eliminate any contaminants in the flooded space, protecting the health of people and pets either living in the property during the drying, or upon their return to the property following the restoration job.

Heaters can also play a key role in eliminating the bacteria, viruses and contaminants that can plague the atmosphere of a flooded space.

Exposing most bacteria and viruses to periods of high heat will kill them, leaving the area clear of contaminants without the use of chemical disinfectants, which can leave their own harmful residues. Once the area has dried out, setting up Master heaters is a strong final step to confirm that all potential sources of disease are neutralised, leaving the area safe to inhabit.

#3 Controlling humidity

Stabilising the humidity within the flooded area is another vital component of a successful restoration project. During the assessment of the damage, this is where a water damage technician will assess how the environment needs to be managed while the excess water from the flood is removed.

Stabilising the environment depends on removing moisture from the air and keeping the relative humidity (RH) below the threshold where humidity causes secondary damage to the structure and contents – typically aiming for less than 60% RH at all times. To achieve this (depending on the scale of the flooded space), a combination of dehumidifiers, heaters and ventilation systems contribute to establishing this optimal environment.

After taking immediate steps to stabilise the area – clearing standing water, removing wet carpets, opening windows, etc. – the following steps will help give your dehumidifiers the best platform to maintain a suitable level of humidity for the task at hand:

  • Ventilate the area and leave any heating system switched on - this helps to control RH in the first hours after the incident

  • Remove any wet items that are beyond economic repair and saturated debris from the site where appropriate, as this will require the dehumidifier to use more energy

  • Get rid of any porous or absorbent material that cannot be successfully or cost-effectively restored

  • Use a carpet extractor or wet/dry vacuum early on in the process on any saturated carpet that cannot be removed

Then, it is all about choosing the right dehumidification solution and setting it up properly to get the best results. Three important things to consider here are:

Choosing the right dehumidifier

#4 Building drying

Maximising the efficiency and completeness of drying a property following flood damage again relies on an effective combination of dehumidifiers, heaters and ventilation. While it is the dehumidifiers that will capture the water from the flooded area, portable heaters and fans can make a massive difference in how quickly and comprehensively this is achieved.

A condensing (or refrigerant) dehumidifier is typically the most energy-efficient way to process excess moisture in a flooded property. Once this reduces the RH to an appropriate level, the latent energy of the water vapour in the air is converted into sensible heat - this is projected back into the atmosphere, helping to speed up the drying process.

Aerial’s mobile dehumidifiers are designed to capably handle flood-damaged environments and establish the ideal conditions for efficient restoration.

Heaters in particular can accelerate the drying process significantly by turning moisture trapped in walls, carpets, floors and other furnishings into water vapour. When this enters the atmosphere, the dehumidifiers can process this, making the whole process faster and more energy-efficient.

High-volume fans can also be a powerful ally here, circulating the air in the room and causing standing water to evaporate faster than it would unaided. Again, this enables the dehumidifiers to capture this moisture from the air, noticeably speeding up drying times and reducing the amount of damage static water can potentially do to the area in question.

Finally, when an area appears dry, don’t rely on touch alone – if water has been allowed to seep into the deeper layers of the building, mould and bacteria can continue to breed and cause lasting damage.

Employ a range of professional moisture measurement equipment to check that building materials have truly dried out, leaving no risk of below-surface water coming back to haunt the area.

If you would like to learn more about pressure drying a powerful alternative to traditional building drying techniques – read our in-depth article on this method.

Discover the right way to beat flood damage with Aerial

The consequences of a flood extend far beyond the initial event. Unchecked water damage can have a devastating impact on buildings and their occupants if allowed to spiral out of control – making the efforts of water damage restoration teams in the aftermath essential.

We hope this has given you a clear sense of what needs to happen to fully manage the fallout from a flood – minimising the long-term repercussions felt by a property and those that live in it, and maximising the efficiency and thoroughness of the process.

Of course, this speed and effectiveness aren’t achievable without the right tools for the job. Aerial’s mobile dehumidifiers and air-exchange systems have helped professionals across Europe deliver quality results for their clients after the events of a flood.

Moreover, our range of water damage restoration dehumidifiers, including pressure drying and targeted heat drying solutions, are especially effective at drying out water damage found in multi-layered building constructions.

Get in touch today by completing the form below to learn more about our market-leading solutions.

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