Everyone knows a hurricane can be dangerous. What many people don’t think about are the dangers that remain after the hurricane has passed. Several environmental hazards, triggered by the hurricane, can hang around to plague occupants afterward, and are responsible for more health problems each year than the hurricanes themselves.
Left unmitigated, these hazards put businesses at risk, and the business most at risk is the one that was supposed to clean up the problem: the catastrophe response team. If your team isn’t addressing these environmental hazards quickly, effectively, and in compliance with regulations, you could be in big trouble.
The two most often overlooked post-hurricane environmental hazards are mold and asbestos. Here’s how they could cause a problem, and what to do about them.
Water damage is the leading cause of property damage after a hurricane, and where there is water, there is likely to be mold. Toxic and allergenic molds begin growth within 48 hours of moisture damage, and they spread rapidly.
Left unchecked, mold can increase the cost of remediation by several orders of magnitude, and the longer the problem goes on, the worse it gets. When handled inexpertly, it can cause health problems for workers as well as occupants, greatly increasing your liability.
All of these measures must be taken in order to protect occupants, property owners, and you, the contractor responsible for clean-up. If you have a licensed environmental consultant on your team, you may be able to handle all of this in-house. In other cases, you’ll want to contract with an experienced environmental remediation professional.
Any time building materials are disturbed, there’s the potential that those materials may contain asbestos. When disturbed, they can release deadly asbestos fibers. This can happen either due to direct damage from the hurricane, or during restoration, demolition or renovation projects in the wake of the hurricane.
Despite common misconceptions, asbestos is present in many modern building materials, not just in old buildings. When inhaled, asbestos dust can cause lung damage and cancer.
Again, you, as the contractor, are responsible for ensuring that these measures are taken. If you don’t already have a qualified environmental consultant on your staff, it pays to partner with an experienced firm who can assess the situation and mitigate it both legally and safely.
Bob Greene, PE, PG, CIH, LEED AP
As the founder and president of GLE, Bob Greene leads a highly diverse team of architects, engineers, environmental consultants, and construction experts to design fast and effective property solutions. He has served in the architecture, engineering, environmental consulting and remediation, and general construction arenas for nearly 40 years.