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Step 1: Safety First!
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
If you are already familiar with the hazards of sewage backup, you already know that sewage contains bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants that can cause diseases unless you take proper precautions.
Sewage cleanup is a high-risk task since dangerous contaminants are an inherent part of sewage and, therefore, hazards cannot be eliminated at once. In addition, a professional assessment of risk is required to determine the adequate decontamination techniques.
The most important safety measure is an immediate reaction. Cleanup should begin as soon as the sewage has receded. The longer sewage remains in your home, the greater the potential for sickness and irreparable damage to your home.
Hire a Cleanup Professional
Before you start cleaning up, decide which repairs you can do yourself and which require cleanup professionals. If in doubt, secure the area and hire a professional to assess your damage and perform the cleanup for you. Do not take part in cleanup efforts if you are sick, have cuts or open sores.
If you choose to clean some of the damage yourself, follow these safety rules:
- Assume anything touched by sewage or been close to sewage is contaminated.
- Wash your hands frequently using disinfectants, especially before eating.
- Take frequent showers in clean water and use disinfectant soap, nailbrushes, and clean towels.
- Disinfect everything sewage has come in contact with and that can be salvaged.
- Discard unsalvageable items such as clothes, toys, food, etc.
Use Protective Gear
Protect yourself during clean up using protective gear such as:
- Disposable plastic gloves
- Respirator with a particulate filter, N-95 respirator, or half-face respirator with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter
- Goggles and face visors are particularly effective against splashes
- Disposable full body clothing, coveralls, or a lab coat
- Head gear
- Leak proof rubber boots or foot coverings
Potential Damage to Utilities
Keep in mind that utilities such as gas, water, and electricity might be damaged due to a larger scale disaster. Any damage to power lines, gas leaks, or structural damages must be reported immediately.
You may find additional useful information in the safety rules for water damage.
High Risk Groups
The following populations are in a higher risk and must avoid sewage contaminated areas until clean-up is complete.
- Small children may put contaminated items in their mouths
- Pregnant women
- People with health problems such as a weakened immune system
Dealing with Sewage Backup - Step 2, Damage Assessment