Many times, while watching the news on television about a terrible storm, flood or hurricane, we think to ourselves, “That’s terrible, but it can’t happen here.”
It may be time for all of us to change our mind-sets because in the past few years we have had major weather events and natural disasters in some of the most unexpected areas.
Businesses, like the general public, tend to take a reactive approach to major weather events, dealing with them as they come.
However, taking a proactive position can make the cleanup operation easier and can help get businesses, offices, schools and other facilities up and running faster.
This is where cleaning professionals come in.
In most cases, cleaning and restoration crews will be some of the first to start dealing with the aftermath of a storm, and their level of preparation can have a significant impact on the cleanup efforts.
“The first step in the process is to have a plan,” says Debby Davis, product manager for Powr-Flite, a manufacturer of professional cleaning and restoration equipment. “Some sort of emergency preparedness plan can help minimize loss and get things up and running as soon as possible.”
According to Davis, a proactive emergency preparedness plan specific to contract cleaners and other cleaning professionals should include such things as the following:
“There are two items that every cleaning professional needs to have on hand for a proactive emergency preparedness plan — an efficient wet/dry vac and powerful air movers,” says Davis. “Fortunately, these tools can also be used for nonemergency cleaning, so contractors do not have to select them just for an emergency.”
Regarding wet/dry vacs, Davis suggests avoiding systems available in hardware stores or at mega-retailers.
“Typically these are designed for home use; they simply will not hold up to commercial use or generate the power necessary especially in a disaster.”
Instead, she recommends selecting machines that have the following attributes:
“As for air movers, bigger is not always better. In fact it may not be the best option in an emergency,” Davis says. “Some air movers are small but surprisingly powerful and can be stacked or placed on a daisy chain for extra drying power.”
The reason a smaller system may be preferable in an emergency, according to Davis, is that they are lighter, easier to carry and may demand less electricity.
“Adequate electrical power is often a problem after a major weather event,” she says.
Another issue cleaning professionals should be proactive about is some basic knowledge about cleaning chemical safety.
“Unfortunately, what often happens in emergency cleanup situations is that some cleaning professionals may inadvertently grab whatever cleaning chemicals are available,” says Paul M. Wildenberg, national sales manager for Charlotte Products/Enviro-Solutions. “Some may not mix well or should not be used with other cleaning chemicals.”
Combining bleach and ammonia, for instance, can be deadly.
However, these are not the only chemical combinations that can be dangerous.
Others include the following:
Wildenberg adds that there are other precautions cleaning professionals should take, such as:
“It’s a wise idea to also have an industrial concentrated cleaner available for emergency cleanup,” Wildenberg says. “A concentrated industrial cleaner can go further and some can be used for a variety of cleaning tasks, from pressure washing and floor scrubbing to cleaning carpets.”
While reports vary, according to the American Red Cross as many as 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen after a major disaster such as a flood or hurricane.
Often this is because they were caught unprepared for the disaster, as were the cleanup crews they turned to.
Don’t let this be one of your customers.
Develop an emergency plan so you are prepared for an emergency, to protect not only your own business but your customer’s business and your community as well.
*Although bleach requires extra care to be taken, it can be a very effective cleaning agent when used properly.
Katherine Pickett is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning and building industries. She can be reached at Info@AlturaSolutions.com