Floods inflict devastating damage. Restoration is a grueling process. Restoration is important; but safety is paramount. A lot have been discussed and disseminated about restoration and safety practices for residential properties because it has mass appeal and is badly needed. Given the volume of damage and the complexity of processes, we here discuss safeguards and best practices for restoration of industrial and commercial properties.

Check for structural damage
Before entering the building, make sure that it is safe to enter. Running water, sunken earth, eroded banks or fallen debris could have damaged the building. Electrical leakage might have rendered it unsafe. Get the building and premises examined by a technically-competent team and make sure it is safe to enter. While walking around take care not to step on any broken areas that may collapse.

Avoid electrical hazards
Dealing with electrical hazards after floods is not a do-it-yourself project! Switch off all electrical and gas supply systems. Get them inspected by qualified technicians for respective utilities. Do not switch on until experts assure you that it is safe to do that.

Do not use matches, cigarette lighters or any open flame. Natural gas and other combustible fumes may be trapped inside closed premises.

If the city’s power supply is damaged you might have to use generators. Portable generators need not be weatherproof. Guard against electrical shocks, damage due to extreme vibration or fire hazards due to petroleum fuels. Do not keep generators indoors; they emit toxic carbon monoxide.

See expert support
Identify an expert organization to oversee the restoration process. Remove the ruins, muckheap and sludge to a designated trash area. Clean up minimally affected areas first. That gives you more space to move around. Dry up the premises using scientific methods. Improper and too fast or too slow processes can damage the structure.

Designate a PR representative
Keeping the public informed is critical to managing your company’s image. Communicate positive but honest messages. Be ready for media inroads.

Get legal counsel
The issues and players around commercial premises are complex. Some litigation may ensue immediately or later. Getting legal counsel early on can ensure that you avoid pitfalls, get the maximum insurance claim, and are prepared to handle general legal issues.

Recondition water-damaged equipment
Many industrial and commercial equipment are made in a manner that allows reconditioning if damaged by water. However, only trained personnel can do that, and it should comply with appropriate controls. The reconditioning process should be thoroughly reviewed; then the equipment should be put to field test to ensure safe functioning.

Water-damaged equipment could cause electric shock, fire hazards or chemical and biological hazards. Therefore it is always advisable to get the reconditioning done by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), or expert personnel qualified by them.

Types of equipment suitable for reconditioning Types of equipment that should not be reconditioned and should be decommissioned
Enclosed switches (including some transfer switches) ,Busways, Panelboards ,Fire pump controllers ,Manual and magnetic motor controllers ,Motor control centers ,Switchboards and switchgear ,Liquid-filled and cast-resin transformers ,Motors ,Industrial and commercial battery chargers ,Commercial refrigeration units ,Equipment similar to the above that is suitable for hazardous locations Gas-fired equipment, Appliances (washing machines, ovens, refrigerators, toasters, televisions, etc.) , Solid-state controllers ,Molded case circuit breakers , Fuses , Dry-type transformers , Receptacles, GFCIs, AFCIs and switches ,Transient voltage surge protective devices , Wiring not suitable for wet locations , Solid-state or electronic equipment such as controls, signaling and security

Commercial Food Equipment
Local public health authorities will be aware of all commercial food facilities in their jurisdiction. Their inspection and certification is mandatory before reopening those food facilities. They would inspect for the extent of damage, cleanability and acceptable performance. Local jurisdictions differ in their criteria and approaches to such equipment. Therefore it is advisable to consult them before engaging in extensive servicing of equipment.

If the equipment can be restored to service, thoroughly clean exposed surfaces with a detergent solution, rinse with potable water, sanitize with a 50-200 PPM chlorine solution, and allow to thoroughly dry.