Health risks are particularly higher in schools where there’s a high level of interaction and since children have relatively weaker immune systems. Health threats may come from exposure to contaminated water or exposure to molds, which can grow in a water-damaged building in as short as 24 hours.
Water damage can cause:
” Soil erosion in the school ground;
” Structural damage;
” Damage to utility systems;
” Damage to building contents such as school furniture, books and lab materials.
” Mold infestation that can lead to respiratory illness and symptoms among students and staff which lead to increased number of sick days.
The ultimate consequence of water damage in schools is the suspension of classes or permanent school closure. How long the school will remain closed depends on the extent of the damage, remaining health hazards, financial status of the school and how quickly the cleanup and restoration started.
Financially, the ramifications of water damage include costs related to repair and replacement, temporary facility rental and transportation of students to the temporary school.
Preparedness and Education
Flooding poses the greatest threat of water damage to schools since it’s associated with many common natural occurrences such as storms. All schools regardless of location must prepare for floods. In order to do this, schools should:
” Identify community and on-campus hazards.
” Develop a crisis plan indicating what to do before, during and after flooding.
” Identify the staff, equipment and functions that are crucial to the school’s operation.
” Form a Disaster Recovery Team composed of the school’s chief decision makers, stakeholders, building management, technical staff, and service contractors such as a water damage restoration team.
” Review and practice the emergency plan.
Aside from natural flooding, water damage in schools can also occur due to a burst pipe or a broken sprinkler system. Preparing for these types of emergencies is also necessary. At the very least, the staff should know the location of the main water valve and how to shut it off.
Water Damage Recovery
Wait for local authorities to declare the school building safe before entering. Never enter a water-damaged school building if the following are present in or around the building:
” Fallen electrical wires
” Smell of gas or hissing sound
” Visible signs of structural damage (i.e. sagging roof or masonry cracks)
To help minimize damage and speed up restoration:
” Turn off the building’s power supply.
” Never use damp or wet office equipment.
” Switch off the main water valve if water and sewage systems were damaged.
” Discard non-valuable papers, supplies and consumables that may have been exposed to floodwater.
” Lay out valuable wet record on top of clean paper towels in a well-ventilated and dry area.
Water and all contaminants deposited onto the hard surfaces of a flooded building must be removed in order for the building to be reoccupied safely. To stop mold growth, water extraction and cleanup should start ideally within 24-48 hours of the water damage.
Contact a qualified cleanup and restoration contractor soon after the incident for immediate help. With a well-organized emergency plan in place and prompt action following a water damage incident, a school can recover quickly so that education can resume with the least interruption.