FEMA 1768: Disastrous Disaster. Mold remediation at it's best.

FEMA 1768, the name and number of our group's deployment to Fond du Lac, WI on disaster relief, is forever burned into my mind with odd memories.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


I abandoned a most amazing project in Cape Henlopen, DE to serve the immediate needs of my country in the mid-west where homes were in varying states of disrepair due to the June flooding. FEMA, the county, and the city all worked together to facilitate residents' removal of belongings from wet basements and ridding their properties of mold. Our job was to aid these residents under the direction of the organizations in the gutting of homes and mold remediation. That's the simple version.

As it turned out the county flood relief center had just come up and running as we arrived and was working to absorb the information given by a United Methodist relief group that began helping residents shortly after the nasty weather and ensuing flood. Care assessments, an analysis of need and mental well-being, and home assessments, an inspection to determine extent of damage and our capability to remove/repair, were our main tasks in order to find ourselves work. Contrary to the impression that FEMA would be assigning us houses to work on, we found ourselves struggling to locate each days' tasks the afternoon before. We were thrown into the program with minimal training-- a half day of apprenticeship and question asking-- and were told to get to it! And so we did.

For the first week we woke each morning to the sound of laughter coming from behind a door separating a locker room from our sleeping area... in the basement of a pro-shop at a golf course. Old men arrive early to get their golf started! We had narrow cots to sleep on, a kitchen to cook in, and beautiful views of the recreational facility. Some of even took advantage of the course. The following 3 weeks we woke every morning in a meeting room at the county fair grounds, one building over from Cow Palace.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


Our workload varied from day to day, even house to house, but a typical work week went something like this:

Monday: Wake up & eat, get in the vans, and drive to the 1st house with all needed equipment. Upon arriving send one person to the door to let them know we arrived (work was scheduled in advance) while all other unload vans & don Tyvek suits, respirators, gloves and goggles. For "fun" you may even write a fake name on your suit.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


Assign a safety officer, the one person responsible for ensuring we are taking frequent water breaks as we are working hard and wearing non-porous body suits and are covered in mold and hazardous chemicals. This person will also mix the bleach, water & TSP solutions to be used for scrubbing later.

Everyone else-- haul it out! Any belongings left in the basement that are porous and were touched by water, sewage or mold must be removed and put on the curb for waste pick-up. Non-porous items such as those made of metal, plastic, or solid wood can often be scrubbed and saved.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


Next, grab your utility knives, crow bars, pry bars, scrapers & hammers and "deconstruct" any porous construction materials that have been touched by the flood damage or mold. This includes drywall, paneling, plywood, insulation, carpet & padding, linoleum, and bubbled paint layered on cinderblock walls.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


After everything porous has been removed where needed and the studs and frame are exposed, take the buckets of cleaning solution with firm scrub brushes and prepare for toxic meltdown. You will be spending the next hour in a stuffy basement without ventilation. Chemical fumes will sting your eyes so badly that tears fill your goggles & snot will run down your face. You may even find chemical burns on your wrists at the end of the day because of seepage through the Tyvek. This does not matter because this is your job and supervisors swear Tyvek suits are waterproof & tell you that it's just too bad your filters are clogged and 4 weeks old; they can't find any more in storage and will not approve your use of funds to purchase more. So you work hard and push through it, scrubbing EVERYTHING with the solution.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


Then, prepare for further chemical warfare against the fungus. Three brave souls will use garden sprayers to lay down an even stronger mix of bleach, water & dish soap on all scrubbed areas + 1-2 feet, sometimes on rafters and other areas as well.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


Following all of this work you will feel terrible. It wasn't unusual to have at least one person vomit per day & my turn was spent in the gutter in front of someone's house as if I were a drunkard. You will rip off your suit and breathe fresh air like you've never had it before. You might want to cry a little bit (or a lot) and you might be terribly grouchy. You may be very ugly.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


So, suck it up. Clean all your tools and load up the van, be sure the residents know not to enter the basement for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, and leave them masks to use. You may need to come back later to move the belongings they are keeping back into the basement or arrange them in a manner in some other way they find acceptable.

Then take a look at all your hard work.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


Then, go to the next house scheduled for that day. Repeat.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


Then, go to the next house scheduled for that day. Repeat.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief


And so on and so forth. You might do this on 1-5 houses per day. What happens the rest of the week? Take the scenarios above and repeat through Saturday. Celebrate Sunday, your only day off.

Comments

  1. WOW! That is so crazy that you did all of that. You are awesome! Love you

    ReplyDelete
  2. i almost cried AND vomited while reading this post. you rule. especially because you still talk to me after 4 weeks in fond du lac ;-)

    ReplyDelete

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