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September is National Emergency Preparedness Month

The Emergency Preparedness
Tip o'da Week

FEMA Flood Tips

Federal and state disaster officials are urging people returning to flood-damaged homes, apartments or businesses to take extra precautions before and during their clean-up efforts.

Excerpt from FEMA: "The dangers are not over after the water goes down," says Jack Schuback of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  "Flood hazards such as a weakened foundation, exposed wires or contaminated floodwater are not always obvious and can be potentially life-threatening if precautions are not taken.  If, at any time, you are unsure of or feel uncomfortable with a situation, do not hesitate to ask for help or seek advice from an expert.  Play it safe!"

Disaster officials are urging people to keep these safety tips in mind:

  1. Before entering a building:
  2. After entering a building:

Tips for the care of water-damaged family heirlooms and other valuables.

Following a disaster, people often lose family heirlooms and other valuables to water damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has obtained general information/recommendations from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property (NIC) for homeowners regarding the recovery of water-damaged belongings.

Ten Tips for the Homeowner:

  1. If the object is still wet, rinse with clear, clean water or a fine hose spray.  Clean off dry silt and debris from your belongings with soft brushes or dab with damp cloths without grinding debris into objects.
  2. Air dry objects indoors if possible.  Sunlight and heat may dry certain materials too quickly, causing splits, warpage, and buckling.
  3. The best way to inhibit growth of mold and mildew is to reduce humidity.  Increase air flow with fans, open windows, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers.
  4. Remove heavy deposits of mold growth from walls, baseboards, floors, and other household surfaces with commercially available disinfectants.  Avoid the use of disinfectants on historic wallpapers.
  5. If objects are broken or begin to fall apart, place all broken pieces, bits of veneer, and detached parts in clearly labeled open containers.  Do not attempt to repair objects until completely dry or, in the case of important materials, until you have consulted with a professional conservator.
  6. Documents, books, photographs and works of art on paper may be extremely fragile when wet; use caution when handling.  Free the edges of prints and paper objects from mats and frames, if possible.  These should be allowed to air dry.  Rinse mud off wet photographs with clear water, but do not touch surfaces.  Sodden books and papers should also be air dried, or may be kept in a refrigerator or freezer until they can be treated by a professional conservator.
  7. Textiles, leather, and other "organic" materials will also be severely affected by exposure to water and should be allowed to air dry.
  8. Remove wet paintings from the frame but not from the stretcher.  Air dry, face up, away from direct sunlight.
  9. Furniture finishes and painting surfaces may develop a white haze or bloom from contact with water and humidity.  These problems do not require immediate attention.  Consult a professional conservator for treatment.
  10. Rinse metal objects exposed to flood waters, mud, or silt with clear water and dry immediately with a clean, soft cloth.  Allow heavy mud deposits on large metal objects, such as sculpture, to dry.  Caked mud can be removed later.  Consult a professional conservator for further treatment.

Because the information given above is general, FEMA, AIC and NIC strongly recommend that professional conservators be consulted as to the appropriate method of treatment for historic objects.  Professional conservators may be contacted through the FREE Conservation Services Referral System of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 1717 K Street, NW, Ste. 301, Washington, DC 20006; (202) 452-9545; fax: (202) 452-9328.

Based on a complete description of the artifact, a computer-generated list of conservators will be compiled and grouped geographically, by specialization, and by type of service provided.


Saving photographs after a flood

As flood victims return to their homes and begin the difficult cleanup, federal officials are offering helpful tips on saving family photographs.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working with the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property (NIC) to make sure flood victims have the benefit of expert advice.

"Photographs and photo albums are often the only records of momentous occasions like weddings, birthdays and graduations," Sarah Wagner, senior photograph conservator at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) says. "If the flood has damaged them, saving them may be possible.  Remember that if flood waters did not damage the negatives, you can make new prints anytime."

Damaged photographs for which there are no negatives should receive attention first.  Once photographs have stuck together or become moldy, saving them may not be possible.  Handle wet photos carefully; the surfaces may be fragile.  Wet photos may be rinsed in clean water (if needed) and sealed in a plastic garbage bag with a tie or a Zip-Lock type plastic bag.  If possible, put wax paper between each photo.  If a freezer is available, freeze the photos immediately.  Later, photos may be defrosted, separated and air-dried.

If no freezer or refrigerator is available, rinse wet photos in clean water and dry them, face up, in a single layer on a clean surface (a table, window screen or clean plastic laid out on the ground).  Avoid drying the photos in direct sunlight.  Don't worry if the photos curl as they dry.  A photo expert can be contacted later about flattening them.

"Conservators can help you with severely damaged and valuable materials," Wagner says. "The American Institute for Conservation has a free referral service to help people find experts in their area."  People can call the American Institute for Conservation for more information at (202) 452-9545.


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