Anyone living near a river or on a floodplain knows that floods are a residential hazard. Snow melt in April can make the water rise over riverbanks and restraining walls to spread rapidly for miles without stop. Structural damage is a sad consequence of flooding; a dangerous result of which is black mold contamination.
Two ingredients come together to form a rather wicked alliance: moisture and time. Floods deliver the primary breeding agent, moisture, into buildings with a full force. The water may cover whole floors and stay for days or possibly even weeks. That length of time is enough for black mold spores to breed and spread. The combination of massive amounts of water and the extended periods of time the flooding stayed is the primary reason for the enormous black mold colonies left in New Orleans after Katrina.
That was, of course, an extreme case. However, flooding obviously creates an emergency that must be carefully dealt with. The immediate problem is an inability to get to the black mold. Flood waters can remain high for extended periods of time and getting into the residence simply might not be possible. Once access can be made, there are still challenges. For instance, the structure of the building may have been weakened by the flood. Safety becomes a concern that has to be dealt with first, as well as getting any excess water out. All of this delays the treatment of black mold colonies and permit even more time for them to spread. When the infestation can be finally be addressed, it may be so extensive as to make clean up a major chore.
Cleaning up black mold contamination after flooding is definitely not a soap and water task. Anyone attempting a clean-up needs to wear protective clothing and rubber gloves. An essential part of the project is to eliminate the moisture that lingers after the flood waters have receded. Fans will help, but care must be taken. Black mold spores can also become airborne. The fan, consequently, must be positioned so as to dry out the room, and yet not blow air into an area not yet contaminated. The whole project may be so daunting that professional help has to be called in. This would meant that the cost of flood clean up becomes an issue of thousands of dollars, and the house may have to be condemned depending on the amount of black mold present.
Is there any protection from the financial damage caused by black mold? The answer is “yes” but it depends on the insurance the homeowner carries. Regular homeowner insurance doesn’t cover black mold damage or removal. This kind of insurance protects against damage happening “accidently and suddenly”. Black mold takes time to grow and does not fit that definition. Flood insurance may cover black mold removal and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does have a national insurance program for flood protection. It does need to be remembered, however, that FEMA insurance policies have a thirty day waiting period before going into effect. Even FEMA insurance has restrictions and exclusions that cover mold repair work. A person ought to examine his or her existing polices, particularly the exclusion clauses, to see if any financial relief is available.
Flooding is a traumatic experience for any property owner and black mold contamination leaves an ugly scab on the emotional wound. Homes in New Orleans were so infested as to be finally condemned and torn down. Flooding creates unhealthy situations and a home or building owner ought to have a flood plan in case of this type of disaster. Checking insurance policies to know if black mold removal is covered, and under what conditions and to what extent, is a logical first objective.