Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.
    • Protect the environment. Think before you print.

From Harvey to Irma: Extreme weather calls for extreme care in cleanup

September 12, 2017

Zurich has compiled cleanup steps applicable to any major storm. Whether Harvey or Irma, safety can’t be compromised for a quick recovery.


By Jim Breitkreitz, Vice President of Property Services, Risk Engineering, Zurich North America

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season is living up to predictions that it would be busier than usual. Zurich’s Claims teams set up a special Disaster Relief Line to help businesses in areas ravaged by Harvey and Irma, while Zurich Risk Engineers were looking at the potential path and impact of Hurricane Jose.

In response to Harvey, James Breitkreitz, Executive Technical Director for Risk Engineering for Zurich North America; Steve Goebner, Head of Environmental - Construction for Zurich North America, and our teams in various specialties collaborated to compile storm cleanup guidelines for businesses. However, these tips are relevant to cleanup operations after any major storm because they put safety first:

  • Treat all downed power lines as “live” until the utility verifies they have been de-energized. Beware of the potential for live electrical lines in standing water: Shorted wiring and interior electrical systems may energize standing water in basements and other areas, posing an electrocution risk. Once utility companies and local authorities clear residents to return to properties, call the utility if in doubt about safety status before reconnecting electricity and gas.

  • If you’re cleared to enter the property, bring identification, drinking water, disinfecting supplies   and other supplies recommended by local authorities, as well as cameras to document conditions.

  • Once there, survey the site for hazards such as live electrical wires, broken glass, sharp metal and fumes from leaking pipes. Look for damaged building features, contents or hardscape areas that could shift or collapse. Be alert both inside and outside the building. Look around you and overhead. Flooding and winds may have loosened tree limbs, shingles and downspouts. Photograph any visible damage.

  • Retrieve relevant insurance policies and call your insurance representative to begin the claims process. Maintain contact throughout the process. Ask for guidance on which damaged goods can be disposed of and what should be set aside.

  • Begin salvage as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Restore the HVAC system or run fans as soon as possible while you are on site to try to mitigate mold. Do not use extension cords in wet areas. Safely dispose of combustible materials. Avoid storage in areas with impaired fire protection.

For all 10 cleanup guidelines, click here.