Preventing Further Damage

Stabilizing the Exterior and Interior
After you’ve documented and reported damage, you may have to wait days or weeks for an insurance adjuster to arrive, especially after a major disaster ... But don’t wait to go into action to protect your studio and its contents from further damage. (For example, mold will set in within 48-72 hours). 

Consult with your insurance agent, and then write a letter/email/fax confirming your conversation and documenting your actions. This is particularly important so the company can’t refuse the claim because of your lack of vigilance.

Take these preventive measures, whether you’re dealing with a studio-scale or large-scale emergency:

Exterior:

Cover holes in the roof, windows, and doors with tarps or heavy polyethylene sheeting.

Secure the building against unauthorized entry.

Interior:

Brace walls and shelves.

Remove:

  • Standing water (and water-filled containers)

  • Debris from floor and/or wet floor coverings

  • Flood-soaked drywall and insulation.

Reduce temperature and humidity to prevent or arrest mold growth. Try to aim for 70º F and 45% relative humidity. Do not turn on heat!

If it’s warm outside and you have air conditioning, turn it to the coldest setting. If it’s cool with low humidity, get the air circulating with fans or natural ventilation.

Unplug voltage-sensitive equipment, such as computers, to protect against a possible surge when the power returns.

If you are in a historic building — especially one on the National Register of Historic Places — contact your state preservation agency and/or a structural engineer before doing cleanup.

No Power or Water?

Get rid of hazards as quickly as possible.

Safeguard against electric shock:

  • Even if the power is out, be careful of downed or damaged power lines and wiring — the power company could restore power at any time. Use a dry, wooden stick to move wires if absolutely necessary, and stay clear of power lines.

  • If interior wiring is wet or you suspect damage, turn off the power at the breaker box until it can be examined by an electrician.

If you need temporary power:

  • A portable generator may be useful, but only a qualified electrician should hook a unit to household wiring. Washington State’s Emergency Resource Guide Page 36 (38 in pdf) has information about using a generator safely during power outages.

  • If a generator is not available, a DC to AC power inverter connected to a car battery can run lights, small fans, or tools for short periods of time (you’ll need to run the vehicle frequently to recharge it). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and be sure total wattage (amps x volts) of all connected items do not exceed the inverter’s output rating.

 

To learn more:

Minnesota Historical Society
Excellent information plus useful links (“Disaster Response and Recovery Resources”) on post-disaster response for  buildings and contents damaged by natural disasters (especially floods).

Heritage Emergency National Task Force
An extensive list of links for emergency response (geared for caretakers of historic and artistic collections and property, but useful also to artists)
 

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