Tips and resources for clean-up efforts in Hurricane Harvey's aftermath

Now that Hurricane Harvey is no longer hovering over the Greater Houston area, officials are switching from response and rescue mode into recovery efforts. Homeowners and business owners are currently in a critical timeframe in which they must actively address water damage in their residences and businesses to begin the recovery process.

Here are what residents need to know:

Document damages to homes and businesses

1. Check to see if your county is on the Presidential Disaster Declaration. If so, county residents affected by Hurricane Harvey are eligible to receive individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Homeowners and business owners can register for FEMA assistance at

2. Montgomery County Habitat for Humanity shared on Twitter some steps those affected by flooding in their homes need to do in the first 24 hours after flood waters recede. Before beginning the cleaning process, take pictures of every room from every angle to document damages for insurance adjusters. In addition, take photos during and after  cleaning efforts.

3. The Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management website has resources for homeowners and business owners whose property were damaged by flooding. In addition to recording damages and losses at, residents can alert county officials of debris in front of homes or businesses by clicking “Debris Pick Up & Damage Report Form” on the OEM website, according to OEM officials.

How to clean and sanitize damaged structures

1. The FEMA website recommends beginning the cleaning process by opening all doors, windows, and affected cabinets or drawers. If the structure’s electricity is safely operating, turn on fans or air conditioning to begin dehumidifying the area.

2. According to FEMA, all personnel assisting entering a structure with visible mold growth should wear appropriate clothing and protection, which include rubber gloves and proper respiratory masks.

3. FEMA recommends removing unsalvageable items, like sofas, bedding and other wet, damaged materials out of the structure and to a space where an insurance adjuster can evaluate it at a later date.

4. Montgomery County Habitat for Humanity recommends homeowners to cut out all sheet rock and insulation 4 inches above the highest watermark, and rip out affected carpeting and padding. Save all debris in a plastic bag or store away to show insurance adjuster at a later date.

5. After removing damaged walls and flooring, mix 3/4 cup of Clorox regular-bleach per one gallon of water then transfer to a spray bottle for sanitizing. The FEMA website warns that regular bleach water has its limitations, and disinfectants and sanitizers registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, such as Clorox regular-bleach, are better for cleaning flood-impacted buildings. Generously spray all walls and affected areas inside and outside of homes and businesses to kill mold and mildew. After the first coat dries, repeat this process as many times as possible.

6. If electrical and HVAC systems have been restored and sanitized, residents can use fans, dehumidifiers and wet-dry vacuum cleaners to remove as much water as possible, according to Habitat for Humanity.

Protect your home and yourself

1. During a county press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson said MCSO has received reports of individuals and companies posing as accredited repairmen. Henderson said individuals should call their local Sheriff’s Office or visit the Better Business Bureau if they are questioning whether companies are accredited.

2. Jon Hallmark, managing partner of Hallmark Mitigation and Construction in Kingwood, recommends residents hiring local help when repairing property. Hallmark said local contractors provide a level of accountability if there are future issues.

3. During Wednesday’s press briefing, a Montgomery County Public Health District official said residents and first responders should stay up-to-date on immunizations and wear long-sleeved T-shirts, pants and gloves during the cleanup and recovery phase. People should dump standing water to minimize mosquito-breeding grounds, be cautious when moving debris and dirt that may have bacteria, and use EPA-registered insect repellants to protect against mosquito-borne illnesses.

4. Click here to find out if you qualify for Disaster Employment Assistance from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Correction: A previous version of this article represented an incorrect ratio of Clorox regular-bleach to water when cleaning a damaged structure. The article has been updated to the correct ratio.
By Kelly Schafler

Editor, Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood

Kelly Schafler is the editor for the Lake Houston, Humble and Kingwood edition of Community Impact Newspaper, covering public education, city government, development, businesses, local events and all things community-related. Before she became editor, she was the reporter for the Conroe and Montgomery edition for a year and a half.


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