California has a history of having too little rainfall followed by too much rainfall. In the past 50 years, the state has had two El Nino’s, and according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, a very significant third one is on the way.
An El Nino is a naturally occurring event, typically caused by warmer than normal sea surface temperature which, at least in California’s case, can result in significant rainfall.
And because the state is now in its fourth year of severe drought, the next El Nino may cause very serious mudslides and damage – much of which the professional cleaning industry will be asked to address.
“Areas in Southern California that normally receive seven inches of rain had more than 25 inches in the 1997-1998 El Nino,” says Stephen Ashkin, who now lives in Los Angeles. “That’s more than 300 percent above normal. So the most important thing we must do now is preparedness planning.”
The first thing Ashkin suggests building owners, managers, and cleaning professionals do now is “understand your risk.” If the facility is in a low-lying area it will be more prone to flooding than a facility on a higher elevation, according to Ashkin. And if the surrounding land is exceptionally dry, there is a greater risk of mudslides.
Ashkin suggests taking the following actions:
- Clear drains, rain gutters, and downspouts
- Clear road drains, culverts, gutters and other exterior structures designed to handle rain water
- Identify the areas within a building that are of greatest risk due to flooding or heavy winds and rainfall, and communicate the priorities to your team and others
- If managing multiple buildings, identify which buildings are most at risk from flooding and heavy winds and rainfall
- Make copies of all important documents or digitize them and store with an online cloud service
- Purchase sandbags and have a strategy as to where they should be placed if needed
- Purchase boots and have them safely stored
- Select wet/dry vacuum cleaners made for heavy-duty cleanup
- Establish an emergency communication system between all custodial workers and building owners/managers
- Store water and food at the facility
“There may be times when community services such as police, fire, and sanitation crews will not be available,” adds Ashkin. “This means everyone will be depending even more on cleaning professionals to help get them through the storms.”