Many Americans live, work, and play in areas prone to flooding with some estimates that 41 million people are exposed to flood risks on a yearly basis.
According to the Columbia Climate School, “In the past 20 years, flood-related disasters have cost the United States more than $845 billion in damages to homes, offices, and other infrastructure.”
Some of that infrastructure which can be flooded includes local parks and playgrounds.
In Texas, for example, Texas state parks sustained damage during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 with some parks covered by six feet or more of floodwaters. It is important to inspect playgrounds after a flood event so that they can be safely put back into use.
After the Flood: Photograph and Document Damage
One of the first things to do after the flood waters recede is to photograph damage and document everything.
Keeping good records will help with filing insurance claims or FEMA documentation. It can also help your playground manufacture accurately help you get replacement parts or equipment.
For safety reasons, your playground should remain closed to the public until you can inspect and repair both the grounds and all equipment.
In Hendersonville, Tennessee, families had to be turned away for weeks from popular Mary’s Magical Place playground after flooding in 2019 caused $300,000 damage.
Inspecting Your Playground Surface Area After a Flood
After the waters go away, your playground may be left with mud, debris and other flotsam and jetsam from the flood.
When inspecting your playground safety surface area and park perimeters look for:
- Remove all debris such as tree branches and other trash washed into the playground area.
- Once you have removed all the debris, all safety surface areas should be thoroughly hosed with clean water to remove salt, bacteria and/or chemicals left from the flood waters.
- Inspect for rips and tears in any turf safety surfacing.
- Synthetic turf that has developed wrinkles from the flood waters that will need to be replaced or repaired.
- Check mulch or wood chip areas for loss of material and for any hazards left behind.
- Any concrete walkways or other surfaces should be inspected for cracks or shifting. Flood waters can pick up and shift concrete surfaces.
Inspecting Your Playground Equipment After a Flood
Even if your playground equipment looks fine after first glance, a comprehensive inspection needs to be conducted after a flood.
Your playground equipment inspection should include:
- Check playground equipment footings for any signs of erosion.
- Check plastic playground components for damage and any standing water inside of components. This water can be drained by drilling a small hole.
- Closely examine all nuts, bolts, and other parts to make sure they are not broken or loose. Tighten or replace parts as needed.
- After cleaning, lubricate all moving parts as needed.
- Wash all equipment with clean water to remove salt, bacteria and other chemicals that can be left by flood waters.
Safety First When Inspecting Playgrounds After Floods
Safety should always be your top priority when inspecting playgrounds after a flood.
Those doing the clean-up and inspection should be dressed properly and take precaution when touching surfaces.
“Floodwater can have very high levels of bacteria, viruses, sewage, and parasites that can infect you if it gets in your mouth, your eyes, or into a cut in your skin,” Amesh Adalja, MD, an emergency medicine doctor and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Health.com. “It’s much different than other types of water you’d encounter in everyday life.”
Another reason to thoroughly wash all the surfaces of your playground after a flood, and remove all standing water is to lower the risk of:
- Gastrointestinal Illnesses
- Skin infections
- Mosquito-borne illnesses
- Legionnaires’ disease
Once your inspection and repairs have been completed you can reopen your playground once again.
Contact May Recreation Equipment & Design in East Texas to help outfit your playground equipment, shelters, playground safety surfacing, splash pads, site amenities, and other related products.