Inspecting a Playground After a Storm
A typical hurricane season in America produces six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, not to mention 12 subtropical storms. In 2018, America saw a total of eight hurricanes, two of which became major storms. Hurricane Florence brought with it strong winds, a life-threatening storm surge and flooding of at least 30 inches of rainwater, claiming 22 lives.
When hurricanes and storms strike, they can leave devastation in their wake. Property damage from hurricanes and flooding isn’t limited to homes or businesses –– nearly every part of a community is affected by a severe storm, including public parks and playgrounds.
Damage to playgrounds can be a huge disappointment for the kids who enjoy these spaces and use them as a means for physical activity. For schools and public parks, playgrounds damaged by storms should be repaired as quickly as possible to make sure kids have a space to play safely.
We need to ensure playground safety for the kids in our communities and schools, so what should we do to inspect our playgrounds after a storm? How do we clean playground equipment after a storm, and how do we keep it clean?
Here are some steps you should take after a storm to keep your community or school playground safe and clean.
Physical activity is a necessary component of a child’s early development, and playgrounds help facilitate that physical activity. But during storms, wind and rain can knock down trees or leave behind floodwater, causing damage to your community playground. Safety should be the top concern with any playground surfacing and equipment, so look for any safety hazards during your inspection. For playground surfacing, you should:
1. Remove Debris
The surfacing is generally the most at risk of damage in storms, so give special care to inspecting the surfacing of your playground. Debris is the main threat to playground surfacing after flooding. You’ll need to remove trees and branches that were blown or washed into the playground. Get a few staff members or volunteers together to make this job a faster, easier process.
2. Inspect Loose Infill
Inspect loose infill material. During a storm, rubber nuggets or wood chips can get blown away, washed away or can be displaced. If the loose infill has been displaced, simply brushing or raking the material back into place should be an easy solution to the problem.
However, if the loose infill was blown or washed away, you may need to contact your manufacturer to get enough infill to ensure the safety of your playground’s visitors. There should be at least 12 inches of nuggets, wood chips or mulch around playground equipment. You may be able to find stickers placed by the manufacturer that mark the point of the correct level of material. When these stickers show, this indicates you’ll need to add more infill material.
3. Repair Tears
If the surfacing is torn after impact, you will need to repair it quickly. Even small tears can become large holes that can result in a costly repair if left unattended. Adding a new wear layer or a color cap can restore a playground’s poured-in-place surfacing, but this work needs to be performed by professionals.
After these professionals cut out and remove the affected area of surfacing, they’ll apply a binding mixture so that the materials will adhere properly, and then they will replace the torn out surfacing with new material. The repaired area will not initially match the rest of the surfacing color, as the old surfacing will be a duller shade due to natural wear, but the repaired patch of surfacing should fade within a few months and blend into the older surfacing. Once again, you’ll have a unified playground surface!
4. Flush out Debris
Materials made of rubber can become hardened if filled with dirt or sand from flooding and lose its cushioning feel. To remove the debris out of the voids in the rubber materials, clean with fresh water. Do not use a pressure washer, as it can further tear apart the material. Instead, use a hose on a low setting to flush the rubber without causing additional damage. If debris is left within, it can cause cracking in the material as it cuts up the surfacing from the inside over time.
5. Assess Turf
If your surfacing is synthetic turf, you’ll want to remove any large debris among the material and assess the infill underneath. If large debris has caused issues like wrinkling the surfacing, you’ll need to contact the playground manufacturer to restretch it. You may also need to contact the manufacturer to refill or redistribute the infill underneath your synthetic turf.
6. Set up a Proper Drainage System
After the floodwater recedes, make sure a proper drainage system is set up and intact. If you’re using engineered wood fiber (EWF), also more commonly referred to as wood chips, this is especially important, as improper drainage can shorten the longevity of this infill and cause it to rot quickly.
Once you’ve cleared all the debris, rinse the surfacing to remove bacteria, dangerous chemicals and salt water. If your safety surfacing is pour-in-place, don’t use a pressure washer for rinsing, as it can cause more damage. With drying and time, the material should bind back together to create the necessary surface tension.
Little Tikes Commercial Surfacing
Most injuries on the playground are caused by falls. The proper surfacing can make your playground safer and reduce the risk of injury while also making the area easy to navigate for all kids. With Little Tikes Commercial, choose between unitary surfacing and loose fill surfacing.
1. Unitary Surfacing
This surfacing is a single entity of ground covering, like poured-in-place or rubber tiles. Unitary surfacing doesn’t move around and is wheelchair-accessible. If unitary surfacing is right for your playground, choose between No Fault® Pour in Place and Interlocking Kid Tiles®.
- No Fault® Pour in Place: This surfacing is made of rubber, covered with a layer made from recycled tires and polymer and comes without gaps or seams. Use this surfacing for both outdoor and indoor playgrounds to reduce the risk of fall injuries from tripping or slipping.
- Interlocking Kid Tiles®: These thick tiles provide a cushion of safety, can be easily installed and come in a variety of colors so you can design the surfacing to fit your playground.
2. Loose Fill Surfacing
This surfacing is made of small, loose particles like wood chips or mulch. Loose fill is a budget-friendly surfacing that moves around. A loose fill surfacing like Landsoft™ Rubber Nuggets could be the right option for you.
- Landsoft™ Rubber Nuggets are a non-toxic surfacing that is delivered in large quantities and offered in several colors. Because these nuggets are made of rubber, they have better resistance to moisture and weather, they’re soft, and they give kids a comfortable space to play.
Whether you’re looking to include surfacing in your new playground or seeking a safer alternative for kids to play on, contact Little Tikes Commercial to help you choose the right surfacing material. After storms, be sure to make inspecting your surfacing a priority for your playground’s maintenance.
Depending on the severity of the damage to the equipment, you may have to close the playground until after the equipment has been repaired or replaced. If the damage sustained is severe, call the manufacturer as soon as possible.
You need to inspect playground equipment that has been submerged in floodwater, even if the water has receded. Even if the playground is in fine shape and still could be used, you should err on the side of caution and inspect a few things first before reopening the playground to the public.
Put these items on your equipment inspection checklist:
1. Inspect for Erosion
Around the footings of the equipment, examine for erosion. While it may make for a fun science lesson, erosion can harm a playground. Erosion is a process during which materials of the earth such as rocks and soil are transported or worn away by water and wind.
If erosion occurs around trees, those trees could fall and damage playground equipment or hurt playground visitors. Erosion can also create slippery conditions on areas that aren’t covered by manmade surfacing, causing visitors to slip and fall and possibly injure themselves. A large amount of erosion means you should close your playground and call the manufacturer right away.
Here are a couple of steps you can take to prevent erosion before it causes damage to your playground:
- Plant shrubs or grass: Plant roots are generally effective at holding the soil together, preventing it from eroding. The leaves on plants can also reduce the speed at which rain hits the ground, which makes the soil less susceptible to being moved by the rain.
- Build diversions for proper drainage: When working with a slope on your playground property, one of the best ways to prevent erosion is to build drainage channels that will carry water on a predetermined path. You can dig simple drains down the slope or use gutters and pipes for drainage.
- Use erosion control blankets: These blankets or mats are designed specifically to minimize water erosion on embankments. Rolled mats are generally made of mulch held together with a fiber mesh, degrading slowly until vegetation can grow and prevent the soil from eroding after the mats have finally finished degrading. Similar to mats made of mulch are compost erosion control blankets, which offer organic nutrients and can foster the growth of vegetation even in challenging areas.
Implement these steps before storms strike your playground to help prevent erosion.
2. Inspect Hardware
The nuts and bolts are what hold your playground equipment together, so be sure to check for any that are missing or loose. Get out your tools to replace missing bolts and tighten any loose screws. Inspect for any sharp points from protruding bolts or hooks that could present a safety hazard to playground visitors.
3. Inspect for Interior Flooding
Check your slides and panels. Any double-walled, plastic equipment on your playground could contain floodwater, which will need to be drained. To drain, drill a hole on the component’s underside. A hole of a fourth of an inch or smaller in an unused part of the equipment, such as the underside of a slide, should enable drainage.
Little Tikes Commercial Equipment
With our equipment, you’ll get quality materials that are durable, safe and fun. Browse from our:
- Decks and ramps
- Activity panels
If you’re looking for equipment for your playground, contact Little Tikes Commercial. Following a storm, inspect your Little Tikes Commercial equipment as soon as you can to reopen your playground and keep it safe and usable for as long as possible.
Importance of Documentation
During your inspection process, document any damage by taking pictures. You’ll need these photographs for insurance claims, FEMA documentation and to repair or replace parts from the manufacturer.
What other details should you include in your documentation?
- Details of what was wrong
- Details of what work was done to reverse the damage
This documentation can be recorded on a computer or simply in a notebook with handwritten entries. Combined with photos, this documentation will be thorough when requesting replacement or reparations of parts from the manufacturer.
Beyond its use as evidence for the manufacturer, documentation can also benefit the school or community group that oversees the playground. A few benefits include:
- Recording data for future work
- Rationalizing the current budget
- Modifying the replacement plan or maintenance schedule
- Predicting future budgetary needs
- Saving money
- Supplying information for any new employees who will replace current employees when they leave
By documenting damage or regularly schedule maintenance now, you will save yourself and other staff time and money later.
Cleaning Playground Equipment
Before reopening your playground, you’ll want to ensure the area is thoroughly cleaned and ready for public use. Luckily, you don’t need a special soap or cleaner to maintain your playground’s cleanliness and safety. Mostly, you just need a lot of fresh water.
1. Clean Surfaces of Playground Equipment
If the playground has been a victim to floodwater, you’ll need to clean everything with fresh water before reopening. Hazardous chemicals or sewage could be present in floodwaters, so ensuring the equipment and surfacing are cleaned thoroughly is essential before reopening the playground for use.
Playgrounds in coastal areas in particular need to be cleaned with fresh water as soon as possible. Salt water can cause corrosion to playground equipment after a storm, so any surfaces that might’ve been sprayed by or submerged in salt water need to be rinsed with fresh water quickly to prevent corrosion.
2. Clean Inside of Playground Equipment
Components of the playground that move –– such as swings, merry-go-rounds, suspension bridges, spinners, moving climbers and tic-tac-toe panels ––need to be moved slightly to ensure their internal mechanisms can be freed of any debris. If they aren’t moving normally, clean them with fresh water. Ideally, the water should fix the equipment’s movement. You can then let it dry and then lubricate the equipment according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. If the water doesn’t fix the equipment’s movement issues, contact the manufacturer.
Pressure washers clean playground equipment efficiently. Use a pressure washer to clean most of the playground equipment, particularly areas where kids tend to use their hands. Pressure washers should also be used with caution, however, as they can potentially cause damage to the equipment or the paint.
Following these final steps will ensure that your playground can quickly be reopened to the public so kids can get back to being active.
How to Keep Your School Playground Clean and Maintained
Safety and cleanliness go hand-in-hand when it comes to playgrounds. After you’ve cleaned and repaired your playground after a storm, you’ll need to maintain that cleanliness to ensure the playground remains a safe space for kids to play and explore.
1. Establish a Maintenance Schedule
A planned maintenance schedule could help prevent an estimated 33 percent of accidents on the playground. Include these three routines in your schedule for maintenance:
- Inspect equipment regularly. Schedule routine inspections to check for wear and deterioration of equipment. Potential safety hazards could arise from equipment that needs replacement.
- Perform rope tensioning. This will enable ropes to last longer. Luckily, since the equipment for rope play is generally quite durable, it typically requires little maintenance.
- Check bearings on moving and rotating equipment. You’ll want to regularly check bearings for wear on any moving equipment. Dirt and other particles can slow rotating equipment, so spray them regularly with a hose to keep the bearings clean. This can be expensive to repair if routine maintenance isn’t performed, so keep to your schedule to avoid the expense.
On your checklist, include the following information:
- Name and location of each piece of equipment
- Name of the person performing the inspection
- Date of the inspection
- In the cases of multiple pages, number each page
- Be as descriptive as possible
Protect your investment and the kids who are using it by adhering to a regular maintenance schedule.
2. Establish an Equipment Replacement Plan
Once you begin seeing the effects of wear, especially for equipment 10 years or older, you’ll want to formulate a plan to replace this equipment when it becomes necessary.
Consider the layout of your playground, the equipment kids enjoy most and drainage issues to determine when and how you’ll replace equipment.
The playground in your community or at your school plays a vital role in the health and wellness of the kids in your community, so be sure to take care of the playground as soon as possible following a storm. Taking action early will save your community or school time and money down the road. Additionally, a repaired, open playground after a storm will improve morale at a time when the community needs it most.
Playgrounds With Little Tikes Commercial
Just 6 percent of kids ages 9 to 13 play on their own outside. At Little Tikes Commercial, we want that to change. We know how important outdoor play is for kids’ emotional, physical, cognitive, social and sensory development, so we’re here to help you get the playground the kids in your community need.
We offer playgrounds that meet various needs and suit several age groups:
Or customize the design of your new playground with us! We’ve been helping schools, parks, churches and other organizations create playgrounds for more than 35 years. We can help you find or build the playground that’s exactly right for you.
Maintain your playground’s safety and cleanliness after a storm by inspecting surfacing, inspecting equipment, documenting damage and washing surfaces. But we don’t just want your playground to be safe after a storm –– we want your playground to be safe always. At the start of every new product idea, safety is our first consideration. We work to produce quality, durable playgrounds you can trust and rely on for your children’s safety.
Ready to discover the magic outside? Find the playground you need by contacting Little Tikes Commercial today.