Association News

IICRC Storm Damage Restoration Recommendations - Part 1

December 10, 2004
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It seems that everywhere you turned during August and September, the news dominating the media, especially The Weather Channel, was all about the succession of hurricanes in Florida and their aftermath along most of the Eastern seaboard.

Tornados spawned by the hurricanes were particularly deadly and damaging. Indeed, my own townhouse in Panama City, Fla., stands gutted because of damage sustained from Hurricane Ivan.

"But surely, these hurricanes and their ensuing damage represents an opportunity for the disaster restoration industry to impress the public," you say. Unfortunately, there are several problems preventing us from being the solution to the victims of wholesale storm damage, including:

  • The damage was wholesale; there was simply too much for an industry of about 12,000 restoration firms to respond to everything.
  • Communication, power and municipal services were disrupted.
  • In many cases, roads into storm-damaged areas were impassible because of downed trees and power lines, and roads washed out or under water.
  • The media warned storm victims about unscrupulous restoration contractors and price gouging, and the need to put off hiring loss-mitigation companies. At the same time, they were reluctant to inform victims about how to qualify reliable contractors.
  • Insurance companies were overwhelmed and therefore slow to respond with much-needed information about what to do and about coverage issues. Moreover, storm victims were being told to do nothing until an insurance company representative arrived - often weeks later - when ensuing water damage and mold had escalated both the scope and cost of losses tremendously.

    During the first hurricane, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification Marketing Committee, under the direction of IICRC Vice President Ruth Travis, sprang into action. Few IICRC-certified firms and technicians are aware of the fact that whenever a disaster (fire, flooding, wind damage) strikes any region of the country, the IICRC's public relations firm, Atlanta-based Fletcher, Martin, Ewing (FME), automatically blankets the media in the disaster area with press releases about the advantages of using certified firms and technicians.

    The Florida hurricanes were no exception, only this time the damage was so massive, so wholesale, that even if all 3,500 IICRC Certified Firms and 33,000 technicians were qualified and experienced in disaster-restoration categories - and they aren't - it would still have been impossible to provide the needed services. So what to do?

    As the first hurricane in the series struck, the IICRC's marketing and technical advisors decided that the best thing to do was to use our knowledge about professional procedures to inform storm victims about self-mitigation strategies.

    The intent was to have those who were able engage in procedures designed to limit the scope and cost of losses while waiting for professional help from the insurance and disaster restoration industries to arrive with further advice and assistance.

    The following information is submitted by the IICRC as a public service to those who have suffered water-related losses due to storm damage. Since there are many variables involved in deciding about appropriate restoration steps, users of this information assume any and all liability for implementing the procedures covered herein.

    The following recommendations assume water-related storm damage to residential or light-commercial structures. For recommendations regarding restoration of major commercial properties and building assemblies, it is important to consult with professionals who have training and experience in this area.

    Whether insured or not, it is important for property owners to document damage with photographs or video, and to immediately begin loss-mitigation procedures themselves or hire a qualified contractor to do this on their behalf. It is totally inappropriate to put off mitigation while waiting for an insurance-claims representative to arrive on the scene to evaluate the loss. By then, in all probability, sufficient time will have passed to grow and amplify microorganisms, which may not be covered by insurance. Loss mitigation is defined by insurance policies as "reasonable and prudent measures designed to preserve, protect and secure property from further damage," including microbial growth and amplification.

    According to the IICRC S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration, there are three categories of water that cause damage in buildings: Category 1 water is clean at the releasing source and does not pose a hazard if consumed by humans. Category 1 water may become progressively contaminated as it mixes with soils on or within floor coverings or building assemblies (walls, decking, subflooring). Time and temperature, which promote the growth and amplification of microorganisms in water, can cause Category 1 water to degrade. Examples include burst water pipes, failed supply lines on appliances, and vertically falling rainwater.

    Category 2 water is that which begins with some degree of contamination and could cause sickness or discomfort if consumed by humans. As with Category 1 water, time and temperature can cause Category 2 water to become progressively more contaminated.

    Category 3 water is that which is highly contaminated and could cause death or serious illness if consumed by humans. Examples include sewage, rising floodwater from rivers and streams, and ground-surface water flowing horizontally into homes.

    There are two ways in which water enters a building as a result of storm damage. The first involves falling or windblown rainwater that enters as a result of damage to roof components or wall assemblies. The second involves horizontally traveling ground-surface water (Category 3) containing silt and soil contaminants that infiltrate structures, generally through doors or around foundation walls. This ground-surface water (storm surge) may accumulate from a depth of several inches to several feet. When structures are partially submerged or remain substantially flooded for weeks, far more elaborate procedures usually are required.

    Most household microorganisms (fungi, bacteria) typically require five conditions for germination, growth, amplification and dissemination. Generally, they include:

  • An organic food source, especially cellulose (e.g., paper or wood), which is found in abundance in construction materials.
  • Moisture and even, high humidity (67% RH plus).
  • Moderate temperature - 68 to 86°F/20 to 30°C.
  • Stagnant air.
  • Time - anywhere from several hours to several days.

    Anything that can be done to control or minimize these optimum conditions will prolong the time required for microbial growth.

    Part 2 of this series will cover specific self-mitigation steps for storm victims. While these recommendations may be a little late for victims who missed the press releases sent out by IICRC marketing, remember: another storm is always brewing.

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