Association News

Loss Mitigation—Processing Priorities, Part 2

June 28, 2000
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Let’s pick up where we last off—processing priorities. Following the preliminary safety and loss mitigation procedures, basic job setting begins at the ceiling and progresses to the floor, and from the inside of the structure to the outside. Thus, when a restoration contractor is disoriented and confused—perhaps even intimated—by the magnitude of the job; when everything needs to be done at once; when multiple workers arrive simultaneously and begin asking about where to start, the contractor can fall back on the following standard job setting procedures that generally apply to most losses.

Of course, the severity of the loss dictates priorities. The following illustrates the “normal” processing sequence for light-to-moderate fire damage. On severe fire losses, many of the components used to establish the “normal” processing sequence will have been destroyed. Still, it’s instructive to understand processing priorities for “normal” losses before discussing more severe losses.

Ductwork Restoration. As close to the outset of the job as possible, restore the HVAC system using procedures based on the severity of the damage and the amount of smoke that infiltrates the system. Careful evaluation and meticulous cleaning is essential here.

Ceilings. While one or two workers are preparing furnishings by covering them with drop cloths, one person begins processing ceilings with a dry cleaning sponge mounted with a clamp and extension pole. Begin in source areas and work toward the extremities of the structure.

Walls. Move furnishings (at least along one or two walls) to the center of a room as possible, and, with two or more workers, start cleaning walls in the source area and then progress outward into adjacent rooms. One person concentrates on upper wall areas, while the other cleans lower wall areas (being sure to overlap) and baseboards. Obviously, structural deodorizing begins here with the addition of appropriate agents to cleaning solutions.

Fixtures. Next, clean doors and frames, windows and frames, light fixtures, bath and kitchen fixtures, etc., to maintain organization and uniform job progression.

Contents. Now, the contents of the structure must be cleaned and deodorized, or packed out for off-premises restoration, as required.

Flooring. After everything above floor level has been processed, considerable fallout will accumulate on floors. The sooner it’s removed, the better. Thus, preliminary sweeping or vacuuming is required. Even initial mopping of hard floors or extraction carpet cleaning may be required.

Unfinished Areas. Again, depending on the severity of the smoke damage, attics and crawlspaces must be carefully evaluated, cleaned and deodorized as indicated.

Structural Exterior. Smoke is often expelled from the structure’s interior only to stain its exterior. A quick walk around the exterior identifies those areas. Pressure cleaning may be accomplished as needed.

Structural Deodorizing. Odor within a structure is an obvious indication of contamination. The deodorization step includes all the procedures required for complete odor, and more significantly, the complete removal of the contaminants indicated by that odor. Structural deodorization must begin at the outset of a restoration project and continue at specified intervals until restoration is complete. Both the steps and the sequence in which they are applied are important.

Too frequently, “remodeling contractors”—those not specifically trained in the requirements of disaster restoration work—either ignore or eliminate many of the required procedures. This results in a waste of money, but also many contaminants, odor and potentially hazardous problems are covered up or left undone, only to become apparent in the months and years to come.

Not only can this cause ongoing or chronic health problems for the occupants, it also creates considerable monetary loss or inconvenience when the property has to be sold at diminished value, or when remedial corrective services are necessary.

Although severe fire losses may necessitate considerable deviation from standard restoration priorities, restoration contractors must rely on standard job-setting procedures to bring order out of chaos, and to avoid creating hazards either immediately or in the future. In short, do the job correctly the first time.

Reconstruction

New materials and techniques are introduced in the complex construction industry routinely. Construction regulations and codes change or are amended frequently. Like many in this industry, I rely on the construction requirements of the individual job, along with specific state or municipal building codes, to determine the adequacy of reconstruction services in the course of disaster restoration.

Code violations are another story. Building codes are well defined in writing. If questions regarding code compliance arise, there are a number of building inspectors who are familiar with specific codes and are willing to undertake an objective evaluation of the adequacy of any reconstruction effort.

Summary

After a restoration project is complete, it’s difficult to evaluate the sequence and manner in which restoration work was accomplished. The preceding is intended to give perspective on the situation, and to point out that a professional disaster restoration project is considerably different from a remodeling or normal reconstruction project where disaster contaminants aren’t involved. The contractor must have specialized training and equipment, and must use specialized procedures in the correct sequence to succeed.

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