The following information is submitted by Bixler Corporation as a public service to those who have suffered water-related losses due to storm damage (e.g., hurricane, tornado). 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 specific training and experience in this area.

Whether insured or not, it is important for property owners to document damage with photographs or video, and immediately, to 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 that time, 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 Clean Trust Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration (IICRC S500), there are three categories of water that cause damage in buildings. They are summarized as follows:

Category 1 Water – That which 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: burst water pipes, failed supply lines on appliances, vertically falling rainwater.

Category 2 Water – 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 – That which is highly contaminated and could cause death or serious illness if consumed by humans. Examples: sewage, rising flood water from rivers and streams, ground surface water flowing horizontally into homes. There are two ways in which water enters a building as a result of wind 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 into structures, generally through doors or around foundation walls. This ground surface water (storm surge) may accumulate to a depth of several inches or 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:

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

With the above background information in mind, loss mitigation procedures may include but are not necessarily limited to:

A. Foremost, consider safety:

B. Remove quantities of debris (silt, vegetation, floating objects brought in by storm surge), if present, with shovels, rakes, etc. Carefully clean all tools with appropriate detergents after use.

C. Identify the source of water and extent of wetting:

D. Remove unsalvageable or wet materials:

E. With Category 1 (clean source) water (e.g., rainwater), drying is the next course of action required to prevent on-going damage due to microbial development.

The following procedures may require the assistance of a professional water damage restoration company like Bixler, which has trained technicians, specialized cleaners, biocides, extraction, drying and dehumidifying equipment, and moisture measuring and monitoring instruments.

F. With ground surface water (Category 3), steps for cleaning soil residues brought in by heavy rainfall or storm surge may include, but are not limited to the following:

G. Disinfecting:

H. Dry structural components with plenty of air circulation, while maintaining constant ventilation (weather conditions permitting). If possible, take advantage of low outside humidity (check local weather reports). Use oscillating or box fans, repositioning them within the structure every few hours. Avoid temperature extremes that might slow drying, or promote microorganism growth (around 72-75oF/22-24oC is ideal). Rent high-volume professional drying equipment (airmovers and dehumidifiers) if available, especially in areas where ventilation is not possible (sealed buildings, security problems). It is highly recommended that electrical components that were wet be checked for operational safety by a qualified contractor.

I. Leave cleaned structural surfaces exposed to fresh air movement for several days or even weeks, or until you are sure that they have returned to within four percentage points of normal moisture content (MC) levels (generally the normal MC of structural wood is around 10%). Otherwise, subsequent structural damage and/or health effects may result after wall and flooring materials have been replaced or painted. Professional water restoration contractors with specialized, high-capacity drying equipment can shorten drying times considerably.

J. Reconstruct or replace components as required.

Consider hiring a professional restorer to evaluate moisture levels in structural materials before reconstruction. [Source]

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