What is lurking in flood waters?
Underneath the surface of flood waters can be an abundance of danger: both living and non-living. The Environmental Protection Agency requests that everyone limit their exposure to flood waters. The agency states that flood waters may have high levels of raw sewage from both humans and animals embedded in the waters. In addition to that, many plants, factories, and farms may be overrun with flood waters, and some of those can leak toxic materials into the water, such as an oil refinery or nuclear plant. These issues can affect water mains, well water, and lines that can bring contaminated water into dry homes that may not even be flooded.
Unwanted animals may be lurking underneath the waters as well: crocodiles, snakes, fire ants, and even, if you're along a coastline, sharks.
On top of that, mold and standing water can both lead to unwanted visitors inside your home. Mosquitoes and insects tend to live, breed, and thrive in standing water, and mold growth can spike in the event of moisture. Getting rid of standing water near your home, in gutters, old tires, plastic covers tarps, pools, and buckets can certainly help.
While we can't totally alleviate the effects of flooding during severe weather, developing a flood plan for your family can help out.
Create a barrier of protection for areas that can be inundated with floodwaters, by way of perhaps sandbags. Additionally, secure food and water for your family in the event that clean, drinking water is scarce.
Officials urge storing in a cool place, at least 3 days of water for each individual person. Do not use or drink contaminated water for anything: brushing your teeth, washing dishes, making ice, or preparing food.
After the Storm, keep older and younger people with sensitive immune systems out of the home until your home or business can be restored by SERVPRO of Fenton/South Ballwin. We are here to help 24/7/365. 314-858-1688
Mitigation services help prevent additional damages. Loss mitigation services include winterization to prevent freezing, controlling corrosion, and cleaning surfaces to prevent staining.
As soot combines with atmospheric water vapor, it becomes acidic. Neutralization of acid smoke residue is a fundamental part of the initial stages of corrosion prevention. In most cases, alkaline solutions are used to help remove and neutralize the acid smoke residue.
After removing the smoke residue from metallic and plastic laminate surfaces, apply an oil-based coating (Many restoration professionals use a common lubricant like WD-40). This treatment will slow down and/or inhibit corrosion and discoloration by airborne smoke particles that remain after the Project Manger completes the emergency service visit. This simple, but often overlooked, step can help to reduce overall replacement costs.
Initial Emergency Smoke Odor Reduction
Removing smoke odor contamination is always the first step in effective, permanent odor control. Next to establishing safe working conditions, prevention or reduction of smoke odor penetration should always be among the first orders of business when arriving to a fire-damaged structure. Odors are likely to be pronounced when you first arrive. This is because odors are most apparent when humidity and temperature are elevated - typical condition immediately after a fire has been extinguished.
Whenever possible, charred, unsalvageable materials should be removed at the outset of a restoration job to help eliminate odors and additional soiling. In most smoke odor situations, the best overall system for removal of intense smoke odors requires a combination of techniques and procedures.
Call us today for additional tips on reducing smoke odor following a fire in your home or business!
Board-Up: Securing your home or business
If doors or windows have been damaged or destroyed in a fire, rain and wind may enter the building and cause further damage. Also, curious onlookers or vandals may attempt to enter a damaged building. To help prevent these problems, it may be necessary to "board-up" the property.
The board-up procedures should provide durable protection for the damaged structure and cause minimal additional damage to building surfaces. Board-up methods include:
- Fitted inserts
- Bolt tension
- Tarps and shrink wrap systems
The cover-over system is easy to install and probably most applicable on roofs. Large expanses of roof can be covered quickly with heavy-duty tarps. Fitted insert board-ups are more difficult to install but are more weather tight than the cover-over system.
Bolt tension methods are relatively easy to install and have the advantage of being weather resistant and difficult for intruders to disengage. Placing carpet or carpet pad on the interior brace will prevent additional damage to wall surfaces.
What to expect from the Initial Water Damage Inspection?
What to expect from the Initial Water damage inspection
The goal of the restoration process is to transform an abnormally wet, potentially damaged structure into an environment of equal or better appearance and cleanliness than before the intrusion occurred, and to do so in the most economical and efficient means possible.
Our Loss Professionals begin this process by identifying all affected materials. Water must be tracked from its source and followed in every direction to establish an accurate perimeter of the flooded area. Next, our Loss Professional documents what types of materials have been affected (e.g., type of subflooring, type of carpet and underlay, type of wall construction, and type of insulation.) Affected materials are then evaluated against three criteria to determine if they should be restored or replaced.
The 3 Criteria are:
- Degree of Contamination
- Damage to the item
- Replacement cost vs. Restoration cost
Only after identifying the material and considering these three factors does the Loss Professional decide which materials should be dried and which should be replaced. In addition, the Loss Professional will also decide which materials should be dried aggressively and which should be dried through more disruptive means.
Protecting your Carpet
Once the water migration edge is located, it is important to protect furniture from contact with wet carpet. Simple foam furniture blocks, foil, or plastic tabs accomplish this task. Blocking furniture accomplishes several important goals, including:
- the prevention of color transfer between furniture and carpet (which causes staining)
- the prevention of rust stains
- the facilitating of effective and efficient drying by elevating furniture (especially low or heavy furniture such as bookcases)
In some restoration projects it is necessary to remove the carpet pad. This process will require the Project Manager to disengage stretched-in carpeting. Because carpet loses 80%-85% of its strength when it is wet, it is vital to treat carpet as gentle as possible until it dries.
Whenever carpet must be disengaged from the tack strip, a knee kicker and carpet awl must be used. The knee kicker is used to release the tension on the carpet and move it away from the tack strip. Then, the carpet awl is pierced through the carpet's primary and secondary backing and used to lift it up and away from the tack strip. This method of disengagement effectively reduces the possibility of delamination.
Carpet is disengaged around the perimeter of the room, then rolled back in one direction to expose the pad beneath. The majority of pad has a skin or mesh on the top side. The purpose of this skin is to ease carpet stretching during installation.
Essential Elements for In-Place Drying
High value structural materials and contents that have slight reversible damage are dried aggressively. This procedure is referred to as drying in place. Drying in place means that the wet surfaces are dried with little or no manipulation.
Deep extraction tools combine three important elements that contribute to effective water removal: speed control, a vacuum seal and weighted compression.
- Mechanical speed control is essential for a consistent extraction over the entire carpeted surface.
- A reliable vacuum seal is essential to ensure air flows through the pad and carpet to remove water.
- Weighted compression is needed to force the air to move deeply through the pad and remove the stubborn water the light wand would leave behind.
Thorough extraction requires these elements. Without them, highly porous materials like carpet and pad cannot be dried in place. Too much water is help within these materials to rely on evaporation alone to restore them.
Smoke Odor and Residue Classifications
Soot Webs from Residential Fire
There are three general types of soot residues typically produced in a fire.
- Protein Residues
- Natural Substance Odor and Residue
- Synthetic Residues
Protein residues result from overcooked or burned meat, fish or beans. The residue color ranges falls somewhere between yellow and brown. The texture is greasy and sticks to most surfaces it comes in contact with. Thorough cleaning with water-based cleaning solutions can effectively clean this type of residue, as long as the target surface is wet cleanable (not damaged by water.)
Natural Substance odor or residue result from burned paper or wood. Campfires, forest fires and wood fireplaces produce natural substance odors. These residues are grey to black and have a dry, powder-like texture. Natural residue can be removed easily with vacuums and other dry preconditioning techniques, followed by wet cleaning techniques. Natural substance residues are easier to clean and deodorized compared to protein and synthetic types.
Synthetic residues result where the burned material is oil based. Carpets, upholstery, window shades and draperies, furniture and toys are typically constructed with synthetic materials. All synthetic materials produce a thick, heavy black smeary residue when they burn, for example, burned plastics. If the burn residue is left undisturbed on a surface, much of this residue may easily be vacuumed away. On the other hand, touching the residue will smear it into a surface creating more work ahead for the Project Manager. Fires involving synthetic materials will often leave behind ornate soot-covered webs, sometimes called smoke webs, tags or streamers.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for fires
The preferred safety strategy is to establish engineering controls, which control the work environment so as to reduce employee exposure to the hazards of fire damage. For example, when working in areas containing loose soot residue, it is highly recommended that Project Managers and Technicians use appropriate air quality controls, such as exhaust fans and HEPA air scrubbers.
Workers should also be equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) as a last line of defense after engineering controls have been utilized. The type of PPE you use is dependent on the exposures they will encounter, and the level of protection is based on risks identified in the initial hazard inspection and risk assessment.
PPE are safety devices and clothing that ensure the basic health protection and safety of users. PPE is any device or garment worn by an individual to prevent exposure to one or safety and health hazards. PPE includes all clothing and other work accessories designed to create a barrier against or restraints from workplace hazards following a fire. For example:
- Chemical resistant gloves
- Slash goggles or goggles with a vapor seal
- Appropriate respirator
- Hard Hat
- Work boots
- Protective clothing
In addition to PPE are personal protective technologies and devices that provide a worker with early warning of a hazard or otherwise help keep the Project Manager safe from harm. Such technologies include sensors that detect toxic atmospheres and communication devices used for safe deployment of emergency workers.
Using PPE requires hazard awareness and training on the part of the user. Our employees must be aware that the equipment does not eliminate the hazard; if the equipment fails, exposure will occur. To reduce the possibility of failure, equipment must be properly fitted and maintained in a clean and serviceable condition.
Testing for Smoke Residue
Dry Sponge used for testing for smoke residue.
In areas where visual signs are not evident but smoke odors still exist, it will be necessary to test for smoke. It is the adjoining and more distant areas such as spaces inside wall cavities, and in basement, attics, and walk-in closets, where a methodical inspection is necessary. Smoke deposits will likely be found in and on the following areas:
- Cold surfaces
- Outside walls of the structure
- Glass surfaces
- Metallic surfaces
- Horizontal surfaces
- Surfaces that carry state charges, such as plastic garment bags
- HVAC system filters
- Inside HVAC system ducting
Soot and odor are evaluated as levels of contamination ranging from light to heavy. These levels are determined based on the experience of the Project Manager and his or her observations during testing. Testing provides positive proof and valid documentation that smoke contamination does in fact exist. Insurance companies need this documentation from our Project Managers in order to extend the scope of work necessary to properly clean up after a fire.
Initially the Project Manger collects "swipe tests" of all the surfaces listed above. Cosmetic wedges, dry sponges or white facial tissues work well for sample collection. Occasionally the customer and/or adjuster may ask if a particular damaged item or surface can be restored. When this occurs we first test the item before making an appropriate decision.