22 Cleaning & Restoration March/April

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1 $9.00 March/April 2012 Vol. 49 No. 3 Published by the Restoration Industry Association Restoring Documents After Water Damage Working in the Creativity Age Mold Testing: The Old, the New, the Useful The Momentum of Measurement for Cleaning

2 22 Cleaning & Restoration March/April

3 torestore Documents After WATER DAMAGE By Summer Street of water infiltration or flooding at a business, many owners and office managers are focused on the damage to equipment and furnishings. They overlook one of the most devastating consequences the potentially irreparable damage to documents. Any delay in the decision to dry the materials can result in permanent loss. Inks can break down, making the text illegible in documents such as medical, financial or legal records. Dirt and grime can penetrate the paper and pages can adhere to each other. Mold and mildew will grow quickly on water-soaked books, papers, file folders and electronic media. That s why the key to a successful recovery of these materials is rapid response time. An experienced document March/April 2012 Cleaning & Restoration 23

4 restoration specialist will rapidly identify the best recovery method for a particular material based on the value of the documents and the level of damage. For example, in the right circumstances, freezing documents can drastically reduce the time and cost of restoration. It also prevents the need for mold remediation, page separation and other more expensive, corrective procedures. The recovery process requires the technical expertise and equipment of a proven service provider. It s important that the restoration company is up to date with the most advanced techniques, such as vacuum freeze-drying, blast freezing, microbial disinfecting, deodorization and soot removal. Consider partnering with a provider that can assist in the clean-up of the disaster area and stabilize the indoor environment to reduce the moisture load to prevent the spoiling of unaffected documents. The recovery process to dry and clean documents begins with two initial steps: Freezing To halt deterioration, documents must be frozen as soon as possible, usually in freezer-equipped truck trailers or freezer warehouses. The frozen materials can be stored until the professional drying procedure begins. Inventory and Sorting While the documents are frozen, decisions can be made about which to dry and clean and which to discard. Work can begin to prune unwanted materials. Loose documents and files stored in cabinets are packed into boxes and labeled to identify contents. Drying Options The second phase of document restoration is the drying of the materials. Different treatments may be recommended depending upon the materials and the type and extent of damage. Two primary methods are used to dry documents vacuum freeze-drying and desiccant drying. Vacuum Freeze-Drying A freeze-drying process is the most efficient and effective method for the drying of wet papers and other documents. Accelerated vacuum freeze-dry systems can reduce the processing time of water-damaged materials by 20 to 30 percent compared to similar systems. During this process, the materials are placed in an airtight chamber into which negative vacuum pressure is induced. As a function of physics, moisture in the documents turns into a gaseous state. The gas is expelled from the chamber using a vacuum pump and is dispersed into the atmosphere as simple water vapor. As a result, the March/April 2012 Cleaning & Restoration 25

5 The best insurance against catastrophic loss of vital documents is to be prepared long before a disaster occurs. documents go from the frozen state to being dry without ever becoming re-liquefied. This method is especially beneficial when documents may warp or distort. After drying, materials will have a smoother appearance than is generally achieved via slower, less efficient freeze-drying methods. Desiccant Drying In this process, frozen documents are removed from the packing cases and placed on racks and shelves in a large, vault-like room. Applying desiccant dehumidification, the room atmosphere is maintained at about 68 degrees F and 12 percent humidity. Desiccant dehumidifiers use the changing vapor pressures to dry air continuously in a repeating cycle. In so doing, the continually moving dry air created in the drying room removes the moisture from the documents. Depending on the amount of moisture and the documents being dried, the process can take from one to seven days to complete. Cleaning After drying, the documents are cleaned to remove any dirt, grime or, more importantly, fungi spores. Trained staff should clean each document using materials such as sponges and scrub pads, while avoiding the application of liquid solutions that would reactivate the moisture in the materials. In cases involving mold spores, individuals should wear personal protection equipment (PPE) and follow standard procedures for spore removal, including the use of High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum systems. Non-paper materials that are not first dried, such as film, microfiche, X-rays, and audio and video tape, also are cleaned. All of the items are then placed into new boxes, relabeled according to the inventory and returned to the owner. All of this work needs to be done by properly trained cleaning and restoration technicians and management staff to oversee the recovery project. Some providers will use temporary labor. Others utilize seasoned professionals who typically have five to 10 years of experience. The appropriate technology also is important. A qualified document center should offer: blast-freezing, which freezes quickly and kills bacteria; stabilization, or capacity to freeze documents to mitigate damage; cleaning; desiccant air drying; vacuum freeze-drying; and secure document storage. On-Site Drying In some cases, documents need to be dried at the site. This can occur, for example, when a facility has confidential files that cannot legally be removed or the information in the documents is needed on a regular basis. In these cases, standing water is removed and damaged documents are packed and placed in a nearby freezer warehouse or refrigerated trailers. The goal is to use the fastest methods to make critical documents usable and to save as many others as possible. A provider may establish a processing center in a building near the freezer warehouse. This space must be sealed from air leaks. A climate-controlled environment is created via portable industrial desiccant dehumidifiers. A processing center should include a thawing room, where frozen documents are identified, categorized, labeled and logged into a computerized inventory control system. It also should include an area for a drying chamber to remove moisture from the documents. Non-paper items, including X-rays and computer disks, which are not suitable for the freeze-drying process, will be salvaged through desiccant drying. Preparation Is Key The best insurance against catastrophic loss of vital documents is to be prepared long before a disaster occurs. Without advance planning, critical recovery time can be lost simply trying to assess the damage, much less in formulating the appropriate response. A written disaster recovery plan (DRP) can limit the damage by defining and prioritizing the recovery steps. A document recovery section in the DRP will detail essential steps and include contact names and numbers for recovery providers. Summer Street is document sector manager with Polygon, formerly the MCS division of Munters. She can be reached by at 26 Cleaning & Restoration March/April REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE MARCH/APRIL 2012 ISSUE OF CLEANING & RESTORATION MAGAZINE, PUBLISHED BY THE RESTORATION INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION.

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