1 DISASTER PLANNING AND RECOVERY An Ounce of Prevention Structural damage from water should be treated immediately, before mould can grow. By Jonathon T. Flatt, Water Loss Specialist, and Nancy Dai, MBA Water is the most frequent cause of property damage. As the frequency of water claims has risen, the associated risk for mould growth has also increased. This increased health threat to tenants poses challenges to condominium managers. Whether by rainstorm or leaky pipe, a variety of factors contribute to water losses. The following are two actual scenarios of water damage in condominiums. Case Scenario 1. A broken water pipe on the 9th floor of a condominium affected a total of 40 units with water traveling as far down as the 4th floor. The water first traveled through an interior portion for three storeys before crossing to an outside wall. Ranging in size from 500 to more than 1,800 square feet, the affected units contained a wide variety of finishing materials: hardwood, laminated and engineered floors, plywood sub floors, ceramic tile, and bare and concrete floors. These assemblies required the use of a wide range of specialized drying equipment. Case Scenario 2. A sewage backup occurred in a condominium and affected lower units. Contaminated water could accelerate the growth of mould if proper disinfection and drying had not been conducted immediately. Tear-out procedures had to begin immediately to eliminate the chance of health-related problems arising. Condominium managers encounter these scenarios in their ongoing operations. Despite all your maintenance and prevention efforts, water escape can still occur. As a condominium manager, what can you do to minimize the damage and get back to a normal state as soon as possible? This article will address this issue from the following three aspects: Pre-loss planning guide Do s and don ts when water damage arises Evaluation of water damage restoration. Pre-loss Planning Guide Finding a professional and reliable water damage restoration contractor takes time and careful investigation. When water damage occurs, you usually don t have the time to do the research required and finding the ideal contractor from the yellow pages is risky.
2 Consequently, it is more sensible to do your homework beforehand and implement an emergency response program before water damage hits the condominiums you manage. Pre-qualifying your contractor will assist with this. The following is a list of questions that a condominium manager should ask before committing to a contractor s service: Is the company geographically close to the area you manage? If you manage condominiums at multiple locations, you want to make sure that your contractor can service all your condominiums. Centralizing your service sourcing is better for quality control. Is the company properly insured? Ask for a copy of your contractor s commercial general liability insurance form. For water- and mould-related claims, the contractor that provides remediation services should also have proper coverage for the work. You need to minimize your exposure to potential problems. How long has the company been in business? Are there professional references with your insurance carrier and will the carrier abide by an approved process? Are there proper protocols that guarantee response time, procedures and documentation? Speed is the key to minimizing damage. Are there certified specialists managing water damage? Make sure the specialists supervising the restoration process are water damage restoration technicians (WRT), applied structural drying technicians (ADT) or water loss specialists (WLS) These certifications will be explained in the section following. Is the company well equipped? Ask your contractor to provide you with an equipment list with drying capacity information and then you will be able to decide whether the right quantity and type of equipment is available and whether large water losses can be handled. Do s and Don ts When Water Damage Arises Do s Conduct an Initial Inspection. No action should be taken before you do a quick initial inspection of all affected units. You might receive calls from a tenant saying that there is a large water loss, only to discover that it is just a few stains on the floor and a reported minor water damage in one unit may have already affected other units. By conducting a physical inspection of all affected and adjacent units, you can obtain an overview of the severity of the damage. You can then decide whether or not you need to call for emergency services from a professional water damage restoration contractor. Define the Source and Boundary of the Water Damage. Once you identify the source of the water loss, arrange for it to be repaired. Then define the boundaries of the water damage. Call a Professional Water Damage Restoration Contractor. Rapid response to water damage is the key to minimizing your loss and reducing potential hazards resulting from mould growth. While mould can begin to grow within 48 hours of a water escape, there are factors that can accelerate its growth. For example, mould could grow faster after a hot water pipe bursts due to the increased temperature of affected materials. Therefore, it is in your best interests to call a water damage restoration professional immediately for a full assessment and to set up the proper drying system. Remove Excess Water and Personal Belongings. Before contractors arrive, you can begin to remove excess standing water with wet vacuums and mops. As well, you should
3 advise your tenants to remove personal belongings from affected areas to safe storage places to allow easier access to the affected areas. Get an Estimate from the Contractor and Decide Whether to Make a Claim. After the contractor completes a thorough inspection, he will provide you with a mitigation plan and a budget estimate. Based on that information, coupled with the deductible amount, you can then decide whether or not to make a claim. Monitor Drying and Maintain Communication with Tenants. During the drying process, the contractor should keep you informed of the job progress and communicate with your tenants. Upon completion of the drying, your contractor should be able to provide you with a certificate of drying. Don ts There are a few hazards that you and your tenants should avoid. Sewage clean-ups require specialized training, equipment and treatment. If not carried out properly, toxins may lead to health problems. Do not use electrical appliances that are not designed to operate in high humidity conditions. Do not use a standard household vacuum to remove standing water it must be a wet/dry vacuum. Do not leave any coloured items on a wet surface as dye transfer could occur. Place all furniture on pads or even aluminum foil to prevent dye transfer or wooden legs from damage. If you define the source and boundary of the water damage, you can arrange for it to be repaired. Evaluation of Water Damage Restoration In most cases, it is necessary to call a professional contractor to handle the clean up as a result of water damage. But how do you know whether drying is done properly? Condominium managers are likely to make the following two mistakes that may increase the damage and the possibility of mould growth: Mistake No. 1 Using In-house Maintenance Contractors to Handle Water Damage. Proper drying requires specialized training and experience and more often than not, your inhouse maintenance contractor is not able to handle a water loss efficiently. Mistake No. 2 Using Contractors that Don t Have the Capacity and/or Experience to Handle Large Water Losses. There are a variety of contractors out there and they differ in size, capacity and qualifications. Who do you choose? If you encounter a large water loss like the one described in case scenario 1, you certainly need a contractor who has the experience, manpower and equipment to respond to a large water loss immediately instead of letting someone experiment on the condominiums you manage.
4 What resources can you turn to in evaluating water damage restoration contractors? As with any other profession, the water restoration industry also has its own set of standards and protocols that a qualified contractor would be aware of and follow. Governing Bodies of the Industry IICRC & ASCR-WLI. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is an independent, non-profit certification body that sets standards and ethics for the inspection, cleaning and restoration service industry. The Water Loss Institute (WLI), a division of the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR), is the foremost authority and resource for water damage restoration. IICRC publishes IICRC S500, a standard and reference guide for professional water damage restoration. This is a good source of information for condominium managers. For those of you interested in a guide for professional mould remediation, the institute also publishes IICRC S520. Professional Designations. There are various levels of professional designations. For any water damage, you should at least have an IICRC-registered water damage restoration technician (WRT) as the supervisor. For large or complicated water damage, it is advisable to have a WLI-registered water loss specialist (WLS) or at least an IICRCregistered applied structural drying technician (ASD). WLS is the highest designation in this industry. The Water Loss Institute presents a list of WLS at specialist=wls. Currently, there are only six WLS in Canada, two in British Columbia and four in Ontario. Proper Procedures. A properly carried-out restoration should consist of the following steps. 1. Thorough Inspection and Assessment. Initially the technician should investigate the extent of damage and determine the category of water loss. As IICRC S500 specifies, there are three categories of water: Category 1 (clean water) doesn t have contaminants that pose significant harm to humans. Category 2 (grey water) usually contains a significant level of contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if consumed by, or exposed to, humans. Examples include discharge from dishwashers or washing machines, overflows from toilet bowls with some urine but no feces, sump pump failures. Category 3 (black water) is grossly unsanitary and contains pathogenic agents. Examples include sewage backup and other contaminated water sources. It is important to know that Category 1 and Category 2 water will deteriorate and evolve to Category 3 water if not treated within 48 hours. The technician should check hidden areas, like the HVAC system, to see if water has penetrated and define the full boundaries of the affected area. He should also investigate and see if the damage is due to an unrelated previous or ongoing moisture problem. By defining the specific humidity and moisture contents of materials in affected areas and comparing them to unaffected areas, the technician will be able to define the extent of intrusion, set realistic drying goals based on an equilibrium dry standard and develop a proper restorative drying system. 2. Structural and Content Drying. Upon careful inspection, the qualified technician can then formulate an appropriate drying strategy. The drying process usually involves removing excess water, turning water into vapour (evaporation) and then extracting moisture from the air (drying). Depending on the specific humidity outside, the contractor
5 may even opt for an open drying system by exchanging the humid air inside the building with the dryer exterior air. To dry the structure and content properly, the technician will need to apply an extensive array of airmovers, dehumidifiers or even use a trailermounted drying system that has a much higher capacity. 3. Monitoring and Completion. The technician should monitor the drying progress by taking readings on a daily basis, and adjust the amount of equipment necessary to ensure a fast and cost-effective drying system, thereby avoiding secondary damage that could occur in an unbalanced system. Upon completion, the final readings should be at the same levels as unaffected areas or at the equilibrium dry standard. Thorough Documentation. How do you and the tenants know if a building has been dried completely? You might be able to touch a building element to see if it is dry, but that would only be on the surface. How can you be sure it is dried completely? It is the hidden moisture that will haunt you and can lead to mould problems. To ensure complete drying and reduce future liability, the contractor should provide you with documentation that certifies the building has reached an equilibrium dry standard. There should be different reports at each stage of the restoration: Initial inspection report the contractor should send this to you within 48 hours upon completion of the initial inspection. The report should include information on the extent of water damage and a budget estimate for the drying process. Daily humidity record your contractor should be able to present you with a copy of the daily monitoring record. This report should include data on temperature, relative humidity, specific humidity (GPP) and moisture content of affected materials. Technical moisture monitoring report/certificate of drying this is the final summary report with comparative data on temperature, relative humidity and specific humidity (GPP) with the initial and final readings. Moisture Detection and Drying Equipment. A qualified contractor able to handle large water damage should be adequately equipped. Moisture detection tools include destructive and non-destructive moisture meters, hygrometers, hydrosensors, borescopes and thermal imaging cameras. Traditional drying equipment includes airmovers and dehumidifiers. There are two types of dehumidifiers: refrigerant and desiccant dehumidifiers. Standard refrigerant dehumidifiers work best at room temperature and higher specific humidity while low grain refrigerant dehumidifiers work best at room temperature but lower specific humidity. Desiccant dehumidifiers work well at low temperature and specific humidity levels and are ideal for difficult or special drying situations. Special devices are used for drying walls and hidden cavities. For large water losses, your contractor needs to have drying equipment with a much higher drying capacity such as the water out and dryair system. This system can extract more than 2,300 pints a day (15 bathtubs of water) and are ideal for large water losses or water losses that require rapid drying. Your contractor should also be able to justify the number and type of equipment used. To sum up, water damage can occur at any time, but if you have taken necessary precautions, know what you have to do to minimize the loss and have a professional handling the problem when it does occur, then you, as a condominium manager, don t have to worry about escalating water damage.
6 Jonathon T. Flatt, Water Loss Specialist, is vice president and Nancy Dai, MBA, is marketing associate of First General Services Canada, a division of First General Enterprises (Ontario) Ltd., * * Condominium Manager Magazine Fall 2004