Damage to a facility from water can come in many forms. From a sprinkler malfunction to a hurricane, water damage can damage and destroy a building and its contents. Can a facility ever return to normal? Are any of the contents salvageable?
Why Does It Matter?
Water is extremely damaging to most common materials like wood, paper, building materials, and electronics. If water can be removed from contact with affected items, damage can be reduced. If items are left in standing water, they will continue to deteriorate even after surface water is removed. Floodwaters are often mixed with sewage, animal waste, fertilizers, and industrial waste. When working in a flood, workers should consider the water a biohazard. Additionally, mold and mildew can cause irreparable damage to building materials and building contents even after all the standing water is gone.
What Can Be Done?
Restoration of flood-damaged facilities and contents, including paper documents, is possible. By removing excess water, reducing the moisture content of the building through dehumidification and decontamination of contents, and building materials, a facility can return to operation and minimize losses following water damage. Even BMS CAT customers who suffered extreme losses following Hurricane Katrina were able to salvage facilities and some contents. Some of those facilities sat underwater for weeks following the storm.
The source of the water is a health and safety consideration. For restoration, water is placed in three general classifications:
When water damages occur they can go through five stages if not treated properly and quickly.
Health & Safety
Health and safety evaluations should be performed for each water loss. In general, individuals who may come in contact with water-damaged materials should have current tetanus shots and protect hands, eyes, and mouth using personal protective equipment. Biocide chemicals used to kill microorganisms can be potentially harmful to humans and can cause respiratory injury. Instructions for application and dilutions of antimicrobial agents should be carefully followed.
Rapid response and proper restoration will help restore the structure and contents and minimize the need for additional repairs and replacements. There are four basic principles to drying and restoring water-damaged materials back to their condition prior to the damage:
- Water Extraction: Removal of excess water from the damaged surfaces using wet vacuuming equipment, submersible pumps, mopping, and soaking up the excess moisture.
- Evaporation: Once the excess water is removed the remaining moisture needs to evaporate or change from a liquid to a vapor. This can occur more quickly with air moving equipment.
- Dehumidification: Once the moisture from the structure and content materials has evaporated into the air, it must be removed by dehumidification. Dehumidification is the process of removing moisture from the air.
- Temperature Control: This is important because both evaporation and dehumidification are enhanced by controlling the temperature in the affected area; plus microorganism growth is temperature related.
In order to minimize the damage that has already occurred, basic emergency services steps must be taken:
What Can You Do?
If there is an advance notice of potential water damage, all possible protective measures should be taken such as covering items with plastic, raising furniture, and protecting electronics. Additionally, consider permanent storage of certain valuable items (rare books, historical newspapers, or long term archival documents) in buffered, acid-free storage boxes.
If you have experienced water damage you can begin to mitigate the loss by:
- Keeping the indoor temperature below 70 degrees (if safe)
- Turn off electricity to affected areas
- If you cannot stop the flow of water, contact a plumber
- Freeze paper items to stop the deterioration
It is important to have a plan in place for a disaster. It is highly recommended that you pre-contract with a restoration company before a loss occurs. This gets any administrative “red tape” out of the way, expedites response times, and allows you to carefully pre-qualify the service for your exact needs. BMS CAT offers a Response Service Agreement at no cost.