Paul Watson, CIH, CSP, CET, CMC | CTEH North East Regional Industrial Hygiene Manager

Building owners and facility managers can be under a tremendous amount of pressure when their buildings suffer a catastrophic water loss.  It really doesn’t matter if you are in the hospitality sector or if you manage a multiunit housing complex.  The basic management principles for a fast, effective restoration are essentially the same.  All current water intrusion guidance suggests that starting the drying process within 24 to 48 hours, minimizes or prevents microbial growth.  Time becomes the controlling factor.

Preplanning is the key to a successful restoration and must start before a project exists.  Review the likely causes of a water loss.  Are they a major pipe break, fire suppression, flood or hurricane?  Determine what building and business interruptions these may present.  Discuss coverage with your insurance broker; be sure you understand where you have existing coverage and where you may need additional coverage.

Consider developing a water intrusion management plan.   This written document will outline the most expeditious means for building and subsequent business restoration.   This should include the identification of the building owner’s representative, the insurance agent or adjuster, predetermined restoration contractor and the identification of an Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP).  Pre-establish contracts with the restoration contractor and the IEP, on an annual basis.  This prevents lost time negotiating contracts during a water loss event.

Considerations must be given to the building construction.   Are there asbestos containing building materials present?  Is there an adequate asbestos survey performed and are locations and quantities known.  What additional time requirements will exist if these areas or materials are impacted?  Determine if the restoration contractor and the IEP are licensed and qualified to handle these materials, if not, have them identify and retain a qualified sub-contractor.   Does the building contain lead based paint?  Again, what are the quantities, concentrations and locations?  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires contractor compliance with the lead in construction standard for any detectible level of lead.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP), has occupant protection requirements for concentrations at 0.5% or greater for child occupied buildings.  Some states have taken over responsibility for the implementation of the RRP rule and may have additional requirements.

Determine if the ventilation system could be impacted.  Is the restoration contractor a member of the National Air Duct Cleaning Association (NADCA)?  Will they follow the requirements of the NADCA standard ACR-2006, Assessment, Cleaning and Restoration of HVAC Systems?

Develop a predetermined cleaning regimen and in the event of microbial growth a post-remediation protocol?  Will we follow the US EPA guidelines for  Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings,  or the  Institute of  Inspection, Cleaning  and Restoration Certification (IICRC) guidelines for water damage (S-500), cleaning  textile floor coverings (S-100),  or for mold remediation (S-520)?  Does the state you operate in, regulate and licenses contractors (as an example the state of Texas) and IEPs for mold remediation?

There is a lot of information to gather and items to consider when developing a water intrusion management plan.  However, implementing an effective plan minimizes time delays, ensures that all regulatory compliance requirements are met, reduces building downtime and subsequent business interruption.