The cleanup has begun in disaster regions across the country where catastrophic hurricanes ripped through coastal communities, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake. Debris, chemicals, damaged buildings, and floodwaters all present new dangers to areas working around the clock to rebuild some semblance of modern society.
If you are volunteering to help or were affected directly by the storms, chances are you will be exposed to floodwater. Water is critical to supporting life, but it can also endanger it. Authorities use the IIRC Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration to classify water. Here’s a quick breakdown:
“Clean water” that poses no threat if consumed by humans and is assumed to be untainted from the source. It can become contaminated as it reaches soils on the floor, or mixes with building components, such as walls, decking, and subflooring. As time and temperature interact with Category 1 water, it can cause the quality to degrade and promote the growth of bacteria and other hazardous microorganisms.
“Grey water” that contains some level of contamination, and would probably cause discomfort, even sickness, if ingested by humans. Sources of corruption include chemical, biological, and physical contaminants. Time and temperature also affect the level of contamination, and will eventually become more dangerous.
“Black water” which is highly contaminated and if consumed by humans, will result in death or serious illness. This type of water contains extremely unsanitary elements, such as toxic bacteria and fungi, and creates unsafe conditions for indoor environments.
Cleaning crews responding to water-damaged homes use these categories to determine the level of contamination within the water and to assume the level of destruction. Water damage is challenging to identify, and it takes a trained professional to properly investigate potential losses. After wet disasters, it takes more than just picking up debris. The process requires drying and restoring substructures within the property that high levels of moisture can ruin. Plaster, drywall, wood, concrete and metal are all affected by water damage, and mold will quickly develop if not addressed. If left unattended, plaster and dry will crumble, metal rusts, and the wood will rot, destroying the integrity of the structure and creating the possibility of collapse. Moisture that is not properly and completely removed will eventually destroy a building. Skilled repair crews are necessary to accurately assess the situation and develop the best plan to fix the problem. After the type of water is categorized, these professionals will also assign the damage to a class of destruction.
The lowest amount of damage and the easiest to fix due to a slow evaporation rate. Only small areas of the building are affected such as materials with a low rate of permeance, like concrete and plywood. Carpet has very little or no water damage.
Fast evaporation rates increase the seriousness of the situation and affect the entire room. Carpets are wet, and the moisture is being absorbed up the walls by at least 12 inches. Moisture is present and will remain in the structure’s materials.
The fastest evaporation rate is ongoin, and has saturated the ceiling, walls, insulation, carpet, cushions, and sub-floor materials. Water damage from overhead sources is usually this level of damage.
Class 4: Special circumstance resulting from extended amounts of time and liquid that have saturated low-permeance materials, such as hardwood, brick, and stone.
Household microorganisms that pose a threat to water-damaged structures typically require five conditions to originate, develop, multiply, and spread:
Any attempts to minimize these ideal conditions will help prevent microbes from quickly invading properties damaged by water. These efforts can successfully prolong the time it takes for microbes to grow, and can help repairs move more quickly. When dealing with this type of damage, some safety considerations apply: