Recently, we spoke with a smoke and fire clean up company that was dealing with the aftermath of a fire at a university. As the building manager of the institution watched, the contents crew marched out of the building with over 600 computers, massive amounts of documents and truck loads of furniture. It was once common practice to simply “total loss” or “cash out” computers that were drenched with water from fire hoses and coated with soot sludge, but today modern smoke and fire clean up companies routinely clean and restore computers to pre-loss condition saving the insurance companies significant sums.
Typically, a contents team will deal with a large loss, smoke damage catastrophe in much the same way a field surgeon might handle a large number of wounded – they perform “triage” assessments to quickly ascertain which items can be saved and which cannot.
Photographs are taken of every item that will be touched or moved in order to be able to share, with the adjuster, agent, building manager or homeowner, the extent of the damage prior to the valuables being moved, cleaned or “packed out” and as an added bonus the photographs give the front line workers a “template” so they know exactly where everything goes when the property is replaced.
Nothing is touched during the initial walk through, to help reduce cross contamination and nothing is moved from a “smoky” room into a clean one for obvious reasons. Often you will see smoke and fire clean up companies sealing off non-contaminated rooms because smoke and soot can “travel” and penetrate previously unaffected spaces through air vents, cracks under doors or even just by the act of inadvertently opening a door for a “quick peek.”
When that happens, everything is impacted – walls, carpet, upholstery, drapes, clothing, bedding, books, documents, office materials and the professionals now face twice the job that sealing the room might have prevented.
Only amateurs go through the office or home spraying some sort of deodorant in these early stages – smoke and fire damage professionals know that sweet-smelling sprays can mask the smoke odors and cause them to overlook contaminants. Deodorization comes later.
Of course, burned debris is immediately removed to reduce the odor source and proper ventilation helps reduce the particulates in the immediate environment and this is only the beginning. A smoke and soot-damaged home or business is no place for the inexperienced. Smoke and fire clean up professionals have the training and equipment to save time, money and effort for the insured and their insurers.