American Red Cross Partnership
At a recent board meeting of the American Red Cross, our owner, Carlos Olvera came back with some very useful current information on the upgrades the ARC has been using to help with disaster relief preparedness. Please visit their URL at https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies.html. Not only do they describe in detail life saving practices for a disaster, but they have also upgraded to include the technology of Alexa in their efforts to protect the community. Accessing life-saving information and tools from the Red Cross is easier than ever. Their award winning suite of free smartphone apps already put Red Cross content at your fingertips. Now, all you have to do is ask Alexa! Skills for Alexa now include critical first aid instruction and important hurricane safety information. Red Cross blood donors can use Alexa to schedule blood donations on Alexa-enabled devices.
Mold in a Commercial Building
We recently had the opportunity to scope a pharmacy/drug store that has been closed down due to roof damage that caused wide spread mold growth. From the carpeting to the walls, this facility had obvious visible signs of mold growth throughout the structure. This was due to the prolonged exposure to excessive moisture from water leaking through the damaged roof. This moisture caused many environmental microbes, odor-causing bacteria and fungi, to colonize and grow, amplifying on building materials. These microbes will eventually contaminate the indoor air and may create health risks for those who work there. When scoping this environment , our technicians were sure to use the proper PPE for these conditions. Mold spores are microscopic and have no odor. Bacterial action on the wastes excreted by mold gives off an odor. It is also the waste that becomes visible after several hours of ideal growth conditions. This environment was exhibiting the "ideal growth conditions" necessary for immediate remediation.
Odor in a Commercial Structure
We recently had a situation regarding unexplained odors in a continuing care retirement community. Intense odors from pre-existing urine contamination is common in water damage restoration. Because odor molecules are transported to the olfactory region by attaching themselves to moisture molecules in the air, it stands to reason the more moisture present, the stronger the odor. Odor can be eliminated only if the source is identified and removed. This means treating the cause of the odor itself. Thus, urine decontamination was necessary to safely restore the facility. For the general health and comfort of the technicians and inhabitants of this facility, it was necessary to temporarily control the odor until elimination procedures can be affected. This can be done by procedures known as masking, pairing, or modifying. In the meantime, for the peace of mind of the residents and staff, we used a combination of deodorants to help dissipate the odor while other more extensive measures were taken to eradicate the odor.
The Understanding of Biocides
In addition to having knowledge of the microbiological agents present in a water-damaged environment, restoration specialists must have an understanding of the proper use of the chemical agents that control the amplification of these microorganisms and their by-products. A biocide is any poison that kills both pathogenic and nonpathogenic living organisms. The term is used commonly within the water damage industry to describe any agent that kills microorganisms or controls their amplification, including bacteria, molds, slimes, or fungi. Biocidal chemicals used in the cleaning and/or restoration industry usually contain alcohol, sodium hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, quaternary ammonium chloride or a synthesized phenolic compound. Quaternary ammonium chlorides have often been used to kill bacteria. Chlorines are strong oxidizing agents and can cause color loss in carpets and fabrics, will dissolve wool and other protein fabrics, and corrode metal. Phenolics are a potential health hazard because of their ability to build up in the respiratory system and should never be fogged. A primary benefit of using biocides is that they extend the time before microorganisms begin to grow. They are also part of the decontamination process when pathogenic organisms are present. Biocides are useful in preventing microorganisms from growing on surfaces within water-damaged structures. Biocides are useful in returning property to a preloss state.
Facts About Sewage
Sewage poses a very significant threat to human health. Any time sewage is suspected, no matter the color of the water, all suitable precautions should be observed. The severity will depend upon extent, content and degree of penetration. The health of technicians and occupants must take priority over all other considerations. Sewage situations may be classified into three categories according to extent, content and degree of penetration. The first situation exemplifies very little waste that originates in the built environment and is deposited or flows slightly beyond the confines of the sewage system. An example of this situation might be waste that overflows in a bathroom and is deposited on a tile floor. The second situation is where the water and waste penetrates the structure or furnishing of the building. An example of this situation is when flooding occurs in the fourth floor men's room of an office building, flows under a wall and into the carpet of an adjacent hall. The third situation is when waste has entered and mixed with other wastes from outside the immediate environment. The main line of the sewage system is backed up into the built environment where it is widely dispersed and penetrates the structure and the furnishings of the built environment.
The Importance of Moisture Meters
Why do we need moisture meters in water damage repair at every step of the job? The answer is quite simple. Moisture meters are used for moisture control to avoid mold build-up and to check moisture in floors, cabinets and other furnishings to avoid cracking, checking and warping. When disaster strikes, a pipe breaks, a roof leaks, or floods occur, we need to act swiftly and remove the excess water before mold builds up. Therefore, every responsible water damage repair company needs moisture meters and thermo-hygrometers to determine the extent of water damage,and later to check the drying progress, then last to confirm all excess water has been removed. Here, the challenge is to find the moisture from the surface to the depth of the absorption. Pin and pinless meters are helpful. Both meters have advantages and disadvantages, and it is not always an easy or clear choice. It is important to use a reliable meter because you do not want to replace materials unnecessarily, you want to replace only the damaged materials with a high moisture content.
The Science Behind Odors and Deodorization
Odors emanate from a variety of sources. There is the off-gassing of incomplete combustion, decomposing organic matter, building materials, water intrusion, etc. An individual must understand how to perceive odors to rectify them as well as become a private investigator/detective. Psychological odor is what people think they smell based on suggestions, past impressions, or experiences, but do not actually exist. However, while one person might not smell an odor, that doesn't mean it does not exist. Women have more keen sense of smell than men and as we age, we lose our sense of smell. Real and psychological odors are equally important and must be attacked in satisfying the deodorizing job. When deodorizing, a wise technician always considers the effect of both real and psychological odors and provides services to eliminate both. We have an assortment of chemicals and equipment that makes our task in resolving these odors much easier. However, not all odors can be terminated if their source is not found. A technician must ask the right questions, similar to a private investigator or detective, to identify the source of the odor. When doing so, the technician will need to clear their mind of any preconceived assumptions such as automatically assuming the source is urine if there are animals in the home.
The Hazards of Hoarding
According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding disorders occur in an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the population and often lead to substantial distress and problems functioning. While the emotional and physical impact of this growing disorder is significant, the potential health and safety concerns including fire hazards, biohazards and health code violations are paramount and a major focus for the restoration and remediation industry today. While well trained in restoring properties from fire, water or smoke damage, restoration professionals called upon to address a hoarding environment must consider a number of additional factors. In particular, the very real threat of biohazard dangers including bloodborne pathogens carrying potential diseases like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS. It is important to note that if a hoarding cleanup job does present biohazard concerns, the timeline of the service will increase given the additional number of precautions necessary. Hoarding presents a very real danger to all those involved.
Decontaminating a Former Meth House
We recommend testing every room in the property first. If they only cooked meth in the basement, and it didn't filter upstairs and the levels upstairs are low, then we can save them on the decontamination because we only have to take care of the basement and not the upstairs. Plus, once the decontamination process is complete, the team only has to retest the areas where levels were above the acceptable limit instead of testing the whole home. If a home needs decontamination, we first have to dispose of everything that cannot be properly decontaminated. We are talking about porous items like carpet, padding, window blinds that may be hard to clean, a range hood or exhaust vents in a bathroom. Sometimes, entire duct systems have to be thrown out too. Some of the flexible ducting gets meth residue trapped, and is difficult to clean. Then you must HEPA vac every square inch of the property. You have to start with a clean surface, then you use a chemical that is designed to breakdown and neutralize the meth chemical residue left behind.
Antimicrobials were traditionally always assumed to be toxic to humans as well as the organisms they were intended to kill. Botanicals revolutionized the antimicrobial world by producing the very first disinfectant approved by the EPA that did not require any human health warnings on the label. Unlike synthetic chemistries, botanicals use thyme oil as the active ingredient which doesn't affect humans. It's deadly to microorganisms, but it's part of the human diet and regularly found as a spice in food. Without the human health issues as a concern, the EPA didn't require the use of PPE when applying a botanical antimicrobials either. They also didn't require it to be rinsed off after a surface application. When botanical antimicrobials first hit the market they were lumped in with all the other "green" products and people easily dismissed them thinking they didn't work as well. When in fact, in order for a product to make a public health claim (like "kills germs"), the product must be registered with the EPA. Botanicals went through all the same standardized testing and passed with flying colors. That is the EPA's way of telling the public that the product did do what it says it's going to do.