April Hall asked me to speak at a one-day conference she’s holding in Dallas next Thursday on smoke, soot and ash claims. The science of removing smoke, soot and ash after all types of fires is dynamic. Adjusters, restoration contractors, and especially policyholders must be aware that their safety is at risk in post-fire and smoke-damaged structures.
The article title in Remediation and Restoration Magazine, Soot, char and ash: It’s more toxic than you think, gives fair warning. It provides a quick summary of the type of personal protective equipment required for those adjusting, cleaning and entering these structures:
Exposure control measures/personal protection: Personal protective equipment
Respiratory Protection: Use NIOSH approved filtering respirator (̵6;dust mask’) or higher level of respiratory protection as indicated and goggles where ventilation is not possible and exposure limits may be exceeded or for additional work comfort or symptom relief. After determining the risk from potential exposure, use respiratory protection in accordance with requirements such as US-OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134.
Protective Gloves: Cloth, canvas or leather gloves are recommended when handling the dry product to minimize potential mechanical irritation. Discard gloves with contaminated interiors.
Eye Protection: An eyewash fountain should be located near areas of potential eye exposure. Glasses or goggles are recommended when handling this product.
Other protective clothing or protective equipment: An emergency shower should be located near areas where extensive skin contact is possible. Long-sleeved protective clothing or disposable outerwear may be desirable in extremely dusty areas.
Work/hygiene practices: The use of skin barrier cream can prevent skin irritation in sensitive individuals. Be aware that irritation may occur where personal protective equipment such as goggles or dust masks come into contact with skin surfaces.
I made a point about this six years ago in a post that all adjusters should read, Insurance companies and independent adjusters who do not provide personal protective equipment to fire adjusters violate OSHA standards.
A Canadian government produced consumer guide, Returning to your home after forest firesprovides the following advice regarding personal property that may have been affected by smoke, soot and ash:
“Be careful. If in doubt, throw it out!”
United Policyholders discussed this topic in an article, Smoke and ash damage from a forest fireand advises policyholders:
If your home has been exposed to fire smoke and ash, you want to make sure it and its contents are properly inspected, tested, cleaned/treated and restored to pre-exposure condition. Damage to your home and belongings from smoke and ash is covered by your home insurance. Payment for smoke damage to the structure of your home (walls, joists, wall-to-wall carpeting, etc.) comes from your homeowner’s coverage. Payment for smoke damage to area rugs, clothing, curtains, furniture, etc.) comes from your contents cover. No particular dollar limit cap (like you might find for mold) should apply, other than your total home and contents insurance limits.
Smoke damage can be both visible and invisible to the naked eye. So it is especially important to have qualified experts perform the inspection, testing, cleaning and restoration. Generally, someone hired by your insurance company will do an inspection and issue payment for the amounts they believe they are owed to restore your home and possessions to pre-loss condition. That someone could be a claims adjuster, or an air quality expert, or simply a house cleaner. The person your insurer authorizes to make a decision about whether there is an injury and what needs to be done to fix it – may or may not be the qualified expert you need. So the question often arises: Who pays for the thorough inspection, reporting and action?
Your insurer may bring in outside contractors to carry out tests and prepare reports on the condition of your home, or do the cleaning/restoration itself. If you have reason to believe that your insurer or a supplier has not carried out a proper inspection or done the necessary tests, we recommend that you: Speak up and get them to do it, find a qualified expert you trust. If your insurer refuses to cover its fee, you have two choices: Complain to your state insurance agency and keep pushing until the insurer changes its mind, or pay the fee yourself.
The conference is primarily for restoration and fire mitigation contractors because April Hall has always been dedicated to helping restoration contractors run more efficient and profitable businesses. She promotes this as The next level of smoking claims. I will be speaking on Thursday afternoon and hope to see you there.
There may be a great fire in our hearts, but no one ever comes to warm it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.
-Vincent van Gogh