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Loss Mitigation on Fire Losses

Question (in blue type) with Answers (Standard quotes in green):

Please advise me what the IICRC protocols are for winterizing a severely damaged fire peril ($260K), which date of loss would have occurred in mid July during the warm season in the North East U.S.

If there are any written protocols please advise me what they are.

Foremost, if a fire loss occurred in July, reasonable loss mitigation would include reasonable and prudent procedures to minimize or prevent microbial growth.  However, it appears that the question you raise involves freeze protection during winter months.  So something must have happened to delay loss processing. 

Now, as I interpret your question, there seems to be a bit of confusion about loss mitigation and what that involves.  So let’s begin with a definition from ANSI/IICRC S500.

mitigate, mitigation:  to reduce or minimize further damage to structure, contents and systems in the built environment by controlling the spread of contamination and moisture.

According to this definition, loss mitigation includes reasonable and prudent steps required to preserve, protect and secure property from on-going damage following a loss.  In fact, at the outset in virtually every insurance policy, policy holders will find a loss mitigation clause. 

ANSI/IICRC S500 goes on to say:

13.2     Initial Restoration Procedures

13.2.1  Rapid Response

Mitigation procedures should begin as soon as safely possible following the initial moisture intrusion.  If building materials and structural assemblies are exposed to water and water vapor for extended periods, moisture penetrates into them more deeply.  The more water they absorb, the more time, effort and expense is required to dry them.

In the winter months, and especially in northern climates, loss mitigation also applies to freeze protection, since freezing water and expanding ice can cause significant damage to both structure and contents.  That damage, if left unmitigated, can dramatically escalate both the scope and cost of a loss. 

While there is no standard for fire and smoke restoration as yet, in my book, After the Smoke Clears, which serves as a major reference for the IICRC Fire and Smoke Restoration Technician (FSRT), Chapter 8, Safety Compliance and Work Priorities, the section on loss mitigation includes:

  1. Setting Priorities

OK.  So now you know a little about the types of disaster situations restorers might encounter day-to-day.  You understand what the insured’s alternatives are, along with where your services fit in.  You understand the components of disaster soiling and how it affects surfaces, even after the fire is long extinguished.  You have a basic understanding of what chemicals, equipment and supplies are required for restoration services, and you know something about job site safety.

So you arrive on the scene with all these great assets, plus a group of coworkers who are anxious to go to work.  Now the problem is, just where do you start?

Whether you are a cleaning crew supervisor or simply a part-time restorer working a disaster job, you’re in position to lend organization to the chaos through proper job setting procedures.  Obviously, we’re talking about light-to-moderate smoke damage in the following discussions.  Heavy structural damage forces us to throw all the “standard” procedures out the window and come up with a new plan.  But for the most part, the following organizational procedures will get you through the vast majority of jobs.

  1. Loss Mitigation and Safety – Loss mitigation is defined as reasonable and prudent steps taken to preserve, protect and secure structure and contents from further damage.  Loss mitigation on fire losses can include, but is not limited to:
    1. identifying and eliminating obvious safety hazards upon entering a job site: e.g., structural integrity, electrical shock hazards, gas leaks;
    2. board up with durable materials to protect from weather and to provide security as required; 
    3. corrosion control (cleaning and coating metal surfaces);
    4. neutralizing and cleaning acid smoke from light-colored or delicate surfaces (e.g., fiberglass, Formica®, Corian®, marble, painted);
    5. cleaning heavy-smoke residue from any horizontal surface to prevent discoloration of finish;
    6. freeze protection for toilets, or plumbing and appliances, as appropriate, and
    7. securing valuables.

___________________________________

Loss mitigation: reasonable and prudent steps taken

to preserve, protect and secure property from on-going damage.

___________________________________

Before any work involving multiple crews can begin, it’s the responsibility of the disaster supervisor to walk through the job to ensure that loss mitigation procedures have been properly implemented.  If circumstances are discovered that might allow items to be further damaged, those items should be taken care of first.  Moreover, during this critical time, supervisors should review and reinforce job site safety with all personnel.

Job setting begins by getting a little light on the subject.  Draperies might have to be removed, and windows in more severe smoke damage situations might require cleaning - just so everyone can see what they’re doing.  When power to the structure has been lost, loss mitigation can include setting up generators and light sets.  Preliminary procedures may also require removing, cleaning and packing delicate items that could get broken when drop cloths are placed on furnishings to protect them from all the falling debris that’s generated when cleaning ceilings and upper wall areas begins.

OK.  Assuming that you were brought into the fire loss in the winter months, and well after it occurred in July, your initial responsibility would include both:

  1. identifying and eliminating obvious or potential safety hazards, as practical, and
  2. loss mitigation defined as reasonable and prudent steps necessary to preserve, protect and secure property from further damage. 

Not only would loss mitigation be a component of the restoration industry standard of care, but also, it is a contractual requirement under the terms of the insurance policy.  It may be prudent to consult a qualified authority in your jurisdiction for additional legal advice. 

Hope this helps.

L. Jeff Bishop, SCRT Technical Advisor

Clean Care Seminars, Inc.
406 Forsythia Lane
Dothan, AL 36305
334.446.1531 office
334.7903145 mobile
www.CleanCareSeminars.net

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