HVAC Systems: Affected by a Fire
HVAC systems condition the air within occupied interior spaces. They ventilate and supply warm or cool air through an air conveyance systems referred to as ductwork. HVAC systems typically have a cold side, or return air, and a hot side, the supply air. An air filter system is normally strategically located on the return side, somewhere before the blower motor compartment. Most air filters are engineered to capture smaller airborne contaminants in order to protect the blower compartment components.
Although HVAC systems all have the same purpose, they vary greatly in design. Soot and smoke odor removal is relatively easy in some types, especially metal ducts. However, following a structural fire, soot contaminates coat most interior fiberglass surfaces. Fiberglass duct insulation is easily contaminated due to the volume of air spaces within the insulation matting. When ducting becomes exposed to smoke odor gases and particulates, PICs penetrate deep within the fiberglass fibers used to insulate the ducting. An HVAC system that was operating during a fire will certainly be more heavily contaminated than one that was turned off;however, systems become contaminated even when they were not operating during the fire.
An inspection of the HVAC system will determine when the complete system requires cleaning. In heavy soot contamination situations, restorable mechanical components within the HVAC system should be disassembled, cleaned and deodorized in accordance with published NADCA standards. NADCA stand for National Air Duct Cleaners Association.
Installation of Air Movers
Air Movers specifically placed to ensure proper circulation of air throughout the affected area.
Air movers are placed in the environment to ensure rapid evaporation across all affected surfaces. The number of air movers necessary depends upon the number of wet surfaces, the amount of water present, and the ability for air to reach each wet material (e.g., wall cavities, behind cabinets, and under contents).
The IICRC S500 Standard recommends that air mover installation quantities should be based on the amount of wet surface area in affected spaces. For the initial phases of drying, air movers should produce continuous airflow across affected material surfaces. A step-by-step process for determining the proper number of air movers is:
- Place one air mover for each affected area.
- Add one air mover for every 50 to 70 sqft. of affected floor area.
- Add one air mover for every 100 to 150 sqft. of affected wall surfaces (above 2') and ceiling surfaces.
- Add one air mover for every room offset or inset greater than 18 inches.
This calculation should provide an appropriate amount of air movement for most water intrusions, but can vary depending of the situation and type of materials affected.
Once the number of air movers to be installed has been determined, several factors will influence their actual placement. These factors include: the type of material affected, the degree of saturation, the accessibility of the actual wet surface, power availability and equipment availability. Below are some general guidelines for installation of air movers:
- Air movers are directed toward the wall at a 5 to 45 degree angle, depending on the type of air mover.
- The air mover's snout will almost touch the wall, within in 1 to 2 inches.
- All air movers in each area will face the same direction to ensure that air movers are not pushing against each other.
- When placing air movers, we need to consider the need for circulation throughout the affected area.
- Specialty air movers may be necessary if building cavities require air flow.
Board-Up: Securing your home or business
Fitted insert board-up
If doors or windows have been damaged or destroyed in a fire, rain and wind may enter the building and cause further damage. Also, curious onlookers or vandals may attempt to enter a damaged building. To help prevent these problems, it may be necessary to "board-up" the property.
The board-up procedures should provide durable protection for the damaged structure and cause minimal additional damage to building surfaces. Board-up methods include:
- Fitted inserts
- Bolt tension
- Tarps and shrink wrap systems
The cover-over system is easy to install and probably most applicable on roofs. Large expanses of roof can be covered quickly with heavy-duty tarps. Fitted insert board-ups are more difficult to install but are more weather tight than the cover-over system.
Bolt tension methods are relatively easy to install and have the advantage of being weather resistant and difficult for intruders to disengage. Placing carpet or carpet pad on the interior brace will prevent additional damage to wall surfaces.
Mitigation services help prevent additional damages. Loss mitigation services include winterization to prevent freezing, controlling corrosion, and cleaning surfaces to prevent staining.
As soot combines with atmospheric water vapor, it becomes acidic. Neutralization of acid smoke residue is a fundamental part of the initial stages of corrosion prevention. In most cases, alkaline solutions are used to help remove and neutralize the acid smoke residue.
After removing the smoke residue from metallic and plastic laminate surfaces, apply an oil-based coating (Many restoration professionals use a common lubricant like WD-40). This treatment will slow down and/or inhibit corrosion and discoloration by airborne smoke particles that remain after the Project Manger completes the emergency service visit. This simple, but often overlooked, step can help to reduce overall replacement costs.
Bomb Cyclone hitting the Midwest
Weather Radar showing the Bomb Cyclone over the Midwest Region.
In early March 2019, we experienced a winter storm that is know as a "Bomb Cyclone", but what is a Bomb Cyclone?
It is an intense and ferocious winter storm, and occurs when there is a rapid pressure drop, falling at least 24 millibars (which measure atmospheric pressure) over 24 hours, know as bombogenesis. This type of winter storm is expected to bring hurricane-force wind gusts, possible blizzard conditions and a flood threat across the Midwest.
The storm's heavy rainfall has caused major flooding and damaged many roads and bridges in Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri. Numerous creeks and streams were out of their banks and caused widespread flooding. If your home or business is damaged due to flooding, call your trusted advisors at SERVPRO West Kirkwood/Sunset Hills today!
River Flooding Update
River Flooding Updated Map
The St. Louis area has experienced two major floods over the past few years resulting in a ton of damage to homes and businesses in the area. SERVPRO of West Kirkwood/Sunset Hills is here to help with any damages that occur to your home or business.
Flooding can affect your home or business in multiple different ways. Heavy rain can cause a number of different issues for home and business owners in the St Louis area. It can cause over land flooding, hydrostatic pressure, over charged sewer lines and a number of other issues.
Keep up to date on how heavy rains and flooding can impact the Kirkwood and Sunset Hills areas. Check out the River Flooding Update Map to see what is going on in your area. If you are experiencing flood damage in your home or business, call your trusted advisors at SERVPRO of West Kirkwood/Sunset Hills!
Initial Emergency Smoke Odor Reduction
Removing smoke odor contamination is always the first step in effective, permanent odor control. Next to establishing safe working conditions, prevention or reduction of smoke odor penetration should always be among the first orders of business when arriving to a fire-damaged structure. Odors are likely to be pronounced when you first arrive. This is because odors are most apparent when humidity and temperature are elevated - typical condition immediately after a fire has been extinguished.
Whenever possible, charred, unsalvageable materials should be removed at the outset of a restoration job to help eliminate odors and additional soiling. In most smoke odor situations, the best overall system for removal of intense smoke odors requires a combination of techniques and procedures.
Call us today for additional tips on reducing smoke odor following a fire in your home or business!
What is lurking in flood waters?
Underneath the surface of flood waters can be an abundance of danger: both living and non-living. The Environmental Protection Agency requests that everyone limit their exposure to flood waters. The agency states that flood waters may have high levels of raw sewage from both humans and animals embedded in the waters. In addition to that, many plants, factories, and farms may be overrun with flood waters, and some of those can leak toxic materials into the water, such as an oil refinery or nuclear plant. These issues can affect water mains, well water, and lines that can bring contaminated water into dry homes that may not even be flooded.
Unwanted animals may be lurking underneath the waters as well: crocodiles, snakes, fire ants, and even, if you're along a coastline, sharks.
On top of that, mold and standing water can both lead to unwanted visitors inside your home. Mosquitoes and insects tend to live, breed, and thrive in standing water, and mold growth can spike in the event of moisture. Getting rid of standing water near your home, in gutters, old tires, plastic covers tarps, pools, and buckets can certainly help.
While we can't totally alleviate the effects of flooding during severe weather, developing a flood plan for your family can help out.
Create a barrier of protection for areas that can be inundated with floodwaters, by way of perhaps sandbags. Additionally, secure food and water for your family in the event that clean, drinking water is scarce.
Officials urge storing in a cool place, at least 3 days of water for each individual person. Do not use or drink contaminated water for anything: brushing your teeth, washing dishes, making ice, or preparing food.
After the Storm, keep older and younger people with sensitive immune systems out of the home until your home or business can be restored by SERVPRO of West Kirkwood/Sunset Hills. We are here to help 24/7/365. 314-858-1688
Desiccant Dehumidifiers utilize chemical attraction instead of condensation to remove water from the air. Because they do not use condensation, they are not limited by low dew point temperatures, and when used properly, they produce the lowest vapor pressure of any dehumidifier. Portable desiccant dehumidifiers work best in cool and/or dry environments. The cooler and drier the air going into the desiccant, the drier the air will be coming out.
Desiccants are commonly used to dry dense materials (hardwood floors and plaster walls) due to the large vapor pressure differentials they can create between the surface and the air, Desiccants excel at large loss drying, because they can be made in virtually any size.
Desiccants do not collect water in a pan for automatic pump-out. Instead, they produce damp reactivation air, which must be vented outside the structure using temporary ducting. This venting often results in a pressure differential in the drying environment. The dry "processed air" is ducted into the affected area.
Desiccant dehumidifiers range in size and configuration dramatically. Desiccants used in restorative drying can be as small as a roll-on suitcase or as large as two semi tractor-trailers. Large desiccants are often self-contained dehumidification systems, utilizing onboard generators and running on propane or diesel fuel. When large catastrophic events occur, such as hurricanes or flooding, large desiccants can provide a means of dehumidification when little or no power is available.
How to effectively utilize Drying Chambers
Drying Chamber created by containing the affected portion of the building.
One way to gain efficiency in a drying environment is to set up a drying chamber. A drying chamber is defined as the area in which the Project Manager will manipulate and control temperature, humidity and air flow to promote evaporation. Drying Chambers can be set up in a number of ways, including:
- Closing doors
- Taping up plastic sheeting
- Erecting semi-permanent barriers with plastic sheeting and expanding poles (containment)
Inside the drying chamber is the best location for basic wet (salvageable) furnishing and contents. They will dry along with the structure.
Drying chambers can be very effective for large losses. If only a portion of the building is affected, we can contain the affected area to help speed up the drying process. Drying chambers can be an effective procedure for containing the potential spread of contaminants. Isolate contaminated materials by erecting containment barriers. Containment is even more effective when negative air pressure in maintained in the contaminated area. Negative air pressure is produced by exhausting air from the area with an air filtration device (AFD) while using barriers to restrict incoming air.