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A Note from the Chairman: Hurricane Harvey

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with those in southeast Texas who have been affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.

We’ve heard of many instances of registrants and Certified Firms calling in with offers to assist both southeast Texas residents and their fellow colleagues in storm-ravaged areas. This heartwarming display of goodwill speaks to the core of what the IICRC represents, and we’re proud of each and every one of you.

For those who want to help, but aren’t sure how; consider the following:

Donate. Consider donating to reputable disaster relief agencies that are experienced and prepared for such disasters and who have programs in place necessary to administer to the needs of people and pets – food, medical services, clothing, shelter, etc.

Subcontract. IICRC-Certified Firms can contact other Certified Firms in disaster-damaged areas. If your firm can spare a vehicle with an IICRC-certified Journeyman or Master Water Restorer, you may be able to serve as a subcontractor with a local Certified Firm firm that has the contacts and resources to provide leads, and follow-up services after your technician leaves.  

Pack up and go. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to provide assistance in a storm-damaged area. Foremost, flood water is Category 3 water, because it contains soil bacteria and fungi, bird and animal droppings (possibly raw sewage and pathogens), decaying insects and animals, pesticides, fertilizers and a variety of hazardous or pathogenic materials. As flood water recedes, microorganisms amplify in dark, damp cavities. Therefore, restorers must provide for the safety and health of workers and occupants with site-specific training, safety equipment and personal protective equipment. Other factors include:

  • Much of the damage is so severe that restoration services simply won’t be needed.  Demolition and eventually rebuilding with new materials, in some cases, is the only practical solution.
  • Communication, power and municipal services have been disrupted. Be prepared with generators and on-board water tanks, as electricity and water may not be available.
  • Likewise, gasoline may be sparse, so it is a good idea to transport your own fuel on an open trailer to power equipment.
  • In many cases, roads into storm-damaged areas will be impassible because of downed trees and power lines, and roads and bridges could be washed out or under water.
  • Food and water may be difficult to find. Take a supply or plan for re-supply on a regular basis by someone from your company or from outside the area.
  • Accommodations will be scarce. Entire communities have been evacuated, so unless you have an RV that operates independently with its own power source, you will likely have trouble finding shelter.
  • Insurance companies will be overwhelmed initially, and therefore may be slow to respond with much needed information about what to do and coverage issues. Moreover, storm victims are often told to do nothing until an insurance company representative arrives – which could be weeks later – causing water damage to increase and mold growth to escalate.
  • Consider how to finance your response. Storm victims may be in dire straits financially, and insurance companies will be up to their ears in paperwork and may be slow to respond. Furthermore, consider these recommendations from IICRC Board member Jeff Bishop on dealing with uninsured losses. As stated in an Aug. 29 Washington Post article, a staggering 80 percent of local homeowners lack flood insurance.
  • Be prepared to offer advice, foremost beginning with emphasis on personal protection and safety. Property owners will ask questions about restorability. Generally, highly absorbent soft furnishings, such as pillows, mattresses and upholstered furniture cannot be restored because of deep microbial contamination. Hard surface furnishings, such as wood, metal or plastic materials, typically can be restored with thorough wet washing and disinfecting. Dishes, utensils, clothing and household fabrics might be restored with thorough machine washing with appropriate detergents.
  • Anticipate that many storm victims will be anxious to begin mitigation immediately. If uninsured, there are many things that they can do to minimize both the scope and cost of their loss. After ensuring that safety issues are addressed (e.g., structural integrity, electrical shock, PPE), they can begin a variety of labor-intensive activities (e.g., contents removal; wall, insulation and flooring demolition), which the restoration contractor may not have time to do. That allows contractors to concentrate on pressure cleaning and disinfectant application.  

I am proud to be part of an organization and industry that can have a positive impact on communities affected by natural disasters. Your role in helping people get their lives back following such events is critical. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all, and know that the IICRC is behind you as you take on this important work.

Thank you for all that you do,

Pete Duncanson
IICRC Chairman

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