The Loss Protocol
In this chapter I will explain the loss protocol process, which by and large is similar from one insurer to the next regardless of where you live. There are however, major differences in water damage losses, mold losses and fire damages losses, so I’ll share the loss protocol information on all three. Due to the potential health hazards of Mold contamination, I have given the subject matter much more attention.
- Water Loss Protocol If you have a mortgage, you most likely have insurance which is required by lending institutions. There are multiple lines of insurance, but for the subject of property damage we will stick to P&C which is Property and Casualty Insurance. When a homeowner purchases insurance for their property the first step that is taken is finding an agent to sell the insurance policy. There are countless insurance companies that deal in P&C. Once the insurance has been purchased by paying your premium you are completely covered against any and all perils, right? Wrong! The majority of Home Owners policies do not cover water damage caused by foundation issues,run off, torrential rain storms, and or sewer backups past the sewer trap on the outside of your property. Contact your agent to determine if you have an endorsement for sewage back-up losses. Sure, it is a little extra cost, but is well worth the additional cost. Sewage related drying and repair jobs are the highest in cost by category.
- When a property damage occurs, the first action typically taken is when the property owner makes contact with his insurance agent, or perhaps contacts a disaster restoration provider directly. If it is after normal business hours, you may be directed to contact the claims center, which are manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The insurer will initiate a claim for your property. Once the claim has been opened it does not guarantee that the services of a disaster restoration company will be covered, until at which time a field adjuster makes an on-site visit to inspect the source of the loss.There are times when it may be evident from the description of the occurrence as the property owner describes what caused the occurrence that an Insurer may indicate that it is likely not a covered peril. A perfect example is water that originates from outside of the property. Examples; river flooding, torrential rains that cause seepage through your foundation, etc. These type of perils may not be covered events unless the property owner has flood insurance.
According the IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification), which sets the standards for the cleaning and restoration industry and water damage restoration training, there are several differentlevels and classes involved in liquid destruction. From the IICRC’s S-500 standards, there are three categories describing the type of liquid involved.
• Category 1. This is liquid from a clean and sanitary source, such as faucets, toilet tanks, drinking fountains, etc. But, category one can quickly degrade into category two.
• Category 2. This category of liquid used to be called grey water, and is described as having a level of contaminates that may cause illness or discomfort if ingested. Sources include dishwasher or washing machine overflows, flush from sink drains, and toilet overflow with some urine but not feces.
• Category 3. This is the worst classification and is grossly unsanitary. It could cause severe illness or death if ingested. It used to be called black water, and sources include sewer backup, flooding from rivers or streams, toilet overflow with feces, and stagnant liquid that has begun to support bacterial growth.
Next are the classes of destruction.
• Class 1. The lowest and easiest to deal with, this has a slow evaporation rate. Only part of a room or area was affected, there is little or no wet carpet, and the moisture has only affected materials with a low permeance rate, such as plywood or concrete.
• Class 2. With a fast evaporation rate, this level affects an entire room, carpeting, or cushioning, the wetness has wicked up the walls at least 12”, and there is moisture remaining in structural materials.
• Class 3. This class has the fastest evaporation rate, and ceilings, walls, insulation, carpet and sub-floors are all saturated.The liquid may have come from overhead.
• Class 4. This class is labeled as specialty drying situations, which means there has been enough liquid and time to saturate materials with very low permeance, such as hardwood, brick, or stone.
For water damage claims, the disaster restoration contractor will assess the damage and plan for returning the property back to pre-loss condition with three separate phases;
Phase 1 – Mitigation
The mitigation phase focuses on reducing further damage from the occurrence. This might include water extraction, placing foam blocks under furniture legs to prevent staining,boarding up roofs or windows if the occurrence was from wind driven damage and much more. On category 3 water losses, nearly everything that was impacted by the contaminated water will be removed. Most often drywall will be cut up 2 feet from the floor or higher depending on the amount of water that entered the structure to allow for cleaning and sanitizing of the structural members. The drywall and other materials, including some personal property will be bagged and removed from the property after inventorying and authorization from the property owner. On all water damage losses the restorer will apply anti-microbial agent to all affected surfaces to inhibit the potential for mold growth. Most restorers will have the property owner sign a document acknowledging that the property was treated with anti – microbial and that the property owner was advised to stay out of, or limit exposure to treated areas for 4 – 6 hours.
On the initial visit the Disaster Restoration contractor will most likely ask for and expect the property owner to pay the deductible.
During the mitigation phase, the restorer will gather as much information from the property owner as possible with questions like;
- When did the loss occur?
- Have you already filed a claim?
- Have you previously had damage to the same general area?
- Are any of the occupants of the property asthmatic, have COPD, or undergoing chemo therapy? (These questions relate to the application of the anti-microbial as well dust and debris that may become air borne during the dry out).
- Do you know how much your deductible is?
- Do you know or have any idea of where the loss originated?
Measurements are taken for preparation of writing an estimate for the repair work, along with pictures and video of the damages.
The restorer will look for pre-existing damage and make you aware of any discovery. An example might be during the mitigation phase the restorer discovers what appears to be mold growth. If the water intrusion happened less than 48 hours prior to their dispatch, the mold growth was likely pre-existing. Be prepared to sign a pre-existing mold hold harmless release form. Air movement should never be used directly on mold as it can cause cross contamination into other areas of the property. The professional restorer will apply a specially treated adhesive backed clear film product called Mold Hold®directly on the suspected mold to prevent the releasing of mold spores during the drying phase.
Phase 2 – Drying
The drying phase begins by taking readings of the relative humidity, temperature, thermal scanning of walls and ceilings to detect moisture. In cases where it is believed that water may have ran between walls, a moisture meter with specialized pins will be inserted into wall cavities to determine if insulation has been compromised.
The professional restorer will also take the same type of readings (usually on another level of the property) called the dry standard, to establish the EMC (Equal Moisture Content). By doing this he knows that the drywall in the basement will be dry when it reaches the same percentage as the unaffected area tested on the level above. While there are known moisture values on any and every structural component used in both residential and commercial buildings, the dry standard will assist the restorer in finding anomalies that may be beneficial for the property owners to know.
After moisture readings have been taken and documented the professional restorer will write a drying plan of action. The drying plan is critical to reducing further damages as well as promoting the fastest drying time possible, under the current conditions. Once the restorer shares his drying plan the property owner will know in advance what the process will look like.
Sample Drying Plan
1). 1st 24 hours – reduce the RH (Relative Humidity) from 68.7% to 40%. (Science has proven that damages are reduced significantly when structures are at 40% or below, following a water damage.
2.) Set 10 Air Movers.Placement of Air Movers every 10-15 lineal feet is based on industry recommendations.
3). Set 1 LGR (Low Grain Dehumidifier) based on size, manufacturer, and industry recommendations.
4). Set up containment. Containment is clear plastic with non-evasive retractable poles that run from floor to ceiling which is put into place so that heat and energy from the equipment being set up is not being wasted by drying areas that have no water damage. Containment reduces overall drying times. In some areas the restorer may simply close doors and asked that they remain closed to serve as containment barriers.
5). Return approximately 24 hours later to determine of the RH goal of 40% was reached and re position air movers as necessary to continue drying. If this was a Category 1 type of loss and drywall had been left in place, the walls would get metered once again to note how much of a decrease in water migration up the wall has rescinded. This same process will normally be followed until at which time EMC (Equal Moisture Content) has been reached.
A professional restorer may choose to validate all readings with more than one type of moisture detection meter.
Phase 3 – The Repair
The repair begins after the property has been validated as dry and after the estimate has been approved by the insurer and property owner. Some disaster restoration contractors offer drying services only and do not get involved on the repair side of things. If this is the case, then either the drying restoration contractor may offer names of qualified contractors for the repair work, or your agent may have 2 or 3 repairs firm names for you to contact, or you may choose to hire someone that you already know to be qualified to do the repair.
By the time your property has been completely dried the professional restorer will have already written a repair estimate. It is during this phase that your insurer will usually dispatch an adjuster to your property to assess the damages related to the water loss. Through the 25 years in service, there has rarely been a time where I didn’t make myself available to meet with the property owner and the adjuster. It’s a simple courtesy that most customers have loved. This also allows for questions regarding methodology and the drying process to be shared with the adjuster. Adjusters love it as well because since they weren’t there during the mitigation and drying phases, they get a good picture of what had transpired, which makes their job of estimating that much easier. I highly recommend that you ask that your restorer be onsite for the adjuster inspection so that he may ensure that your adjuster is on the same page as you and your restorer.
During the walk through with the adjuster – notes, measurements and other important information is shared. It is normally during this visit that all three parties (which I equate to a 3 way marriage between the client, restorer, and adjuster) come to agreement on the scope of damage and the cost of the repair and subsequently what the insurer will be paying you the insured. Some insurers authorize their field adjusters to write checks for the repair work while on site. In cases where floor covering will be replaced, the adjuster will take samples and send to an independent specialized laboratory for an analysis regarding quality and replacement cost.