A water pipe bursts inside one of your properties, and your maintenance staff responds quickly to stop the flow. After that, you’ll have to make sure areas incurring water damage are addressed and the salvageable building materials are dry before you can begin the work of returning your property to its former condition. You’re in a race against the onset of mold, rot, and further damage. Given the duties already assigned to your in-house team and the equipment they have on hand, you decide to call for help.
Restoration companies are perfect for that job. They can typically respond to emergencies 24/7 and will be carrying the tools and supplies necessary to control the situation. And while many restoration contractors can also handle the repairs necessary to get your property back to operational condition, there’s a necessary step hidden within the restoration process that often gets missed — and it’s a step that can cause big problems down the road if you fail to address it now.
Remediation Often Gets Missed
Any building site that has suffered water damage, fire damage, or other impacts that will require substantial repair and reconstruction should be evaluated for the presence of mold, lead-based paint, asbestos, and other toxins. Hazardous building materials are carefully regulated and can be a hot button for public criticism. The term used for addressing those hidden hazards is “remediation.”
Remediators identify the types of hazardous materials present and determine which building materials contain them. They then create a strategy for compliance that includes proper disposal of damaged materials and the replacement or control of toxins present. There are strict guidelines in the law concerning what can and cannot be done when hazardous building materials are present — whether the owner thinks they are an issue or not.
Many people, for instance, believe asbestos is no longer a concern in building construction, but that is a dangerous fallacy. Asbestos can be present in common materials such as floor tiles, insulation, and textured ceilings. Rules from the EPA and other regulatory agencies can carry stiff fines and consequences for property owners who sidestep concerns about remediation.
Moving on to reconstruction without a remediation plan is like covering a severe wound with an adhesive bandage: You may not be able to see the damage once it is hidden, but that doesn’t mean you’ve properly tended to the underlying threat. That can produce severe consequences.
A California hospital, for instance, failed to address the release of lead and asbestos in construction materials following a flood at the facility. Consequently, the hospital was fined by regulators and directed to implement new measures to prevent the lapse in remediation from occurring again.
The requirement isn’t limited to medical facilities, though. Multifamily properties, office buildings, and other built structures are required to adhere to the law. A Florida church was sued when a fire at the location exposed nearby residents to asbestos, and a luxury motel in Maryland came under fire for failing to remediate following a flood. Remediation is necessary for all structures and business types.
Much of the time the violations are handled privately with little coverage in the press, and the dollar amount of fines and judgements isn’t publicly released. One thing is certain: Every property owner named in a failure-to-remediate lawsuit invariably loses time, money, and reputation in the process.
Emergency Response the Right Way
Certainly, you must address the emergency, but don’t neglect making decisions about remediation before you reconstruct. Stop the process long enough to inspect the premises, consider the future, and create a solid strategy for moving forward. Correctly enacted and documented, remediation can benefit you over and over again. When you know which hazards are present and where they are located, future jobs can proceed with minimal delays from local, state, and federal agencies meant to protect the workers and occupants. You will eventually need to identify toxins present on your property. Why not do it while the affected area is already out of service?
There is a price to pay for releasing toxins in the built environment. You risk the reputation of your property, liability regarding the habitability and exposure for tenants, and the cost of additional cleanup not contemplated in the original scope of work to be done. Other issues also come into play, such as stipulated damages for delays from companies waiting to do their part but construction schedules aren’t firm. If the incident resulted in injuries or there may otherwise be litigation involved the level of scrutiny and documentation becomes an even higher priority.
The failure to properly remediate most often occurs when there is a rush to respond to damages without full consideration of building materials that are regulated for their health effects. FACS teams can step in alongside you even after the inspection for toxic materials is completed. We oversee the work of the remediator to confirm and document the steps taken. Our presence not only makes sure the efforts taken are effective, but can save you considerable time and money later on.
Don’t rush. Stop first to see the whole picture. Then plan accordingly. FACS experts can help you every step of the way.
For more information, call us at (888) 711-9998.