Smoke & Damage

The aftermath from a fire can be devastating for any property owner.   The water damage alone from firefighters battling the fire can be extreme, and when you add in the effects from smoke, soot, and heat distortion, the damage multiplies exponentially. Latent effects such as mold and other serious air quality issues can also appear later if not handled up front.  As a property manager, you need to be prepared to deal with the effects of a fire, but you also must have some preventative measures in place to minimalize the damage. The best means for this is having a fully maintained fire sprinkler system in place to prevent a fire from spreading and causing far more damage than the comparatively small amount of water a sprinkler system uses to extinguish a fire.

Fire travels extremely quickly due to the combustibles we keep in our homes, and businesses, and our properties are absolutely full of them.  It is a common misconception that a fire spreads rapidly due to the materials used in construction. Although that plays a part, it is the combustible materials like woods and plastics that accelerate the temperature and the pace the fire travels exponentially. When most people picture a Fire Sprinkler System operating, they see every single sprinkler head in a room spraying water everywhere and creating massive flooding, however this is not the case. Fire sprinkler systems are designed to prevent fires from spreading rapidly, but without a full deluge of water in all areas of the building. Each sprinkler has a specific temperature-sensitive rating, and only when it heats past that point, does it release water in that localized area, usually to one room, and so firefighters don’t even have the opportunity to douse your property with thousands of gallons of water. Clearly with this much less water being poured on your property, a building with fire sprinklers uses dramatically less water, and inevitably causes far less damage. Since fire sprinkler systems are designed to spring into action the moment a fire sparks, you mitigate the damage before the fire department even shows up.

Many property managers have debated this as trading one catastrophe for another – a flood versus a fire; but the reality is a properly functioning sprinkler system will reduce the amount of water used to extinguish the fire, and keep the repair costs to a fraction versus that of fires in a building without a sprinkler system. Recent studies have shown that on average a property protected with fire sprinkler system, will only use about 340 gallons of water to extinguish a fire, compared to properties without sprinkler systems when fought by firefighters alone, which will see close to 3000 gallons of water to extinguish the fire. Additional studies have shown that sprinkler systems are between 98% and 99.8% effective in the control of fire. In the incidence regarding ineffectiveness of sprinkler systems are usually due to building owners not keeping up with the required maintenance and inspections codes.

Acting quickly once the fire has been extinguished is crucial to avoid any further damages to keep remediation cost to a minimum.  In addition to the carnage that the fire itself causes to the structure, smoke damage requires a substantial amount of attention as well. Smoke from a fire will leave staining on any fabric it comes in contact with including clothes and furniture and can also cause discoloration of painted walls. Other objects such as piping, appliances and especially electronic components, which are very vulnerable, may begin to rust, pit, and corrode. Smoke can also cause damage to your wood flooring and furniture which may require re-sanding, re-staining, or replacing altogether. It will leave a very a strong odor that must be handled by a professional cleaning service as it is extremely hard to eliminate.  Smoke damage can also cause health issues if not handled by a professional as smoke can get into ductwork resulting lung irritation and other health issues. Like smoke damage, soot will also get worse if left untreated. Soot is difficult to clean and can be dangerous to one’s health due to a number of chemical compounds. Repairing chemical contamination can typically cost between $1k and $3k. Due to the difficulty in removing soot, replacing the effected items is usually the best choice. The longer soot remains on a surface the harder it is to remove.

Here in Hawaii we have a ton of older buildings that are more susceptible to fire damage, so as property managers you must be prepared to handle it.  Without a doubt, the best way to extinguish a fire quickly and eliminate the majority of fire damage, is to install and maintain annually a Fire Sprinkler system in your property. 

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