When addressing HVAC systems and content liability, it is extremely important that remediation teams adhere to proper protocol. In this article, we will explore the importance of cleaning damaged HVAC and ventilation systems, as well as what steps remediators must take to protect themselves, as well as damaged client property. 

HVAC and Ventilation Systems

When it comes to cleaning and restoration methods following a fire event, it is imperative that all HVAC and ventilation systems be addressed. In addition to heating and cooling systems, restorers must also pay special attention to other ventilation mechanisms, including those like exhaust ducts and filters in kitchens. Moreover, remediators must move and clean behind, around and under appliances, and must clean the exterior and interior of vent hood filters, mounting cavities and subsurface areas. Bathroom vents will also need to be addressed. 

Common HVAC heating and cooling systems come in various types. No matter the variety, these systems will need to be cleaned thoroughly following a fire, particularly if they were in operation during or immediately following the fire event. 

As far as ease of cleaning, there are certain HVAC systems that are easier to clean than others. Metal ducts, for example, are the easiest for remediators to restore. Vinyl ducts, on the other hand, are much more difficult, while fiberglass ducts are often nearly impossible to rehabilitate. Nevertheless, your remediator will do what he or she can to fully restore any HVAC and ventilation systems to the best of their ability. 

Once HVAC systems have been properly inspected, it will be determined whether or not they are in need of cleaning. If it is determined that a HVAC system needs to be rehabilitated, restorers may take on the task themselves, or they may subcontract the work. Whatever the case may be, the affected HVAC system will have to be dismantled, cleaned, deodorized and reassembled again. 

All HVAC and ventilation cleanings should be in compliance with the standards set forth by the NADCA, or National Air Duct Cleaning Association. Nevertheless, as already mentioned, there will be instances where HVAC systems won’t be able to be restored. This is true of HVAC systems composed of fiberglass but also of systems composed of vinyl flex ducts or galvanized sheet metal with insulation on the interior. HVAC systems of this sort that have incurred serious smoke damage will have to be entirely replaced. 

Liability of Fire and Smoke Affected Content

With HVAC and ventilation systems out of the way, it is time to focus on content cleaning. “Contents” are any hard or soft objects or furnishings that were moved into a home or establishment and would be taken again if another move were to take place.

Liability and Items of Value

Many times, contents that have been affected by smoke and fire may be of high monetary value, or may be considered antiques. And yet, there are also some items that may not have monetary value, but to the client, the sentimental value of the item can’t be matched. For this reason, restorers may find themselves in tough situations in which they may need to try to restore a valuable item for the sake of the client that may potentially be unsalvageable. 

Nevertheless, a remediator can only do so much in terms of cleaning. If it is determined that a certain item is, indeed, unable to be restored, the remediator may request a signed authorization for the disposal of that item.

Liability and Pre-Existing Conditions 

After a fire and smoke event has taken place, it is imperative that a restorer document damages that occurred prior to their arrival. This does not mean that the affected item will not be restored, but rather, that the remediator will not be held liable for it. 

For this reason, clients may find remediators taking pictures, videos and other forms of documentation of pre-existing damages to vindicate themselves against lawsuits or liability factors that either were, or were not, their fault. 

Liability and Pack-Outs

When a structure is “packed out”, items that were damaged by smoke or fire are packed up and transported to an off-site facility. This, of course, increases the chance of further damage, and can be a major liability on the end of the restoration company. For this reason, many remediation teams will do their best to remediate affected items on-site, rather than off. 

Even so, there are some entities through which pack-outs are required. When this is the case, items that are damaged or waterlogged will be packed up, shipped out, analyzed and restored off-site.

Processes Matter

Whether addressing HVAC and ventilation systems or the content items of fire and smoke affected homes and structures, the processes that restorers use matter. Abandoning proper protocol, such as failing to properly clean ventilation systems or neglecting to properly document pre-existing damages, can lead to unnecessary headaches, both for property owners and restorative companies, alike. As such, it is imperative that remediators take great care to ensure that correct procedures are followed to prevent complications down the road.