Damage prevention – minimising risks
A lot has gone on in the field of preventative fire protection over the past few years. All insurance providers, workers and chambers of commerce, as well as fire prevention agency experts, etc., have started information campaigns for a wide array of target audiences – and not least in their own interest. You can find detailed recommendations on this topic on their websites.
The legal situation, too, has progressed significantly in this regard (employee training, fire prevention officers, SiGe [health & safety protection] planning, etc.).
Despite all these guidelines and recommendations, the specific consideration of each property and all the separate production stages has proven to be very important. This takes place expediently during the brainstorming phase as part of drawing up the emergency plan.
Protective measures should be determined taking into consideration any risks and hazards for the company, but also in terms of operational aspects.
Preventative fire protection must be more than the sum of the statutory provisions and guidelines complied with. Only the combination of a strong awareness of risk and hazards (by the management and the whole workforce) will create a sustainable basis for effective preventative fire protection.
Preventative fire protection starts with the procurement strategy and continues with the equal parts strategy, right up to the point of using a potential group of companies or outsourcing.
Securing insurance cover is also part of damage prevention.
Other key words include:
- Fulfilling regulatory requirements
- Orderliness and cleanliness
- Sufficient lighting
- Rules on handling naked flames
- Smoking in the factory
- Rules on handling hazardous substances
- Employee training (fire alarm drills)
- Size of fire zones
- Structural fire protection
- Emergency power supply
- Fire extinguishers
- Escape and emergency routes
- Fire and smoke alarm systems
- Fire brigade
- Fire protection plan
- Chain of communication in the event of damage
- Communicating with the media – press spokesperson, etc.
Emergency measures to mitigate damage:
- Divert fumes into the atmosphere as quickly as possible
- Shut down ventilation and air-conditioning systems
- Shut down appliances and production facilities
- Close off supply lines (gas, electricity, district heat, compressed air, etc.)
- Keep doors and gates closed (avoid draughts because of the potential dispersing of harmful substances)
- Secure non-affected areas from any spreading pollution
- Switch off uninterruptible power supply and remove buffer batteries
- Close off building openings making them watertight
- Shut off or secure hazardous areas
- Take precautions against looting, industrial espionage, curious onlookers, etc.
- Protect plant components and equipment from water
- Carry out chloride quick tests (to check for the presence of the aggressive effects of combustion gases)
- Define protective zones that can only be entered by those wearing appropriate personal protective equipment
- Transfer mobile appliances and equipment to non-affected areas
- Clear away debris
- Extract standing water
- Heat the rooms to at least +10°C and lower relative air humidity levels by means of dehumidifying systems to under 40% (reducing the risk of corrosion)
- Conduct a preliminary dry clean of facilities (extraction) and
- Install temporary anti-corrosion protection (e.g. MIBAG 2100 professional).
- Never conduct operating tests on electrical equipment under any circumstances (the condensed smoke causes leakage currents and is therefore an acute short-circuit hazard)
- Take steps to recover data
An excerpt of fire clean-up operation methods:
- Dry suctioning
- High-pressure cleaning with hot water and chemical additives (commonest application: standard method)
- Wiping clean manually
- Extraction cleaning in a closed circuit
- Dry ice blasting technique
- Use of a specialist cleaning device in an open or closed system
- Odour neutralisation by means of ozone generators
- Ventilation duct cleaning using robots (combined approaches are possible and often necessary)
- Peel-off technique
Homeowner insurance tips
Insurance protection does not apply in the case of gross negligence:
for the insurer to pay for the damage the fire must not have been started deliberately, nor have been caused due to gross negligence. The question of how to differentiate gross negligence from minor negligence (which is covered by the insurance) offers the courts fulsome scope for discussion.
Example: is it gross negligence when a mother, weighed down by the stress of Christmas, forgets to blow out a candle upon leaving the house because she is forced to restrain her ten-year-old son, who suddenly doesn’t want to get in the car, although her husband is already honking the car horn impatiently from the street below? No, the court ruled. But you would be best off not hoping for a judge as understanding as this!
With any insurance policy, take note of the sum insured:
often, too little attention is paid to the sum insured. If the value of the house or contents is higher than the sum insured it is referred to as being under-insured. The damage will then only be compensated on an aliquot basis. If, for example, the sum insured is EUR 50,000, yet the household effects are worth EUR 100,000, in the event of a claim only half would be paid out. A policy with a waiver of underinsurance prevents this sort of unpleasant surprise. It contains an adjustment clause with which the sum insured increases annually in line with the rate of inflation.
Tips on the drying process
Preparatory work for the drying process
The first step is to remove and dispose of any wet wall and floor coverings that cannot be restored in any case. The priority is to extract any standing water in the damp course directly, which considerably shortens drying times. To do this, a vacuum device is attached to an automatic water separator. The water extracted from the damp course is collected in the water separator and automatically pumped out using a high-performance, auto-suctioning centrifugal pump with float switch. These processes are electronically controlled via a relay in the water separator. The damp air emitted from the turbine is released into the atmosphere.
Trocknung auf natürliche Weise
Natural drying is only efficient during the winter months. Since the cold air outside contains less moisture it is let into the space (ventilation). When the air is heated (by the heating system) this air absorbs moisture from the wet surfaces. Once the air is saturated the damp air is released outside again. This process is repeated approx. every hour (= shock ventilation). The use of ventilators benefits the drying procedure.
Drying through heating
Since water vapour occupies a much larger volume than air, simply heating it (without ventilating) results in excess pressure. The moisture is thereby pushed even further into the inner structure of the building. Heating without ensuring sufficient ventilation is, therefore, counter-productive.
There are essentially two techniques for drying artificially, including:
- Drying via the condensation method and
- Drying via the adsorption method
Condensing dehumidifiers dry the air by ‘cooling’ it. The cold air gives off moisture according to the laws of physics and this condensate collects in collection vessels. These need to be emptied regularly. Air dried by this method takes on moisture in turn from the surfaces in the room, gradually leading to all items and structural parts of the building drying out.
Further, more elaborate explanations of these two drying techniques can be found in the ‘Drying equipment’ section.
Condensation on cold surfaces
If the temperature of the building falls below the dew point, the moisture in the air will condense and form droplets on the surfaces. The wall ‘sweats’, the wall surface becomes damp and the conditions become favourable for mould formation.
Noise levels using artificial drying techniques
The amount of noise produced by the drying equipment used in artificial drying is generally acceptable from adjacent rooms. The extent to which use of the premises is really tolerable should always be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
mibag installs extremely quiet, noise-reducing drying equipment in domestic or work areas as standard, as well as where special requirements exist. This mibag design goes by the name of ‘whisper drying’.
Drying methods and systems
With relevant expertise and the appropriate technical equipment water damage can be dried out in a way that causes zero or minimal destruction. For this purpose we utilise a special technology specifically developed for floor and wall coverings!
The principle behind it involves allowing air to reach the structure that has been subjected to moisture. Through the specific drying technique used, the whole fabric of the building can be dried out in an almost non-destructive way. Following successful drying the structure is returned to its original condition. By and large, the premises remain usable while artificial drying is taking place – depending on which drying system is chosen!
General information on the overall system of dehumidifiers
Condensing and/or adsorption dryers + fans + ventilators + hose lines are the basic elements for a dry air purge system. The specific dehumidification system assembled will depend on the task at hand and the residents’ requirements. The dehumidification units for use in industrial and commercial areas operate at the highest efficiency levels and are not therefore fitted with special noise-reducing features.
Within office-based, domestic and residential settings mibag uses equipment fitted with extremely effective noise-reducing features as standard. We call the drying process that uses these extra noise-reducing devices ‘whisper drying’.
For special drying requirements and local, particularly wet areas the dry air purge is combined with infra-red drying plates, heating elements and microwave equipment.
Dry air purge by injection
The traditional system of dry air purge is deployed until almost all types of insulation have fully dried out. This is the most common procedure for floating screed, double-skin façades, drywalls, timbered ceilings, suspended ceilings, etc.
The requisite number of holes (diameter 10-50mm) is bored through the screed or the wall covering by means of a core drilling machine and the relevant air nozzles inserted. Dry, hot air is forced into the construction by means of a hose system from the blower unit or combi-dryer.
In order to transport the dry air efficiently to the insulation layer different types of air nozzles can be utilised, depending on the type of surface layer. In the substructure the dry, hot air becomes saturated with the moisture from the insulation material and escapes via the edge joints or other outlets into the room, which has been closed off from the air outside. The damp air is dried by the condenser or adsorption dryers situated in the room and is then in turn blown into the substructure or the insulation layers. This special circuit allows the drying process to continue until the equilibrium moisture content specific to the material in question is reached.
In most drying scenarios an adsorption dryer is connected upstream of the side channel blower and/or the turbine. This enables extremely dry air to be transferred to the insulation layer area (up to 5% relative humidity). Adsorption dryers demand slightly higher energy consumption and achieve faster, more efficient drying. In principle, all insulation materials can be dried without causing damage.
Suspended ceilings, wooden floors, timbered ceilings and double-skin masonry are best suited to a dry air purge system.
All wooden components must be protected from excessive drying and any wooden musical instruments should be removed from the drying zone! The optimal efficiency level of the dehumidification units is generally around 25-30°C and 80% relative air humidity. The drying system should remain in constant operation, keep windows and doors closed!
- Maintenance of screed, insulation, underfloor heating
- Floor coverings remain for the most part undamaged
- When using the wall rails or spinning system floor coverings are retained in all cases
Air cushion drying
Air cushion drying is used for drying damp surfaces. This involves stretching a plastic sheet in front of the affected wall. Super pre-dried air is blown behind the sheet. With this ‘air cushion’ drying can be carried out on specific areas and limited to wet parts of the wall only. With old and especially with thick brick walls it is recommended to knock off the plaster, brush down the brick surface with wire brushes and scrape out the masonry joints. By doing this the evaporation surface will be enlarged by up to 50% and the pores on the surface of the construction material opened. This enables a correspondingly successful drying procedure to be achieved in a significantly shorter period of time.
Dry air purge system in a vacuum or low-pressure process
This method involves the ‘dry air purge’ being carried out in reverse. Here the dry air in the room is sucked through the wall or floor construction using a vacuum or low-pressure process and then emitted, filtered, into the room. The suctioned damp air is dispersed (dried) into the room again with condenser or adsorption dryers and is available once more for suctioning into the substructure (dry air purge circuit).
Through the use of micro and hepa filters the air extracted from the insulation layer is ridded of suspended matter such as the ultra-fine fibres from insulating materials, fungal spores, etc. The air in the room is therefore not contaminated with harmful pollutants.
The damp air extracted from the substructure can also be diverted to outside or to another room. Prior to diverting it to another room the air must be dried accordingly to ensure that no damage is consequently caused by condensation.
Advantages of the vacuum or low-pressure process:
- Highly efficient drying, since the suctioning also results in microscopically small water droplets being extracted as well (especially in the initial phase of the drying).
- Emissions-free drying is guaranteed through the use of micro-filters and/or hepa filters.
- There is a pleasant indoor atmospheric climate without a rise in temperature.
- When appliances are stored in another room there is no disturbance due to noise and the rooms can continue to be used while they are undergoing the drying process.
- The fabric of the building is dried in a very gentle way.
- Water cannot be ‘pressed’ into areas that were still dry prior to the measures commencing.
Dry air purge in in the wall rail system
This system is used for the complete preservation of all floor coverings. Bringing the air in or extracting it takes place solely via the wall rail in the edge joint. This type of drying system does not require bore holes as inlets/outlets for air to be blown through and the uppermost floor covering (parquet, carpet, stone, tiles, etc.) can remain in place intact.
How the wall rail system works:
the wall rail is mounted via the exposed edge strips. The dry air is injected into the substructure and suctioned out at the opposite wall again.
Dry air purge using the corner injection method
(For rooms with carpeted floors) The carpet is lifted from the screed underneath at the corners of the room without causing damage. A special fastening attached to a hose is placed inside a 50mm core drill hole in the screed. The drying is achieved by means of a hose system using either a vacuum or an injection method. Once the drying process has come to an end the floor construction is filled in and the core drill hole sealed. The carpet is fitted back in place again. This ensures that the carpet is left in the same condition as before.
Dry air purge using a spinning system
This system of dry air purge is predominantly used when rooms with wet floor construction must continue to be used. With this method the artificial drying of the floor construction takes place from the floor below, through bore holes in the solid ceiling. Since it is not usually possible to create large air inlet openings in a solid ceiling for structural and technical reasons, a smaller diameter of bore hole is used in this instance (diameter of 10-20mm). Plastic pipes are inserted into these bore holes down to the insulation layers of the floor construction and, using a flexible hose system, attached to the drying equipment or blower units.
- The floor coverings of the upper flat can remain in situ!
- Since the rooms from which drying is carried out are not occupied, highly efficient machines can be placed in them.
Dry air purge using the tile spacer system
As per the spinning system described earlier, however this system is used for tiled floors that are not to be damaged. Bore holes (6-8mm in diameter) are drilled in the tile spacers and warm, dry air injected through them. The purge holes are also drilled in the tile spacer. Once the drying has been completed, special care must be taken to ensure that the bore openings are absolutely sealed and watertight.