Every household, whether in the technologically advanced communities or otherwise backward societies, the effective management of fire and smoke damage has its economic repercussions.
But to highlight the economic implications of such endeavors alone is not only an indication of misplaced priorities but is also an indication of the overall lack of knowledge related to nature of fire and smoke damage.
Clearly, domestic fires and smoke have economic repercussions. But what are often overlooked are the implications of these phenomena on human health and safety.
The Basics of Fire and Smoke
Fire is produced because of the interaction of three common yet very unique elements: fuel, heat and air. Simplified, fire is started when a heating element raises the temperature of any given material well beyond its ignition point or its “flashpoint”. When this point is reached, a series of chemical reactions is initiated releasing a variety of gases into the air. These chemicals released into the air collide with oxygen molecules in the air to produce another chemical reaction – combustion.
The result of all these reactions is fire and the highly volatile gases released into the air constitute what we see and often call as “smoke”. So, you see, fire has essentially two basic forms: the flame that we associate with fire and the smoke that emanates from the flames.
The management of fire and smoke therefore is anchored in how well we appreciate and understand this basic mechanism.
Understanding the Damage
Although the damage brought about by smoke may pale in comparison to that of fire, it nonetheless presents a considerable issue that needs to be addressed. In the effective management of such fiery phenomenon it becomes all the more essential that we understand how fire and smoke damage occur in the first place.
The damage brought about by either fire or smoke is basically found in the form of thermal energy. Because of intense heat, the inherent chemical structure of the individual components of materials or objects are also altered or damaged.
Remember during your elementary or high school chemistry where you facilitated several chemical reactions by applying heat. The chemicals with which you started the reaction are no longer the same chemicals when heat was applied.
The same is true in objects that are subjected to extreme heat as those exposed to fires and even smoke.
Now the damage brought about by smoke will be a little bit different from that of fires. And this difference will also spell the different approach in management.
Smoke wreaks its damaging effects through the use of both thermal energy or heat and the ability of its component gases to stay suspended in air for an indefinite period of time. As such, one can expect to find smoke trails in even the remotest of places around the house, in hard to reach areas like crevices and between-wall spaces.
Because the volatile gases of the smoke clearly get suspended in air, they can travel virtually anywhere, too. This allows them to cling to other surfaces away from the origin of the fire or smoke.
And this is where the problem actually lies.
Implications for Health
Health implications of smoke damage are grounded in the nature of smoke particles to stay suspended in the air for an undefined period of time. What this translates into is that smoke damage can persist well beyond the time when the fire has been put out under control. One may count days, weeks and months after a fire and yet the real dangers of smoke damage still persist.
The problem with smoke particles is that they can be inhaled by highly susceptible persons, individuals who may be allergic to dust and pollen and those who have significantly lowered levels of immune resistance.
As such, allergic reactions can be shown by a person who is susceptible. He or she may display sneezing, coughing, nasal irritation, inflammation of the eyes, throat irritation. In some cases, the allergic reaction may be so severe that it requires emergency medical treatment.
The scent or malodor of smoke damage can also be particularly distressing especially to people who have heightened or hyperactive olfactory senses. Persons with trigeminal neuralgia may find the extra odor particularly devastating in terms of triggering the pain episodes.
In worst case scenarios, smoke stains, when subjected to moisture can predispose the growth of mold and mildew colonies. These seemingly harmless microorganisms (they are important in baking as yeast and in medicine as antibiotics) become pathogenic when they release their spores into the air and gets inhaled by a susceptible person.
These and a whole lot more, make smoke one of the most-oft downplayed source of health problems.
The Economics of it All
Identifying the economic repercussions of fire and smoke damage is rather an easy task. Depending on the gravity of the fire damage, one can readily see the economic losses even before fire authorities and professionals can give you a credible estimate.
A house totally grazed to the ground by fire is considered a great loss. And there simply is nothing else we can do but grieve the loss and hope to find enough strength to move on.
However, in cases where the fire has left a considerable portion of the house still livable, perhaps determining the economics of it all will be a little bit trickier than we can ever hope for.
The economic implications of a fire and smoke damaged house are made even worse by today’s globally uncertain conditions. With consumer spending at a halt, it is definitely a great economic loss to have one’s home sustain fire and smoke damage.
The damage brought about by smoke can literally be found anywhere and everywhere in the house. The smoke can travel great distances, leaving behind a trail of smoke that can stain surfaces. In some cases, the smoke particles get trapped inside crevices, deep spaces, in-between wall spaces, and other hard-to-reach areas of the home. The objects inside the house can retain that distinct smoke scent for an undetermined length of time.
All of these can greatly translate to losses in the face value of such objects and items as well as the losses in terms of the functionality of such items.
In today’s cash-strapped conditions, homeowners are simply better off with living with smoke odors and trails than having no roof to live in.
But, is this really the only way to face such dilemmas?
Make Sense, Be Sound
It does not pay to just stay around and watch as your property gets eaten up by the damaging effects of health. Neither does it pay to just watch as one of your family members get stricken with respiratory conditions because of the smoke.
It does not make sense at all to just accept fate as it is. We Americans have been known the world over for our unparalleled resilience amidst adversity and trials. All homeowners stricken with fire and smoke damage should thus be wise enough o step up and institute a sound smoke damage cleaning plan.
1. Allow spaces to breathe, especially those that are concealed or are difficult to reach. Get a vacuum cleaner to suck out the air from these spaces.
2. Separate fire and smoke damaged articles from unaffected ones. Put them in separate storage boxes and carefully label them as such. During this time, it is advisable that you start sorting through the items which ones you can clean and restore yourself and which ones need a tougher act.
3. Open all windows, doors, access panels inside the house and place an electric fan or a ventilator near these points to facilitate the outward movement of air. You can do this together with your vacuuming of the spaces and crevices inside the home.
4. Identify parts of the home that have smoke stains and determine if these can be removed by ordinary cleaning. If these surfaces are made of cloth or any fibrous material, then it is best not to touch it wantonly. More often than not, these smoke stains are composed of oily and grimy soot that can be embedded further into the fabric of the material. This will make cleaning and restoration a little bit more challenging than usual.
5. If you have to remove oily or greasy soot off carpets, upholstered furniture, and the like it is best to be methodical about the approach. Search for a carpet cleaning solution or an agent that is typically suited for your material. Test the solution first on some concealed portion of the material because the agent might not be at all that “friendly” to the material being cleaned.
6. Clean one area of the object at a time, using an entirely new piece of cleaning cloth in each area. This is to prevent cross-contamination of other areas as well as decrease the incidence of streaking the surface.
7. Of course, the only way to ensure a thorough and sound smoke damage cleaning program is by enlisting the services of professional fire and smoke damage companies. Although their services will cost you a-plenty, the savings will be realized in the long run in terms of longer lifespan of affected articles.
Now, the idea of having a very sound smoke damage cleaning plan is to effectively address the issues of health and economics associated with such damages. American homeowners should thus be quick to realize that the difference between success and failure in averting economic catastrophes or health emergencies is literally in their hands.