Assessing equipment and building systems damage after Hurricane Ian

November 9, 2022

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By Scott Carroll – director of client services, large complex loss, EFI Global, a Sedgwick company and Paul Gilbert – director of client relations, EFI Global, a Sedgwick company

In the aftermath of a disaster event like Hurricane Ian, organizations tend to think about damage in terms of drying carpet, removing drywall, mitigating mold, and making sure the building is structurally and environmentally safe for the rebuilt that will follow. Those immediate concerns are certainly important, but there are several other elements to these types of losses that might not be as obvious — and organizations can’t afford to overlook them.

Data center computer servers and cloud storage arrays — worth millions of dollars — could be contaminated; elevators, air handlers, pumps, security panels and fire suppression controls inside hotels and office buildings could be electrically compromised; and power systems, both inside and outside of commercial properties could have been affected as well. Waiting weeks, or even days, to assess the damage could put a great deal at risk.

Reflecting on Hurricane Ian

Many of our clients who were in the path of Hurricane Ian expressed that they expected to replace exposed equipment altogether. But what if it could be restored through professional decontamination followed by testing, repair and re-calibration instead? For instance, there may be the opportunity to remove contaminants, replace compromised assemblies and conduct diagnostic testing to ensure the equipment operates as designed. Consider imaging equipment inside a healthcare facility that experienced flooding. How the equipment was exposed is critically important. Were certain assemblies submerged? Did water sprinkle across the top of an X-ray machine from above? Depending on how water entered the room, EFI Global can determine if electrical circuitry was impacted, damaged or unaffected.

Minimizing downtime

Insurance companies and policyholders don’t always have the equipment expertise to decide when and how to restore equipment after a loss. Some instances may require that computer servers, network switches and similar equipment be replaced because they were not designed to be submerged. Other electronic assemblies may qualify for restoration, which would restore them to a pre-loss condition. With EFI Global’s guidance, customers can often get back to business quicker. Depending on the nature of the loss, we can coordinate the cleaning, testing and repair, in a shorter amount of time than it would take to purchase and replace the equipment. The difference could easily be $100,000 to restore, versus $1 million to replace.

Taking preventive measures

Organizations can plan for and take steps to avoid an impact on their business down the road. Such measures include installation of a reliable generator, incorporating adequate system redundancies, storing critical data in an offsite location, signing up for priority recovery with reputable facility and equipment recovery vendors, as well as reviewing their coverage language yearly, to ensure that they are properly insured as their companies grow.

Following a loss, there are ways to preserve and stabilize equipment, including:

  • Avoid powering on electrical or electronic equipment that may have been exposed to water.
  • Disconnect potentially exposed equipment from the utility power and turn off uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems.
  • Engage the equipment service vendor or a professional decontamination specialist to remove water from within equipment and underneath elevated flooring.
  • Lower the relative humidity in the building to between 45% – 55% by bringing in dehumidifiers or fans as soon as possible.
  • Avoid rust by applying an inhibitor such as a moisture displacer, greaseless lubricant or cleaner and degreaser. Do not spray lubricants on electronic assemblies.
  • Place vapor phase corrosion inhibitors inside electronic control panels.

Several weeks post-Hurricane Ian, some businesses are just now starting the clean-up process. Soon, insurance companies will get quotes to replace equipment and building systems. That’s where EFI Global comes in. Our world-class equipment experts can guide you through the assessment and recovery process, to ensure equipment is properly preserved, decontaminated, tested, repaired and recalibrated to minimize equipment down time and business income loss. If equipment needs to be replaced, EFI Global will perform a market analysis to identify like, kind and quality (LKQ) replacements.

In summary, if professionals are not engaged quickly after a loss and equipment is left in a compromised state, the risk of oxidation, corrosion and rust becomes significant. This is a classic example whereby bad news doesn’t get better with time. This is also particularly true for contaminated water and condensing humidity, when pitting starts to compromised susceptible metals.

Our experts will work with the policyholders, their adjusters and all the manufacturers involved in the recovery to minimize business interruption while ensuring that warranties and service contracts, if they exist, will not be revoked. For more information about EFI Global’s equipment consulting services, contact [email protected] or [email protected].

Tags: adjusters, Business interruption, decontamination, EFI, EFI Global, hurricane, Hurricane Ian, hurricanes, manufacturers, Property, Property loss, repair, Testing, View on property