In late April of 2020, Fort McMurray, Alberta, was subject to significant overland flooding, due to ice jamming on the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers. Working in tandem with our clients and partners, 30 Forensic Engineering mobilized a team of environmental, remediation and structural engineers over the course of that summer, to assist with clean-up and restoration efforts.
Among the biggest challenges faced in this work — beyond the emergency drying-out and rubbish removal, and the need for pandemic control safety protocols — was addressing the impacts of contaminated flood water and associated mould growth on contents, interior surfaces, and within walls & floor assemblies. Given the duration, extent, and depth of the flooding, the impacts were substantial, and required many of our clients to undertake thorough investigations to delineate the impacts, define removals and restoration. This investigation, assessment and emergency removal work was all undertaken in coordination with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s permitting and planning team, as well as the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety guidelines.
In a CAT Loss situation, when building owners, management, tenants, and employees are vulnerable, one of the most important aspects is restoring the property. According to Jason Ehrenholz of Canadian Tire Corporation, “opening to the public as quickly and safely as possible”, is a top priority.
30 Forensic Engineering was in contact with our clients during the flood event so that we could understand the potential extent of the damages and hit the ground running upon arrival. We arrived in Fort McMurray on May 4, the day the evacuation was lifted, and immediately got to work investigating approximately 20 different properties. During the triage process, our specialized team was able to create preliminary site-specific scopes of work and assess properties for hazardous materials while restoration crews were manipulating contents. The 30 Forensic Engineering CAT Loss Unit remained in Fort McMurray for the next three months, seeing large scale remediations through to completion and helping their clients re-open properties as early (and safely) as possible.
From a perspective of lessons learned, it was our experience that the best outcomes occurred when the following key steps were taken:
- Remove the contents from the flood impacted building and begin cleanup and drying as soon as possible. This allows for better control of interior relative humidity levels while minimizing damage and maximizing salvage of the interior building materials and contents.
- Early communication with all parties, including insurers, adjusters, landlord, tenant, restoration contractors, and engineers, etc., to ensure all parties understand the scope and agree to the expectations.
- Liaison with local or regional building, environmental, and health and safety inspectors for a thorough understanding of their signoff expectations and to maintain efficiency throughout the restoration process.
Looking ahead to the spring and summer, where issues such as storm-related floods, wildfires and other catastrophic events are more common, our team at 30 Forensics continue to advocate for the value of diligent planning and preparation to either prevent or mitigate the damages associated with catastrophic loss events, and to develop & share ‘disaster response gameplans’ with key stakeholders in advance.
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