Asbestos and Natural Disasters

Asbestos and Natural Disasters

Asbestos and Natural Disasters

Fire

When fires occur through accidental means, bushfires or even arson the first concern is to deal with the immediate risk which is of course the fire itself. Typically, the emergency responder will ensure the fire is contained and ultimately extinguished.

The inherent risk of asbestos following a fire may then be overlooked, however most loss adjusters working on behalf of the insurance companies will take into account the possibility of asbestos being present and action a make safe until further remediation can be conducted. Typically, a PVA solution will be used around and across the site to ensure that the loose asbestos doesn’t become airborne following the affected area drying out.

It is important to understand that when fire affects materials such as fibre cement the heat causes an explosive reaction with the water molecules which leads to an effect called spalling. This is where small fragments and loose asbestos fibres are broken off and are scattered in the immediate vicinity.

The consequence of spalling, the pressure force of the water from extinguishing the fire and wind levels can lead to a significant area being impacted following the fire.

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Fire (continued)

The impacted area will usually be the building footprint and an adjacent circular zone being affected by airborne fibres, small fibre bundles, settled fine surface material and coarse fragments.

Depending on the wind direction the smoke plume may also deposit fine surface material on adjacent properties. Finally, the water runoff may also carry loose asbestos deposits along the gradient of the land.

Research has shown typically fires to asbestos built properties won’t produce high enough levels of fibre release to cause a risk to health however if the following remediation isn’t undertaken sufficiently residual risk may remain. Following the disaster, a competent person should be instructed to assess the site and determine the affected areas so that appropriate remediation can be undertaken.

OHMS Asbestos have the necessary experience to assist all stakeholders from property owners, loss adjusters and contractors in mitigating the inherent risk following a fire.

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Hailstorm / Cyclone

Hailstorms, cyclones and heavy wind pose a risk to both asbestos roofing, fencing and any other external asbestos materials. If asbestos building materials are punctured or cracked, during an event it can sometimes lead to the material requiring removal. It is imperative that a professional is engaged to inspect these materials in order to carefully assess the need for removal. Also, with respect to roofs they can be very brittle and if the integrity has already been affected access to properly assess may not be possible and professional opinion may be required. Following a storm if damage is presumed or identified OHMS Asbestos can assist with determining the next steps to rectify the issue.

Flood

As with all disasters, flooding can occur through natural means or by accident. In either case a multitude of asbestos building materials can be directly affected. Flooring tends to be the biggest impacted areas where both non-friable and friable asbestos exist in the form of floor tiles, bitumen adhesive, vinyl sheeting and paper backing. Once the flood water has been disposed of, drying machines are usually employed to assist in remediating the area to allow for follow up remediation by the restoration companies. Things such as floor tiles will lift following a flood meaning removal tends to be the only course of action, OHMS Asbestos have the understanding and knowledge to aid in determining the exact requirements in relation to asbestos following a flood.

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