Wildfire Insurance Recovery Q&A: Smoke Damage

Industrial hygienists from Titan Environmental Solutions and public adjusters from The Greenspan Co./Adjusters International answer questions regarding smoke damage caused by recent Northern California wildfires.


Welcome everyone my name is Rino Benenati i am with The Greenspan Co./ Adjusters International we are licensed from state to state by the department of insurance as public adjusters we’re known as private adjusters public advocates and we are here to share some information this evening this evening’s webinar is going to be specifically dealing with smoke uh losses uh the we have been getting a tremendous amount of inbound calls regarding what to do with a smoke claim do i have a claim what does it look like how does the policy respond and so we’re going to be dealing with this very topic this evening i’m joined by some special guests tonight uh we have josh scott uh with greenspan company who’s uh josh has handled hundreds and hundreds of claims uh large complex claims he thinks out of the box uh and uh we love the way he thinks i thought he’d be a really good addition to tonight’s uh webinar to talk about his thoughts on how the policy actually responds to smoke damage uh to the smoke damage claims etc also joining us is robert minald and tony lamb from titan environmental solutions uh they’re going to share their thoughts on how and why you may want to think about getting the particulate the soot nash may be tested in the home before the insurance company just comes out to start cleaning things and getting rid of the evidence for those of you that have breathing elements etc it might behoove you to understand what may be in the particulate i want to make it clear this evening this is not a sales presentation by any means this is a resource for information we will be taking questions via the q a down the bottom of the box you’ll see there on the screen there’s a q a section please type your questions in and we will do our very best to try to answer all the questions uh i will direct the questions i’ll read them guys and then i’ll direct them to who i i think would be best suited to answer those questions uh please everybody that’s on the line mute yourselves so there’s no background noise not you fellas but the uh the audience like i said we’ve been getting a lot of calls uh into our office and we thought we’ve been talking and doing i’ve been doing a lot of these webinars dealing with uh the houses that have perished their total losses they’re on the ground uh but equally as many homes if not more are a smoke damaged or there’s some degree of damage to the home uh the the fact of the matter is that most people are under this civil authority coverage and the calls uh that were coming in the questions were primarily what do i do if it’s past the two-week period that i have coverage for under civil authority well today i heard that there was a couple of carriers i’m not going to mention names but that have extended the uh two week period for loss of use which is good and i hope that continues and i hope that other carriers jump on board the same thing it’s a reprieve and and that’s something that is i guess being handled up in the management offices at these insurance companies uh to make a decision to extend the uh the ale coverage or additional living expenses for another week maybe another two weeks until you can get it to the to the property to view and if in fact you have physical loss and damage to the property again the property could be standing but it could have suffered some smoke damage i’m going to start with josh if you don’t mind josh kind of fill us in on what your thoughts are in smoke and what you’ve seen in the past with smoke claims and how an adjuster might be pushing back or kind of dismissing the amount of damage that’s there and then we’ll get to uh to robert and uh and tony sure and i want to help the crowd a little bit with kind of understanding claims in general and this is whether you’re working on a 25 million dollar claim or a 2500 claim i’ve thought about this this evening i think there’s really four key components that any insured need really needs to grasp and understand when they’re going through an insurance claim like this and they are as follows first and foremost you want to read and understand your policy as an adjuster even on a small smoke claim or a fire claim the very first thing that any adjuster should do is read the policy and understand how the policy responds to any damage in the home whether that be smoke smell or smoke soot fire no matter what the damages are the second key component of any claim is to that the insured needs to take control of that claim and that means that a lot of insurers really think that the insurance company and the insurance adjuster is there to come in and document the claim on behalf of the insured and that’s really not their role if you want to have a successful claim as an insurer do you really have to take control of that process and and document your own claim so that you can prove your claim to the insurance company uh the the third major component is really about documenting your file and there’s two sides of documenting any file that’s documenting the damage or smell that’s in your home and that’s why the use of an industrial hygienist can be so key and then also uh documenting your communications with the insurance company adjuster and they they don’t have to be confrontational just anytime you’ve had a conversation with an adjuster on on a phone call back that up with a doc with an email to the adjuster just saying that we spoke about this this is what you said this is what i said um so you have that for your future file i think a lot of folks that are listening in tonight who have claims you’re going to find that you’ll go through several adjusters very quickly because the adjusters that are coming into town they’re catastrophe adjusters they’re assigned to a particular claim for a certain amount of time and then they leave town and that’s pretty typical for the industry but from one adjuster to the another you could get different answers and so you want to make sure you document and then finally is to really just pace yourself the there is a real push by insurance companies to move things quickly and to get things documented as quickly as possible and there’s a reason for that the fact that they’ve done the statistics on this the faster they can settle the claim the less they have to pay on a claim so anytime you’re working on a claim for yourself i can tell you from experience that pacing yourself doctor documenting all of your loss from the very beginning will actually pay dividends on speeding up the final resolution of your claim so before you jump into any portion of your claim just keep those four key components in mind and now we’ll talk specifically a little bit about a smoke claim smoke claims can be a little bit tricky when you first walk into a home you can clearly smell the smoke and then another person could walk in and not smell the smoke and the same thing holds true for your insurance adjuster so if you have smoke in your home it’s very important that you document that smoke and i think that’s really where an industrial hygienist can come in and try to help you so if you guys can maybe comment a little bit what is your procedure about documenting and understanding what smoke really is and if it’s in a home robert you gotta unmute yourself there you go yeah um yeah so what what we do is um when we first come into a home um we’re gonna be looking for uh we’re gonna be performing a visual assessment and we’re looking for dark pigment um particulates um which is more related to ash char from wildfire smoke um we’re going to document where the locations are at and then follow that up once we do a full documentation we’ll start taking uh samples of the materials of the particulate and from from those samples we’ll send it to a you know third-party laboratory for analysis so our our goal and what we’re looking for is any particulates that that appears to be related particulates in our our industrial hygienists who would be dispatched to uh potential customers homes they’re very trained and they’ve have a lot of experience of looking for sudden ash um a part of a part of our sampling scheme is also is is walls ceilings and surface surface contamination


Can you can you uh uh what is the method uh you we talked earlier about uh the way the way it’s collected and also if you can comment on that but also the carcinogens i was under the impression that wood is organic and it is but it can still be carcinogenic and that that was uh really interesting to me if you can elaborate on that a little bit please yeah so um what what you find um with um combustion uh products and organics and um when it’s incomplete combustion you you could have what’s called pahs and pahs are can they they’re a carcinogen and they could have health effects um our smoke particulate samples the wipe samples or or the tape lift samples aren’t going to tell you if there’s pahs in there but it will tell you if there’s an ash and and when our cleaning protocol a part of the goal is the cleaning protocol is to return the house to the residents to to pre-loss condition so once you’ve in doing that you you would um the goal is to not only clean the house so it’s visually and aesthetically clean but it’s also to take away any potential carcinogens any potential particulates and hopefully as well remove all pahs and we’re pretty successful in doing that in our in our protocols interesting and when uh you send out the you had mentioned a third party lab takes a look at what’s that look like and what are they looking for in particular uh what have you seen in the past with these wildfires that comes up pretty uh pretty often um so what you what you’re gonna find is is is certain ash um and and some char um from from wildfires um is is typically what they’re looking for they’ll also let us know if there’s organic materials burned so they they also want to know if there’s vegetation if there’s wood so we can attribute to the fire and separate it from maybe an electric fire or another fire source so they want to know if it is a wildfire because a part of of the loss the carriers are also going to look for what caused the fire is it related to a wildfire or is it related to maybe candlestroke or nicotine smoke so that’s that’s another another thing that the laboratory is going to kind of let us know is this what is the chances this is related to the fire what’s been burned and then we can we can definitively say this is this is related to a wildfire and and the smoke has been blown over or it’s directly outside of outside of the resident so that’s part of the process in the analytical and robert there’s a condition under the insurance policy that the insured has to both first mitigate their loss meaning it somewhat points to cleaning up the the mess as soon as possible and at the same time permitting the insurance company to see the loss in a damaged state so i can foresee given the scope of these disasters that it could be a couple of weeks before an adjuster can actually get out there is there anything a homeowner can do to continue to document their loss and to hold some evidence for you that way when an industrial hygienist actually gets out to do testing they can prove that loss even though some some amount of time has passed certainly sure um and documentation is is pretty much the name of the game you want to you of course photo documentation is is is the first thing you want to do take photos of your of of the interior of your residence exterior residents and all your surfaces um also if if if you are able to and you know where your air filters are in your hvac system you you want to pull that filter out preserve that filter and also take photo documentation something that you could forward to your adjuster forward to the carrier and it shows what happened as it relate to the smoke along with the photo documentation of your residence as well um surfaces you’ll find um smoke um i mean it’s sudden ash i mean i you probably all know who who’ve been affected by it your your whole house has these dark pigments these dark particulates and it’s definitely how not how the house was prior to the pre-loss condition prior to the fire so this is something you want to document um have it electronic with photos it’s something that you can show because they’re going to be building basically a case um not always in your benefit so you want to have have that that supporting documentation that that your house was impacted um so that’s that’s great it’s a it’s a good point to bring up and and preserve photo documentation preserve the filters and along with preserving the filters take photos of it and then and that’s something that we can forward on to the carrier and to the adjuster hey tony i got a question for you with respect to deck work for instance dryer ducts uh and any other ductwork that might be in the house in the home how’s how do you guys go about cleaning or even how does that work how do they test in there is it there’s got to be a way to access that stuff because i suspect that it goes everywhere is that right absolutely so uh our hygienist they’re trying to inspect the hvac returns and the um the supply you know part of it is to look for the pigmentations of any black spotting or any smoke particulates so when we do the assessments we’re taking samples of the the return and the supply and to basically send these samples to the lab to identify if there is any small particulates on them as well too and reno i think that’s a very key component to an insurance claim and that’s why having an industrial hygienist or another expert involved is is super important a lot of insurance think that well i’ll just get three bids and whatever the middle bid is that’s what the insurance company should pay me however a bid has really two components too the first component is the scope of work so what is that contractor going to do in order to mitigate the smoke that’s in the house the second component is the cost and so you could come out with three different contractors and get three broadly different bids strictly because the scope of work is so different however if you get an expert to come in and tell you and write down what needs to be done to mitigate the loss then you can actually send that out to three contractors and say i want to bid this this work exactly this work and then you’re actually getting apples to apples competitive bids that you could then give to the insurance company and that holds true for all aspects of your claim interesting um i’m going to uh throw some questions out here uh we’re starting to get some questions randy constable asks at some point can you speak to the issue of uh the issue many of us have relative to the voc and benzene water contamination the water is not usable for any purpose other than flushing uh your toilet my insurance comp my insurance company says that does not apply to loss of use so it sounds to me uh randy that uh the the water is not potable uh it’s you can’t shower in it uh there’s some contaminants in it uh josh have you seen where that can cause or trigger physical loss and damage this is a big one because it’s not only the power but it’s the water too this happened up in santa rosa quite a bit too that prevented them from actually rebuilding because the whole water water system was contaminated sure and i’ve seen a a couple of different resolutions for this and the most popular one that i saw was a home that was not burned to the ground could be remediated and there was a disagreement on whether or not additional living expense even applied and if the policy actually covered it and as a compromise resolution the insurance company agreed under the coverage of additional living expense to put a water filtration system into the building i’ve seen other ones where they agreed to do a water delivery service for a certain amount of time and i think in lieu of fighting and insured for months on end i think if you approach your adjuster with that idea with a reasonable cost to do it i think they’d be inclined to to cover it um but there is no guarantee on that and folks i we should say today uh and for the sake of this conversation that you know we don’t have all the answers here every firestorm and every disaster like this has its own little nuances to it but that’d be my recommendation for your claim if you’re in that situation


Thanks josh another question is when i wiped my kitchen counters with a paper towel and my couch the paper towel did not have any dust on it can this be considered that uh there is no smoke damage well look smoke damage uh will hang on to your soft goods your clothing the draperies uh the wall-to-wall carpeting the pad so if there’s a strong odor of of smoke i guess the question is do i have a claim if it’s just an odor issue josh any thoughts on that yeah it can be tough i i think the in my own personal experience i do believe that smell is a loss because i believe that those particulates but for the particulate you would not smell it um but again different insurance companies are going to interpret it differently the key component is that if you do smell it in my opinion it’s probably somewhere in the house or it’s still blowing around outside but if you if you do smell it if it’s heavy uh the use of an expert to see if they can find it in the house and does two things one it will document that you should have a claim and that your home needs cleaned or it will document to you that you don’t have a claim and you can be satisfied that there isn’t any smoke in your house and it’s a smell that will dissipate um thanks josh uh robert we were talking earlier about uh why uh there’s uh pushback from the insurance uh companies and how it’s changed uh from a few years ago where they were more accepting um can you elaborate on that a little bit and kind of help people understand the uh the background of what’s changed in the industry if you don’t mind sure sure um uh previous fires um five let’s say an area an era of five to ten years ago um the carriers were more receptive and and they would actually contact industrial hygienist firms directly to go out and and test a a residence test the structure just for particulates and wait for a recommendation of what has to be done for cleaning um over the course of the last uh three to four years three to five years as you know you know it’s no secret that you know we we have some warming of of our climate and there’s more fires so um insurance companies um they do provide us insurance but their bottom line is to protect their assets and and their assets is you know sometimes involved it’s not as always beneficial for the insured so um to in order to reduce uh their liability um they’ve taken of stance that we’ve seen not not all the carriers but it’s it’s growing numbers that they’ll send out um their preferred restoration contractor their preferred contractor who will go out there and clean it and and the reason i believe it i believe this is being done is is they probably have a a set price or a set structure and a set protocol of cleaning and if you don’t have someone else a third party come out there and test um you don’t really have a protocol to follow whereas you can just have them do surface cleaning and and certain things can can be overlooked um number one is we just talked about lingering smoke damage typically um you’ll find that in fabrics uh textiles carpets they’ll they’ll retain that smoke uh that smoke smell um that that you can smell but that you know you might hear from your gesture that it’ll just go away well it’s not gonna go away because it’s ingrained in that fabric so um the company they send out might not it might not be in their scope of work that we’re not sometimes entitled to see to to remove the carpet and pad they might just say hey clean it or hepa vacuum it to kind of move the claim along and and and stuff like uh insulation attic insulation where it’s it’s it’s more laborious to remove it and do surface surface cleaning they can kind of ignore that step so um i don’t want to just say it’s all nefarious but they’re they’re they are in in the in the in the business protecting their assets and and and if in doing so that could be reducing the claim so i believe uh that’s kind of one of the reasons um that they they don’t want industrial hygienists because we’re going to say hey clean clean in in this this aspect and we’re going to provide a scope of work that might be more extensive than their their scope of work that they they’ve set out for with their contractor and uh reno i can speak to this a little bit sure um there’s nothing wrong with having a preferred vendor but keep in mind they’re a preferred vendor for a reason and keep in mind that that preferred vendor probably gets 60 to 70 percent of their work from one two or three insurance companies and so if you have a dispute with that vendor who is the vendor gonna side with and who is the vendor working for is it you the homeowner who’s gonna have one job with that contractor in in your entire life and the life of that company or are they gonna side with the insurance company who’s gonna give them three four five hundred jobs uh for the next ten years so just keep in mind the preferred vendor they’re not necessarily working for you they’re working for that insurance company and that i’ll speak to one other thing that that preferred vendor is not looking to be aggressive with cleaning your building we were talking a little bit earlier about ductwork um maybe you guys could speak to this uh about flexible duct work uh it’s my understanding and from my experience of flexible ductwork it’s very difficult to clean if not impossible and if flexible ductwork gets smoke particulates in it the scope of work to repair your home grows drastically because you have to dig into the drywall dig into the walls to get that damaged duct work out and so uh you can see how a preferred vendor will come in and maybe surface clean a little bit tell you that they’ve tried to clean the the ductwork and it’s fine but you still have particulates on a flexible duct and they leave it there for you to deal with a year or two years from now um thanks uh thanks i’m gonna uh let’s get to some questions here you know they’re starting to pile up um here’s one from irwin uh i’m concerned about the insulation in my attic what kind of damage should i be looking for tony do you want to speak to that yeah absolutely so the the insulation in the attic could be impacted by the uh the smoke and wildfire particulates now um you may not see it you know that’s the purpose of the hygienist to do the assessment and obtain the samples because when you send these samples to the laboratory they’re going to look through a microscope you know some sometimes the particulates could be microscopic so you can’t see so that’s the purpose of the assessments so when we do assess it if there is you know damages to the insulation of course that would be addressed in the scope of work as well too and uh is there so let’s say for example fast forward a hygienist comes out swabs the house goes to the lab lab results come back there’s some toxic uh stuff in the certain ash etc is it then at that point where a recommendation is made to have a certified cleaning uh individual somebody who’s trained i thought this is a was an important part uh not just uh joe the cleaner that can come out and you know wash the walls is that a recommendation you would absolutely yeah you know you want to get these addressed properly and clean prop you know because these are particulate smoke particulates and you want someone that’s a professional that knows how to handle this claim to you know bring the house back to pre-loss conditions if you get a general person who does you know general cleaning they won’t know the proper procedures you know what’s outlined in the scope of work of how to properly clean the house you know it may sound easy to stay clean but there’s a lot of steps involved in you know professionalism and skill involved to uh address the situation get it all out and yeah for those of you folks out there that have um asthma or breathing ailments you know you want to do it right and uh there has been some pushback i’ve heard some stories uh taking some calls where the adjuster says you know the the insured asks the adjuster uh i want to have a um you know the house swab by a hygienist and the adjuster just said no we’re just gonna send in you know servpro or service master whomever to clean it uh josh any idea on how to deal with that if the adjuster is just trying to bowl somebody over and if they have asthma or their children how you know they’re going to be rolling on the carpets and stuff and any way to to rebut that i mean how do you deal with it yeah i think it goes back to that scope of work versus estimate that i was referring to earlier if any adjuster wants to come in and tell you you have to hire this company right away and start doing things and they don’t have an agreed scope of work they don’t have an agreed estimate they’re writing a check with your money and that is that is not a smart business decision to make it’s always better before you start any project to have at least a general idea of what it’s going to cost and and you have a scope of work defined and if the adjuster is not willing to define a scope of work i think it’s a good business decision for the insurer to invest in someone who will define that scope work for them and then get the insurance adjuster to agree to that scope of work and if that means you do have to you know put some of your own money up front to hire an industrial hygienist or some other expert to tell you what needs to be done i think in the long run that is money well spent oh thanks for sharing that’s an important point you make investing in your family uh it’s not going to be uh you know agreed to to have the hygienist do it i’m going to take some questions here so which companies do test for phas and also asbestos uh robert tony um can you answer that one uh which companies do test for pahs and asbestos we can test for phn we can also test for asbestos


Okay so is it anybody that’s a certified uh industrial hygienist yes here’s a question that i have is there a difference between environmental versus industrial hygienists is there different certifications well there is a certification as you know if you’re doing environmental work you’re working in an industrial you know general cleaning like what we do you know some people call themselves as an industrial hygienist you know we do have a residence certified industrial hygienist who you know who is certified taking the state exam who is accredited with the certification so you may hear people say call themselves an industrial hygienist but you want to look to see if they are actually certified you know we we do have a staff that is a certified industrial hygienist so so when the when the lab results come back uh does it go through that process where the certified uh hygienist reviews and makes recommendations on how to properly clean absolutely yeah so we go through multiple stages of a review process and of course you know we communicate with the industrial hygienist that’s doing the assessments and you know the certified person the one that holds the certification and you know directs the assessment uh he reviews the process the reports prior to it being released got it okay and what’s the timeline roughly of uh so let’s say it was my home and i decided to get uh a hygienist involved they come in they swab goes to the lab and a decision is made back at uh the hygienist office on a protocol to clean properly what’s that timeline look like yeah typically uh from start to finish from the time we conduct the assessment to the time you get the report and hand via email uh typically takes about seven business days okay and josh here’s a question and we’re gonna get to those questions folks i know they’re piling up hang in there this is just a very interesting topic and it needs to be discussed josh i’m the adjuster from the insurance company you the insured have a duty to mitigate and move with diligence and dispatch and so if omni if if i tell the adjuster hey uh i need another seven days what’s the pushback i mean what’s going to happen there because think about it you got another week they finally get up to the property it’s been you know the evacuation orders lifted they’re at their property they’re soot there’s evidence of it uh the adjuster comes up to do a site visit and uh and what’s that conversation gonna look like um so if the adjuster says you need to start now the first question you ask is who do you want to start it um because i don’t have anybody who has a written scope of work what are they going to start what do you agree to pay for and how much do you agree to pay and uh the adjuster won’t be able to answer those questions and that at minimum should buy you the time to get your test back interesting and uh okay that’s that’s interesting okay let me take some questions here guys


Are there particular contaminants if detected that forced the carrier to respond besides asbestos i guess that’s an environmental question right or josh say that one more time yeah are there particular contaminants if detected that forced the carrier to respond besides asbestos uh soot um smoke particulates those are all under the peril of fire so if uh they are present in the home then the policy responds to them


Okay hey josh uh can you elaborate what do you mean by scope of work what is the scope of work when we’re dealing with a smoke claim so that is a written description of what is to be done um and it it in insurance claims it can be super detailed uh for example if let’s just say you had a fire or smoke damage to a room one line would say clean the room clean the walls the next line would say clean the baseboards the next line would say remove them replace the carpet the next line would say remove and replace the pad it will be the pad for the carpet detach and reset the light fixtures and uh it’s that detailed of what neat what does a person physically need to do within that space to bring it back to pre-loss condition and it should be as detailed as possible thanks here’s another question do you recommend we hire our own rh and if so how do we go about finding one will the insurance uh pay for the service or do we need to assume the cost


Um i’ll speak to the the first part i do believe it is covered under the policy um not every insurance company will agree to it and uh but it is money well invested i believe in documenting your claim in the long run and as far as how to find one i’ll leave it to these fine guys to tell us how to do that uh look folks you can um the information will be posted uh to uh get a hold of titan environmental at the end of the webinar here and so if you make an inbound call to them they’d be happy to discuss you know your one-on-one issues directly and that way they can answer things for you i hope that answers your question my adjuster says there is uh research that shows that toxins like voc heavy metals etc don’t travel far from burnt structures several hundred yards do you have any data or resources that show this type of research on propagation um i i don’t know that i would focus on the propagation i would focus on whether or not that particulate is in my house and if it is in my house i’m of no concern really where it came from other than it’s a result of the the fire thanks josh uh here’s another one you touched on insulation could you expand more on how to know whether it needs to be replaced tony yes so if we were to assess the attic and we were to identify uh small particulates which are ash um of course the laboratory with the third-party laboratory if your attic is impacted of course you would have to clean up the attic and insulation is of course material that would be it would be affected by it so those insulation would have to be removed and cleaned out you know you will have to clean out your attic and you can’t just leave the insulation in there so you know if there’s insulation you know whatever insulation you know bad you know pink insulation whatever it is it would have to be and clean it what about the uh the the rafters is that i mean i suspect if there’s certain ash it’s it’s landing everywhere not just on the insulation but is there a protocol to wipe down rafters like the exposed wood yeah of course that’s part of the decontamination process you’re going to have to clean the whole attic that’s surface to surface all the you know wood framing you know of course you want to part the cleaning process is to remove all those porous items and clean all the interior surfaces within the attic okay so what what do you what do you guys think an amount of time would be to uh for a cleaning of a of an average house maybe 2 000 square feet just a rough dart throw if you don’t mind any idea how long it would take to clean clean based on if it’s if it’s gut contaminate we know that’s really so case sensitive it’s hard to say it a lot of that depends on how much personal property is in the home uh what are the components of the home is there a lot of soft goods is it is it wood flooring versus carpeting um that is it’s such a broad question it’d be very difficult so um you know you could be as much as a week you could be two months it’s it’s just really hard to say without without seeing the damage and folks look out there and the reason i asked is because uh you want to set the right expectation a lot of people think that things move quick in the insurance world and they just don’t we live in a high-tech society where information comes and goes extremely fast but insurance companies just don’t move that fast uh you’ve got to get the agreed scope if you’re going to get tested you’re going to look at a week and meanwhile that period of restoration starts to expand father and father out so that that becomes a negotiable issue too right josh where’s an agreed uh amount of time uh that you are going to be out and are they going to pay it uh whether it’s the hotel or a temporary residence that’s very important to recognize that they only owe for the shortest period of restoration so on one hand you want to move with diligence and dispatch but on the other hand you want to do what’s right uh and do this correctly so that later on you’re not coming back and you know just having to do it over or they miss things and that’s why we’re having this discussion tonight to uh to talk about what it really is you know you bring up a good point um in the wildfires here that in uh the paradise fires there’s been a lot of push by insurance companies to reach out to insurers and and say what are you doing to try to remedy your problem what are you trying to do to rebuild and there the the purpose of that from the insurance company is to really try to cut off that additional living expense by accusing the insured of not taking any action so this goes back to one of my four points and that has to do with documenting your loss so whenever you take an action on your file meaning calling a contract or reaching out to somebody who can help you just document that to yourself even if it’s just sending an email to yourself that on this date and time i called this person in an attempt to try to find a contractor to to clean my home and uh you that’ll it’ll pay off in the long run because then you can document that to the adjuster if they ever do try to accuse you of not taking uh prompt action great thanks for elaborating on that another question any recommendations on how to choose an industrial hygienist uh are there certain certifications that they should have or certain tests they should do anyone robert or tony yeah absolutely well uh you would want to look to see if they are a certified industrial hygienist you know or you can find out if they are smoke and our consultant as well too of course that’s a certification for that so you want to look for either or so they can or see what the resume is but for the most part you you see industrial hygienists in the industry either have a cih or they have a smoking fire consultant certification and what organization uh certifies those guys uh so first one is the acac um then there’s the next one is the abih okay acronyms everywhere acronyms yeah yeah you’re beating me up now and i’ll have to so and and for the cih is the ace ac the american conference of governmental industrial uh hygiene so acgih is the acronym got it guys here’s a good question uh how much does testing cost on average yeah so on average you’re looking roughly about like 22 to 2500 for the assessments for the you know for the hygienist to come out there to do the assessment with the laboratory analysis and with the uh recommended recommended protocol necessary


Um there’s another one in the presentation by titan they mention they rely on visual inspection and foremost to determine where to make tests is it established that if there is no visual place of smoke damage then there is no smoke damage is that safe to say no not necessarily because like i mentioned earlier um you know smart particulates it could be microscopic you might not be able to see it so that’s the purpose where you rely on science to obtain the sample to send it to the third party laboratory for analysis and they’ll be able to identify if there is anything under the microscope right yeah that was that’s a good question how far out bookings for titan to come to ccu fire damaged homes uh are you guys um look there’s fires everywhere so i guess they want to know uh what how far out would a booking be if they called typically um you know for that particular fire we can go out within the week you know um you know right now with the fire season it is getting a little bit uh busier but you know if they give us a call we’ll consult with them and we’ll try to get out there as soon as we can and i don’t know that you know depending obviously folks if the evacuation area has been lifted for your particular zone great question here’s another question in the case where there is only a mild smell such as in the garage like a flu or a fireplace was left open and no visual particulates should an environmentalist should an environmental industrial hygienist still be brought in to test the residents any thoughts on that that’s really a judgment call i i would think if if you the homeowner uh feel that that smell is strong enough or it may be unsafe to you um then i think that would be a good investment to call out somebody to give you an opinion but that’s really on the individual basis i’ll answer this uh the next question was tony what is the name of your company i didn’t catch it in the beginning our company name is titan environmental solutions thank you here’s another one i’ve heard of smoke damage impacting electronics drywall and electrical wiring can you comment on that and there was a question i think we might have missed it it asked about what is the effect of smoke on electronics that’s a really really good question uh can you elaborate on that tony or robert


Yeah so obviously there’s a small particulate within the residence and has you know gone inside you know let’s say appliances or any sort of electronics those you know if your house is impacted by the wildfires and do have small particulates you’re gonna have to get that addressed you know you’re gonna have to get the professional uh to try to restore it to pre-loss condition you know obviously they cannot you know clean it properly or properly decontaminate you’re gonna have to obviously replace it so it also goes back to what you said earlier about should you get a professional or just a regular general cleaning person you know if you have appliances you’re going to want someone who’s experienced that knows how to properly clean it you know if possible josh how does that leading into that off of that how does that look so i’m i’m my house has smoke i’ve got computers and all my electronics what have you seen in the past with respect to how the insurance company would proceed on a claim if i want to make a claim for that stuff yeah in my experience that’s the number one area where insurance companies do not want to spend money on experts and that’s when it comes to electronic uh damages they really kick back on it and just say well we’ll send it to an electronic cleaning company and the electronic cleaning company says of course i can clean it and they offer i in many cases about a six month uh warranty for that item and it just so happens is six months and three days the electronics fail so really it’s about getting an expert involved early to tell you if it can be cleaned or if it can’t and and that’s a key one a lot of that has to do or what can be complicated about that is the value of the items themselves if you just have a computer uh having it tested having it cleaned having an expert to come in and look at it could be almost the value of the item itself so i think that’s why insurance companies fight it so much so really have to kind of make a business decision there is it financially feasible to bring in an expert thank you all right here’s another question what role does one’s individual health condition play in the subjective assessment of loss due to smoke damage


You know this this came up uh uh many years ago when it came to mold and there was a real push to test is it black mold is it green mold as a yellow mold right and the the company i work for i in the way i interpret it is i don’t care what color the mold is it’s mold and it needs to be taken out of the house and it’s not healthy for anybody and it’s not supposed to be there and it wasn’t there before the fire so um i know everybody has sensitivity to that and they should have sensitivity to that i think the health concerns really dictate


How aggressive you want to be on getting your expert health concerns are okay another question is after after a cleaning does the testing need to be done again or is there an ongoing monitoring needed um robert or tony yeah we do recommend to uh conduct you know post testing just to verify the the remediation efforts just to make sure that it’s you know it is documented that it’s you know clean and properly cleaned so you have documentation paperwork to show like hey someone cleaned it and here’s the report to show that the samples are you know better than before or a lot cleaner than before so there’s an additional monitoring needed after or is that what you’re saying not monitoring necessary but uh we can conduct the post remediation assessments after the cleaning has taken place if i suspect if there’s still odor of smoke or just clean well not feeling it okay all right that makes sense uh thank you uh here’s another question is there any distance from burned home from from burned homes guidelines for an insurance claim i’ve read online that if a home burned within one mile of your home you may have smoke damage


I’m not aware of any uh any publication on that i i think a lot of that will be determined on which way the wind’s blowing um and a lot of the folks in these particular storms um you know it just depends on how smoky it was around you i don’t know of a study that talks about travel of smoke that has ever influenced a claim that i’ve been working okay thank you uh this is greenspan can you repeat the questions that you would ask the adjuster when they push back on the timing it takes to have expert testing i guess i’m going to put that on to you so again yeah the adjuster’s pushing back uh can you answer that please sure so the adjuster says hey you need to start cleaning this tomorrow the and you can’t because you have to get testing done you need to turn that back around on the adjuster and say i’m doing everything i can to try to find somebody to clean this building but i can’t find anybody yet and i still need to get a scope of work established so if you want it clean tomorrow you need to bring out the contractor you want to clean it you need to give me the scope of repair that they’re going to perform and you need to tell me how much you’re going to spend of my insurance money in cleaning this building and there’s no way that that adjuster will be able to respond to that those questions before you can get your testing so that buys you the time to get your test results yeah and look for those of you with smoke claims it’s it’s not a limits loss meaning you have you know half a million dollars in in dwelling coverage and maybe 300 000 in contents coverage it’s not an issue of going up against the limits so do i have enough insurance it’s a matter of how you move the claim forward properly and uh and defendably ultimately so that’s really a good point josh uh another question will insurance pay for water testing and how often should we do it i understand it is more a picture in time and we all have well water so wanting to know when it is safe to drink um well that’s a good one i i don’t think that the policy would address damage to water um unless you could show that it was a direct result of damage caused within the house that’s a good one that’s that’s one that we i don’t have all the answers i i they would not pay for it unless it was a covered peril i could tell you that right uh this one uh had come and disappeared and it’s back uh please talk about the effects of smoke on electronic equipment any have you guys seen sometimes it’s corrosive it causes pitting to metals i’ve seen that over time and i suspect that on a cpu board it would do much the same right in the i did uh several really large electronics claims in the past that had water and some soot on them and as i understand these guys could speak to this a little bit more uh soot actually is somewhat acidic and that acidity sits on metals and can actually corrode them and that’s that’s the issue that came up on my electronic uh claims that i’ve worked so it is corrosive it’s only yeah so like you said before it could yeah the electronic item may may work for three four months and then it could just die and i’ve i’ve had that happen with some claims so yeah certainly


Another question would you recommend having oops would you recommend having the eh visit uh the home prior to the insurance company adjuster or at the same time um i would recommend prior i always like to have an adjuster come out and i have a report in front of me that says this is what the industrial hygienist is recommending that i do to remedy my house and this is the claim that i will be making to you to fix my home i love having that available when the adjuster shows up yeah you’re being proactive you’re creating the narrative you’re controlling it it’s your home folks so you know take control of it


One other thing to add reno is that the uh everyone keep in mind that the adjuster that actually shows up at your door probably has very little authority um and doesn’t have the authority to actually say yes or no and they will say well i’ll check with my manager i’ll send it up the chain i’ll see what i can do and that’s something you definitely want to document that you gave them that particular piece of information and that they were going to check with their manager manager to see if it was approved so well here’s another question are there any uh hard lines of what makes a property unlivable if there is no visible damage i suspect that goes back to physical loss and damage must be there in an effort to have a claim triggered is that correct yeah there must be physical damage to the home before additional living expense is covered other than the civil authority that you mentioned earlier right any need for testing on outdoor services surfaces or soils guys tony or robert outdoor yeah part of our assessment uh it also includes uh assessing the exterior too because you know your house was impacted so you know the visual assessment and also taking samples of the exterior to see if it’s you know elevated as well too so yeah we will be taking samples of the exterior uh when it comes to land uh land is not typically covered properly under a homeowners policy so they would the insurance company would probably rightfully not uh be willing to pay for testing of any land i have a question so uh my house is in the wildfire it survives tons of ash and smoke outs stood outside the house of course we’re not talking about the inside uh power washing the uh the elevations of the driveway the patios the outdoor furniture uh and how often have you run into this josh at all where you know there’s gonna be the winds are coming right the santa ana winds are going to be kicking up next season here coming up and that particular is going to be floating all over the place so if uh do i have the right as an insured to have it initially done so we can you know the house is now internally cleaned outside it’s clean but to have an ongoing contract or service come in every month to power washer would they do that um it would be the policy strictly says that they will pay for the repair at the time of loss so if a single event is going to be the loss so if one fire caused soot to fall and then two weeks later another fire comes that’s in my opinion technically a second claim same for any it could be argued that those same particulates are coming back but as a general rule i would say you probably only get that one time and you’d also really need to read your policy because there’s you talked about two different areas of coverage there your personal property that’s outside their special limitations uh in some policies for that property and then you the house as well so you gotta really read and understand that policy and how it addresses the that different category of coverage uh here’s another question is cleaning cars covered we have one car in particular that has heavy smoke smell under your homeowner’s policy automobiles with licenses are not covered properly so those would not be covered under your homeowners but you should definitely check the coverage on your auto policy it would probably address that there’s another question will the insurance cover the cost of the hygienist testing in my opinion they should yes but again that’s just my opinion what um if i can if i can add in on that um like i said earlier previously um they would cover and certain carriers do cover it um but it’s it’s kind of a mixed bag they’re moving more towards not covering it and and not covering the cost because they would prefer to send someone out and clean it without a scope of work that’s that’s that’s written out by an industrial hygienist so it’s answer your question that’s yes and no some carriers do cover it and have no problem covering it um others do not want to to pay for an industrial hygienist yeah that’s my experience as well another question can you explain or outline how to approach current versus long-term claims we hear about leaving a claim open for six to twelve months for water testing as we are on a well is it possible to claim losses later on or would that be a current claim or an open new claim it also goes back to the proximate cause of the law so if if these damages are from a single event yes you can continue to make supplemental claims you would have the burden to show that the damage that you’re claiming a year after the loss is directly really related to the date of loss that originally triggered the claim okay our next question is what qualifications would you suggest to look for in an environmental hygienist and i think we answered that before but we’ll be happy to do it again tony yeah so you’re going to want the uh at a minimum this is our recommendation it’s the acac which is the american council for uh accredited certification now if you’re going to get the cih which is the certified industrial hygienist you want them credit from the abih which is the american board of industrial hygiene thank you here’s another question if there was fire on my property that burned outdoor structures and the size of the home is it more likely that the insurance will cover having an industrial hygienist to do testing


Um i don’t know that it would change the likelihood either way it’s really a crapshoot depending on who your adjuster and your insurance company is that’s what i did yeah yeah another question a home just 50 feet away burnt uh when the cleanup happens can we claim any kind of coverage if that effort creates more particulate matter on our property and on our home not sure when that will happen and feel concerned about the process uh process and how it will affect us um i believe that that would be covered um yeah i think that that would be covered because it’s the result of a fire so um yes i i would make claim for that


Another question a home burn within 200 yards of mine dozens lost in the neighborhood everything in my home smells like heavy smoke what should what should be expected what should be expectations on replacement of things like mattresses furniture appliances clothes children’s items versus cleaning i feel like most things need to get replaced but i don’t have a strong foundation to base that on that’s where a good industrial hygienist and a written scope of repair or recommendation of replacement would highly substantiate your claim


Now the question what about other structures like pools would an rh be able to determine if there are contaminants in the water robert or tony yes um yes we have a sample of tools before we sample the water and we have had coverage where they they will clean the pool we’ve also had some some carriers push back but again everything is with having the sample data having the information and and the correct scope work and someone who’s had had experience writing the scope of work of what happened where the water came and documentation always you have to have photos you have to show it because if you don’t have documentation they’re going to say it didn’t happen i mean that’s again the carriers


While insuring your property they’re also protecting their assets um that’s right so uh you you have to have proper documentation and that’s through testing that’s through photos and that’s through a proper scope of work and i’ll add one more thing to pools and it’s a little off topic but they’re obviously replacing all the water in your pool is uh kind of wasteful for water there are new companies that i’ve seen uh recently that will come out and pump your water out run it through a filter and then pump it back into your pool so you don’t actually have to replace the water and it’s actually more cost effective than replacing the water so look to see if that’s in your area if you have that issue another question we have been recording all our calls with our adjusters would that suffice for documentation i think again i just if i may add uh is recording a call that they’re not aware of is that admissible or that is uh that is that is not a good thing if you’re in california if you haven’t got permission from the adjuster it’s my understanding and i’m no attorney that it’s actually a felony so you don’t want to be doing that without the adjuster’s permission now it’s very simple when you start the conversation with the adjuster you can say hey for documentation sake i want to record this i hope you don’t mind and if as long as they say that they you they have your permission to record then you should be in the clear but doing it without their permission is uh not something i’d recommend we have uh answered all the questions uh i want to thank both tony and robert and josh for joining us tonight folks if you uh have enjoyed the information that you received we’d love some feedback about our webinar please email us email your comments over to info greenspan dash ai.Com before we part guys do you want to do you mind leaving uh your information maybe on the q a uh and so that people can reach out to uh you guys if needed if they have some further questions so if you look down the bottom tony and robert uh there’s q a just press that and it’ll allow you to uh make sure you’re sending it out to everyone as opposed to private and if you can put like titan environmental solutions uh uh phone number and uh the email or your website so you they can direct any questions they may have to you directly i’m sure there’s going to be some more questions


No problem i’ll go ahead and uh do that right now that’d be great josh i really appreciate you being on the call uh thanks for having me reno really enjoyed it yeah you’re uh you’re you’re you’re a great wealth of knowledge i always enjoy picking your brain and uh and going through this stuff because they you know these firestorms and wildfires are all different and they pose different uh challenges and questions and you’ve been to pretty much all of them with me and yeah and quite interesting uh we’re seeing a lot of things changing with the insurance carriers too drastically every every every event has a different uh kind of personality to it okay i guess there’s one more question that came in while we’re here


I said i think i have one here for non-la for for non-loss smoke damage it’s clear you recommend that the the industrial hygienist but do you also recommend an adjuster like greenspan look you know we are taking inbound calls and uh you know feel free to call us in and we’ll have a one-on-one discussion about where your particular issues are it’s so it’s all handled on a case-by-case basis you know for our involvement it really needs to make sense on a bunch of different levels if it’s just a matter of uh helping you get over the goal line with some information we’d be happy to do that as well that’s what we’re here for we’re here to help it’s our way of giving back to the community folks this is our backyard and we’re trying to help everyone we can uh whether it’s just having these webinars or just offering uh one-on-one consultations we’re doing plenty of that so feel free to call in uh here’s another one no i don’t think we’re going anywhere soon all right it stopped and it started it’s okay uh uh not a problem uh residents have been talking about using air purifiers in the house to help with all this is it worthwhile that’s definitely an environmental question can either robert or tony uh elaborate on that these air purifiers yeah um so so air purifiers and it kind of touches on on what i said earlier air purifiers do they have gotten better um over the years with technology in in removing particulates but um as i mentioned earlier is where you’re gonna get some of that smell where you’re gonna get some of those sustaining odors is is the smoke in particulates embedded in the textiles and the fabric so air purifier is good at cleansing the air in a particular room but it’s not going to take away that smell so it’s going to linger later because it’s still there basically um so the air purifier is kind of masking it i mean and i have nothing against the air purifiers they’ve come a long way from where they were at um it’s just if you don’t take away the the source of the problem it’s still there you’re almost masking it a little bit but the air purifier can help i’ve seen i’ve seen them do some some pretty good jobs but you got to get rid of the the soot you got to get rid of what’s creating that smell that you’re that you’re picking up and sensing it’s like the dirty diaper syndrome you put in the barrel but it’s there so um i have uh one more uh uh thing came in i’m refusing to take a call uh and i’m making my adjusters correspond via email josh can that pose a problem i mean they’ve got you’ve got a duty to cooperate according to the policy and if you just non-responsive via phone can you do that is that does that make sense uh you know it’s interesting because uh there’s an insurance carrier uh well i’ll name them allstate refuses to communicate via writing they only want to do phone calls so um i say touche if you only want to communicate via email then go for it that’s how i uh that’s how i feel about it we’ve got a a really good question hi michael i spoke to michael earlier today so my policy sets my standard of living as the standard to which they are to support me during a period of loss of use but they seem to limit to housing what about other things that i don’t have access to but are important to sustain to sustaining my standard of living my adjuster is introducing a new standard while i’m on mandatory evacuation of this


Evacuation of is a thing that’s stuck in my house essential or a mere inconvenience i think the adjuster is introducing a subjective standard that is not in my policy which clearly states my standard of living as the expectation sure so uh it is a subjective thing that what is your normal standard of living i represented a man who lived in a castle and he wanted to go rent obviously for him to maintain his normal standard of living he needed to go rent a castle to live in but he was the only castle in town so obviously you’re going to be running into those situations i think for a general standard of living is the same size house in the same general area and the same general amenities if you can find it now what can get very complicated is if you’re a person who has a 3 000 square foot home and you live on 250 acres you may be an unusual case in your particular area so um you feel like he’s being subjective i i believe your adjuster probably is but it is somewhat of an objective thing in order to combat that what i typically do is i write down the five things that my client really cares about to maintain their normal standard of living and i take those five things to the adjuster and i say i want all five of these things met and if you can meet all of these five things with a home that you recommend to me then i’m willing to look at it and i’m willing to accept it but if it doesn’t key in on these five things then it is not to my normal standard of living and i want the option that i bring to the table i think i think the question was more geared towards items that are in the house that support that standard of living uh you know like on a contents level sure whatever that my item may be what is it that uh what you know we’re the adjusters saying well that’s that’s more of an inconvenience that you need that that you don’t have that right now it’s not a necessity so that’s yeah yeah i would i would take the same approach i would say if it’s really a contents issue that they’re uh and this is typical they they try to furnish it with you know court furnishings or a furniture rental place that’ll give you one sofa one bed one dresser it’s it’s very sparsely furnished i think i would to combat that as i bring to that adjuster an alternative i’d find a staging company i find some other furniture company that’s willing to lease and furnish the home in the way that to my liking or to my clients liking and i bring that to the adjuster and say this is their normal standard of living this is what it’s going to cost and this is what my expectation is well let’s let’s go down a rabbit hole just for a second if you don’t mind if it what if an article uh uh a specialty item of clothing uh that’s used for recreational uh source reasons and that’s the spirit of living i i do this thing with this item every day that’s my standard of living not so much we’re not talking about furniture or the house itself but the standard of living of how i live daily and that item is stuck in my house i can’t get to it so you mr insurance company pay for that item because that’s part of my standard of living until i get back to the house sure are we under the civil authority here civil authority or not even loss of use uh under loss of use i’ve you know i’m a solutions type person so the lucian solution i’d come up with uh let’s just say it’s a kayak i’m used to using my kayak every day well that’s a bad one because you could have a special limit um uh a stereo okay a stereo what i would do is i’d say okay mr uh mr mrs adjuster um you won’t pay for me to rent this particular item so let’s expedite the resolution of my personal property claim this is an item that i always used i had okay this is what it’s going to cost me to replace pay me for my uh pay me out of my personal property bucket right away so i can go out and repurchase that particular item i’ve been given the green light to say what it is it’s a wetsuit hey it’s santa cruz oh yeah yeah i would immediately i’d make a claim for a wetsuit and say that my wetsuit is burned up in the fire or smoke damaged or unaccessible to me it’s unaccessible so is it is it proper to ask the insurance company to buy a wetsuit so that the standard of living can maintain the same um buy one is a little trickier claim rent one absolutely without question oh can you do that i don’t even know can you rent a wetsuit oh you’ve never seen me in a wetsuit i don’t know i don’t know i don’t live in south currently but i do actually i’m pretty sure you can yeah i’ve seen him uh advertise for triathlons that answers your question michael uh so here’s another question just curious do you have any experience with a house that was under a fumigation tent during the wildfire wow uh feeling lucky that the tent probably kept particulate out of our house covered cover the house in deck and vents going out tomorrow to see the house i don’t want the tent to give me a false hope that my house is safe i would say you’re probably more protected than the neighbors were with the big tents over the top so i would i’d probably stay pretty optimistic about that it might be okay well look the devil’s in the details when you get in there folks you’re gonna see if there is any whether it’s odor or particulate that snuck in wherever air can go particulate can go is that safe to say tony and robert


That is very true and then also uh keep in mind these fires a lot of them are pressurized so you’re you’re getting it pushed in as well and that’s that’s why um one of our one of our key components is to check the attics because you have these vents in the attics and it’s pressurized so it’s pushing in there and it’s it’s somewhere that you know a lot of times the carriers wouldn’t mind if it was overlooked um so uh yeah just keep in mind it’s always pressurized so it’s getting pushed in and and emissions and and air and smoke um you you can’t always define where it’s going yeah the velocity of how the smoke and the wind is coming in so especially with these fires they’ve been really high charged the last four years like we worked uh the santa the santa rosa fires and it the way it came in and how fast it moved and how rapidly it was moving um that’s that’s kind of that’s what you’re dealing with with uh it pressurizing into your home yeah that’s a thank you for elaborating that makes perfect sense because it does it does change the atmosphere uh right around that whole area uh we’ve seen fire tornadoes fire nato’s happen uh from just a different atmospheric pressure as it’s got going through the area uh that’s a good point uh there was a question here i think is there any concerns about particulates in a crawl space uh so you’ve got maybe a raised uh foundation and uh there’s vents there and such i would assume yes right


Yes certainly for this the for for the same reason i just said uh it’s pressurized you have the weep screens along your crawl space um that’s too cold to code you have to have them it’s pressurizing in it driving it up so yeah it definitely can get in a crawl space and affect your uh structural framing underneath and so where why this becomes an issue is you might clean the interior of your house and still notice the smell so now you’re looking that smell might be coming from the crawl space drawing up through the house so it’s it’s i mean that stuff is invasive huh it gets everywhere it’s pretty amazing yeah it’s a it’s no easy task folks we don’t definitely realize that and that’s why we’re having this discussion to help you understand the magnitude of what you’re facing i hope it’s not a huge issue but it is an issue and you got to deal with it you got to deal with it properly it’s what we have insurance for so we want to make sure you have the right information in an effort to have you recover properly another question how do you handle testing if there’s no attic per se my home has vents up at the roof but no access in there other than the vent as far as i know where it’s a sealed attic completely and there’s no no way up in there it’s a test that’s a good one you’d have to cut us josh would you have to do an exploratory hole from through one of the ceilings well i think i would first start with walking in the house and do i have a suspicion that there’s smoke in there if i’m am i smelling anything and if i’m not smelling anything and i visually can’t see anything you got to make that decision do i go further and to start taking exploratory cuts into the house because keep in mind if you don’t see anything you don’t smell anything and you make an exploratory cut the insurance and you don’t find anything when you explore the insurance company is not going to be willing to pay for the damage you caused and looking for your smoke so you really got to just does it make sense to keep going excellent well we’re going to wrap up folks thanks again for joining us i hope this was very helpful we enjoyed doing it uh tony robert josh have a great night thank you so much for carving out friday friday evening away from your families i’m so happy to do it have a good evening everyone thank you guys thanks folks thank you.