Flooding in Cumbria, UK - Update 3

3 Dec 09

Good progress continues with strip out and drying phases underway. The typical property types involved are residential dwellings built of stone walls, which internally are plastered with either Gypsum or lime based plaster, with solid floors. Many of the properties are located within a conservation area and may include original decorative features, such as ornate plaster coving and joinery items, such as architraves, skirting's and panelled doors.

The depth of flooding in these properties, coupled with the curren cold weather conditions, requires an approach to drying which deals with these factors and recognises the key drivers of speed, control and value for money. Our approach to drying properties affected by this event is outlined below:

Our surveyors have been workign closely with a number of disaster restoration companies to determine the most appropriate usage of drying apparatus to achieve the following key goals:

  • shorten the claims life cycle by a reduced drying period
  • minimise the amount of strip out work required to save cost and reduce repair duration
  • reduce the lenghty alternative accommodation to minimise disruption to policyholders

In setting the drying regime for each property, the construction type needs to be considered. Some advanced drying systems are inappropriate for long-term use and may put at risk recov ery of some of the materials in the property, such as ornate plaster and timber by over aggressive drying.

Our recommended approach is to incorporate the use of specialist desiccant and thermal drying equipment and to consider and deploy, where appropriate, Advanced Drying Systems (sometimes known as "Speed Drying"). We are working closely with disaster restoration companies and specialists to establish a drying regime that is fit for purpose for this event and recognising of the property types involved.

The consensus amongst our surveyors and the restoration contractors is to avoid usage of stand alone refrigerant dehumidifies, which are ineffective in cold weather conditions and to use desiccant dehumidifiers, which introduce heat as well as withdrawing moisture. Internal tenting of the flooded areas of the property would be introduced to focus drying on the most appropriate areas. These systems often include remote electronic monitoring devices. In the residential properties we are dealign with, it is anticipated that acceptable dryness can be achieved in the majority of cases within a 28 day period using this method of drying. Generally, there is widespread capacity amongst restorers for this method and in most cases, reinstatement works can begin as the drying period is concluding.

The use of "Speed Drying" systems is also being introduced. These tend to come in two varieties. The first is a trailer mounted unit, which is parked outside the damaged property. This unit generates large volumes of warmed air fed in through ducting and then exhausted into a heat exchanger to remove moisture. The second is a smaller unit that can be sited within the building, but operates in the same way as the trailer mounted unit.

These appliances offer the most powerful method of drying and can be deployed on most if not all property types. They are, however, more expensive to operate than desiccant drying as they require an operative to be present on a semi permanent basis - and generally can cost up to 5 times the normal daily drying rate. The additional daily cost may, however, be partially offset by substantially reduced timescales in savings on business interruption or alternative accommodation costs.

We are seeking to deploy Advanced Drying Systems where there are particular financial or customer benefits, such as in the following circumstances:

  • business interruption claims
  • large alternative accommodation costs (i.e. large family)
  • large volume commercial buildings
  • properties owned or occupied by eldelerly/inform policyholders
  • where the level of trapped moisture is most severe

A good example of where we applied this approach is on a claim for a high street pharmacy and retail outlet on Main Street in Cockermouth. Not only were there business interruption considerations, but there was also a community consideration to get the pharmacy part of the shop re-opened as a priority for local residents. By using an advanced drying system as part of the solution, our major loss team were able to progress the claim quickly, with the pharmacy section reopening for business on Monday 30 November.

Through Oriel, we have secured seven trailer mounted capacity systems, which are being deployed in the Cockermouth area. We have also identified additional trailer mounted capcity from disaster restoration contractors in the area. Our recommended approach would be to deploy these systems to the worst affected properties for a maximum of 2/3 day period and then to revert to desiccant drying. This approach is designed to further limit the amount of strip out work to kitchen units, fixtures and fittings and joinery items with wall plaster being saved unless it has deteriorated. It is our aim to save the wall plaster where possible by using this approach.

By using the Advanced Drying approach, we can shorted the period of drying to approximately two weeks in most of the property types we are dealing with. This will reduce moisture content to a sufficient level to enable early commencement of repairs, in parallet with continued desiccant drying.

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