We heard an interesting story recently. A contents manager was passing out air filtration masks and nitrile gloves to the adjuster on the case as well as to the homeowners who had returned to accompany her on an initial walkthrough.

The adjuster was grateful, but the homeowners thought that the gesture was excessive and unnecessary. They explained that they might use such precautions on a mold or sewage backup misadventure, but did not think the toxicity of a “smoky house,” was anything worth being concerned about.

Contents professionals use ventilation, HEPA filtration (air scrubbers), and adsorption (activated charcoal) to maintain indoor air quality, but ask any arson investigator, any firefighter, or even any chimney sweep and you will hear tales of soot contamination through inhalation, skin, eyes or even accidental ingestion.

They will share stories of cleaning black particulates out of their noses after a simple job, or bloodshot eyes (irritated by the same air they breathed into their lungs), or even a “smoker’s cough” from just one day on the job.

The contents pros probably deserve hazard pay for smoke-related assignments – but at the very least, they may well share the little protection they have with you or the insureds. It is an inexpensive, protective measure that may well provide huge dividends.

Mold and black water may look scarier than soot – but smoke particulates are sneaky and very hard on those who don’t prepare for them. When an owner walks across acres of burned land after a wildfire to get to his (her) home, the fact that it isn’t as bad as the odors outside may be remarkably deceptive.

Biohazard Cleanup: Mindfulness on Scene