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Contamination: An Interruption That Means Business

Materials, Chemistry & Biology

When a fire occurs in a large, public area where a number of neighbouring businesses are located, business interruption can be just as financially damaging as the cost of the material repairs or loss of stock.

A company may have measures and funds in place to clean up and repair its facility after an incident, but the delay on returning to normal trading can be unpredictable.

Often, an incident in one unit can have various knock-on effects to neighbouring shops, restaurants, offices or other buildings in close proximity. Even a small fire can cause smoke contamination throughout a much larger area, including as the result of spread through sealed doors in some circumstances. Water damage related to fire-fighting activities can also cause mould to contaminate and damage stock as well as the building structure. Hawkins has investigated many fires from small to large scale incidents, which have started in one building and spread to affect neighbouring businesses. Whilst our investigators are often there to determine the seat of the fire and its cause, they also assess the effects sustained by units adjacent to the scene of the fire.

Appointing a contamination expert can help a business to assess the extent of the damage to an area (or the stock), after an incident, such as a fire, has occurred. Contamination experts will advise on the kind of cleaning or restoration that is necessary in order for the business to reopen. A complete plan of the unit is drawn, and samples are taken from the scene, as well as from various areas in neighbouring units that may have damaged stock as a result. The locations of where the samples were taken are recorded, swabbing and other testing occurs, and then patterns of contamination are analysed to map the exact areas that will need to be cleaned or refurbished. In the majority of cases, all of the analysis and testing can be completed on site.

Adjusters and insurers representing either the building or business in close proximity to the incident, are just as concerned with the business interruption to their unlucky insured as they are about damage from the fire, or water damage from fire-fighting. When speaking with an adjuster on a recent contamination investigation, business interruption due to consumer behaviour was also raised as a concern.

Consumer behaviour refers to how the public will satisfy their needs and wishes within a given market. In a retail park or shopping centre, which might offer customers with many options for purchases like clothing, electronics, cosmetics or home goods, the public might choose to simply visit a shop that was not affected by the fire. Patterns of business interruption are therefore influenced by much more than just how much stock is lost, or how long that business must be closed. A shop may lose its customer base if the public becomes accustomed to buying similar products or services somewhere else during that shop’s lengthy recovery period. It is important to have an expert on scene to expedite the process, so a business can meet the needs of its customers as soon as possible.

It is important to analyse samples and determine what stock (if any) can be recovered. The area must also be cleaned thoroughly as soon as possible, because potential customers will still be looking for the items that shop once sold, or the service the business was previously able to provide.

It is, therefore, of great value to have a plan of action in place at your business, not only for what to do in case of a fire, but also in the unlucky case of sustaining damage from a fire in a neighbouring property. If you would like to know more about contamination, or consult with a contamination expert, please contact us.

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