Cincinnati the party’s over
Vandalism comes in many forms
This clean up was a new one to me, but given what caused the damage it seems like it shouldn't have been. A commercial property in Cincinnati had a top floor that was a residential apartment. There was a social gathering at the apartment and a fire extinguisher was used. The only problem . . . there was no fire! The extinguisher was discharged in the common stairwell by one of the party guests and found its way into two of the businesses in the building. This may seem somewhat harmless and just a little mess, but this was considered vandalism and cost over $10000 to clean up (thank goodness for insurance!)
It's just dust, right?
Fire extinguisher powder is a made up of very fine particles that can be harmful to our lungs, but is very effective against fire. Although this looks like it is "just dust" it will make its way through a typical shop vac or vacuum cleaner filter and back into the air. Sure, some will get trapped in the filter, but it will take a tremendously long time to keep cleaning and recleaning until it's all gone. In this case the dust didn't flow exactly like soot in a fire because there was no heat to create the same kinds of drafts, but the extinguisher dust did go throughout 2 businesses that had their doors closed. Several of the workers in one office were extremely concerned about their respiratory health and told us about coughing spells that they had after trying to work in there. They only made it half a day before leaving and trying to work from home.
If you were to pull out a human hair, cut it in half and then look at the surface you just cut you would be looking at something about 90 microns in size. Fire extinguisher dust is about 20 microns in size, less than 1/4 the size of a human hair. It's designed this way to get into small nooks and crannies to do it's job. Cleanup requires equipment that is up to the challenge. HEPA filters, by definition, trap particles down to .03 microns in size. We use special vacuums and air scrubbers with HEPA filters that are rated to trap these tiny particles so that they don't go right back in the air.
We sent a small army to this job and got the common areas and the business offices cleaned within 2 days so those companies could get back to work ASAP. It was a great feeling as a business owner knowing that we were able to get other businesses up and running again. It's always satisfying on a job like this to know that our specialized equipment worked as it should and there was no call back for any dust resettling. But the most important result we achieved in this job was that employees of those businesses felt safe going back to work knowing the job was done right and their health was not at risk. "Like it never even happened."®