Disaster Response Contracting and Consulting

John DiMenno, CR, CMRS, CMP,  Senior Damage Consultant for G. S. Jones, Disaster Restoration and Consulting provided an overview discussion of this segment of the building failures industry.  His talk on October 1 to the AE 537 Class at Penn State was a part of the Visiting Practitioner Lecture Series for 2013.  Mr. DiMenno’s talk centered on the process of how insurance losses are assessed, monitored and finalized.  In addition, he discussed how firm’s such as G. S. Jones assemble teams of engineers and other specialists to address complicated and extensive losses such as major fires, wind storms and floods.  G.S. Jones provides consulting services to staff, general, regional, or national claims adjustors all over the country for building damage analysis and cost estimates.  Their extensive institutional commercial and residential experience has been accepted by the courts as expert testimony.  Some representative examples of the services they offer are:

  • Detailed repair cost estimates
  • Building replacement cost analysis
  • Cause of loss determination
  • Engineering analysis
  • Code compliance and requirements
  • American Disabilities Act compliance and evaluation
  • Structural steel evaluation
  • Building foundation evaluation
  • HVAC system testing and evaluation
  • Electrical system testing and evaluation
  • Vibration damage from blasting
  • Code compliance and upgrading
  • Construction defects
  • Commercial and Residential roofing and roof systems (flat, sloped & steeples)
  • Retaining wall evaluation
  • Parking garage structural evaluation
  • Elevators and material handling systems
  • Hail damage evaluation
  • Mold and environmental damage assessment
  • Clerk of the works and emergency service monitoring and evaluation

More  information can be found on  the G.S. Jones Website.  Additional information on disaster repsonse and remediation can be found on the sites of some of the industry organization involved in this type of work including the International Restoration Institute.


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42 Responses to “Disaster Response Contracting and Consulting”

  1. AlyssaStangl
    October 3, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    I was interested in the insurance portion of this lecture, so I did some research to see how different insurance companies cover disaster response. I chose to take a look at State Farm’s webpage because they insure my home. State Farm’s website had an entire page dedicated to disaster response and recovery. They explain how to report damage, what to do after damage has occurred, how to clean up, and how the catastrophe claim process works. State Farm seemed to provide a very thorough explanation of its disaster response process. The following link will take you to their Response and Recovery page: http://www.statefarm.com/aboutus/disaster/response/response.asp.

    Several other insurance companies had similar pages (even if they didn’t provide as much information). I recommend looking up the provider of your homeowners insurance and taking a look at their policies for disaster response.

    • MacenzieC
      October 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm #


      I really like that you brought this topic up. I honestly wasn’t really thinking about this lecture in terms of my own house, but after reading your post I was interested in checking it out. My house is insured through Allstate so I decided to look at there website. I was especially interested in their flood insurance since it seems common that people don’t even think about it until it is to late. The website has a lot of details on what types of policies are offered, what is covered under those policies, and why flood insurance is important. Did you also know that you can get “contents coverage” which insures the items that are in the building and not covered by your regular flood insurance? These contents include things such as washers, dryers, and freezers.

      If you would like to check it out the following link will take you directly to the Flood Insurance Coverage page: http://www.allstate.com/home-insurance/flood-insurance-coverage-options.aspx

      • mkev
        October 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

        Looking at your own policy is an excellent way to discover how some homeowners get surprised when they have a major disaster with their home. Many standard polices cover the basics but not the extras. If you have a home office, extensive collections (coins, art, etc.), lots of electronics etc. you may not be covered under your standard policy. Content policies come in replacement cost form (they pay for new stuff) or other forms where there is a deduction for age (depreciation) and you might only get a fraction of the value needed to replace the items.

        In terms of disaster coverage etc., there is a link in the resources section of Building Failures Forum called Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) that may be helpful and is very informative. You can link direct at http://www.disastersafety.org/ I think you will be interested in the information they have on insurance and disaster issues.

      • Chris K.
        October 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm #


        I think it was smart to look closer in to your home insurance policy. This reminded me of the 2008 floods in Iowa City, where I’m from, and how little people understood their insurance policies. When the 2008 flood hit it was one of the largest floods on record for the area. There were many residents who owned houses within a few blocks of the Iowa river who didn’t own flood insurance because they believed that there was no way that the river would ever rise high enough to effect them. Well, unfortunately it did. Below is a link to a map of the inundated area:


        As you can there were entire neighborhoods consumed by this flood. The flooding resulted in many residents relying on FEMA funds to partially pay for the damages. There are federal regulations that require the purchase of flood insurance for homes that are located within the 100-year flood plain. However, this was a 500+ year event.

        It seems that most of the time, the possibility of flooding is underestimated by most homeowners. The probabilistic terms used to describe floods (i.e. 100 year or 500 year flood) may account for some of this. But understanding what your homeowners insurance covers in the case of a flood is a good first step to protect yourself if a natural disaster such as this were to occur.

  2. Kristin Sliwinski
    October 3, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Thank you again Mr. DiMenno for your informative lecture! I found the information enthralling as I didn’t really know the legal and insurance side of building failures and all if the complexities that go along with it. Not only do you work with the technical aspects of the failures, but you have to explain what you found to people who might not know as much about buildings.

    However, what really caught my attention was the topic of mold removal. I have a severe allergy to mold, so it definitely hit home for me. How do you deal with the health risks that come with dealing with mold or other harmful substances, particularly when you were not expecting to see it? Like the home with the ceiling that fell, and mold turned out to be everywhere. How difficult is it to ensure all the mold is removed, especially from hidden areas? Is the problem of mold extremely common in disaster restorations?

    Thank you again for the interesting lecture!

    • Animesh A
      October 5, 2013 at 4:14 am #

      Kristin, even I kept thinking about that mold slide for a while after the class. Everyone loves there home and to see your home in such a condition is definitely painful. Mold is a common problem which can occur anywhere, it just needs moisture and oxygen and they present a huge health risk to the exposed individuals.
      Sometime it may be hard to detect the molds as they might be growing on the hidden surfaces. The only way in which you can detect a hidden mold is if you know that there has been moisture problems within the building or there is foul smell or if the building occupants reports health problems.
      I came across two nice articles which might be of interest to you:
      1) http://www.epa.gov/iedmold1/mold_remediation.html
      2) http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&ved=0CIoBEBYwBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.buildingscience.com%2Fdocuments%2Freports%2Frr-0210-mold-remediation-in-occupied-homes&ei=BsJPUrjDNYW88ATJm4CIBw&usg=AFQjCNF7b3gNt9M8EQkMD3kDSoDD9Jc86g&sig2=10j6jNDJfDmJWGPSgQoYmQ&bvm=bv.53537100,d.eWU&cad=rja
      These articles discusses about the mold remediation techniques, how to detect the hidden molds and methods to prevent them.

      • Chris F.
        October 10, 2013 at 8:59 am #

        Kristin & Animesh:
        As Mr. Dimenno also mentioned, there are a fair number of safety considerations when addressing mold problems. OSHA has a specific guidelines for it, linked below:


        With the more severe cases, it is essential to have a “mold remediation plan”. In order to minimize adverse effects from mold infestation, it is important to take precautionary measures as outlined in the link above.

    • mkev
      October 5, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

      Mold is fairly common in disaster restorations depending on the type of disaster. Floods, rainstorms, fires (put out with water) all provide the moisture laden environment to generate mold. In Katrina, I inspected a buidling (suit up with mask) that had water enter when the roof top units blew off. The building was sealed up for at least two weeks during mandatory evacuation. Guess what was there when they returned…

  3. Hector V.
    October 2, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    I would like to join the rest of the class in thanking Mr. DiMenno for his enthusiastic lecture. As an AE student that focuses more on Construction Management issues than on structural considerations, I realize that it’s easy to simplify a building’s lifecycle into construction, operation and maintenance, and demolition. Disaster response and restoration are topics that I’ve rarely considered.

    I noticed that Mr. DiMenno stressed the role of the restoration contractor in terms of restoring the structures to their original states. I find this intriguing because, presumably, most owners would want their buildings to be restored to an even better condition than before. If a failure or loss has occurred, the newly-restored building should probably have better protection against those failures (more rigid structures, earthquake and tornado-proofing, etc). Thus my question is, how do you convince the owner that the building’s previous conditions are worth restoring? Or is that just the reality of their insurance policies, and the extent of the insurance companies’ liability?

    • mkev
      October 5, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

      As I noted below in one of the other comments, the insurance company is only obligated to pay, not rebuild. They “pay” what it would take to rebuild one minute before the disaster (if there are no code upgrade policies). Most owners will upgrade some items and in some cases are required to upgrade due to current code requirements. I know it is confusing but in the end, most buildings get upgraded or torn down and the Owner does something else with the settlement money.

  4. Chris F.
    October 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Thank you Mr. DiMenno for taking the time yesterday to discuss disaster response contracting and consulting. It was a treat to see all of the different cases (and sometimes odd, especially with the mold) you’ve had the opportunity to deal with. I particularly found your comment on when a building/structure is worth salvaging interesting. I think as structural engineers we can tend to get caught up in addressing a problem with what is available, where it could make more sense (economically especially) to start from scratch.

    To echo some of the other comments, it was interesting to hear about your interactions between insurance companies and building owners. As you mentioned during the lecture, insurance companies obviously prefer to take a minimum amount of cost for damages. At the same time, building owners would obviously like to get as much as they could to address their problems. Especially with some of the more extreme disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.), have you ever faced any ethical hardships when striving to meet the interests of the insurance company in light of the building owner’s interests? Are there any cases you had particular difficulty with in this regard?

    • mkev
      October 5, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

      I often tell the contractor: “We can salvage anything if you want to pay for it”. That is why when I work with people like Mr. Dimenno, we discuss the practicality of reconstruction vs demo and rebuild prior to issuing those particular recommendations. Often we can save structures but a piecemeal reconstruction is more costly. The exception is of course historic buildings where you are trying to save as much of the original building fabric as possible. Then you do what it takes.

  5. Heather S.
    October 2, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    I would like to thank Mr. DiMenno for taking the time to come to our class to discuss damage response with us. It never really occurred to me that most structures sustain loss at some point in their lifetime. I enjoyed hearing about projects that Mr. DiMenno worked on and the corresponding interactions between the owner and the insurance adjuster. Mr. DiMenno, does it get frustrating when owners claim that damage was caused by one thing (such as a flood) when it was really caused by something else (such as normal wear and tear)? Do a lot of people try to take advantage of the insurance company and get money for things that the insurance company should not have to pay for?

    I think there is a lot more that goes into cleaning up after a disaster than the average person thinks. For example, I never knew how much went into flood restoration other than getting rid of the water from places where it shouldn’t be and replacing things like drywall that is damaged by the water beyond repair. I learned from Mr. DiMenno that flood waters are classified as category 3, which contain harmful contaminants such that it should be handled as if it were raw sewage. Now I know that extreme caution should be utilized when working in flood contaminated buildings. The waters can contain raw sewage, animal feces, hepatitis C, and the E-Coli bacteria. Can anyone else think of something related to another type of disaster that is very important to know, but that most people don’t know about?

    • mkev
      October 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

      One item that covers a little of both of your questions. Most homeowners have insurance to cover fire and disasters like wind storms (hurricanes) but not floods. During Katrina, there were reports of people setting fire to their homes because they had fire insurance but not flood insurance.

      More common in Katrina was the analysis and study that went on to find out if the coastal homes were blown down by the wind or knocked down by the flood (storm surge). If wind blew the house down before the flood arrived, it was covered. If not and you did not have flood insurance you may have been out of luck.

      • Ryan M.
        October 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

        I am not shocked by people setting their homes on fire in order to receive a check from the insurance agencies. It is immoral, but when you are facing the destructive energy that Katrina carried in land, I can see how morality can become twisted.
        I was surprised by the need to recognize if a home was blown down by wind or knocked down by flood waters. I can imagine this would be a difficult distinction to make. With the arrival of the flood waters directly at the heels of the wind everything would be soaked regardless of the source. Since air is essentially a fluid, I would imagine there would be similar debris patterns from both sources.
        I wonder if the insurance agencies would fund universities or other research capable entities to find the distinctions between homes that were knocked down by wind or water. This may be a situation where the price to obtain the data would be small compared to the cost for insurance settlements.
        In searching I found this resource for Wind vs. Flood Loss and Additional Claims Guidance. It discusses the details the adjuster should look for and how to go about obtaining eye-witness accounts, topography details, coastal elevation changes, debris lines, how to inspect structural connections. There may be a ton of information kept close to the chest of the insurance agencies with the potential amount of money changing hands.

  6. Animesh A
    October 2, 2013 at 3:41 am #

    I would like to thank Mr. John DiMenno for an informative presentation. I liked the point that you made today about the fire damage. As you said that there are two types of fire, hot fire which controls the wood frame structures and generates low smoke and is difficult to detect sometimes in the initial stages and the low oxygen fire which includes mattress burning generating a large amount of smoke. I was wondering if there is some way to detect fire in wood frame structures in initial stages to prevent the amount of damage that usually takes place?
    As you said that insurance companies only pay for the damages that have occurred and they don’t take into consideration the proposed measures for preventing the structure from further collapse. I wanted to know the owners perspective in this case. Does the owner likes to spend money from his pocket to prevent further collapse and retrofit the structure or will he wait for the structure to collapse and then claim the amount from the insurance company?
    Another case that you discussed was about a building that caught fire due to the reaction of chemicals as the backup generator failed and the refrigerator switched off. Due to the reaction the smoke was spread in the whole area. So in this case, does the owner have the right to claim the damages from the insurance company that the people in the surrounding area suffered apart from the building damage?
    I really liked the slide shown by you about the 3 hinged arch in which Professor Parfitt was also involved.
    Lastly the mold issue that you showed in the end shows that a small negligence can result in a big disaster. I liked the way in which you approached the issue by asking the owner about the water bills and then trying to figure out the reason for the issue.

    • mkev
      October 5, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

      Insurance companies will commonly pay for any efforts to stabilize the structures for safety and to limit additional failure and economic loss. In fact, some policies require them to do so. What they wont pay for is the cost of correcting the initial design defect form engineers or contractors for example. That said, sometimes they do pay the owner for those items with the agreement that the owner provides permission for the insturance company to litigate to recover those costs as well.

      In your second example, damage to adjacent property owners is usually covered by their own insurance company which in turn would try to recover from the manufacturing company. Those owners also have the option to mediate and/or litigate against the manufacturer in the event they don’t have insruance. It can get pretty complicated but bottom line, the ones causing the problem are usually going to have to pay for it (or their insurance company).

      We will talk about the 3-hinge arch later in the semester and you will get a chance to calculate the snow load for comparison purposes.

    • jordanm
      October 9, 2013 at 9:35 pm #


      In considering your question about whether there are ways to detect a wood burning fire with low smoke output in its early stages; I think the most common way would be with fire alarms. There are different types of fire alarms and smoke detectors used in buildings, especially residential which would be mostly wood-frame, and one type is called an ionization smoke alarm. You can read more about them here. http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/static/types-smoke-alarms-detectors-366.html
      These alarms are faster reacting to high energy fires than other types. Additionally, city boroughs or districts have laws about smoke detectors or fire alarms and violation of these laws can carry heavy consequences. I imagine if a violation was found in the aftermath of a fire, the insurance company would not have to pay for the damages. The State College fire safety laws can be found here http://www.statecollegepa.us/index.aspx?NID=681

  7. MacenzieC
    October 2, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    First off I would like to thank Mr. DiMenno for taking the time to speak to our class today. I really enjoyed having the chance to see the disaster response side of engineering. I feel like as structural engineers we have had a lot of opportunities to see what forensics engineers do but we often don’t consider the disaster response team.

    One thing that really stood out to me in today’s presentation was how your response to disasters puts you in a position where you are directly working with people who have experienced a loss. Whether this loss was something as small as a beam failure, or something as large as losing their house and everything in it, you were one of the people there to help.

    Do you often find yourself in a position where you have a chance to not only help fix the building loss, but also have a chance to help those who have experienced the loss? In class today you talked about how you gave away a company ladder to a gentleman who didn’t have one. That had to have been an incredible feeling, knowing that you made a difference in that mans life.

    • SikandarP
      October 10, 2013 at 7:35 am #

      I would like to apologize for the tardiness of my second post.

      Macenzie makes an excellent point about trying to assist people. Our careers will hopefully not always be at our desk full time, but instead bring us to our sites and communities we are trying to to make a difference and be able to assist as best we can.

      Ready.gov provides excellent material on how to prepare and deal with disasters, during and after the event. It describes minimal things businesses and home owners can take to alleviate dangers to life that a facility may inflict on people. Our design is what will be under judgement should someone get harmed during an event, such as thunderstorm, earthquake or tornado. A failure in our design during an event may not seem (or legally) be our fault; however, I believe we have a moral obligation to attempt to reduce the risk to human life as much as we can.

  8. Jordan Miller
    October 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Thank you Mr. DiMenno for a very interesting and informative lecture! I enjoyed hearing your stories and learning about situations that most engineers are not exposed to.

    One question I had was whether you ever do investigation work for criminal situations, specifically arson? Is that a case that the fire department or police handle; or could they ask a company like GS Jones to prove that type of thing?

    Additionally, I was wondering if there are ever times where an owner might try to tamper with evidence or conceal the cause of the failure? It came to mind that a failure could be caused by owner negligence and in order to receive insurance money, they may try to tamper with the scene to push the blame on someone else.

    • Kristin Sliwinski
      October 10, 2013 at 8:55 am #

      While I am not sure if GS Jones does investigation of criminal activities that relate to disasters, I did find this interesting pdf regarding the spoliation of evidence. http://www.cozen.com/admin/files/publications/halbeisen1586928.pdf I hope this is not a common event, but some people do not have the same morals, and could potentially alter the evidence.

      Along similar lines, Parfitt mentioned how home owners set fire to their homes after Katrina so they could get insurance money. In desperate times, people often take desperate measures to try to rebuild their lives to a state prior to the disaster.

  9. jordanm
    October 1, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    Thank you Mr. DiMenno for a very interesting and informative lecture! I enjoyed hearing your stories and learning about situations that most engineers are not exposed to.

    One question I had was whether you ever do investigation work for criminal situations, specifically arson? Is that a case that the fire department or police handle; or could they ask a company like GS Jones to prove that type of thing?

    Additionally, I was wondering if there are ever times where an owner might try to tamper with evidence or conceal the cause of the failure? It came to mind that a failure could be caused by owner negligence and in order to receive insurance money, they may try to tamper with the scene to push the blame on someone else.

  10. Chris Coakley
    October 1, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    Thank you speaking to our Class Mr. DiMenno, it was very interesting. One of the first things that occurred to me was throughout the presentation was some of the re-occuring themes we have seen/discussed in our past presentation. For instance Mr. Dimenno pointed out that the vast majority of failures are due to some sort of water penetration, something pointed out by Brian Rose previously. Also how its rare that the damage consultant even has access to original drawings, which was something Professor Parfitt had pointed out previously.

    I also found the discussion on the insurance aspects of the failures to be interesting. Mr. DiMenno pointed out that usually the insurance will only cover the insured up to repairing the failed damage but not the entire extent (like the Pittsburgh parking garage collapse that the insurance would not pay to go replace all expansion joints in the building but rather only the one that caused failure) and how sometimes that building can not even feasibly be brought up to code or acceptable conditions. What is a typical outcome then? Does the insurance company pay for the structures demolition and replacement or only part of this process? Is this a common scenario that heads to litigation?

    • mkev
      October 5, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

      In many cases, the insurance company pays for the actual damage but not the changes or upgrades. In the example you site of the convention center, the owner had the option to pay for the changes in the expansion joint construction and then try to recover the costs through mediation or litigation against the original design and construction professionals. Worst case, it goes to court.

      • Chris Coakley
        October 7, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

        Proffesor Parfitt,

        That brings up another question I was thinking about. If a failure occurs many years after a building has been designed and constructed, such as the mid rise punching shear failure brought up by Mr. Pirro last week, how does this potentially complicate or simplify the resolution process. For instance if an owner wishes to try to recover losses by pursuing mediation/litigation against original design and construction professionals is there a time limit for which those professionals are liable? Or what if the engineer of record is no longer working for the same firm? Do these things differ case by case?

        • Heather S.
          October 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm #


          You bring up some interesting questions. I took a course about residential construction and I learned about something called “Engineers Professional Liability (Errors and Omissions).” It is basically a type of insurance that an engineering company purchases in order to cover claims made against them. It covers claims made against the insured during the policy period and that are the result of wrongful acts committed on or after the retroactive date but before the end of the policy period.

          It is very uncommon for an individual employee to be sued outside of the corporate liability insurance umbrella. This is because if an employee was acting within the scope of his job, his employer would likely be sued too. As long as the firm maintains a professional liability insurance policy, there will be adequate professional liability protection for the firm, principals, and employees.

          You asked a question about what would happen if an employee leaves the firm and is later named in a lawsuit relating to a project with the former employer. In this case most professional liability insurance policies will cover the work completed by past and present engineers within the scope of their employment. The insurance must be in effect at the time the claim is made. If the firm is no longer in business or if the firm does not carry the insurance anymore, there could be some liability exposure for the individual engineer.

          I hope this answered some of your questions. You can visit the National Society of Professional Engineers’ website to learn more about professional liability: http://www.nspe.org/ProfessionalLiability/index.html. Also, here is an example of an architects and engineers professional liability insurance policy: http://www.ironshore.com/pdfs/products/Architects_and_Engineers_Professional_Liability_Policy_Form-1.pdf.

  11. Ryan M.
    October 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    Today’s presentation from Mr. DiMenno was well done. The information he presented seemed like just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Damage Response cases. It seemed daunting how many people could potentially be pulled into a single case.
    I did not realize the amount of expertise and layers that are needed in this field of work. The tasks involved seem endless. From initially recognizing the source of damage and recommending a solution, to restoring a facility to pre-damage conditions or tracking down a technician who made a product years earlier, the layers of the industry seemed to pile up. It appears as though Mr. DiMenno holds a necessary position of mediator between the judicial and practical sides of damage cases. With potentially big money to be made or lost I can see why there is a need for decisive actions as well as diligence in legal research.

  12. Mia N.
    October 1, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    Another thanks to Mr. DiMenno for the damage consulting lecture. The discussion of general damage consulting process was quite informative and the case studies were impressive and emphasized the major points. As Mr. DiMenno mentioned, the first step of damage consulting was an initial assessment of the building based on interviews with the owners and the building drawings. I was concerned that how to acquire reliable and accurate as-operate information of the building since most of the drawings only show the as-design information and it could be worse since sometimes it is difficult to gain access to the drawings.
    The lecture also reminds me of the discussion we had in class about the flood damage restoration. Dr. Parfitt mentioned that if water inside the basement was cleaned out immediately after the floods but the ground water head was still high outside, the water pressure will cause failures of the basement wall. Such things could happen during other kinds of damage restoration. There are conflicts when people want to restore the building as soon as possible but probably would cause more trouble. Are there any standards or practice describing the best time to start the restoration during typical water/fire damage?

    • mkev
      October 5, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      Companies such as GS Jones are experts at doing walkthroughs and recreating the buildings on paper from actual observations. They catalog the model numbers from all equipment, take samples of materials, take site measurements etc. In other words, they do whatever it takes to “recreate” the building information at least to the point of being able to cost out the damage and repair.

    • Chris K.
      October 10, 2013 at 1:08 am #

      I your question about standards for water/fire damage restoration was interesting. It seemed to me that something as common as these types of damage would have some industry standards. So I did a little research into restoration practices. I found a standard put out by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification:


      The standard does not lay out specific procedures on water damage restoration but does provide insight into the principals. The document costs $65 so I was not able to see it but I imagine it would have a good deal of information about the mechanics or stages of water damage.

      In addition I also found a separate document on fire and smoke damage restoration. Again, a purchase is required. However, “the manual defines restorer-client-adjuster relationships”. This would be very handy for an estimator in assessing the damage and finding methods to remediate the problem. A link to the document is provided below.


      Overall, it seems that these ‘common’ sources of damage have been well investigated and documented by professionals within the industry.

  13. Xiao Y.
    October 1, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Thanks for the lecture presented by Mr. DiMenno. From this lecture, I got a better understanding of how to deal with the situations when damage is recognized. The process talked in the lecture is very helpful and provides a broad view of how the work should be done. One thing I am concerning about is the time frame for each steps taken in the process. How long does it usually take from the recognition of the damage till the final acceptance of report by the insured?

    There are so many nice case studies. I am impressed by the damaged house by storms. Will experts suggest repairing the house with higher quality of material or better structure compared to the old one? If so, will the insurance company cover the fee?

    Another question that confused me is the conflict between the interest of public and the insurance company. We all know that it is required that the investigation of building failures should first of all take care of the public safety. Sometimes, this requirement will delay the investigation and some important information may be missed. As the G.S. Jones Consulting Services works for the insurance company, what if the insurance company ask for the work to be as good as possible? How to deal with such a conflict?

    • AlyssaStangl
      October 3, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      From what I understand from the lecture, the insurance company will typically only pay to return the building to its pre-loss condition – meaning the building will be rebuilt or repaired to original standards. I do remember Mr. DiMenno mentioning that sometimes, after some legal litigations, some insurance companies may approve of some upgrades, but typically this will be resisted by the insurance company.

      • mkev
        October 5, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

        Yes, that is true. Remember that the key phrase here is “pay”. The insurance company does not rebuild. Owners often will take the insurance settlement and rebuild a totally different building. Many owners have a code upgrade clause (at least a small one) / policy because they know there is likely to be code upgrades in electrical and life safety issues in most buildings even if only a few years old.

    • Mia N.
      October 9, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

      Yes, there is always conflicts when different groups are pursuing their goals based limited time or resources. There is a paper discussing the reconstruction of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, in one of the sections, the authors discussed how the conflicts are coordinate from a city planning standpoint. Here is a link to the paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/103/40/14653.long

  14. AlyssaStangl
    October 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    I would first like to thank Mr. DiMenno for his informative and interesting presentation. I found this particular topic to be very intriguing. It was interesting to see how many different parties are required to facilitate the determination of the failure cause, the determination of damage costs, and the repair of damages. I can imagine how difficult it could be to coordinate all the different experts, contractors, owners, insurance adjustors, and such. It would definitely take an experienced consultant such as G.S. Jones to do this.
    Beyond the technical aspects of damage investigations and repairs, the legal side is also very important as Mr. DiMenno pointed out. The process for collection and presentation of findings is very formal and structured. I was surprised to find out how long litigations between owners and insurance companies can last, even though experts are behind the formulation of repair costs and analysis. In particular, Mr. DiMenno mentioned the buildings surrounding the World Trade Centers that are still under litigations for damages in 2001.
    I do have one question regarding this process. Even though the consultant’s findings are supported by expert analysis and investigations and contractor estimates, there can still obviously be disagreements among the parties involved in a damage case. How do the damage consultants deal with a client or owner who challenges the accuracy of the consultant’s findings?

    • mkev
      October 5, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

      Many times, the owner may also have a set of third party experts and sometimes there are multiple insurance companies involved, each with their own experts. Often the various sides compare notes and try to come to a common resolution. You would be surprised how sometimes each expert involed comes up with a different repair cost for each item (some higher and some lower) but in the end their total numbers are fairly close. At that point they don’t worry as much about the individual details if they can get everyone to agree on a resolution.

    • Hector V.
      October 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

      You briefly mentioned the litigation situation at the World Trade Center site, and I couldn’t help but think of the disaster response industry in terms of terrorist attacks and similar events. Obviously they’re not natural disasters like most of Mr. DiMenno’s case studies, but I would assume that the procedures for securing and restoring such buildings would be similar.

      In the case of the Pentagon, for example, the restoration contractors were dealing with a high-security building. The drawings, specifications, and other construction documents for such a building are probably protected for national security reasons. I’m not sure if Mr. DiMenno or Mr. Parfitt have ever dealt with such high-security restorations, but my question is this: how does the security of the site (and the construction documents) affect your ability to restore such a building? Or are you simply given an all-access pass?

  15. SikandarP
    October 1, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Thank you for speaking to our class Mr. John DiMenno! I appreciate the time you took out of your busy schedule to talk to our class about disaster response and its relation to the Architectural Engineering.

    The various projects you have worked on during your career are amazing! I value the brief introduction you gave us on litigation; hopefully something none of us have to face in the future. The many facets you must keep track of for each project are mind boggling. For example, the project involving the hotel after a flood. You had to consider the structural stability of the building, wood and gypsum board deterioration, waste management from the flood waters and possible mold growth, and mechanical equipment failure and replacement. How do you keep track of all facets of the project? Is there a checklist that you follow? Or requirements from the insurance company (to make sure everything is caught)? What occurs if something is missed in the original investigation?

    • Xiao Y.
      October 8, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      Hi Sikanda,
      I also think checklist is very helpful, for it helps people to investigate directly with guidance, and make sure that nothing is left without cares. I searched for these staffS, and noticed that some emergency departments have their own checklist manuals. One example is the Minnesota Building Official disaster preparedness manual. It is intended to assist the building departments in helping their communities in a more efficient way. You may want to have a look at it following this link: https://www.dli.mn.gov/ccld/PDF/disaster_preparedness_manual.pdf

      There is a research conducted to evaluate current assessment tool, including the evaluation of a checklist to detect all the possible damages of buildings might have. http://ascelibrary.org/doi/pdf/10.1061/9780784412848.180 .As is noted by the author, the result shows that the checklist can only serve as a quick and easy guidance to evaluate the structural defects and cannot serve as the sole method of evaluation.

      I think that it is because each case is unique and different, having a checklist to make sure that all things have been well settled is difficult.

      • SikandarP
        October 10, 2013 at 7:41 am #

        Thank you!

        This was very informative! I think it is very important to have your facility prepared for a disaster, and also be prepared post-disaster, and what can be done to salvage or save sections of your building.

        This link http://www.ready.gov/business/implementation/emergency describes what a business can do to implement a response plan for disasters. It reviews natural disasters and weather incidents, and how property owners can attempt to alleviate damages during and after an emergency. I think this would be a very good start for a business to begin forming a disaster response plan. There is a section about homeowners and family safety. Here is the link to that page: http://www.ready.gov/emergency-planning-checklists.

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