April, 2007










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Charles and Danielle Dobbs


While we are being entertained by the media that claims that global warming causes hurricanes and one month later it claims that the opposite is true, we homeowners better be prepared that hurricanes will come our way when environmental conditions are right - global warming or not.

Since 2004, southern states residents have suffered a great deal from hurricanes. Naturally, insurance companies had to pay a lot of claims related to water damage and mold - well beyond what they could have ever anticipated. In 2004, there were more than 2 million claims in Florida, totalling $18 billion. This came at a time when people were more informed about mold and its effects on buildings and health. Homeowners received a crash course on the effects of large water intrusion by experiencing first hand what it meant to live in a mold-infested home. Some got lucky with minor damage but many people had at least one room affected, thus they lived in other parts of their house while waiting to get the situation assessed and remediated.

Insurance companies knew that mold remediation has to be handled in a special way so as not to contaminate the rest of the home during removal of the contaminated material by having mold remediators mitigate the situation under containment, and using air scrubbers to clean the air of excessive mold spores. But before this was done, insurance companies needed proof that a mold problem existed in a home. Thus, mold inspectors were called to assess the situation and write a mold remediation protocol. Then after the remediation was completed, the mold inspector went inside the containment area to test the air to make sure that the remediation had been carried out properly and the air quality in relation to mold spores was within the normal range compared to an outside control. Mold inspectors gave their approval for reconstruction once testing passed air clearance.

The insurance companies paid a great deal of claims for water damage and mold. In fact they felt they spent too much. Their knee-jerk reaction was to simply eliminate mold claims altogether, or limit the amount to $10,000.

Many people do not read the fine print of official documents, especially when a current insurance policy is renewed. People assume that nothing has changed. We recommend you read your homeowner's policy carefully. If it does not specifically say that you are covered for mold, chances are you are not covered. If it says you have a $10,000 limit on mold, you must decide whether it is enough or whether you need to increase that limit. If you are not sure of whether you are covered or not, call your insurance company and find out now - before the next hurricane.

This exclusion does not make sense because mold can grow only when moisture is present.  This action will undoubtedly cause much grief to all concerned.  Mold contaminated materials will be handled by handymen, not by trained mold remediators.  Lack of personal protective gear will expose workers and occupants to potentially toxic mold and possibly make them sick.  Lack of proper equipment and lack of containment during the demolition will cause millions of mold spores to be released into the air and contaminate the rest of the house.  Lawyers will be busy.

The chances of a home being burned down is slim compared to suffering large water intrusion due to hurricanes, especially in southern states. Hurricane season happens every year, thus chances that homes will suffer water damage is quite high because there is little we can do against the forces of nature. Residences are not built as fortress and wind-driven rain will come inside homes in ways that defy laws of gravity. Yet, there are things homeowners can do to control water intrusion and mold. There are simple preventive maintenance tasks that homeowners can do throughout the year and there are also certain actions homeowners can do to prevent, or at least, minimize the spread of mold once water has forced its way in, as in the case of hurricanes.

Many hardware stores and local communities have programs on hurricane preparedness, it behooves every homeowner to attend these classes to make your home more resistant to hurricanes. Other programs sponsored by the State of Florida are worth looking into: as well as It is always a good idea to perform an inventory of your home. Free inventory software can be found at:

Hurricanes preparedness starts with your looking at your homeowner's policy to see whether you are covered for mold. Then, try to learn all you can on how to minimize water damage and mold by learning what to do under specific circumstances. These tips can be found in a complete book on mold: MOLD MATTERS - Solutions and Prevention, available at your favorite bookstore or at

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Danielle Dobbs and Charles Dobbs are principals of Dobbs Enterprises, Inc. a mold inspection and sampling company based in Maitland, Florida.  They are authors of MOLD MATTERS – Solutions and Prevention, and has written many articles.  They both founded the International Institute of Professional Mold Inspectors,, where they offer online courses.  They give onsite and online classes to engineers and maintenance crew to teach water intrusion and mold management.  A unique telephone consulting service, a first in the nation provides homeowners and building owners with an unbiased expert opinion or guidance about their particular mold problem.

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