READ BEFORE ENTERING
Do Not Enter Fire, Flood or Storm Damaged Properties
Properties should be declared safe to enter by emergency service personnel, relevant experts and authorities before anyone else enters. This includes owners, family and friends.
Why Is Asbestos Dangerous?
Asbestos becomes a health risk when asbestos fibres are released into the air and breathed in.
When asbestos or asbestos containing material is disturbed, it forms a dust that contains minute asbestos fibres that are invisible to the naked eye. The fibres are durable and so small they can be easily inhaled or swallowed, they are 50 to 200 times thinner than hair, and are invisible to the naked eye.
There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos fibre/dust!
Breathing in even small amounts of asbestos dust may cause Asbestos Related Disease (ARD) – some forms of ARD, such as mesothelioma cancer are invariably fatal!
About Asbestos Containing Materials
Asbestos containing materials (ACMs), when referring to building materials, normally consist of a mixture of cement with asbestos fibres added for strength. The use of asbestos containing building materials was banned in Australia in the 1980s. ACMs were widely used in building construction from 1940s through to the late 1980s. Two out of three (or more) houses and buildings built or renovated prior to 1990 are likely to be built of materials that contain asbestos, or include products that contain asbestos.
Fire, Flood & Storm Damaged Asbestos Containing Materials
When ACMs are subjected to fire, floods or storms, the bonding material – mainly cement – breaks down and allows asbestos fibre/dust to be released into the atmosphere. This is when asbestos becomes what is known as ‘friable’, and extremely dangerous.
Homes or buildings that contain ACM and have been destroyed or damaged by fire, are particularly dangerous to enter as the asbestos fibres are mixed in the debris, rubble and ash, and are easily disturbed as a person walks around sifting through what is left of the home or building and its contents.
The same applies to homes or buildings, that contain ACM and have been destroyed or damaged by floods and storms. They are also dangerous to enter, particularly when they dry out. As the damaged ACM dries out, asbestos fibres are released and mix in with the debris and rubble, and are easily disturbed. Remember, you can’t see or smell these deadly fibres – if you choose to enter these areas, you really will be dicing with death!
ACMs, such as wall sheeting and corrugated roofing, even if intact will have become very brittle if subjected to extreme heat, prolonged immersion or storm damage. It will break easily if moved or lifted – as it breaks asbestos fibres will be released into the air, and can be breathed in if appropriate personal protective equipment is not used.
Important Dos & Don’ts
Do not under estimate the danger presented by fire, flood or storm damaged properties that may contain asbestos, even if you are only ‘looking’, you can contaminate yourself and all those around you by dragging asbestos fibres/dust home with you. These very fibres could claim lives many years down the track.
Remember! Properties should be declared safe to enter by emergency service personnel, relevant experts and authorities before anyone else enters. This includes owners, family and friends.
Under no circumstances should children enter a fire, flood or storm damaged property or area that may, or is suspected of containing asbestos or other deadly contaminants.
Pets and other animals should be restrained, and not allow to enter or wander in fire, storm or flood damaged areas, they can pick up deadly asbestos fibres or other contaminates in the coats and then contaminate everyone who comes in contact.
Realistically, you should not enter the property either, only people fully qualified and licensed (thus insured) to handle asbestos should do so.
Do not use heavy streams of water or pressure washers or air lines to wash or clear properties.
- Caution should be taken not to allow contamination to escape the property by water run-off or being blown around. If a property contains asbestos it may need to be sprayed with an emulsion suppression agent (normally a spray that contains a form of glue) to to stop contamination being blown around – if this is not available, the area may need to be kept damp with a fine water spray (if available) or safely covered in some manner as directed by emergency personnel, relevant experts or authorities.
If you decide you must enter a fire, flood or storm damaged property where there is a possibility it contains asbestos, before doing so you should first ensure you are clean-shaven, and are protected by fitting and wearing an:
Emergency Asbestos Personal Protective Kit
This kit should consist of as a minimum, asbestos rated disposable:
P2 face mask; full body coverall suit [Note: If the arm and/or leg cuffs are loose fitting, wrap duct tape around them to seal]; boot covers; goggles; latex and leather gloves – all are normally available from your local safety equipment outlet.
You should also have on hand: • Plastic spray bottle • Water • Duct tape • Asbestos labelled and rated waste bags
NOTE: Once finished, carefully damp yourself down with water using the plastic spray bottle and remove your Emergency Asbestos Personal Protection Kit, leaving the latex gloves, and then the face mask to last, placing all articles (doubled bagged) in heavy-duty labelled waste bags. Close each bag by tying off individually with duct tape, seal the lot together, clearly label as containing asbestos, and then dispose of at your nearest authorised asbestos disposal facility. This is important, as many people have contracted ARD and died simply because they have breathed in asbestos dust brought home on someone’s clothes!
We are not accredited to provide advice. The information provided is for assistance only – it should not be relied upon to fully negate the dangers, or eliminate the risks associated with entering the property. Relevant qualified, licensed professionals should be engaged to deal with asbestos situations.
Australian, State & Territory Governments Information & Fact Sheets
You can find further information on the Australian Government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) website, and on state and territory government information sites regarding safety and regulations affecting removal of asbestos and other contaminates.
- Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA): Asbestos safety after bushfires
Australian State and Territory Governments:
- NSW Government
- SafeWork NSW: Fact Sheet: Property Hazards Following Bushfires
- NT Government
- QLD Government
- SA Government
- TAS Government
- Victorian Government
- WA Government
We are not accredited to provide advice. The information provided is for assistance only – it should not be relied upon to fully negate the dangers, or eliminate the risks associated with entering the property. relevant qualified, experienced licensed professionals should at all times be engaged where asbestos may be involved.