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Understanding Water Damage Classifications


While the classification of any water damage loss at a disaster scene needs to be done by a disaster recovery professional, it’s beneficial that you have a high level understanding of what those classifications are and any health and/or property risks that are associated with that classification.

The water damage classification actually refers to the nature of the loss and not the level of the damage. This rating takes into account the source of the water, along with it’s current state of contamination. Commonly used rating terminology is as follows: 

Category 1 Water Damage Loss

Any loss categorized as Category 1 means that the loss comes from a water source that is designated as “clean”. Clean water sources are not known to carry any materials that might cause any kind of health issues. Most all category 1 damage comes from common sources like hot water heaters, sink or facet plumbing, and bathtub overflows. A professional disaster recovery service, like EMERG-NC Property Rescuers, can remove the water and typically salvage most affected property as long we can respond and begin the recovery process as soon as possible. Note that a Category 1 loss can change to a Category 2 loss if not addressed quickly.

Category 2 Water Damage Loss

Category 2 losses occur when the damage originates from a water source that is not “clean”, and has the potential to cause illness if ingested. This category of loss is commonly called a “gray water” loss. Some common examples of Category 2 losses include damage from broken or leaking aquariums, discharge or flooding from a washing machine or dishwasher, and toilet overflows that do not contain any solid matter feces. While these situations are a higher level of contamination than a Category 1, most professionals can salvage property, although carpets are at a higher risk here. A word of warning here, if a Category 2 loss is not treated promptly and professionally (generally within 48 hours), it will escalate to a more serious Category 3 loss.

Category 3 Water Damage Loss

The worst of the bunch, a Category 3 loss comes from water that is highly contaminated and potentially contains pathogens or other harmful agents. Losses attributed to this type of water are called “black water” losses. Some examples of Category 3 exposure include flooding from any type of external water including seawater, rivers, streams, etc., any sewage (raw or treated), toilet backflows that originate beyond the toilet trap, and any water entering a structure from a weather related event (hurricanes, storms, flash flood). Exposure to Category 3 water poses a significant health risk whether ingested or not.

The key to minimizing loss and accelerating recovery from these types of water related incidents is to promptly seek professional help. Trying to deal with these types of situations with a shop vac and towels isn’t the smartest approach both from a health perspective and a salvage perspective.  We can help, so don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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