Hurricane Sandy : Restoring Critical Documents


What can be done about wet files and documents? Once safety clearance has been  

given to enter the premises, one of the first concerns is to determine the state of  

client and office files. The successful recovery of water-damaged documents requires  

drying of the document as quickly as possible. According to experts in document  

restoration, in any weather mold will appear within 48 hours in unventilated areas.  

Unfortunately, time is not on your side. The lack of air circulation, dehumidification,  

daily rain storms, and in some cases the deteriorating effects of light will have all  

destabilized the office environment and encouraged mold and mildew growth.  

The most effective way to restore water damaged documents is through ‘true’ freeze  

drying utilizing sublimation. Sublimation changes the frozen water in the documents  

(ice) to a vapor, bypassing the liquid state. The vapor is removed by vacuum  

pressure in the freeze-drying chamber.” Freeze drying can also reduce stains and  

odor. Sterilization procedures and a fungicide can help resist future mold growth.  

Freezing and storing documents at a temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit  

can buy you time to finalize arrangements for proper drying procedures. The main  

drawback to freeze-drying is cost. However, for non replaceable items it will be  

worth the expense.  

Where the office has been flooded or rain-damaged because of a missing roof, cold  

storage in a commercial freezer will provide time to organize operations and plans  

for an orderly assessment or for building repairs to be completed. Freezing stops  

further damage caused by diffusion of water, but it does not kill mold spores and is  

not a drying process. If the decision is made to freeze documents in order to buy  

time, the documents, to the extent practical, should be separated by wax paper or  

freezer paper. Remember, however, that documents in this condition should be  

handled as little as possible.