The IICRC Fire Damage Standards – Why You Should Prepare Now

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Now is Time to Get Ready

A professional remediation standard for fire damage will be published. You can count on it. 

Never more sure about it, I wrote these words myself and published them in an article1:

“Some fire professionals have been hearing about the first-ever internationally accredited fire restoration standard for a long time…Right now, work is underway…this much is certain: the standard for fire damage restoration is coming, and it is going to be impactful and important. But the process takes time….work started in very early 2014.”

All that is true. Impactful, important, and process: check, check, check. 

And then I wrote:

“If everything goes as planned, our industry is looking at publication of the fire standard around this time next year in Q1 2019.”

That was April 2018. Save me a seat at Predictions Anonymous.   

But progress has been made since, and the time to tune in and tune up for oncoming fire standards is NOW. Our industry is actively engaged in the public review process for standards, which is the last major step before publication. When it gets this close, most of what the standard has to say is settled. Final changes are usually to the details, not the big stuff. You can start to draft plans–do not wait to prepare. Think through key operations adjustments, documentation practices, and technician education (identifying quality training is key).

While I can’t forecast the print date, read on, and we will provide a clearer window than ever into what you can expect, including the latest on what happens to your certs (e.g., FSRT).

(And I probably can’t resist giving you some kind of prediction at the end.) 

Good Things Come in Pairs

Something unique and unprecedented is happening. We are on the verge of having a standard for the disciplines and craft of investigating and restoring after fire.

And it is about to happen twice.

TWO new fire standards! It is big restoration news that we are close to having more than one fire standard, where we previously had none. And each standard will be the first of its kind.

 In 2024, the Institute for Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC) intends to introduce a standard for restoration after a structural fire and then deliver to our industry a standard for restoration after a wildfire. Both are proceeding through multiple cycles of public review. Initially, each had over 500 comments from our industry, and every single comment has been addressed.  

The official titles are:

IICRC S700 Standard for Professional Fire and Smoke Damage Restoration

And:

IICRC S760 Standard for Professional Wildfire Investigations and Restoration of Impacts to Structures, Systems, and Contents

For each standard, in the sidebar, we have provided a breakout of the Sections (think chapters) to provide an overview of the subjects, and you may note there are topics that appear in both or only in one. Before making any comparisons, let’s look at some important elements.

S700 Structural Fire

This is a content-rich standard of care that provides guidance not just for how to remove contamination from fire but also battle-tested advice regarding things to do and to avoid if you want to run a successful restoration business.  

It will be very important for restorers to understand the FSD-RWP dynamic. That is, the Fire & Smoke Damage (FSD) assessment conducted by the restorer to organize the unique facts of the smoke situation, which then yields the outline of steps and sequence of remediation, which in the S700 is called a Restoration Work Plan (RWP). This process is to be managed by the restorer, relying on training, experience, and professional judgment to manage what needs doing and when it’s done. External experts can be consulted but may be specific to particular issues, and the S700 has no designation like IEP as appears in the S520 mold standard. Also in S700:

  • Emphasis on mitigation and stabilization and when that activity transitions into the FSD-RWP track.  
  • Documentation related to service agreements, contracts, insurance, materials usage, estimates, work process, and clearance.
  • Equipment, Tools & Materials (ETM): your Load List for everyday restoration versus needs for smoke/fire.
  • Damage Levels are explained using categories that will remind you of the S500 for water damage.  Descriptive examples of the level of fire severity include: Light, Moderate, Heavy, and Severe. Applying these categories then guides choices like demo vs. save and then the progression of cleaning efforts from gentle to aggressive.

S760 Wildfire

The IICRC S760 Standard describes practical principles, methods, and processes to investigate, evaluate, and restore the interior and exterior of structures and improvements and contents impacted by wildfire smoke emissions. In addition, this standard will also describe the basic principles governing wildfire particle and residue infiltration, distribution, and eventual settlement on surfaces. The goal of this standard is to aid the competent professional, restorer, and other trades and professions involved in restoration, in defining the scope of a project and preparation a work plan. This standard also establishes post-restorative methods and processes to evaluate and verify the cleanliness of structures and contents impacted by wildfire smoke.

The IICRC S760 Standard is also the first type of new hybrid standard. IICRC partnered with the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) to jointly develop standardized criteria that both the restorer performing restoration and competent professionals performing the inspections, sampling, and interpretation can rely upon for systematic inspections of wildfire impacts. This collaborative and groundbreaking effort resulted in a strong consensus.

Some observations on the S760 for the restorer:

  • Third Party Expert Involvement: The S760 committee reviewed the roads previously taken by other IICRC standards and selected their own way. Competent Professional (CP) is the new role description. Notably, somewhat similar to the ANSI/IICRC S520 for mold, the wildfire restorer has the responsibility of conducting a Post-Remediation Evaluation (PRE) to confirm the effectiveness of restoration. The CP can be there for a Post-Remediation Verification (PRV) to assist when there is disagreement about completion or for insurance/legal purposes.
  • Impact Levels: Somewhat similar to the category vs. class in ANSI/IICRC S500, the new S760 has two connected scales to help qualify what a project will entail. Wildfire Smoke Impact Levels are gauged from 0-3 (Background, Light, Moderate, and Heavy); and then when we get to hands-on, there is the cleaning technique scale: Light, Medium, and Heavy.
  • E-T-M/Load List: The volunteers writing this section took care to connect the supplies needed to the light, medium, and heavy categories of cleaning, as well as recognizing important differentiations in the types of contaminant particles and how that impacts equipment choices, etc.

Elephants in the Room

There are two big questions raised by the introduction of these standards:

First, what happens to my certifications (my FSRT–Fire Smoke Remediation Technician)? Will there be a WSRT for Wildfire?

Nothing changes for those who already hold the FSRT. Remember, the standards of care are the practices you/we/us are expected to work with on every job. The IICRC will encourage everyone to purchase and work according to the IICRC S700 and the IICRC S760. In the meantime, the process has started to revise the existing FSRT Certification Program Description (including course outline) and exam, so all lines up with the IICRC S700 Standard. Instructors will get the standard right away with the expectation they will make adjustments to be consistent. If you hold an FSRT certification now, a wise move would be to seek out IICRC-approved continuing education with a focus on both new standards. The IICRC Continuing Education Committee is expecting many applications for approval of FSRT-S700 introduction/refresher courses so restorers can seek out training that also earns against IICRC continuing education requirements.  

Regarding the S760 Wildfire Standard, the education and examination committee at IICRC often goes through and assesses the need for the creation of new certifications. So, there doesn’t seem to be any plans for a WSRT yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The more successful the standard is, the more likely the restoration industry will find a need for a certification for wildfire.

And the other big question? The prediction promised, of course.  

When will these standards be finalized and published? 

The time of this writing is earlier than when this article gets in front of readers, yet predictions are still playing with fire (so to speak). The future is cloudy (or smoky), but here it goes. 

The IICRC S700 Standard for Structural Fire will come out first, and as it has progressed to a third and limited public review, there is a realistic hope that publication late spring is doable. For the IICRC S760 Standard for Wildfire Restoration, the trajectory and process are the same, but just earlier on the curve. That document went through a second public review in January/February 2024, and the volunteer subject-matter-experts who wrote it will come together in March to start reading and responding to every comment that came in. The consensus behind the S760 is strong, and there is already an appetite for the standard, including at least one western U.S. state legislature that wants to consider using S760 to develop new wildfire-cleanup-related laws. I think we can expect to see a finished and published IICRC wildfire standard by the close of 2024. 

See you at Predictions Anonymous!

New Action Items <-> New Standards

What should you do now:

  • Arrange your Education and Training: Find training that includes substantial content from the new standards, plus CEC credits for IICRC. Even better, find something on-demand and flexible, and possibly with a built-in refresher if the final document changes.
  • Documentation: If it isn’t written down, it never happened.  Use this opportunity to clean up and change your communication and retention practices, and at the same time, include the fire & wildfire services you intend to provide.
  • Load List: Considering equipment purchases from air scrubbers to cleaning chemicals, make those choices with fire & wildfire in mind. Get advice from experts, product manufacturers, and distributor partners on tweaks you can make to what goes on the truck to better match demands of fire/smoke projects.
  • Public Review: Sign up to review any new versions of standards out for public review. Make comments online so your voice is heard, and get a first-hand look at the future direction of our industry.

For more information on IICRC standards, visit https://iicrc.org/iicrcstandards/. For questions, email standards@iicrcnet.org. 

To reach the author at Restoration Crosscheck with questions or comments: Info@RestorationCrossCheck.com and put S700 or S760 in the subject line.

1Stanton, Cole.  “Coming Soon:  A Fire Damage Restoration Standard”  Restoration & Remediation Magazine, April 2018
* Which of the proposed appendices will remain in the final printed document is TBD.

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Cole W.D. Stanton

As a Senior Consultant for the new Restoration Crosscheck consulting collaborative, Cole Stanton continues to build on three decades in Building Materials & Sciences.

He is the go-to authority for chemistry-driven tools and methods used in abatement and restoration.  His client-base includes restorers and consultants that want team training and/or SOP-”Load List review in proper use and management for antimicrobials, fungicidal & mold-resistant coatings, specialty cleaning technology, the encapsulation of asbestos and lead paint, and more.  Cole produces architectural specifications, expert services, industry articles and innovative solutions for asbestos, lead-based paint, mold, biohazard, structural fire, and wildfire challenges.  He is an approved IICRC Continuing Education instructor, and an active or recent contributor to the development and coordination of industry standards, including: ASTM D22.12 Lead Exposure subcommittee, AIHA Wildfire section co-leader for revision initiative of RedBook2, RIA/IAQA FS#2 Structural Fire, and IICRC: S520 Mold Remediation, IICRC S540 Biohazard, IICRC S760 Wildfire Assessment & Restoration, and IICRC S500 Water Damage Restoration. He also serves IICRC as Vice-Chair of the Continuing Education Committee.

Cole is a graduate of Boston College with a degree in Political Science and resides with his family outside Boston.

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