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“A Hotel’s ‘Sick Building Syndrome’: A Close-to-Real-Life Personal Story.”

Marielle eyed the park bench. “Homeless man,” she whispered. “Where did he come from?”

The hotel is empty. Everyone was vacated from the property over three weeks ago. OSHA and EPA orders.

In very humid climates, this type of thing happens more than even locals might suspect. All that area residents see are tall security fences appearing suddenly around properties. Hotels, commercial buildings, schools, homes, rehabilitation/nursing facilities, hospitals, etc.

Marielle thought about approaching the man. But, she wasn’t supposed to be there either.

She’d found a front gate open. That morning, the security officer, hired by the federal government, had not snapped the gate lock tight enough, when he’d left. The latch hung.

During the next week, Marielle entered the property at least five days. Each time, the gate was not secured. Each time, she spotted the same homeless man sitting on the same bench, behind Building 6.

On her seventh visit to the emptied property, she got a big surprise. Something streaked across her vision, as she climbed out of her suv, parked under some trees near the tennis courts.

Three men stepped out. Shoulder-to-shoulder. In front of her. They wore head-to-toe HAZMAT suits.

“EXCUSE ME. What are you doing here,” asked one man. “This property is sealed off.”

Clearly, the men were authorized to be there. Marielle was not.

The one speaking produced an I.D. badge and a card. “Are you alone?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Your name?”

“Marielle Vega Velasco.” (A fictitious name.) She didn’t even think to not answer.

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh…” she stopped. “You asked that…Sorry…Uh…I used to work here. For twenty-one years. Director of Housekeeping.”

“Why did you enter the property? Didn’t you see all of the warning signs?”

“No…uh. Well, yes. I did see the sign secured to the main gate. The second time.”

“What part of ‘WARNING…U. S. Government…Environmental Protection Agency … TOXIC…HAZARDOUS…DO NOT ENTER…do you not understand? Did you not see the signs ‘HAZARDOUS… Sick Building Syndrome Building’ posted on every building?”

Marielle gulped. She knew about both SBS and BRI (Building related illness). They’d been major reasons for the mirage of inspections of the property during the last year. BLACK  MOLD. She shuddered.

An intense heat flashed up and down Marielle’s body. Underneath her clothes. She felt water trickle down her back and her legs, into her Nike shoes. Oh, Oh! She thought. Fear froze her to the asphalt.

“Am I under arrest?” She’d been afraid to ask. More afraid of the answer.

“No. That’s outside of our job, “said a different suited-up person standing nearby. (A woman’s voice.) “We will need to escort you off the property. Immediately!”

Marielle didn’t need to be told twice. She climbed back into the vehicle, and eased the door shut. She backed the suv, then put it into DRIVE.

She slammed on her brakes. Screeeech! Out of nowhere had appeared a bright yellow, oversized golf cart. Fully enclosed.

She could see the three suited-up figures seated inside. A large orange light sent blinding flashes from the golf cart’s roof. Bright red lights flashed from the rear of the vehicle. A loud BLEEP BLEEP shattered the atmosphere.

Marielle followed the golf cart. It inched along the east parking area, and turned left toward the front gate, and U. S. Highway 192.

Tears swelled behind the woman’s eyes. She knew, somehow, this would be the last time that she – or anyone else with the hotel – would ever see the place again.

Marielle was wrong. Fewer than ten months later, the tall cyclone fence came down. A combination of solutions had been followed to save the buildings, and make the property safe for occupancy. At a reported cost, including the overdue remodeling, of nearly $1 million dollars.

The woman stood in full uniform, thankful for so much. Familiar cars, trucks and suvs began to fill strategic parking spaces towards the front, and near the back of the property.

Very familiar faces smiled at one another. People shook hands, waved, and hugged each other.

At dusk, the colorful lights in the signage along the front entrance sparkled. They winked brightly at visitors entering the property, or passing by.

 

THE HOTEL WAS BACK IN BUSINESS.

And Marielle? Well, Marielle was eating her box lunch, on her first night back. On that park bench. Remember?

Somehow, it seemed like the perfect place to enjoy the view.

* This story is a work of fiction, inspired by a true story. All names, characters, places, and incidents are used here fictitiously. Copyright 2015. SSH. All rights reserved.

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As age, environmental damage, budget, etcetera take their toll on older properties, let’s remember that…

HOPE can beat for buildings, too. Not just for the people that have worked in and around them. Or called the buildings and their surroundings “home.”

 

As caretakers of our entire environment…

Let’s do our best to protect, preserve and restore our buildings, too.

“Sick Building Syndrome” does not have to happen.

Special thanks to those who protect their properties from developing “Sick Building Syndrome.” Special thanks to the property owners that preserve and maintain the integrity of their buildings.

Special thanks to the property owners that invest the funds to solve and modify SBS, BRI and related problems.

Special thanks to the property owners that order “demolition” when their buildings are too sick to be saved. And, too sick to safeguard for the health and welfare of people and their pets.

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Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

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Copyright 2015. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

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A Painter’s View, Part III: How to Control Black Mold and Mildew

1. BE ALERT to any changes in your environment – and how you respond to them. What: Decreased breathing capacity, poorer indoor air quality (IAQ), musty smell anywhere, slimy green surfaces, discolored fabrics, black areas in damp areas.

2. TAKE ACTION at the first sign of black or slimy green mold and mildew. Don’t wait for it to go away on its own. It won’t!

3. VENTILATE! Monitor repetitive mold growth and infestation areas a hygrometer.           How: Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners. Open windows and doors on the opposite or different walls of rooms, also between rooms. Create a cross-flow of air. Use exhaust fans to move moisture outside.                                                                                                                          Why: To reduce and keep moisture/humidity in the air and on surfaces below 60 percent. Increase circulation.

4. REGULARLY CLEAN drip pans in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators.             Why: To prevent harmful fungi from developing and staying.

5. CHECK and repair all drain lines regularly.                                                                                Why: To ensure proper flow and prevent obstructions.

6. INSULATE  cold surfaces: exterior walls, floors, windows, top floor ceilings.                           Why: To reduce condensation.

7. PROMPTLY DRY all wet areas and items in hot and humid areas, within 24-48 hours of use. Examples: furniture, drapes, clothing, linens, carpet, tile.                                                      How: Hand wipe surfaces. Use a HEPA moisture-removal vacuum cleaner. Run electric fan or air conditioner.                                                                                                                                    Why: To prevent mold from growing.

8. PROMPTLY REMOVE damp items such as clothes, towels and linens from any room or area –including floor, hamper, laundry basket, dryer, etc.                                                                    Why: To minimize or remove black mold-prone items from atmosphere.

9. FIX interior and exterior leaks, cracks and seepage. Consult a licensed plumber or structural/ foundation engineer about your options.                                                                                      How: Check basins, bath tubs, shower enclosures, tiled areas. Remove old grout. Clean the area. Dry thoroughly. Re-grout/re-caulk each seam. Slope ground away from the base or foundation of building or structure. Plant simple landscaping. Consider waterproofing the foundation.             Why: To reduce or prevent the chance for standing water.

10. CHECK heating and cooling system (s) for properly sized and fitted hoses, ducts, etc. Ducts must be free of air leaks.                                                                                                               How: Replace damaged ducts with metal ones.                                                                           Why: To ensure that the system’s air flows correctly and removes humidity.

11. MOVE  furniture and other larger pieces away from the walls and corners. Create more open space between furniture pieces. Reduce the number of pieces in each room.                           Why: To increase “flowability” and “breathability” of the air in areas and rooms.

12. SHUT OFF appliances if moisture appears on interior surfaces such as windows.

13. CLEAR the dryer vent (s) of obstructions such as lint and tiny, torn paper. Clean thoroughly at least every six months.                                                                                                                 Why: To minimize or eliminate areas that invite black mold buildup.

14. USE area rugs versus wall-to-wall carpeting wherever possible.                                           Why: To reduce potential for moisture build-up and black mold formation on hidden, hard-to-access surfaces. 

15. OPEN a window, or run a fan – exhaust, counter, floor – when showering.                             Why: To allow damp surfaces and areas to dry completely.    

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