We recently heard from a customer where a resident's overflowing sink resulted in $20,000 in water damage repairs. What could be done to prevent this?

In the United States, the material cost to repair water damage ranges from $12 to $24 per square foot, with an additional labor variance dependent on the location. For a senior living community, 120 square feet of damage equates to thousands of dollars in repair costs. If the damage occurs in a multistory building, multiply the figure by the number of floors, ceilings and walls impacted.

No provider wants to be in that position.

If water damage alone isn't enough to warrant early detection, once material like drywall or wood gets wet it can create the ideal conditions for mold. With mitigation costs similar to that of water damage, total repair costs can quickly double. There's also the cost of managing the health of residents who may have been exposed to mold. It all adds up.

There are many potential culprits that can cause water damage. There is the human factor of a resident allowing a sink to overflow, as noted above. Other examples include a slow leak from a pipe, a faulty toilet or leaking appliances and water heaters. Pipes can freeze and burst.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, such problems accounted for over one third of property damage in the United States, making water damage claims one of the most common types of property damage. While insurance may cover all or a portion of these claims, the senior living communities face a specific challenge: Water damage can disrupt their day-to-day care for residents. Alternative housing may be needed for residents, without impacting care delivery. Depending on the level of care each resident requires, such an undertaking can become logistically and administratively challenging.

Early detection is a safer, more cost-effective approach. The question is how?

Since regulated facilities are required to have some type of emergency call or nurse call system, adding environmental monitoring capabilities to such systems usually only requires a call to your call system provider. Solutions can be wired, wireless, line powered, battery powered or a combination thereof depending on facility needs, apartment access and building construction.

Sensor placement usually includes locations where standing water might occur, like the bathroom floor near a walk-in shower or under sinks, water heaters, dishwashers and washing machines. Temperature sensors are also available for early freeze warning.

To determine which alternative is right for you, check with your call system provider.

Scott Fincher is Senior Product Manager at Inovonics.