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Deciding When to Demo, and When to Restore

4/26/2019 (Permalink)

To demolish, or not to demolish, that is the question. In a nod to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and perhaps one of the most popular lines in English literature, we are constantly faced with this issue in our industry. The decision to demolish, either completely or selectively, versus repair/renovate is sometimes like running the gauntlet.

Whether the loss was caused by fire, flood, wind or other peril, the single most important factor to consider is safety.

If your client’s home or business has sustained structural damage, it is imperative a registered design engineer evaluate the structure to determine if it has been compromised and if can it be repaired. The local building authority is likely to have some input in this process. The stamped letter/documents from the engineer will need to be submitted to that authority.

A house or building found to be in very poor condition structurally speaking is usually better off demolished. It may be a cheaper and safer option. If the building can be repaired, now the question becomes should the building be repaired. Factors such as historical significance, cost, condition of the house, building code upgrades, etc. should all be reviewed. Insurance carriers will also have some influence in the decision. Depending on the language in the policy, carriers may have the right to consider replacement versus drying, cleaning or repair.

Demolition Considerations

  • Is the property a historic property or in a historic district (aka heritage home)? Is it architecturally significant? There may be historic preservation ordinances and laws to protect historic resources and character. Many cities, towns and communities establish historic preservation commissions and a process for considering alterations or demolition.
  • Investigate the permitting process early in the planning stage. If your client decides to demolish a building, even one that has suffered fire or storm damage, it does not automatically follow that you will get planning/zoning permission to build any replacement structure or to change the use of the site.
  • Teardown restrictions can require structures to strictly adhere to the predominant architectural size and standards of the neighborhood.
  • Demolition permits usually require site specific testing for contaminants such as lead and asbestos, prior to demolition. Building materials such as ceilings, ductwork, flooring, roofing and siding may contain these materials. Disposal of demolition debris that has asbestos-containing material (ACM) can be costly. Consideration should be given to the presence of coolant gases (freon/refrigerant), mercury (fluorescent lamps) and potentially radioactive materials (exit signs). Discovery of an old, underground oil storage tank can also be very costly.
  • Utilities must be disconnected, including electricity, gas, cable/phone, sewer and water. Some cities/jurisdictions, such as Boston, may require you to disconnect utilities all the way to the property curb line or Right of Way (ROW).
  • The cost to demolish and rebuild a home or business is highly variable.
  • Newly constructed homes tend to be more energy efficient than renovated homes.
  • Environmentally critical areas, such as wetlands or steep slope, have different restrictions.
  • Local fire departments may require permits to be pulled and inspections/oversight by the fire marshall.
  • If there is a mortgage on the property, your client must involve their bank in the process. The only legal way to tear down a house is to own it outright or to pay off any existing mortgage(s). If the loan balance is less than the value of the land, there could be an issue. Construction loans and/or insurance proceeds could be used to pay off the debt.

Repair/Renovation Considerations

  • Renovation/repair is an alternative to demolition, but it may not be the most affordable option. Costs tend to accumulate the further you get into a renovation project and unforeseen problems discovered. Opening up walls, for example, can reveal pest/termite infestations, leaking pipes, mold, deteriorated framing, damaged wiring, cracked foundations, etc.
  • Extensive water damage can undermine foundations and footings. This type of damage can be difficult to identify. A thorough inspection of the property should be completed prior to making the decision to repair/renovate.
  • Older buildings/homes often have interior layouts that are difficult to rearrange for modern uses. An open floor plan with lots of natural light may not be so easily or cost effectively accomplished.
  • Many homes and businesses were built when building codes were less strict than they are today. Rebuilding or restoring a structure may require meeting more demanding building codes. Even undamaged parts of the structure may be required to be brought up to current building code (plumbing, electrical, mechanical, life safety, ADA, energy, etc.).
  • Depending on the extent of the damage, planning and zoning review may also apply to “repaired” buildings. For example, we recently experienced a building that was designated an R-2 usage classification when it was constructed in the 90’s. A partial fire loss caused the local building department and fire department to reevaluate the usage classification as it had changed since the original construction. Ultimately, the classification had to be changed which, in turn, triggered the application of more stringent building and life safety codes. The moral of the story is that, over time, the original approved usage classification of a facility can morph and change into something different despite good intentions from ownership.
  • Substantial rehabilitation of historic structures or in a historic district may qualify for significant tax credits.
  • In some communities, local government rules encourage substantial renovations over demolition by making it easier, faster and cheaper to obtain the necessary permits. You may be able to retain the foundation or add on to it. You might also be able to retain a portion of the existing structure or incorporate it in to your design thereby allowing you to sidestep local restrictions.
  • Deconstruction – the careful removal of building materials to reuse them elsewhere – can provide financial and environmental benefits. Donations are tax deductible. Recycling building materials can be gratifying for environmentally conscious homeowners. The downside is that deconstruction can take two to three times longer than typical demolition.
  • Renovations may require that a lead-safe licensed renovation contractor be engaged.
  • Existing commercial buildings undergoing substantial renovations are eligible to become LEED certified under LEED for Commercial Interiors and/or LEED for Existing Buildings upon completion of the renovation and three months of occupancy/operation.
  • Repairs/renovations can sometimes be completed in stages. Living expenses can add indirect costs to repair/renovation budgets. The homeowner may be able to live in the home while work is being completed.

No matter which route you choose, demand surges for labor, equipment and materials are not uncommon after natural disasters – hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquake, flooding, wildfires, etc. Do your homework and open a dialogue with the local building department, insurance carrier, contractors, vendors and suppliers. The key is proper planning before you pick up a hammer. Don’t go into a project blindly and hope to stay within budget.

Water Damage Requires a Quick Response

4/16/2019 (Permalink)

Floods, rainstorms and tornadoes can become massive water damage threats to businesses during the often-stormy spring and summer months. Facilities plagued with such water woes this season must take quick action. 

Floods, rainstorms and tornadoes can become massive water damage threats to businesses during the often-stormy spring and summer months. Facilities plagued with such water woes this season must take quick action to control many possible problems, experts say. 

You won’t see it emphasized on the nightly news when a disaster hits, but water damage can represent potentially huge disasters for businesses and building owners and operators. 

Water damage can mean much more to a business than just wet and soggy carpets. There are other common, more significant problems businesses face when water wreaks havoc on property, such as indoor air quality problems. Mold and mildew grow rapidly in damp, humid environments, leaving behind an unpleasant smell that permeates floors, walls and ceilings, even after the water has been removed. It also can create health problems for employees. 

Damage to the building’s structure and foundation also can be an issue. When water sits inside a building for a period of time, the walls, ceilings and floors absorb the water, which threatens the overall structural integrity of the building and creates an unsafe environment. Total reconstruction of the building often becomes the only option. 

Another major threat to business is the loss of expensive equipment, which often can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace. 

To minimize water damage, there are two critical steps that need to be taken:

  1. Act fast to assess the situation; and
  2. Control the environment within the building.



Act Fast and Call an Expert

The absolute first step to take is fast action. Damage resulting from water and flooding is very progressive. The longer the water flows or wet conditions are allowed to exist, the greater the recovery problem becomes. A water damage consultant must come in immediately to survey the situation. 

In a typical scenario, a team of water damage recovery professionals is dispatched to the site to perform a thorough inspection and fully determine the extent of the damage. A disaster reclamation partner also will develop an intense restoration plan and determine which items are worth restoring and which are better replaced. 

You can’t always save everything by drying, but you can save a tremendous amount. It’s not unusual to save between 30 and 70 percent of the cost needed to reconstruct a facility.

Controlling the Interior Environment

Another key in limiting water damage is to quickly control three conditions of a building’s atmosphere: relative humidity, temperature and air circulation. Fast, effective action at this point will generally confine the damage to the area that was directly affected by the water damage event. 

The most effective way to control these conditions in a high-moisture environment, especially a large facility, is to employ professional disaster drying that combines air movers with desiccant dehumidifiers. 

Disaster drying often eliminates the need to rip out and replace walls, carpet, floor covering, hardwood floors and the building structure, which can be a huge expense. On top of that, you preclude the odors and staining caused by mold and mildew. These problems can come back to haunt you weeks later in a superficially dried building.

The Desiccant Way

When a facility has been severely water damaged, you need high volume desiccant dehumidifiers. Some larger desiccant dehumidifiers can pull 800 gallons of water out of a building in one day, compared to the typical small refrigeration units that remove about five gallons a day. 

Many people are surprised that “solid” materials such as concrete and hard woods absorb moisture. But they do and rather quickly. 

Getting the water back involves a phenomenon called migration. Migration is the tendency for water molecules to move toward a low vapor pressure. When a room is filled with very dry air, which has low vapor pressure, trapped water migrates outward and is evaporated from the surface by the dry air. As the air in the room fills with water vapor, we expel it. We then replace it with more dry air and the process continues. 

It’s also essential to be sure the equipment being used is sized right. Inappropriately sized drying equipment can lead to insufficient drying and long-term problems with the building. Only large-volume dehumidifiers could provide the massive drying power needed to dry the space quickly and thoroughly.

Best Defense: A Disaster Recovery Plan

To minimize damage and costs, companies need to think ahead about what to do in a water damage event and contact a water damage expert to create a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). 

A DRP can limit the extent of water damage occurrences by defining and prioritizing the recovery of areas within a facility and stating immediate next steps. Proper planning and fast action are most certainly the best defense to preventing a catastrophic water damage event.

Helping Property Owners Recover from a Fire-Damage Emergency

4/11/2019 (Permalink)

Dealing with a fire-damage emergency and the claims process is an emotionally trying time for a policyholder. A restoration professional must be sensitive to the personal and emotional aspects of a fire-damage situation. It’s imperative to recognize that a homeowner goes through five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

The professional must be prepared to respond appropriately to each situation. Insurance professionals need to prepare the homeowner for the restoration process, work closely with the restoration professional to ensure quality and timely work, and maintain a constant flow of communication throughout the process. A restoration professional must recognize that every loss is significant to the people impacted by it, and take the proper steps to restore the home to preloss condition. 

Dealing With a Fire-Damage Emergency

A fire loss is often more severe than a water loss, and special attention to safety is imperative. The restoration professional needs to ask the property owner some simple questions to quickly evaluate the level of damage: “Is there any structural damage? Is there a lot of smoke?” 

Air quality is the most important factor to evaluate. With any fire, carcinogens enter the air, and safeguards will need to be put in place to help ensure the safety of the air that the residents and workers breathe. All necessary PPE should be available for technicians, as well as the proper equipment to replace the bad air with fresh air as soon as possible. 

If not already aware, the service professional should consider the ages and health of everyone in the home. Young children, the elderly and pregnant women might need to leave the property immediately, as they are often more susceptible to air-quality related health issues. If the client is not comfortable living in the home, the agent needs to assist in finding alternative accommodations for the residents.

 

Specifics to Consider When Scoping a Smoke and Soot Loss

There are several important steps to take when analyzing a fire-damage emergency:

  1. Evaluate how much heat was involved that resulted in damage to the structure, fixtures and contents. Look for a “heat line” on the wall, which often indicates possible damage to the structural integrity of the drywall materials.
  2. Where did the smoke/soot travel to? Did the smoke get into the HVAC system? Did the smoke travel into the attic areas, or force its way into the crawl space or basement?
  3. Consider pre-cleaning as an alternative process to save the metal and glass items in a home.
  4. Is there excessive smoke inside of the walls? This often requires removal of the drywall to get rid of the smoke/soot and accompanying odors.
  5. Determine which systems are available that will best deodorize the property and contents. These include professional cleaning and sanitizing; organic deodorizing systems; hydroxyls; and/or ozone.
  6. Determine the extent of the damage and the processes/procedures that will return the property, and the lives of those people involved, back to a “preloss” condition as quickly as possible.
  7. Respond as rapidly as possible to minimize the long-term effects of smoke and soot damage, and the many acids those materials contain.

Smoke and soot-related emergencies require specific mitigation strategies, depending on the materials affected: flat or glossy paint, finished and unfinished; laminates and solid wood items; particle-board materials; natural and man-made fibers in carpets and upholstered furniture. Porous, semi-porous and non-porous materials all require unique cleaning and deodorizing systems to most effectively deal with smoke/soot damage. 

Wildfires often destroy thousands of acres of property and hundreds of homes. There is not much a mitigation company can do in those situations. However, there are often thousands of homes that are downwind from the fire that suffer smoke and soot damage, both on the exterior and the interior of homes. Smoke enters around doors and windows, through the ventilation system and even through the soffit vents into the attic areas. 

Knowing how to deal with these materials quickly and professionally to neutralize and remove the compounds from the home, and to control and manage the odor damage are key aspects of a professional restoration/mitigation company. 

Overall, the most important thing to understand about a fire damage emergency is that helping a client cope with the property loss is first priority. Communication along the way and hand-holding through the process is just as important, if not more, than the property owner receiving a check for the loss. 

The restoration professional should be empathetic and emphasize that the damage will be taken care of, but never pass off the restoration process as a casual routine. The level of damage should be evaluated quickly and efficiently. It is critical to work with the insurance agent to educate the policyholder, ease their concerns, and manage their expectations. 

Understand that each client will go through five steps of grief, and anticipate that anger will turn up one way or another. If the restoration professional expects this emotion to surface, they will be prepared to help the client cope and restore their sense of calm.

Back to Basics: 6 Steps to Handle Large-Loss Fire Restoration

4/2/2019 (Permalink)

Not only can a fire be devastating for the structure of a home or building, but it can also be emotionally devastating when it comes to the occupants of that structure, whether that is a family of four or a company of 400 workers. That's part of the reason why handling a large-loss fire doesn't just involve restoring the property to a preloss condition, but also being sensitive and understanding with the occupants of the affected home or business.

That's not to say that restoration professionals are counselors — they're not — but acting with empathy can go a long way toward making a fire loss a little less stressful for the individuals who are most impacted.

Here are six steps to follow to handle large-loss fires:
Getting the call: Whether this initial call comes from a homeowner or the insurance company, this first point of contact is an ideal time to gather as much information as possible about the fire. Where did it occur? How many rooms are affected? What type of fire was it? The goal of this initial point of contact is to gather information to get an idea of the scope of the project before arriving on site.
Arrive on site/inspection: After the initial phone call comes an on-site inspection. This is typically done after the fire department has doused the flames and secured the property. By this point, the restoration team should have a good idea of what type of fire occurred (i.e. protein fire, petroleum fire, etc.) and inspecting the property helps team members estimate the scope of work that will be involved, the timeline of the project and whether or not any demolition and reconstruction will be necessary. Depending on the severity of the fire, the restoration team may also board up the windows and doors to ensure structural stability.
Access occupant needs/packout: If it is possible, restoration professionals will likely ask the building occupants to gather any immediate needs. For a house fire, this may consist of undamaged clothes, school supplies, computers, etc. Everything else in the facility that has been affected by the fire will then likely be packed out and taken to an off-site location for contents restoration.
Estimate and begin work: After estimating the cost of the project and having the proper documents signed by all parties involved, then work can start on the fire loss. For a large fire loss, demolition and reconstruction of at least a portion of the property is likely necessary. Other areas of the property may just require soot and smoke damage restoration, where walls are HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuumed and washed, items are hand-cleaned and carpets are deep cleaned to remove soot residue. While restoration is occurring on site, it's also likely occurring off site in terms of the packed out contents (i.e. affected clothes, electronics, hard items, soft goods, etc.).
Frequent communication: Whether the project takes five days or five weeks, good restoration contractors will be in regular communication with both the insurance company and the homeowner or business owner. This constant communication helps keep all parties up to date on progress, as well as provides an outlet for questions to be asked and answered related to the project. Communication is often the differentiating factor between good and poor restoration contractors, as keeping in regular touch with relevant parties ensures transparency and provides a regular source of contact.
Final jobs/walk-through: After the crux of the project is complete, the last step is usually having the air ducts professionally cleaned and deodorized so soot doesn't contaminate — or cross contaminate — the facility. Following this, the occupant and insurance adjuster will likely take a final walk-through of the property to ensure the job has been done adequately and correctly. Any contents that went off site for cleaning will also be returned to the home and placed in their original location.
As you can see, a large-loss fire restoration job is a bit of a different challenge compared to a standard water damage restoration or mold remediation job. It's important your crew is trained to properly handle all the steps of every unique job.

Advanced Planning Ensures Experienced Partner Before Disaster Strikes

4/2/2019 (Permalink)

Thousands of commercial and industrial buildings each year are damaged by unforeseen disaster, ranging from fire or smoke and soot to water that infiltrates walls, floors, and equipment through events such as a burst water pipe, seepage, fire sprinkler flooding or leaks from a rainstorm. 

 



Thousands of commercial and industrial buildings each year are damaged by unforeseen disaster, ranging from fire or smoke and soot to water that infiltrates walls, floors, and equipment through events such as a burst water pipe, seepage, fire sprinkler flooding or leaks from a rainstorm. 

            Wherever such an event occurs, the results can be operationally and financially disastrous. Potential risks include destruction of interior structural materials, equipment and files; disruption of operations; further damage from humidity; and, if water is not abated quickly, microbial damage -- the growth of mold, which is a potential health hazard. 

            When damage occurs, it is essential to take immediate action to stabilize the loss and mitigate damage. Doing so will maximize recovery of all contents such as inventory, machinery, furniture, carpeting, electronic media, documents and files, will minimize replacement costs, preserve good indoor air quality, and control mold risks.   

Advance Planning

The best “insurance” in a recovery situation is to plan in advance of an occurrence by creating a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP).  The DRP defines and prioritizes the recovery and restoration of areas within a facility and details immediate next steps. It also designates the professional disaster restoration services provider to be summoned immediately when an incident occurs. 

Pre-selecting a full service restoration provider that provides priority emergency services assures that building owners and managers will have a “partner” in the reclamation process. There will be no learning curve during an emergency because the firm already will be familiar with the structure and the plan.  It then can move rapidly to begin recovery work within the first 24 hours – a critical parameter to minimize the effects of water.  

Select a restoration provider that offers guaranteed priority emergency services. In the event of a fire, weather related or other water-damage disaster to a building or facility, owners or managers of properties registered in these programs will receive immediate priority for emergency drying and restoration services. 

Expectations

            Following is a list of services you should expect of the restoration company you contract:

  • Consulting. The project scope should be provided at the front end. The firm quantifies the damage, determines what can be saved, recommends the equipment and process and expected results.
  • Project Management. The company has the ability to quickly assemble a cohesive work team, provide rapid emergency response time, provide a turnkey operation for recovery and restoration and guaranteed results.
  • Stabilization: The provider takes the necessary steps to stabilize the environment and assists with relocation efforts to an unaffected area or off-site, if necessary.
  • Dehumidification and Drying. Through removal of standing water and excess moisture, the firm has the ability to reduce material loss, limit indoor air quality problems and speed return to occupancy and operation of the affected business.
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting. By cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting interior surfaces, the provider eliminates contamination from molds, bacteria, mildew and potential biological hazards.
  • Odor Control: Thermo fog, wet spray, ozone or dry vapor methods should be properly employed to control odor.
  • Electronic Equipment Restoration. In many cases, it is possible to clean and restore hi-tech components following exposure to fire or water damage.
  • Preservation of Large-Scale Production Equipment. Contamination removal preserves production-operating equipment.
  • Document and Media Restoration. Cleaning, sanitizing, deodorizing and drying restores paper records and electronic and digital media storage. This process is most effective if the firm dry cleans by vacuum and has refrigerated transport storage capabilities to minimize deterioration of materials.
  • HVAC and Mechanical Systems Cleaning. Cleaning and deodorizing the supply and return duct system as well as the metal housing that encloses coils, heat exchangers and filter banks assures that clean air again passes through the system into the structure.
  • Smoke and Water Decontamination. Residue from damage sources such as fire, flood and storms is removed.
  • Corrosion Control. Metal surfaces are cleaned and treated to prevent further damage from corrosion.
  • Controlled Demolition and Disposal. Surfaces that will not respond to restoration efforts in a cost-effective way are removed to expose hidden cavities and to expedite the recovery process or to remove sources of odor.  

    Selecting the Right Firm

        It is important to have properly trained cleaning and restoration technicians overseeing your recovery project. A list of providers can be obtained from organizations like the Property Loss Research Bureau (PLRB). You also may want to do the obvious: review Web sites; read the case histories on the site; contact company representatives. 


      While it may sound as a cliché, the assessment process begins with reviewing experience, reputation and references.  Plan to do more in-depth research before making a commitment.  

Ask Annissa: How Do I Handle Sensitive Documents Damaged in a Fire Loss?

4/2/2019 (Permalink)

Personal papers like bills, canceled checks, credit card statements and everyday magazines have no value in the eyes of the insurance company and they often don’t want to pay for them to be cleaned or deodorized. However, they often have value to the homeowner.

The biggest problem with this is that paper can hold a lot of odor and may re-contaminate the house once everything is unpacked. So first off, we check with the homeowner and see if the paperwork is something that they can live without. Or is it really important and needs to be kept? Once you explain that the papers can hold a lot of odor and may cause recontamination of the house and belongings, this will sometimes make the homeowner more aggressive about putting them in the round file.

If the paperwork cannot be parted with and must go on the “keep it list,” then we dust them off and organize them into a large 11x14 inch spec bag. This is a heavy duty plastic bag that keeps the odor and contamination contained until the homeowner can photo copy or reprint the documents they want to keep. The cost to the insurance company to handle them this way is really no more than their cost would be to throw them away, so this keeps your adjuster and homeowner happy.

This also allows the homeowner to go through the papers at their convenience as they are dealing with a lot of pressing decisions in the first few days after a fire. Having one less pressing thing to have to handle right away can be a huge relief for them.

Mold Remediation: Dangers in the Ducts

4/1/2019 (Permalink)

Mold remediation is a serious subject, covered at large by professionals and institutions that specialize on the subject matter. While I'm not a mold expert, I do know air duct cleaning and how important it is to complete an HVAC Duct Cleaning after any mold, mildew, or fire restoration. The HVAC system of a building, residential or commercial, is designed to convey the dirty undesirable air from the living space and replace it with clean, heated or cooled, conditioned air that is pleasant to breathe and comfortable to building occupants. Depending on the building type and room use, many building codes call for the air in a room to be exchanged five to 15 times per hour. For HVAC that are clean and have adequate filtration, every exchange of air generally means the indoor air quality is improving. However, when mold, mildew, soot, allergens, and other contaminants are present, in the HVAC system, the IAQ is reduced with every air exchange. Proper source removal HVAC air duct cleaning, following any restoration project, will reduce the contaminants within the HVAC system and in some cases completely remove the chances of recontamination. It sometimes is overlooked that while a building itself is being remediated, the HVAC system is still in operation and therefore moving mold spores, smoke particles, and other contaminants throughout the return and supply air duct, as well as other HVAC system components. Because the HVAC system is redistributing the air throughout the building, a small about of dirty/contaminated air has the potential to recreate the need for an entire restoration project in as little as a few days.   Source removal, the practice of cleaning by removing contaminants the HVAC system, is the method prescribed within the NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Assocaiton) Standard, ACR-2013. Source removal can be achieved in a variety of ways, but is most often achieved by using a negative air vacuum/collector, rotating duct brushes, and compressed air whips/skippers to loosen debris from the duct walls allowing the airflow from the vacuum/collector to evacuate it from the HVAC system. The methods for a proper professional HVAC Air Duct Cleaning have been continually developed and refined for 30 years by working professionals engaged with NADCA and other IAQ associations.

After the Disaster: Providing Restoration Solutions, Not Suggestions

4/1/2019 (Permalink)

Hurricanes.  Tornadoes.  Flooding.  Frozen pipes.  Storms. 

All of these will occur during the course of a year. All will cause major damage to dwellings and buildings. What is one of the major sources of damage- WATER. Water damage is caused by a variety of things including plumbing leaks, burst pipes and broken hoses, moisture ingress within a structure, clogged toilets, foundation cracks and leaking roofs. While the symptoms will be addressed by plumbers, roofers, foundation specialists and other tradesmen and tradeswomen, clean-up and remediation specialists have some of the toughest and potentially dangerous jobs to tackle to ensure a safe and functional dwelling or building. Before a building is considered safe, someone must disinfect affected areas, remove damaged or mold/mildew- contaminated items, properly dispose of the water-damaged items and then review and inspect areas to ensure that they’re safe. 

So, what can we recommend to residents and occupants of the buildings that have significant (or even small levels of) water damage? 

  • Stop the flow of water.
  • Turn off the power.
  • Assess the conditions. Is it safe to stay in the building?
  • Look for electrical hazards and “slip and fall” areas. Stay away from compromised areas.
  • Get away if possible, but if you must stay, then only do activities that are absolutely necessary.
  • Try not to lift wet materials. Water will add significant weight to any material that absorbs.

What can you recommend an owner do after flooding?

  • Gather items from floors and low lying areas.
  • Remove any excess water by mopping or blotting up the water with towels or absorbent material.
  • Remove wet rugs and carpeting that can easily be removed.
  • Remove any wet upholstery, cushions, pillows, blankets and dry them out
  • Wipe excess water from furniture, cabinets, accessories
  • Turn AC ON for maximum drying during the summer

What should you recommend an owner NOT do after flooding?

  • Don’t use household appliances, televisions or any other electronic devices
  • Don’t leave wet fabrics in place. Hang luxury items such as leather goods, furs and dresses.
  • Do not use a vacuum cleaner (unless it’s a wet-dry vac) to remove moist or water from a room.
  • Don’t leave colored items on a wet floor.
  • Don’t turn on ceiling fans or lights if the ceiling is wet. 
  • Stay out of rooms where the ceiling is sagging.

After a homeowner or building occupant has taken the requisite steps to ensure his/her safety, then its time for the professional to come in and do their work. Professionals will use the following steps to assess and restore property following water damage:

  • Initial contact and pre-inspection survey
  • Inspection and water damage assessment
  • Water removal and extraction
  • Drying and dehumidification
  • Cleaning and sanitizing
  • Restoration

A fast response is crucial to prevent long term damage, sick-building syndrome and irreversible damage. While professionals are responsible and knowledgeable, sometimes little things that might be missed become critical to the successful remediation/restoration after water damage or flooding.

  • Mold and Mildew are the ENEMIES. Protect yourself and building inhabitants by using the proper protective gear including body suits, gloves and masks or respirators. Contain the mold/mildew before trying to disinfect. Wrap your booties, pants and gloves with tape to ensure a good and proper seal of your body suit.
  • Use environmentally-friendly antimicrobial and antibacterial treatments when you can. These will leave less of an impact to the inhabitants once the job is complete. 
  • Properly dispose of refuse. Bag the molded, damaged and soiled items in a thick plastic bag and twist the opening to form a goose-neck then seal the opening tightly with duct tape to ensure that the contents are secure and will not escape during transport to the landfill, preventing further contamination.
  • Seal off the contaminated environment from the area that is not contaminated or is being used by the building inhabitants. Hang poly-sheeting, build airflow containment units and properly seal them off with strong polyethylene or cloth duct tape suitable for use in damp, moist environments. Innovative containment systems with pre-inserted zippers and doors are now available for ease of use.

Customers are now used to fast, reliable and almost instantaneous service. The e-commerce model used to obtain goods is now being applied to service as well. By offering easy “one-stop” access to water damage cleanup; easy contact, assessment, water removal, drying, cleaning, sanitizing and restoration; you will enhance your relationship with your customers and attract them to your business. Remember these tips when communicating potential water leakage and flooding issues with your customers and you will become their one-stop source providing solutions, not suggestions.

Giving Back

2/26/2019 (Permalink)

At SERVPRO we feel that it is important to give back to the community so we’ve partnered with our local insurance agents to support local domestic violence shelters.  Every 9 seconds in the U.S. a women is assaulted or beaten.  Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women- more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.  92% of women surveyed list reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern.  In December of 2018 women in our industry came together to provide Christmas gifts to over 140 women in local shelters.  The outpouring of support was staggering!  We plan to continue the supporting domestic violence shelters by providing volunteer opportunities and continued donations.  In May we plan to give jewelry and scarves to the shelters so the children can give them a moms a Mother’s Day gift.  To all the generous women who have helped provide gifts for our local domestic violence shelters a special Thank You for your kindness and caring.  We will continue to keep everyone updated on this cause which is very near and dear to all our hearts.  Thank you!   

Backup or Overflow?

2/26/2019 (Permalink)

What is the difference between a water backup and an overflow?  Overflow is caused by a blockage in the plumbing system.  Water causing damage never enters the sewer system and in some cases, water damage can be considered an overflow if blockage is in the lateral pipe.  It all depends on insurance policy language.  A backup is a situation where water or sewage enters through drains or sewers or overflows from a sump pump, sump pump well or any other system designed to remove subsurface water which is drained from a foundation area.  A water backup is excluded in most Homeowners policies but coverage can be added with an endorsement.  Coverage is usually limited to a specified amount but a few insurance companies offer more extensive options.  Water backup coverage is critical for not only homeowners but condo owners, renters and commercial insureds as well. 

Keep in mind that any property can experience a backup and the damage can be expensive especially if the area is finished.  There are four main areas to consider when deciding how much coverage you need including mitigation or drying out the area, structure reconstruction, contents damage and mechanicals such as furnace and water heater.  Be sure to discuss the right coverage option with your insurance agent so you are well protected in the event of a backup event.