How to determine if I can handle the mold clean up in my house?
Do I need a professional mold remediation company?
Firstly, the source of the water intrusion needs to be resolved. If the source continues to allow water intrusion, the home will eventually return to an unhealthy condition.
You might want to consult a mold remediation company….
If the visible mold spores affected area, from tip to tip, is larger than a 10 square foot area
If you suspect that the heating ventilation system may be contaminated
If the original water was from a black water source (sewage contamination)
If you have health concerns of the occupants
There are numerous mold cleaning products on the market for consumer use. It is best not to use OVER USE any harsh chemicals. Simply scrub hard surfaces with a detergent and water, and let the area dry. It is very important to use personal protective equipment while cleaning: eyes, hands, and respiratory system. Upon completion of the cleaning, the area should be free of visible mold spores and musty, moldy odors (mold staining on structural materials may still be present). It is critical to monitor the affected area for a few months to make sure the area does not return to unhealthy. The area needs to continue to be dry, clean and odor free. If the area again begins to deteriorate, go back to correction of the source of water intrusion. It is possible that the original correction was not sufficient or there might a secondary source of water intrusion.
If you determine that your home or business has a mold problem, and the source of the moisture intrusion has been corrected, SERVPRO of Portage County can inspect and assess your property. If professional mold remediation is needed, we have the training, equipment, and expertise to handle the situation.
How to keep clients’ properties dry in all seasons
With water around every corner, clients’ properties are more vulnerable to water damage than many would imagine. In fact, water is the number one property-related homeowners claim, according to Chubb’s claims data, and the Insurance Information Institute found that one in 50 homeowners will experience a related claim each year. When they do, it will cost close to $10,000 per leak.
Despite being both a common and costly risk, a recent Chubb survey of homeowners examining their approach to water damage prevention shows that it’s a threat clients largely overlook. Luckily, agents and brokers can help clients prevent water from damaging their homes, no matter where it comes from. It starts by helping clients understand the seasonal exposures they face.
Ensuring a fun, carefree vacation
Most clients take advantage of the summer to travel with family and friends. Yet too many vacations are ruined as a result of clients failing to take the appropriate water protection steps before departing. Consider that even though many clients ask a caretaker to watch their homes while away, Chubb’s study found that just 30% leave water leak information and only 17% provide information about what to do in the event of a weather-related flood with caretakers.
Why the concern? Time is of the essence when it comes to water damage, with even the smallest leaks or drips building up over time. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety reports that plumbing supply system failures and toilet failures are the two most common sources of residential water loss. If either of these systems drip for days, the results can be devastating, both in terms of property and financial damage.
Before your clients head out, advise them to:
Turn off the water supply. This is the only way to prevent a leak from occurring while away; or
Install a water shut-off device. This is the surest way to prevent wide-spread damage in the event of a leak.
Beyond travel, the warm summer months also provide clients with the opportunity to jumpstart home renovations. But in their desire to drive value, the number one home-related concern identified in Chubb’s study, many clients are inadvertently inviting new water risk into their homes.
Start with encouraging clients to pay close attention to a contractor’s qualifications, prioritizing certifications and licensing above word-of-mouth recommendations. Although both play an important role in the hiring process, Chubb’s study found that 42% of homeowners prioritize the latter, versus 32% who emphasize the former. If contractors don’t have the right experience or professional background, they should not be involved in the client’s renovation project.
Making the most of your time outdoors
Homeowners eager to enjoy the last warm days of the year often spend time working on their gardens, yards and outdoor areas. Many use this time to install sprinkler systems, construct outdoor kitchens and build decks, all designed to enhance their homes’ landscapes. According to Chubb’s survey, close to a third of homeowners (30%) think these types of exterior upgrades most positively impact their homes’ values.
Yet, these projects can quickly let water into all the wrong places. Agents and brokersshould encourage clients to consult with a landscape architect about how enhancements may alter the slope of their garden or clog drains and gutters. Failure to take this into account means new upgrades could redirect water toward clients’ homes, seeping into the foundation or basement over time and potentially resulting in significant damage. By speaking with your clients about their garden renovation projects, this is an expensive loss that agents and brokers can help clients avoid.
Forecasting frozen pipes
Most homeowners know that the pipes in their homes are at risk of bursting during the cold winter months. Homeowners are 40% more likely to have water damage in the winter than any other time of the year, according to Chubb claims data.
Still, only 21% of homeowners report installing pipe insulation, even though it is one of the surest, simplest and cheapest ways to protect exposed pipes in the basement or garage in cold weather. Homeowners might also want to consider hiring a contractor to install pipe insulation for interior pipes that are located adjacent to an outside wall.
Not only does installing pipe insulation help keep the water in a home’s plumbing system from turning to ice and expanding (and thus bursting the pipes), it often helps homeowners save money on their energy bill. In essence, a reminder to install insulation could help clients avoid a major winter headache while also lowering utility bills.
Chimneys, in particular, require upkeep. A chimney that is dirty, blocked or in disrepair can inhibit proper venting of smoke up the flue, and can also cause a chimney fire. Nearly all residential fires originating in the chimney are preventable, according to the New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
Chimney fires account for 75% of home heating fires, meaning homeowners should actively monitor their chimneys. Homeowners looking to avoid damage to their property and increased premiums should prepare for fires by checking their smoke alarms and updating their emergency plan.
Why is SERVPRO concerned about creating community awareness regarding cyber attacks and cyber security? The more our world becomes connected to the internet the greater the risk for property damage. Consider the following scenarios:
Hackers gain access to a steel mill via a phishing attack introducing malware to the control system that prevents the shutdown of a blast furnace causing massive damage.
A power grid is remotely disabled by hackers causing extensive power outages.
Using a homemade transmitter, a teenager trips rail switches and derails train cars.
A hacker infiltrates the computerized waste management system and deliberately spills millions of gallons of raw sewage.
Machines at a hospital are infected by malware and a remote-access program is installed on the hospital's HVAC system. This jeopardizes patient safety by putting drugs and other medical supplies at risk by altering the heating, AC and ventilation systems.
Sound like science fiction? They are all true incidents and it is predicted that as the IoT (Internet of Things) continues to expand, property attacks will become more prevalent and costly. Imagine hackers gaining access to the freezer temperature control at a frozen food manufacturer or infiltrating the computer system that regulates the fire sprinkler system in a large hotel. The focus on cyber security and providing appropriate cyber coverage for commercial customers is not only important to protect data but also to protect vital system functions. Hackers have only scratched the surface when it comes to property damage so it is important to educate yourself about cyber risks before a catastrophic incident occurs.
Vacant homes or unattended homes have unique issues that can that increase the likelihood of mold growth. These homes are locked up without inhabitants coming or going, turning on the heat, running air exchangers or ventilation fans, and have restricted air flow. Thus moisture or condensation can build up inside and create an ideal climate for mold. To thrive mold needs moisture, oxygen, a food source and a surface on which to grow; easily available within a residence. Mold spores are abundant in our environment, and once a mold spore has attached itself to dust particles, which provides the nutrients needed, all the spore needs is moisture.
Procrastinate where mold cleaning is necessary can be a costly decision. If mold spores are allowed to proliferate, you may be faced with extensive structural damage to your home and possibly loss of property value. Today’s buyers are very leery about investing into a home with visible mold contamination. Additionally, consumers are very aware that some molds species can produce toxins and allergens.
The remediation priority would be to correct the excessive of moisture build up in the residence. Remediation would include 1) water proofing, 2) corrective measures to secure windows and doors, 3) create healthy air flow. etc. After the corrective measures to reduce the moisture, professional mold remediation of all affected structural materials, contents, and HVAC system would need to be completed. If the issues that are causing the elevated moisture are not corrected prior to remediation services, after a period of time, the home would again become unhealthy.
If you determine that your home or business has a mold problem, and the source of the moisture intrusion has been corrected, SERVPRO of Portage County can inspect and assess your property. If mold remediation is needed, we have the training, equipment, and expertise to handle the situation.
All buildings contain mold spores since they a natural part of the environment. An elevated mold count especially one that contains spores from varieties of mold that are commonly found when water damage is involved, such as stachybotrys chartarum, can indicate that there may be a structural moisture problem.
In the insurance claim process, mold testing in is generally utilized after the mold has been remediated to confirm that the mold spore count is at or below the count found outside the building. The test is conducted while the remediated area is contained in order to confirm the success of the cleaning process.
Determination of airborne spore counts is accomplished by way of an air sample, in which a specialized pump with a known flow rate is operated for a known period of time. Conducive to scientific methodology, air samples should be drawn from the affected area, a control area, and the exterior.
The air sampler pump draws in air and deposits microscopic airborne particles on a culture medium. The medium is cultured in a laboratory and the fungal genus and species are determined by visual microscopic observation. Laboratory results also quantify fungal growth by way of a spore count for comparison among samples. The pump operation time was recorded and when multiplied by the operation time results in a specific volume of air obtained. Although a small volume of air is actually analyzed, common laboratory reporting techniques extrapolate the spore count data to equate the amount of spores that would be present in a cubic meter of air.
If you have questions or need further information about the mold testing process, contact SERVPRO of Portage County at 800-648-1212.
After the Disaster: Providing Restoration Solutions, Not Suggestions
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
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.
What Ice Storm Accumulations Mean and How to Stay Safe
Just a thin coating of ice can result in a travel nightmare, and heavier amounts will severely damage trees and power lines.
Here's how to prepare for an ice storm and stay safe.
You may hear forecasters talk about ice accumulations this week and wonder, "Will I lose power, or will the roads just be slippery?"
Just a thin coating of ice can result in a travel nightmare, while heavier amounts will severely damage trees and power lines. Strong winds can add extra force to already weighted down tree branches and power lines, increasing the likelihood of significant damage.
Ice Storm Facts
Ice can increase the weight of branches by 30 times.
A 1/2-inch accumulation on power lines can add 500 pounds of extra weight.
An ice storm in 2009 centered from northern Arkansas to the Ohio Valley knocked out power to 1.3 million.
In 1998, an ice storm in northern New York and northern New England damaged millions of trees and caused $1.4 billion in damage. Accumulations were as much as three inches thick!
These ice accumulations are caused by freezing rain. Freezing rain is a result of snow falling through an above-freezing warm layer in the atmosphere above the surface of the earth, which melts the snowflakes into rain. The rain drops then move into a thin layer of below-freezing air right near the surface of the earth, allowing them to freeze on contact to the ground, trees, cars and other objects.
While accumulations of sleet can also make roads treacherous, sleet does not accumulate on trees and powerlines, so ice events with more sleet than freezing rain pose a greatly reduced threat for tree damage or power outages.
Avoid driving on icy roads for your safety and the safety of emergency personnel.
Be sure to charge cell phones and laptops ahead of time. Make sure you have several ways to communicate with others. Consider landline phones, social media, and texting.
Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets. Plan for pets to come inside, and store adequate food and water for them.
Children should never play around ice-covered trees; they may be injured if a branch breaks under the weight of the ice and falls on them.
Think about safe alternate power sources you could use if you lose heat, such as a fireplace, wood/coal stove or portable space heaters. However, be sure to exercise caution:
Follow manufacturers instructions when using portable space heaters and other devices.
Never use portable generators, camp stoves and grills inside your home or garage; they should only be used outside. Keep them at least 20 feet away from your home's windows, doors and vents to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
Use flashlights during power outages instead of candles to prevent the risk of fire, and keep plenty of extra batteries on-hand.
Before the Power Goes Out: Food Safety
Make sure you have appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer.
Check to ensure that the freezer temperature is at or below 0 degrees and the refrigerator is at or below 40 degrees.
In case of a power outage, the appliance thermometers will indicate the temperatures in the refrigerator and freezer to help you determine if the food is safe.
Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers in case the power goes out. If your normal water supply is contaminated or unavailable, the melting ice will also supply drinking water.
Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerated food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.
Purchase or make ice cubes in advance and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
When the Power Goes Out: Food Safety
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if it is unopened.
Buy dry or block ice (or freeze containers of water) to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time.
If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe temperatures, it's important that each item is thoroughly cooked to the proper temperature to assure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present is destroyed. However, if at any point the food was above 40 degrees for two hours or more — discard it.
For infants, try to use prepared, canned baby formula that requires no added water. When using concentrated or powdered formulas, prepare with bottled water if the local water source is potentially contaminated.
Insurance coverage for drain, sewer and sump pump problems
Analysis brought to you by the experts at FC&S Online, the recognized authority on insurance coverage interpretation and analysis for the P&C industry. To find out more — or to have YOUR coverage question answered — visit the National Underwriter website, or contact the editors via Twitter: @FCSbulletins.
Question: This is a Commercial Property risk. I have a toilet that continued to run as the toilet stopper did not seal properly. All would be fine except the heavy rains saturated the drain field not allowing the water to drain from the toilet. This resulted in an overflow causing damage.
Does this limit apply or would it be considered a loss under the normal limits? But for the saturated drain field, there would be no loss. The drain field caused the water to not be able to drain properly; is that a back-up by definition?
— North Carolina Subscriber
Answer: Endorsement CP 73 51 is a proprietary endorsement that includes additional coverage for Discharge From Sewer, Drain Or Sump (Not Flood-Related), up to a $10,000 limit in the endorsement. This response is in regards to the water damage claim submitted for our review. Here are the facts as presented:
What caused the toilet stopper to not seal properly? Was it wear and tear or faulty workmanship? What interior water damage resulted from the toilet overflow?
What caused the drain field to overflow? Despite heavy rains, it should still have absorbed the water. So what factors may have contributed to the drain field overflow? Was sludge or other obstruction a contributing factor? What interior water damage resulted from the drain overflow?
This is not an expert opinion, just personal experience with a broken toilet flapper. Regardless of how much the toilet ran, it never ran outside the toilet bowl because the drain carried out the water. If the drain was stopped up, not allowing the water to flow through the drain, then the water could back up and out from the toilet bowl, causing interior water damage.
If the water damage was caused by the drain field overflow, then there would be limited coverage of $10,000 for Discharge From Sewer, Drain Or Sump (Not Flood-Related) provided in the proprietary endorsement CP 73 51.
However, this is an issue of fact, not coverage. We can only speak to the coverages that would be provided in the forms based on the two causes of loss as presented.
Washing machine overflow
Question: Our property coverage contains an exclusion for flood. Included under the flood definition is the exclusion of water or sewage that backs up through sewers, drains or sumps. It also excludes overflow of any body of water.
We have a claim where the fire department put a load of clothes in the washing machine and was called out on a run. During the washing cycle, water overflowed into the building due to the drain being frozen from an ice storm. This was while the firefighters were gone performing their duties. When they returned, the building was flooded, damaging carpet and sheet-rock. Is this covered?
— Oklahoma Subscriber
Answer: We do not see an exclusion that would apply in this situation. It doesn’t sound as if the water actually went down a drain and then backed up. The washing machine overflowed because water could not go down the frozen drain, which would not constitute a backup. So, in our opinion, the loss is covered.
Sump pump and water backup
Question: One of the more common claims we handle deals with sump pumps and applicable exclusions. In this case, the business owner’s policy contains the following provision, “We will pay for loss or damage to covered property caused by water that backs up from a sewer or drain, subject to the following limitations: We will not pay for loss or damage under this Additional Coverage caused by the emanation of water from a sewer or drain that itself is caused by, or is the result of “flood,” surface water, waves, tides, tidal waves, overflow of any body of water or their spray, all whether driven by wind or not;”.
The loss was not caused by flood or surface water, but a high water table that overwhelmed the pump’s capability to function due to two major rain events one year ago. When the water table receded, the pump functioned so it was not failure in the sense one thinks of failure, i.e., mechanical or electrical. Water entered through the sump, through some cracks in the floor.
My belief is that this is a covered loss. I could not find any information on the definition of “sump pump,” the purpose of a sump pump, or the definition of “groundwater.”
The carrier used the term “groundwater” in the denial. That is not addressed in the endorsement.
— Connecticut Subscriber
Answer: It does not sound like the water backed up through the sump pump but in fact came through the cracks in the floor.
This type of loss would be subject to the part of the water exclusion that states, “Water under the ground surface pressing on, or flowing through… floors… basements.” (This can be seen in the ISO BP 00 03 01 10, B.1.g.) If the insured has purchased sewer and drain backup coverage, it would not apply to this type of loss. However, if it can be shown that the water really did overflow or was discharged from the sump (as opposed to seeping in through floor cracks), that would be covered.
The ‘whys’ behind lack of flood insurance coverage
One of the ongoing issues with hurricanes and other flood disasters is the fact that many, many people lack flood insurance. But why is that? Why are people not buying the coverage they need?
The Private Risk Management Association (PRMA) conducted a survey of agents about why their insureds do or do not carry flood insurance. We had the chance to talk to Lisa Lindsay of PRMA about the study and its results.
Their study showed that across the board, whether high net worth or not, people’s mindset is that “It won’t happen to me.” Flood insurance is seen as something homeowners are required to have, not something they need to protect their assets. The study showed that many people only buy flood insurance because the bank says they have to. They later celebrate when they’re no longer required to hold flood insurance because their mortgage has been paid off.
Likewise, consumers have been conditioned to believe that unless they are in a high-hazard flood zone, coverage is not needed. The fact that flooding occurs in many non-high hazard areas is overlooked. It’s not just coastal areas that flood, but areas near rivers, streams and even low-lying areas in towns where runoff can accumulate often flood, causing unsuspecting homeowners damage that’s not covered by their normal homeowners’ policy.
Better understanding of mitigation efforts
Not only do people need a better understanding of flood insurance, but they also need a better understanding of mitigation efforts, that is, steps they can take to prevent or minimize flooding and reduce the potential damage. Sandbags, inflatable barriers and landscaping are just some ways people can prepare for a flood. Both the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy and the new ISO Personal Flood Policy provide up to $1,000 for steps taken to protect the insured building from flood or imminent danger of flood. The $1,000 is provided for the cost of:
Sandbags and sand to fill them,
Fill for temporary levees,
Plastic sheeting, and
Lumber used in connection with these items.
As most insureds don’t read their policies, it’s likely that most are unaware of these coverage benefits for mitigation of damages.
Private flood policies to the rescue?
With the concern surrounding the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), carriers are beginning to issue private flood policies. For example, one carrier has a private flood policy with limits up to $15 million on property, much higher than the NFIP limits of $250,000.
ISO has developed both a Commercial Flood program and a Personal Flood program, both available this year. The expansion of available coverage should be a tremendous help in getting homeowners insured. However, education of agents and the public is key.
Better analytics is helping to make private coverage possible; instead of just referring to the standard flood maps, which may be out of date, there are companies providing better analysis of property that includes rainfall, local topography, elevation and susceptibility to hurricanes, not just for rains but for winds and storm surge as well.
Although flood insurance can be expensive in some places, in many areas that’s not the case. As a result, property owners don’t investigate their options for coverage.
Another issue is construction itself. Builders resist changes to codes to make properties safer while continuing to want to rebuild in areas that have been flooded. If building is going to occur in such areas, the buildings need to be built in a way to protect the property as much as possible from flooding. People also get a false sense of security from the fact that the town has allowed buildings to be constructed in low-lying areas, figuring that if zoning approved of the area it must be safe to construct a home in that area.
Understanding the 100-year flood
Yet another large issue is the misperception of the 100-year flood. Many people believe that this means that the chance of their property being flooded is one in 100 years. What it really means is that every year there is a 1% chance of flood. This puts the property at significant risk, as not only do 100-year storms need to be accounted for, but other storms as well.
The overarching issue is how to educate both the public and the industry on flood mitigation techniques and the availability of insurance coverage. The industry needs to inform people of not only what their risk is but also about the available risk evaluation tools, mitigation techniques and available coverage. Agents and brokers need to be well informed in order to proactively change the narrative of flooding and coverage.