Fires and fire damage: Answering eleven frequently asked questions
Blog Summary: SERVPRO® of Palo Alto answers the common questions that Cupertino, CA, homeowners are asking about fire and fire damage.
The fire damage and water damage restoration experts at SERVPRO of Palo Alto are answering frequently asked questions about house fires and fire damage. Ignorance about the common causes of house fires puts the occupants of a home at great risk. A cooking fire on the stove can erupt into a full-fledged blaze that has the potential to engulf the entire structure in a couple of minutes or less. A healthy realization of how fast a fire can spread can save lives. When people realize they have little time to gather belongings and even less time to escape with their lives, no time will be wasted in evacuating the structure and ensuring everyone is not only out of the home but also at a safe distance. Here are some common questions frequently asked about house fires and fire damage.
How significant of a problem are home fires in the United States?
House fires pose a significant safety hazard in the US. According to recent statistics from the Red Cross, teams from the organization responded to nearly 75,000 disasters around the US. More than nine out of ten (93%) were related to a fire event. The tragedy is that many of these fire-related disasters could have been prevented.
Do home fires seem to be on the increase?
Regrettably, the answer to this FAQ is yes. Across the country, residential fires have seen an uptick of 8% in recent years. The typical cost to clean up and restore a fire-damaged home is approaching $20,000. The Red Cross disaster response rate has increased by at least 10% over the last two decades.
Are house fires more frequent during certain times of the year?
No time of the year is totally immune to fire risks. The fall and winter experience a greater frequency of house fires. Understandably, December and January are peak months for house fires. The weekends see an increase in fire outbreaks, with a peak between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm.
Where in the home do most fires have their origin?
The kitchen is the “hot spot” where most house fires originate, followed by wherever the wood stove or fireplace is located. The majority of house fire fatalities result from fires caused by smoking.
Who is at the greatest risk of dying in a house fire?
When a house fire erupts, the most vulnerable occupants in the home are adults over 65 and children under five.
What is the best way to prepare for a potential house fire?
Once a fire erupts, occupants have a window of about two minutes to escape the blaze safely. The key to survival is an early warning with smoke detectors. Delayed notification significantly reduces the time window for a safe escape. Install high-quality smoke detectors outside each bedroom and on each level of the home or apartment. The best safety practice is installing smoke alarms in the bedrooms if someone decides to sleep with the door closed.
Are smoke detectors enough to keep everyone safe?
Faulty smoke alarms are worthless. Test the devices at least once a month to ensure they are working. Change the batteries at least once a year. For optimal safety, replace smoke detectors every ten years.
Is a fire extinguisher complicated to operate?
While fire extinguishers require some training and practice to be effective, the device can buy precious time to escape a house fire safely. Proper training can be obtained from a local fire department.
Should multi-story dwellings have escape ladders?
A fire escape ladder can save lives when a fire suddenly erupts, cuts off avenues of escape, and leaves little or no time to evacuate the home. The escape ladder is worth the risk when all avenues of escape are blocked except a window.
Can a homeowner create an effective fire escape plan?
The typical homeowner is capable of formulating a lifesaving fire escape plan.
Step #1: Designate two avenues of escape from every room.
Step #2: Store escape ladders near each window where the distance to the ground requires the assistance of an escape ladder.
Step #3: Assign a meeting place that is a safe distance from the home.
Step #4: Explain the plan and solicit helpful feedback—follow-up instruction with actual drills.
Never re-enter a burning home. The smoke and flames can overwhelm a person in seconds.
Is it possible to pre-qualify a damage restoration company before a fire, smoke, or water damage disaster has occurred?
The best time to reach out to a fire and water damage restoration company is before disaster strikes. SERVPRO strongly recommends homeowners and businesses begin this relationship before fire and smoke billow out of the roof and windows. The team of experienced, IICRC-certified technicians responds 24/7, 365 days a year, including holidays, with a response time of about an hour or so. A specially trained technician will prepare a detailed, well-documented estimate with images and video. SERVPRO of Palo Alto can handle the insurance claims process from beginning to end. The rapid response and quick cleanup get life back to normal as soon as possible.
To learn more about Apple Park, Cupertino, CA, water damage restoration services, email SERVPRO of Palo Alto at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com or call (650) 800-3448.
How to handle insurance claims for a water damage disaster
Blog Summary: SERVPRO® of Palo Alto recognizes that the insurance claims process can be a nightmare for the homeowner or business owner suffering a water damage disaster. The damage restoration company outlines three steps to help work through the claims process.
SERVPRO of Palo Alto helps people turn their world right side up when a water damage disaster has turned it upside down, and water removal services are needed. The disruption, inconvenience, and stress are overwhelming. These three key steps will help homeowners or business owners near Linda Vista Park, Cupertino, CA, who have been affected by a water damage disaster, navigate the insurance claims process during the cleanup and restoration journey.
A water damage insurance claim has many moving parts requiring an overall understanding of the claims process, attention to detail, accurate reporting, and timely follow-up. The process is complicated, and a glitch could be costly and unnecessarily delay the restoration process.
Step #1. Documentation
Thoroughly document the disaster scene with a written description, images, and video. Documentation of the unaffected areas is advised, as well. A cell phone is a handy companion in this step. Upload the information to the cloud for safekeeping and easy access for all involved parties.
Step #2. Pack out
Water-damaged belongings in a flooded home must be relocated for cleanup and restoration of the contents and the structure. The risk of muscle or joint injury is high. Wet contents can sustain further damage when being moved, and delays in cleaning can cause the items to become unsalvageable. Too often, proper documentation is compromised in a rush to relocate the items to another location. The search for a suitable storage unit, most likely one that is climate-controlled, may prove fruitless. A standard homeowner’s policy will cover water and storm damage, pack-out, and storage expenses. There is no need to risk injury or to compound the burden caused by the water damage disaster.
Step #3. Cleanup and restoration
When a supply line bursts, a dishwasher leaks, a toilet overflows, or sewage backs up into the home, conditions can quickly become messy. Excess water must be removed with powerful wet/dry vacuums, and industrial-strength dehumidifiers reduce moisture to acceptable levels. Non-salvageable items are removed from the site and discarded. The homeowner who discards items without proper documentation or approval from the insurance company could suffer heavy financial loss. Cleaning, disinfecting, sanitizing, and deodorizing require advanced cleaning techniques and EPA-approved products safe for humans and pets. Cleanup and restoration necessitate personal protective gear such as masks, respirators, gloves, face shields, or protective eyewear.
The importance of pre-qualifying a property damage professional
The optimal time to contact a property damage cleanup and restoration company about their services is before a fire, smoke, or water damage disaster occurs. It is not 2:00 in the morning when water is spewing from a water supply line to the washing machine, or the smoke alarms are blaring throughout the home. When the homeowner pre-qualifies with a restoration company before disaster strikes, the chaos, confusion, and anxiety of a property damage disaster exist only as a “what if” scenario that prompts phone calls to various property damage restoration companies.
When pre-qualifying a damage restoration company, ask key questions
1. How long has the company been in business?
Experience and longevity can only be achieved over time. A company that has existed for twenty years has gained valuable experience. A business that fails to provide top-quality service will most likely fail the test of time. What are others saying about the cleanup and restoration company? Positive reviews validate the company’s integrity.
2. Is the business locally owned and operated?
When the restoration company owner lives in the community and hires employees from the community, the staff and technicians care about the community. The people the team serves share life in the community. Property damage restoration becomes personal.
3. Is the local business a member of a larger franchise family?
Does the franchise have a track record of excellent service? The backing of a large franchise family makes it possible for the local entity to scale to address any size disaster rapidly.
4. Are technicians IICRC-certified?
Technicians with these certifications have been through a rigorous training program that teaches and trains participants in the industry’s best practices for cleanup and restoration.
5. Are crews available 24/7, 365 days a year, including holidays?
Many fire, smoke, and water damage disasters occur on weekends and holidays when activities in and around the home increase.
6. How long does it take for a crew to arrive on the scene once the initial contact has been made?
Rapid response and quick cleanup should be top-priority since immediate action is crucial to prevent advanced secondary damage. SERVPRO of Palo Alto immediately dispatches a crew to the disaster scene and boasts a response time second to none.
7. Will a detailed, thoroughly documented estimate be provided to the customer?
8. Can the company be able to handle the insurance claims process from end to end, including documentation validating that the job has been completed?
Trust the restoration experts at SERVPRO of Palo Alto for water, fire, storm, and commercial damage restoration. They offer twenty-four-hour emergency service, rapid response and quick cleanup, and highly trained restoration technicians.
To learn more about water removal and water damage restoration services, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by phone at (650) 800-3448 or by email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.
The importance of exercising caution with electricity after storms and flood damage
Blog Summary: SERVPRO® of Palo Alto offers tips on proper electrical safety after storms have flooded the home and neighborhood.
SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides the storm and flood restoration services homeowners and businesses need when facing storm damage and flooding in Palo Alto and the surrounding Bay area. Storm damage and flooding can create an unsafe environment for people in affected areas. The disaster zone may encompass an entire state, as in the case of a hurricane. In other cases, the affected area may be as small as a neighborhood if the culprit is a stalled thunderstorm. Raging floodwaters, washed-out roadways, bridges, downed trees, and power lines are some of the dangers of severe weather. People in a flood zone should make every effort to stay safe. Electrical hazards are often unseen, silent, and sudden, allowing little or no time for the victim to respond, recover or retreat. Follow these tips to protect against electrical hazards during severe weather and flooding.
Tip #1: Practice extreme caution around downed power lines
Assume a downed power line is or may become charged with electricity without warning. Inform the power company of the incident. Stay away from overhead power lines with equipment such as a ladder, metal pole, or tree limb.
Avoid driving through water possibly electrified by fallen power lines. If a power line snaps and falls onto a vehicle, the driver should remain inside the vehicle. If possible, drive out from under the power line. Do not touch the ignition switch if the vehicle should stall. Caution bystanders to avoid touching the vehicle and the power line. Water puddles around the vehicle can electrocute anyone who comes into contact with the water. Only first responders should approach the vehicle.
Tip #2: Exercise great care when dealing with electrical issues in a home or business after storm damage or flooding.
Shut off the power at the main breaker before dealing with water-damaged electrical circuits and equipment. If access to the main power switch requires standing in water, secure the services of a licensed electrician to manage the task and resolve any risk hazards.
- Wait to enter the storm-damaged or flood-damaged structure until emergency personnel declares the scene safe.
- Before being plugged in and turned on, all electrical equipment and appliances should be thoroughly dried and tested by a certified professional.
- Do not touch or operate appliances or power tools while standing in water or on soaked carpeting.
Pay attention to these electrical hazard warning signs:
- frayed wiring
- sparks or popping noise when the power is turned on
- the odor of burning plastic or wood
- smoke and flames coming from electrical circuits, appliances, or the HVAC system
Shut off the power if any of these danger signs are noticed. The safest and best action is to hire an electrician to inspect, diagnose, and resolve the issue.
Tip #3: Follow the instructions when using a generator
A generator can make life much easier and safer during a power outage. Have a knowledgeable, certified electrician make the necessary upgrades to the electrical system before using a power generator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions before using the generator. Stay safe. The inappropriate use of a generator can create a significant fire hazard or endanger utility employees working to restore power in the area.
Electrical shock: What to do
The CDC provides instructions for helping someone who has suffered an electric shock: “Look first. Don’t touch. The person may still be in contact with the electrical source. Touching the person may pass the current through you. Call or have someone else call 911 or emergency medical help. Turn off the source of electricity if possible. If not, move the source away from you and the affected person using a non-conducting object made of cardboard, plastic, or wood. Once the person is free of the source of electricity, check the person’s breathing and pulse. If either has stopped or seems dangerously slow or shallow, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately. If the person is faint or pale or shows other signs of shock, lay him or her down with the head slightly lower than the trunk of the body and the legs elevated. Don’t touch burns, break blisters, or remove burned clothing. Electrical shock may cause burns inside the body, so be sure the person is taken to a doctor.”
After the storm passes and the floodwaters recede
Severe weather can cause extensive storm damage and flood damage, affecting hundreds of homes and businesses. The impact zone may be as large as several states, disturbing the lives of millions of residents. Whether the scope of the disaster is large or small, the damage, hazards, and disruptions are real and pressing. The time to choose a property damage cleanup and restoration company is before the floodwaters rise, trees topple, power poles snap, and the lights go out. At this stage of the disaster, hundreds if not thousands of people will be clogging the phone lines searching for companies to remove the excess water, dry out the remaining moisture, clean up the mess, and restore the damaged contents and structure to their pre-disaster condition. Pre-qualify a dedicated property damage cleanup and restoration company when the skies are clear, the weather is calm, and life is relatively peaceful.
Locally owned and operated, SERVPRO of Palo Alto is available 24/7, 365 days a year, including holidays, to tackle any size or type of disaster. Crews can arrive on-scene in about an hour or so with the latest equipment, cutting-edge technology, advanced cleaning techniques, and EPA-approved cleaning, disinfecting, and deodorizing products. Technicians are trained, experienced, and IICRC-certified. A rapid response is only one phone call away, no matter what time, night, or day.
For more information about flood restoration services in Sunnyvale, CA, and the surrounding area, contact the office by phone at (650) 800-3448 or email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.
Seven tips for a safe holiday cooking experience untouched by fire damage
Blog Summary: SERVPRO® of Palo Alto warns Redwood City, CA, homeowners about the increased potential for fire damage in the kitchen during the holiday season.
The team at SERVPRO of Palo Alto wants everyone to have a happy and safe holiday season, free from seasonal hazards and restoration of a fire-damaged home. Knowing that people will be cooking and entertaining during the season, SERVPRO of Palo Alto offers these tips on how to stay safe in the kitchen.
The holiday season is hectic, running here and there, buying presents, racing to holiday parties, and preparing food for family gatherings and the big games. One place to slow down, pay attention, and take precautions is in the kitchen. One of the leading causes of house fires and personal injury is unattended dishes cooking on the stove. A phone call, a text that needs an immediate response, a crying child, a pet who needs attention, guests at the door, or other interruptions and distractions can make safe cooking very difficult. A ruined meal, burn or scald injuries, or even a full-blown cooking fire can result if the cook fails to juggle everything in the kitchen and the home successfully.
The holidays see a spike in home cooking fires. Amid the festivities and celebrations, families need to take the time to create a fire safety plan or review their existing fire safety plan. Two essential components of a simple fire safety plan are evacuation routes and fire extinguishers. Precautions should also be taken to avoid personal injuries such as scalds and burns.
Whether the cooking involves preparing a side dish or a three-course meal for a family gathering, kitchen fires and personal injury can be avoided by following safe cooking tips.
- Cooking is a complex activity involving many items. Food packages, paper towels, potholders, oven mitts, and dish towels can readily catch fire when placed too close to a hot burner. Stay safe by keeping flammable articles away from hot burners.
- Dress for safety. Long, flowing sleeves and bulky clothing create a fire hazard. If possible, wear clothing made of natural fibers when cooking. An apron keeps clothing clean and safe. Clothing made of highly flammable fibers should not be worn while cooking, especially if open flames are involved. Be aware that long hair can present a safety hazard when cooking on a gas stove or preparing dishes that flame up.
- Unattended cooking is the top cause of home fires. Stay with a cooking meal. Too frequently, items cooking in the oven are forgotten and end up charred. The shrill scream of the smoke detectors and the acrid smell of a burnt roast can be avoided by setting a timer as a reminder to check the dish baking or broiling in the oven frequently.
- Avoid trip-and-fall and slip-and-fall incidents while cooking by keeping the floor clear of any fall hazards that could send the cook to the emergency room. Also, keep pets in another room or their kennel while the chef cooks the meal. When inspecting a hot dish on the stovetop, a pet can receive serious burns and scalds to its paws, tongue, and nose.
Liquids such as water, olive oil, wines, and condiments are often used in cooking. Spillage is unavoidable. Clean up spills and splatters to avoid slip-and-fall injuries. Traffic in and through the kitchen should be kept to a minimum for optimal safety during the cooking experience.
- Alertness in the kitchen is a key to safety. An exhausted, drowsy cook needs a nap or a break. Let someone else take the tongs if the hectic week and limited sleep are too overwhelming to stay focused, alert, and safe.
- Exercise extreme caution when handling hot liquids and foods. Clear the kitchen before removing the large, steaming casserole from the oven. Hot pans, pots, serving dishes, steam, and splashes can cause severe scalds and burns.
- Set the table for safety. Position the hot soup, steaming chili, and sizzling casseroles in the center of the table. These foods are less likely to be spilled if they are out of the way of elbows. Also, put these hot items on the table before guests are seated.
A cooking fire can get out of hand in seconds. Even if the damage is limited to the kitchen area around the stove, the smoke damage can still permeate the home. If the fire department responded or multiple fire extinguishers were discharged, the fire damage cleanup is much more than a simple DIY project. A rapid response and quick cleanup from an IICRC-certified crew from SERVPRO of Palo Alto can get the holiday celebrations back on schedule. Powerful equipment, cutting-edge technology, advanced cleaning techniques, and EPA-approved cleaning products give the team the advantage when tackling seasonal property damage disasters.
Contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto to learn more about seasonal hazards and restoration services in and around Apple Park, One Apple Park Way, Cupertino, CA 95014. The property damage restoration company can be reached by phone at (650) 800-3448 or by email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.
What homeowners need to know about smoke and fire damage and insurance
Blog Summary: SERVPRO® of Palo Alto provides homeowners with tips for dealing with insurance coverage after a fire and smoke cause property damage in the home.
SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides the fire and water damage restoration services needed to recover from a fire damage disaster involving smoke, soot, and ash. The experience of going through a house fire is traumatic, whether the incident is limited to a malfunctioning appliance with more smoke than fire or a large-scale blaze that engulfs the home in smoke and flames.
Regarding insurance coverage for the event, most standard property insurance policies cover fire and water damage. A smoke damage claim can be complicated, and a smoke damage payout can present some stiff challenges. Listed below are three important tips involving smoke damage insurance claims.
#1. Provide detailed documentation of the fire, smoke, and water damage, including images and video
A standard homeowners insurance policy will undoubtedly cover losses caused by the fire. Once the flames are extinguished, and the smoke is cleared, the first order of business is to extensively and accurately document damages and losses. The smoke damage insurance claim needs to include the following information about the property.
- What was the date of the fire and smoke damage event?
- Describe the type of loss or damage. (fire, smoke, water, chemical damage from fire extinguishers, damage from the fire department seeking to access and extinguish flames, an explosion from a gas leak or propane tank, etc.)
- Detail the extent of damage, such as rooms involved, garage, attic, attached buildings, or sheds.
- Were there any personal injuries? If so, describe the type and severity of personal injuries and medical expenses if emergency services were required.
- Who else was directly impacted by the property damage disaster? (guests, friends, neighbors assisting evacuation, or “good Samaritan” strangers)
- In detail, describe the condition of the home, going room by room.
- As much as possible, make an exhaustive list of contents damaged by the fire, smoke, and water from the event.
- Delineate which items are destroyed and will need replacement and which objects appear salvageable. Avoid throwing anything away. The insurance company has the final say regarding what is damaged beyond repair and what can be restored. Take pictures of everything. This task may require multiple cell phones or cloud storage capabilities if internet access is available.
- Secure copies of the police report and the fire department reports.
Other action steps are a vital part of the process. The homeowner is likely required to contact the insurance company as soon as possible, usually within a specified amount of time after a loss event. The insurance company will also require the policyholder to handle related matters. The exchange of emails and documents will be significant. Make personal copies of all documents. Archive emails. Create a digital folder on the cloud to ensure safe yet efficient access. For quick non-digital access, store important documents in a folder or binder.
#2. Know the extent and limits of the policy in force
The standard homeowner’s policy covers flame, smoke, ash, or soot damage. A home destroyed by a fire would be covered up to the policy limit for a new home. Contents damaged by the byproducts of the fire will be cleaned and restored. Items beyond repair will be replaced. Smoke and soot can infiltrate deep into electronics, furniture, fabric, and tiny crevices. Evidence of the contamination may not be visible, but the damage is real. Even items that show little or no signs of damage should be professionally cleaned or removed from the home and discarded.
#3. Hire only trained, certified, and experienced professionals for the cleanup and restoration
Once the damages have been documented, and the insurance company has been notified, cleanup and restoration can begin. Most policies cover cleanup and restoration after a fire, smoke, and water damage disaster. The headaches and health hazards of a DIY fire, smoke, soot, and ash restoration project are not worth the risks.
The experts at SERVPRO of Palo Alto are IICRC-certified with years of experience in water and fire damage cleanup and restoration. Powerful equipment, cutting-edge technology, advanced cleaning techniques, and EPA-approved disinfecting, sanitizing, and deodorizing products enable technicians to clean up and restore the damage quickly. Team members follow stringent safety procedures and use PPG to ensure safety. The quick cleanup reduces the likelihood of advanced secondary damage such as mold and wood rot.
For more information about fire and water damage restoration services in Linda Vista Park Linda Vista Dr Cupertino, CA 95014, and the surrounding area, email SERVPRO of Palo Alto at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com or call (650) 800-3448.
A water damage prevention checklist for businesses in the Bay Area
Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto offers tips on how to avoid a water damage disaster at a Sunnyvale, CA, business.
SERVPRO® of Palo Alto offers businesses the rapid response and quick cleanup and water damage restoration needed to recover from a roof leak, burst water pipe, or flooded basement or underground storage garage.
Water: A business’ friend and foe
Water can be a friend and a foe to a business. The liquid may be used in the production process. Water spraying from a fire sprinkler system can prevent the building from burning to the ground. Water from a burst water pipe in the ceiling can do untold damage to the data center or copier system.
Causes of water damage in a business or commercial setting
Knowledge of the common and uncommon causes of water damage in a business can raise awareness when threatening or hazardous circumstances arise. An increased level of alertness should be initiated if the following situations occur:
- Heavy or sustained periods of rain, which can overwhelm roof drains, gutters, and the landscape drainage system and catch ponds
- Freezing temperatures, which can cause pipes to freeze and burst
- Extremely hot weather, which can overstress the HVAC system and overwhelm the condensate drain system
- A documented lapse in adequate maintenance, replacement, and repair protocols
- A spate of related and unrelated water intrusions and releases that may indicate similar aging and wear patterns in pipes, joints, seals, and valves. (This simultaneous grouping of failures and malfunctions may signal an impending catastrophic failure.)
- An earthquake and anticipated aftershocks
- An extended drought followed by heavy rain (The contracting and expanding soil can cause severe cracks in basement and underground garage walls, resulting in a water intrusion.)
If water intrusion occurs, walls, ceilings, flooring, the foundation, the roof system, mats, electronics, computers, machinery, raw products, inventory, and company vehicles can be damaged or destroyed beyond repair.
The economic impact of a water damage disaster
A water damage disaster can shut a business down for hours, days, and weeks. The economic impact can be challenging, if not impossible, to overcome. A water damage disaster can interrupt the business's flow of goods and services, disrupting the revenue cycle. A missed payroll can accelerate the flight of valuable employees to competitors. Customers, too, will migrate to more dependable vendors when customer service lags. Customer re-acquisition and market share recovery can choke a business's life. The water damage can be quickly cleaned up and repaired. Brand damage from the disruption may be irreparable.
A water damage prevention checklist
A business owner or property manager can reduce the risk of water damage with regular inspections, proper maintenance, scheduled replacements and repairs, and a posture of informed anticipation of looming property damage events. Any single item on this checklist can save thousands of dollars in water damage cleanup and restoration, and a full-orbed water damage prevention strategy can save the business.
1. Begin by checking the plumbing system
Repair every faucet, supply line, connection, and pipe with leaks and drips. Identify aging and deteriorating pipes, chronic drain clogs, and malfunctioning water-drainage systems. Create an action plan to resolve these issues, and include an inspection of the fire sprinkler system in the action plan.
2. Assess the structural integrity of foundations and exterior walls
Cracks, crevices, and bowing may signal problems in the foundation and walls. Look for signs of water intrusions where these issues are discovered. Have a foundation specialist evaluate the situation and make recommendations.
3. Visually examine the gutter systems
Observe water flow patterns during a significant rain event. Properly functioning gutters should not overflow; water should flow freely through the downspouts.
4. Survey the ceiling and interior walls for water stains
After an extended wet spell or heavy thunderstorm, survey the ceiling and interior walls for brown, bronze, or green water stains. If possible, trace the water intrusion to its source and stop the leak at its source.
5. Access the roof to inspect for damage and maintenance issues
Properly maintain the seals and flashing around roof perforations such as vents, exhaust fans, electrical and water lines, waste removal ductwork, and ingress/egress hatches. This simple maintenance can prevent unnecessary and avoidable water intrusions. Carefully and safely inspect the roof during or just after heavy rain. The pooling water may indicate a blockage in the roof drainage system, and excessive water weight on the roof may lead to catastrophic roof failure.
6. Include windows on the checklist
Signs of a leak include stains, steaks, bubbling or peeling paint, swollen or warping trim, difficulty raising and lowering the window, spongy flooring directly beneath the window, and a musty, mildewy smell. Check to ensure the weather stripping provides a tight seal against any water intrusion.
7. Hire licensed, reputable professionals for inspections
Hire licensed, reputable professionals to inspect water heaters, the HVAC system, fire sprinkler systems, and plumbing. Schedule needed repairs and maintenance where required.
- One of the most important actions a business owner or property manager can take is pre-qualifying a dedicated property damage cleanup and restoration professional to handle any water damage disasters. When disaster strikes, one phone call sets the water damage cleanup and restoration process in motion. SERVPRO of Palo Alto has one of the quickest response times in the industry. The rapid response and quick cleanup get the business back up and running as soon as possible. Limited business interruption keeps products and services flowing and the doors open.
For more information about water damage restoration services in Sunnyvale, CA, and the surrounding area, email SERVPRO of Palo Alto at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com or call (650) 800-3448.
Analyzing the Locations Where Fires Frequently Start in the Home and Cause Fire Damage
Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto warns homeowners about the places where fire damage frequently originates in the home.
SERVPRO® of Palo Alto highlights three rooms in the home where fire and fire damage commonly originate: the kitchen, the bedroom, and the living room. The team of IICRC-certified property damage restoration professionals also offers top fire safety tips to keep life in the home safe from fire.
Where fires most commonly originate in the home
Residential house fires account for approximately one-fourth of reported fire events in the United States each year. The majority of fire-related fatalities occur during a house fire.
Two factors give the homeowner a decided advantage when it comes to surviving a house fire:
- Knowing where a house fire most commonly originates
- Knowing when house fires are most likely to occur
Ground zero: The kitchen
The kitchen is ground zero for house fires. Most house fires start in the kitchen, with unattended meals cooking on the stove being the flashpoint. Most fire-related injuries occur in the kitchen, the heart of the home. Fortunately, flaming meals on the stovetop are very preventable, with only a few changes in cooking practices.
Top safety tips: The kitchen
- Eyes must always be on the stove, oven, and toaster oven.
- Keep dishcloths, rags, paper towels, and flammable liquids away from hot burners.
- Never leave the kitchen when cooking with high heat (frying, boiling, or broiling).
- If life situations take the cook away from the kitchen, ALWAYS turn off hot burners and make sure handles are not accessible to curious hands (or paws) from below.
- When cooking is completed, remember to turn off all burners.
- Avoid storing pots and pans on the stove when not in use. If a stove eye were to be left on, great personal injury could result.
- Dress for safety. Do not wear baggy sleeves. Wear a tight apron over loose, flowing clothing to avoid catching fire.
- Do not rely on the oven for household heating needs.
- Keep a Class B fire extinguisher handy and train capable children and adults to properly use the device.
- Never douse a cooking fire with water. Keep pot lids nearby to cover the dish in case it bursts into flames.
The kitchen should receive great attention because of the high-risk dangers of fire, personal injury, and death. Remember, it only takes a few seconds for a small flame to become a raging blaze.
Electrical fires most often originate in a bedroom. Because these fires typically start when people are asleep, the potential for serious injury or death is very high. The main culprits are overloaded circuits or faulty lighting fixtures, but damaged or overloaded extension cords are also sources of fire in the bedroom. Space heaters and electric blankets carry high-risk hazards. The abundance and types of fabrics and other flammable materials (carpeting, drapes, magazines, books, papers, and bedding) in the bedroom provide ample fuel for the flames.
Top safety tips: The bedroom
- Repair or replace outlets that are worn out, cracked, or malfunctioning.
- Immediately replace damaged or worn power cords as soon as they show signs of wear. Exposed wires are a sure sign that the item needs to be taken out of service and discarded.
- Avoid overloading wiring and circuits with power strips.
- Unplug devices when not in use.
- Keep heating devices, especially space heaters, at least three feet from combustibles.
- Teach children not to play with matches or lighters in the home. Four in ten home fires started by children originate in the bedroom.
The living room/den/great room
The living room is where life happens in the home. A cozy fireplace or warm wood stove can often be found here. Yet, the second leading cause of house fires is the very thing that makes the home so cozy, relaxing, and peaceful: heating equipment, primarily chimneys.
Top safety tips: The living room
Listed below are some safety tips to help keep wood stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and space heaters safe.
- Have the chimney, fireplace, and wood stove inspected and cleaned by a professional in the fall before the full brunt of winter hits.
- Maintain at least a three-foot zone around the heat source free of combustibles.
- Invest in a better-quality fireplace screen to prevent sparks from escaping.
- Practice total fire safety: Never leave a fire unattended, and always completely extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the home.
- Heat with cured hardwoods in the fireplace and wood stove.
- Teach children proper fire safety, including staying at least three feet away from the heat source. Pets and children should be under adult supervision when the fireplace or wood stove is in use.
The top safety tip: Smoke detectors throughout the home
Install smoke detectors throughout the house to alert everyone anywhere in the home of the danger of fire. Smart technology allows for all smoke detectors to be connected so that when one is activated, all detectors activate. First responders can be notified through the internet when an alert system activates.
In case of fire damage in the home, SERVPRO® of Palo Alto is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to help stabilize the situation and begin the restoration process. A rapid response and a quick fire damage cleanup process enable life to return to normal as soon as possible.
To learn more about residential fire damage restoration services in Permanente, CA, and surrounding communities, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by phone at (650) 800-3448 or email office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.
Preparing for Storm Damage When the Storm Is About to Strike
Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides helpful tips on how to prepare when severe weather and heavy thunderstorms are imminent.
A thunderstorm can pop up in what seems to be only minutes, leaving little time for preparation to prevent storm damage. Seconds count when severe weather is barreling down on a community of homes and businesses. These quick, easy-to-follow tips will help the homeowner get ready for the onslaught of heavy rain, hail, and high winds.
Tip #1. Set aside a safe, secure room.
The first and most important step to take occurs before any danger is on the horizon. This step involves designating an area or room in the home as a ‘safe room.’ Look for the following features which qualify a room or area as safe:
- The room has no windows. Window panes can break under the stress of high winds or from impact from airborne debris. Flying shards of glass can cause serious injuries, including cuts, bruises, and eye injuries. The pain, shock, and loss of eyesight can hinder escape and rescue once the storm has passed.
- The room needs to be near the center of the home. The exterior walls provide protection and support. A closet or bathroom usually meets these criteria.
- The room is located on the lowest level of the structure, preferably in the basement.
- An old-fashioned storm cellar or a reinforced concrete enclosure is a great option.
Tip #2. Clean up and clear out.
Clean out the garage so vehicles, lawn furniture, a grill, and garbage cans can be quickly moved or rolled into the space. If time permits, move these and other items into the garage.
The room selected as the location in which to barricade during severe weather may need to be cleaned up and cleared out. A few garbage bags of debris, old clothes, and junk can make enough room to save lives. Remove lamps, ceramics, glass, and other breakables from the designated safe room. Store emergency supplies and the first aid kit inside the safe room.
Tip #3. Close and reinforce the garage door.
If time permits, collect and store lawn furniture, grills, bikes, plastic toys, and garbage cans in the garage. If the garage is full, take some of the items in the house. Close the garage door and install bracing to protect against collapse under the force of high winds. Failure to close the garage door or the collapse of the door during high winds can result in catastrophic structural damage to the home.
Tip #4. Take cover immediately.
Do not wait for the brunt of the storm to arrive. Shelter in a safe room under mattresses, under a table, or beside a heavy piece of furniture with a low center of mass. This type of furniture is not easily toppled. Use the arms to cover the neck and head from flying or falling debris.
Tip #5. Stay connected and informed.
Connectedness and current information are crucial for safety and survival before, during, and after severe weather. Create a communication action plan with multiple backups. Knowledge of weather patterns and looming danger can save lives. The use of electronics that have been plugged into an outlet increases the risk of electrocution. Use a cell phone or invest in a weather radio that can operate on electricity generated by a hand crank.
Stay connected on social media outlets such as NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC). Enable wireless emergency alerts on everyone’s cell phones. The National Weather Service broadcasts emergency alerts.
Tip #6. Be prepared for the power to go out.
Anticipate power outages and prepare accordingly. Charge devices to keep the lines of communication open with family members and emergency personnel. Switch devices to low battery mode. Store the devices in a dry, safe location during the storm. Keep an ample store of fresh batteries to fit different needs. AA, AAA, C, and D batteries should be included in the supply kit. A heavy-duty, long-lasting battery backup will prove beneficial during a long-term power outage. A small gas-powered generator or power inverter is relatively affordable and can sustain a family for days with a modest supply of fuel.
Tip #7. Know the difference between a ‘watch’ and a ‘warning.’
Confusion between a ‘watch’ and a ‘warning’ can put everyone in a home a risk.
- A ‘watch’ means thunderstorms are possible, and it is time to prepare for the storm.
- A ‘warning’ means dangerous weather has been reported. Seek shelter in the safe room.
When severe thunderstorms, hail, and high winds damage a home or business, do not delay in calling a storm damage cleanup and restoration company to clean up the water and repair any damages. Homeowners and businesses can pre-qualify SERVPRO of Palo Alto as the go-to provider before a disaster strikes. With just one call, a team responds in about an hour to begin the cleanup, 27/7, 365 days a year, including holidays.
For more information about storm damage restoration, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by calling (650) 800-3448 or by emailing office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.
Electrical Safety Tips to Prevent Injury after Flood Damage in Redwood City, CA, Homes
Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto offers advice to help homeowners stay safe before, during, and after a water or flood damage disaster.
SERVPRO® of Palo Alto provides emergency flood damage restoration services Bay area residents can count on when flood waters cause water damage in a home or business. Available 24/7, 365 days a year, the team of certified technicians arrives in about an hour equipped with the latest restoration technology, advanced cleaning techniques, and EPA cleaning products.
The potential for electrical shock in a flood disaster is a real and present danger. Most flood deaths occur when vehicles are swept away in turbulent water, but some fatalities are caused by electrocution. Water conducts electricity, so the possibility of electrical shock is elevated whenever water and electricity are close to each other. Flood conditions make the threat of electrocution even greater.
Before floodwaters rise
Persons living in or near a high-risk flood zone can take precautions to reduce the risk well in advance of severe weather conditions. One risk-reduction strategy is the installation of ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) electrical outlets. These special outlets have been a building code requirement for bathrooms for decades, but usage is not limited to the bathroom. The safety devices can be installed throughout a home at a reasonable cost and usually with no alteration. A circuit breaker in the outlet automatically trips when the plug grounds, cutting off or “interrupting” the flow of electricity.
When the risk of flooding is very high, but before waters rise to dangerous levels, take a proactive approach to immediately reduce the threat of electrocution by shutting off the power to the structure.
Below is a three-step process to make the home safe should floodwaters threaten to rise.
Step #1: Locate the panel box.
Start this process by locating the panel box inside the home. It is usually hidden in a closet or pantry. The panel box houses circuit breakers for every circuit in the structure, along with the main shut-off switch.
Step #2: Shut off the power.
This process begins by flipping each individual circuit breaker.
Step #3: Turn off the main breaker.
Once the individual breakers are off, turn off the main circuit breaker. Sometimes, the breaker box is located in the basement or outside. If floodwaters have flooded the basement or engulfed the outside panel box, do not try to turn off the power. The danger of electrocution is very high. Instead, immediately contact the utility company servicing the home to request the power be shut off at the meter.
While waiting for the utility company to act, unplug all electrical devices very carefully. Relocate the devices and other important furniture, documents, and valuables to a higher location in the home. Take great care to prevent an injury when lifting items. Lift with the knees. A lighter object, if improperly lifted, can cause a back, joint, or muscle injury.
During the flood
If flooding is in process, implement the following electrical safety measures to minimize the danger of electrical shock:
- Avoid coming into contact with any electrical devices or appliances while standing in water.
- Avoid touching or operating electrical devices that are wet or moist from floodwater.
- Stay out of areas where the water level is at or above electrical outlets.
- Beware of areas where any wiring may be underwater.
Fallen power lines create a high-risk environment. If evacuation from the structure is necessary, scan the area for downed power poles or power lines. Contact with live wires or pools of water electrified by downed power lines can be fatal.
When floodwaters have receded
Just because the water is gone does not mean the risk of electrocution has de-escalated. In reality, the risk hazards are still high. Exercise caution when beginning the cleanup and restoration. Do not enter the structure until the utility company or other professional has inspected the home or business and verified that the location is safe. Even if the power was turned off before the flood struck, do not turn it on without having the wiring inspected and approved by a licensed electrician. Then and only then should the circuits be re-energized.
Have water-damaged appliances been inspected by a certified technician? Moisture trapped inside an electrical device can cause major damage. Thankfully, some appliances can be refurbished and returned to duty. The homeowner should not attempt to use an appliance that has not been properly inspected and approved for use.
In case of a property damage disaster such as a flood, entrust the water damage cleanup and restoration process to SERVPRO® of Palo Alto. The SERVRPRO team is ready to serve homeowners and business owners suffering a flood damage disaster, burst pipes, fire damage, smoke damage, or mold damage.
For more information about SERVPRO of Palo Alto’s water damage restoration services in Menlo Park, CA, contact the damage restoration and cleaning company by phone at (650) 800-3448 or email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.
How a Business Can Maneuver the Difficult Insurance Claims Process after a Water Damage Disaster?
Blog Summary: SERVPRO® of Palo Alto explains how businesses affected by a water damage disaster can resume normal business operations and navigate the complex insurance claims process.
The team at SERVPRO of Palo Alto is dedicated to getting a business up and running as soon as possible after a commercial fire damage or a water damage disaster. A burst water pipe can disrupt and possibly shut down normal business operations. In business, time is money. Here are some tips to help business owners navigate the turbulent waters of the claims filing process. The goal is to ensure maximum coverage for water damage to a commercial building.
Not all burst pipe claims are the same
Some burst water pipe claims are more costly than others. This variation in the cost of the water damage cleanup and restoration reflects the difference in the extent of the actual damage. A flooded office may only require the repair of the damaged pipe and the replacement of the carpet. A slow, undetected leak may impact not just one office but several floors of offices. In a best-case scenario where the leak only lasts for a few minutes, the mini flood can soak flooring and walls. Repairs can cause the partial or total shutdown of the business.
Many considerations factor into the scope of damage from a burst pipe, including:
- The location of the business
- The design and construction of the building
- Fire sprinkler system
- Number of floors in the building
- The age of the structure
The location of the business
A burst water pipe is one of the most common causes of water damage in a commercial building. One of the leading causes of the ruptured pipe is freezing temperatures. A sudden drop in temperature can cause water in the pipes to expand, rupturing the pipe. Areas, where snow and ice are infrequent, may be at the greatest risk. Proper pipe insulation may have been neglected or ignored. On that rare occasion when the temperatures dip into the twenties, unprotected or exposed pipes freeze and burst, causing a massive water damage disaster.
The design and construction of the building
How a building is designed and constructed will have an impact on both the probability and scope of a water damage disaster. Burst water pipes are directly related to several common design and structural features. Water pipes in an unheated attic are at high risk of freezing during a cold snap. The failure to appropriately insulate pipes between interior and exterior walls can lead to a water damage surprise on Monday morning after a weekend cold wave. Faulty or substandard plumbing installation will become evident sooner rather than later.
Fire sprinkler systems
A fire suppression system in a commercial setting can effectively extinguish flames before fire damage is extensive. A fire sprinkler system also saves lives. A discharge from a fire suppression system can cause widespread damage, driving the flooding insurance claim to astronomical heights. Fire sprinklers emit large amounts of water under high pressure, and the overhead location and wide angle of the water discharge amplify the effects of the water damage.
Number of floors in the buildings
The physical properties of water are such that it will spread across floors, seep into porous materials, and stream into the lowest regions of a building. Water from the burst pipes contaminates everything in its path. A flood originating on an upper floor of a hotel, apartment complex, or office building may result in the owners having to replace lights, flooring, drywall, and carpeting on every lower floor affected by the water.
The age of the structure
An older building is subject to greater risks of flooding from burst pipes. Plumbing materials have a limited lifespan, and with age, the risk of a pipe burst increases. The costs associated with cleanup and restoration also tend to be elevated.
A failure in one section of the plumbing may indicate an imminent catastrophic failure of the system. The entire system may need to be replaced. The water damage restoration and repairs must meet current building codes, and this code compliance could be very costly.
Below are several important steps to take when a burst water pipe causes water damage in a business or commercial building.
Before a property damage disaster strikes, take time to understand the terms and conditions of the property damage insurance policy. The best time to work through this document is before a property damage disaster occurs. If needed, set up a consultation with an insurance agent to discuss the policy in detail. Focus on these three elements:
- what losses are covered by the policy
- what events will trigger coverage
- which, if any, coverages may be extended in a large-loss situation
In the event of a water damage disaster, take the following steps:
Step #1. Shut off the water flow to the burst pipe. This step may be as simple as turning off the main valve. In some instances, the services of a professional plumber may be needed.
Step #2. Notify the insurance company. Strict guidelines must be followed regarding prompt notification of losses. Early reporting allows the claims process to commence as soon as possible.
Step #3. Before any cleanup or restoration, document the extent of the damage with pictures and video. The goal is to capture the condition of the property damage immediately after the flooding occurs.
Step #4. Prevent further damage to the building.
Begin any reasonable or necessary flood mitigation, such as cleanup of standing water and drying procedures to prevent further losses. Do not make any permanent repairs until an insurance agent has inspected the damage.
Step #5. Complete and file the claim.
The claims process can be challenging, requiring extensive documentation, including an inventory, past and projected income estimates, and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses. Keep a copy of the claim.
The solution for dealing with a water damage disaster
A water damage disaster from a burst water pipe disrupts normal business operations. The goal is to get the doors open and the products or services flowing as soon as possible. The cleanup and restoration process and the insurance claims process are distracting and time-consuming. The solution is to call in the property damage professionals at SERVPRO of Palo Alto. Crews arrive in about an hour. A trained technician inspects and assesses the damage. A detailed and well-documented estimate (including photos and video) is presented to the customer. The industry-standard estimate meets or exceeds the rigorous demands of the insurance company. Cleanup and restoration begin without delay, as delays can lead to advanced secondary damage such as mold.
For more information about commercial water and fire damage restoration and cleaning services in Sunnyvale, CA, contact SERVPRO® of Palo Alto by phone at (650) 800-3448 or email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.