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How to Stay Safe and Avoid Property Damage When Conditions Are Right for a Landslide

8/9/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto shares strategies to stay safe before, during, and after a landslide or mudflow.

When a fire damage, smoke damage, water damage, storm damage, or flood damage disaster strikes, SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides Palo Alto and the surrounding Bay area with property damage cleanup and restoration services. Natural disasters such as landslides and mudflows can cause financial, physical, and emotional pain. SERVPRO of Palo Alto shares strategies to help homeowners and business owners stay safe when the risk of landslides and mudflows is high.

Understanding Landslides: Common Causes

A landslide refers to land sliding down a hill. A landslide occurs when large amounts of earth, rocks, and debris such as trees, plants, and structures move down a slope. Not all landslides are the same. One type of landslide is a debris flow. Also known as a mudslide, a debris flow is a common type of landslide. What sets the debris flow apart is its high velocity and the tendency to flow in channels.

Natural and Man-Made Causes of Landslides and Debris Flows

Earth and debris are usually stable. As the slope of the terrain increases, naturally stable ground becomes vulnerable and fragile. Any disturbance of the ground can cause a landslide if the slope is steep enough. Seismic tremors, full-scale earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions can tip the scales on heavily sloped land, triggering massive landslides.

A period of heavy rain followed by a season of drought creates conditions that are susceptible to mudslides when the rains return. Dry ground rapidly soaks up the moisture like a sponge. If the rain continues, mudslides are sure to follow. Mudslides typically start on steep slopes. Landslides are a risk hazard where wildfires and human encroachment have deforested a land area.

Health Risks from Landslides and Debris Flows

In areas where the likelihood of a landslide is high, so are the risks of property damage, physical harm, and even death. Landslides and mudflows account for 25 to 50 fatalities annually. Health hazards include:

  • Broken utility lines, such as electrical, gas, or sewage, that can cause injury, disease, or illness
  • Damage to the transportation infrastructure, which can endanger motorists traveling on the treacherous roads and prevent first responders from giving aid to injured persons
  • Trauma and broken bones from impact by swiftly moving water and debris

High-Risk Areas

An awareness of local areas that are prone to landslides and mudflows is essential. When conditions arise that would elevate the likelihood of a landslide, residents and businesses should be on the alert for danger. Preparation, awareness, and a swift response can prevent injury and property damage and save lives. Land areas and terrains most susceptible to a natural disaster such as a landslide or mudflow include:

  • Acreage where vegetation is sparse or absent (from fire or human modification)
  • Steep slopes
  • Sites that have already experienced a landslide
  • River and stream beds
  • Terrain altered to accommodate new construction and infrastructure
  • Areas modified to accommodate drainage and runoff

Anyone visiting or living in any of the areas above should keep alert to the weather, to wildfires, and to other natural disasters that could set in motion a wave of rocks, earth, organic matter, and mudflows.

Tips and Strategies to Stay Safe Before, During, and After a Landside or Mudflow

Tip #1: Know the area well.

Severe weather involving heavy rains, hail, and winds should signal a heightened state of alertness. Assume that high-risk land areas will produce some measure of erosion, flooding, and property damage. Prior to a dangerous situation, reach out to local authorities such as the police, fire department, and emergency medical services to learn if the area has a history of natural disasters, including landslides. The local university, a county agent, the planning commission, or the state geological survey may be able to provide some insight.

Tip #2: Plan, prepare, and practice before a natural disaster.

The key to weathering a natural disaster is to plan, prepare, and practice before a storm or flood strikes. Communicate with local authorities to learn about the area’s emergency preparedness and evacuation plans.  Formulate a family and business emergency response plan. Include several evacuation routes. Provide alternate ways to communicate besides cell phones in case family members become separated. Residents living in high-risk areas should consider leaving when severe weather is forecast or when hazardous conditions arise.

Tip #3: Stay on high alert during severe weather.

Weather radios can be lifesavers during a natural disaster. Stay tuned to accurate sources, and act accordingly on the information. Watch for sudden increases in water levels in streams and creeks. These sudden changes might indicate a mudflow upstream. If trees, fences, and telephone poles are tilting on a slope, the land may be shifting. Listen for a rumbling noise. This sound may give a family the seconds they need to seek safety on high ground out of the path of the landslide.

Tip #4: Practice extreme caution after a landscape or mudflow.

Keep a safe distance from the affected area in case more landslides or mudflows occur. If possible, attend to the needs of physical injuries and emotional trauma. Report downed powerlines, broken water lines, and ruptured gas lines to the proper authorities. Stay informed. Listen carefully to radio and TV broadcasts for emergency information, and update family members about the situation.

Tip #5: Begin the cleanup and restoration process.

In case of a storm or flood damage disaster from a landslide or mudflow in a residential or commercial setting, SERVPRO of Palo Alto is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to begin the cleanup and restoration process. A rapid response minimizes disruptions and enables life at home or at a business to return to normal as soon as possible.

For more information about flood and storm damage restoration services, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by phone at (650) 800-3448 or by email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com

The Three Principles of Water Extraction in Water-Damaged Homes and Businesses

8/9/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto helps property owners understand the important role water extraction plays in the water damage restoration process.

The team at SERVPRO of Palo Alto is trained, certified, experienced, and well equipped to handle any size or type of water damage disaster, 24/7, 365 days a year. Water damage comes from many sources. For instance, water intrusion from a flash flood or a roof leak can cause serious structural damage to Atherton, CA, homes or businesses. A sewage backup or a tub overflow can cause localized damage in the bathroom. However, a burst water supply line from a household appliance can flood a home with thousands of gallons of water in just an afternoon, and tens of thousands of gallons should the leak go undetected over the weekend, or worse, during the week-long vacation. When water is everywhere, professional equipment and expertise are necessary to extract the water and begin the drying and dehumidification. A rapid response from the water damage restoration company and the quick removal and cleanup of the bulk water are essential to prevent greater loss, advanced secondary damage, and structural damage.

When a home or business is flooded by an external water intrusion such as a flash flood or by an internal water release such as a burst pipe or supply line, the puddled or pooled water must be removed as rapidly as possible. As long as this bulk water is present, it is being absorbed by flooring and structural timbers. The water is also wicking into sheetrock, drywall, insulation, upholstery, and furniture. Floors buckle. Baseboards swell and must be replaced, and sheetrock must be cut out and replaced as well. Furniture finishes are ruined, and fabric colors fade. Removing the bulk water is paramount to halt the advancing destruction.

Water extraction is the phase of the water removal process in which excess or standing water is evacuated from the structure. Restoration professionals specializing in water extraction strive to minimize water damage by removing as much of the water as possible as quickly as possible. Eliminating the bulk water reduces the risk of permanent damage to the structure and its contents, prevents mold growth, and accelerates the restoration of the property to its former condition.

The Water Extraction Process

Water extraction is complicated, involves special equipment, and requires knowledge, expertise, and competency in the application and operation of the equipment. The extraction process has several vital components necessary for the successful removal of the water.

#1. Halt the flow of water into the damaged structure.

The flow of water must be halted at the source. If the roof has been compromised, it must be tarped to prevent water from leaking into the home. If the washing machine supply line has ruptured, the valve must be shut off and both hoses replaced.

#2. Mechanically evacuate bulk water.

The removal of standing water must be achieved to move to the next stage of water extraction. Portable wet vacuums and high-capacity truck-mounted vacuums remove visible, puddled water. High-volume water pumps remove pooled water in the basement or disperse standing water away from the foundation of the structure. Professionals are aware of lurking dangers such as electrocution from damaged or faulty wiring and take the necessary precautions.

#3. Remove hidden water.

Upon successfully eliminating visible water, the hidden water must be removed. Residual hidden water in carpeting, behind walls, in ceilings, and under floor coverings must be removed and the surfaces must be dried to prevent further damage and potential mold growth.

Trained and experienced professionals have special water extraction tools and advanced moisture-detecting technology to address hidden water. Failure to remove water and reduce moisture to acceptable levels can lead to further damage and costly repairs in the future.

Once the bulk water and hidden water have been removed, powerful dehumidifiers and rapid-spin fans will attack the remaining moisture that has been absorbed by wood, carpeting, sheetrock, drywall, furniture, and electronics. Some items will need specialized, individual attention from specially trained technicians.

In severely damaged homes or buildings, other measures must be taken to mitigate the water damage. Unsalvageable carpet and upholstered furniture must be discarded. Flooring may need to be replaced, and portions of drywall and sheetrock may also have to be removed and replaced.

Technicians using advanced cleaning techniques and EPA-approved products clean, disinfect, and sanitize affected surfaces. The entire structure is deodorized. Odor neutralization eliminates odors and leaves the home smelling fresh and clean. No overpowering fragrances are used to cover bad smells; instead, the sources of odors are addressed. All through the process, technicians conduct tests to measure humidity and moisture. The tests ensure the customer’s property has been thoroughly dried and all issues are resolved.

When a water damage disaster strikes, trust SERVPRO of Palo Alto to quickly regain control of the situation and begin the water damage restoration process. The office can be contacted by phone at (650) 800-3448 or by emailing office@SERVPROpaloalto.com

How a Disaster Recovery Plan Helps Expedite the Property Damage Restoration Process

8/9/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto explains how companies in the Sunnyvale, CA, area can benefit from a robust, proactive disaster recovery plan.

SERVPRO of Palo Alto is helping Bay area businesses understand the value of having a well-developed disaster recovery plan, which can facilitate rapid recovery after commercial property damage. The sooner a company is able to return to normal business operations after property damage, the more likely it will be able to avoid employee migration, customer drift, and a devastating interruption of the revenue cycle. The execution of a sound plan can achieve recovery in days rather than weeks. SERVPRO of Palo Alto explores the benefits of a Disaster Recovery Plan for companies with a traditional in-office workforce as well as a hybrid work-from-home (WFH) workforce.

Work from Home: New Challenges and New Opportunities for Businesses

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic fostered a rapid expansion of the work from home (WFH) approach. A downside to this paradigm shift in the hub of business productivity, formerly office-based but now home-based, is increased vulnerability to unanticipated interruptions stemming from the home-based work environment. First, the remote worker has not created a disaster recovery plan to address potential disruption from a property damage disaster or other types of business activity interruption. Second, IT staff, the team that makes work-from-home possible, usually are not experts in disaster recovery planning beyond the scope of their field of expertise.

The Disaster Recovery Plan: An Investment and Not a Cost

In the work-from-home environment, business productivity may be interrupted by a wide range of causes, including severe weather, earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, corporate IT equipment failures, scheduled rolling brownouts, unintended blackouts, cyberattacks, supply chain disruptions, human errors, labor conflicts, social unrest, and a company-wide outbreak of illness. A cursory survey of potential disruptors highlights the sobering realization of the vulnerability of the work-from-home setting. The statistical probability of a business interruption in a WFH arrangement is considerably elevated.

Business owners and managers should regard a disaster recovery plan as both a necessary expense and a worthy investment with the potential for a positive ROI! A brief exploration of this concept yields a stunning conclusion.

Step #1: Calculate potential losses resulting from the most common sources of business interruptions. The cost of lost business productivity is staggering. Each minute of disrupted customer service and lost billable activity translates into thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in the final analysis.

An exploration of some of the potential losses, costs, and forfeited profit include:

  • Revenue cycle interruption
  • Customer drift
  • New customer acquisition costs
  • Employee migration
  • New employee recruitment and training
  • Loss of vendor discounts
  • Reduced profitability
  • Actual losses from property damage
  • Litigation and civil or criminal penalties stemming from the litigation
  • Fines for regulatory non-compliance
  • Decreased investor confidence and lost investment dollars

Step #2: Calculate the cost of implementing a proactive disaster recovery plan focused on loss avoidance and the recovery of productivity. The avoidance of massive losses and a swift return to productivity and profitability may yield an ROI of tenfold or a hundredfold. For a powerful visual of the ROI potential of the disaster recovery plan, the comptroller can insert the data into a spreadsheet and create a chart.

What Does a Disaster Recovery Plan Look Like in a Virtual World?

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the overnight shutdown of call centers, warehouses, corporate headquarters, professional office complexes, and schools and colleges. Nearly half of the workforce moved home and went virtual during the viral outbreak. Analysts project that by 2025, nearly one-fourth of the workforce (22% or 36.2 million employees) will be remote workers.

One scenario would include an individualized Disaster Recovery Plan for each WFH (remote) employee. The plan would be customized to fit the employee’s unique, individual needs and vulnerabilities. The plan would proactively focus on preparedness and prevention. Key causes of workday interruption and lost productivity would be identified and targeted with prevention and mitigation strategies. The recovery plan would fast-track cleanup, repair, and restoration in the event of a property damage disaster. Typically, risk engineers at the corporate level in the Bay area of California focus on earthquakes, wildfires, flooding, and landslides. Fire damage, smoke damage, water damage, sewage backups, local power outages, and power grid failures receive their fair share of attention. These types of disasters strike corporate headquarters, banks, office complexes, call centers, hospitals, and distribution centers.

The loss avoidance benefits of having a pre-qualified property damage company for the remote workforce are many, especially if the pre-qualified company is SERVPRO of Palo Alto.

  1. When disaster strikes, no time is lost frantically calling various service providers in the middle of the night. One call initiates the recovery process, and a team arrives on the scene in about an hour.
  2. No time is lost documenting the damage scene and preparing information for the insurance claims process. A SERVPRO professional will inspect and assess the damage. The remote worker will be provided with a detailed, well-documented estimate that will prove very helpful in the insurance claims process. The SERVPRO staff can manage the insurance claims process from end to end. Minimizing stress means that employees can focus on their job, confident that the SERVPRO team has everything under control.
  3. No time is lost in the cleanup and restoration process. The SERVPRO team handles the cleanup, any water removal and dehumidification, emergency tarping, moving furniture, disinfecting, sanitizing, and deodorizing. Workers cordon off the work area to protect occupants in the home. Few, if any, days need be spent in a motel.
  4. No energy is unnecessarily wasted on any phase of the project. The employee has the peace of mind, strength, and confidence that excellent work is being performed.

To learn more about commercial damage restoration and cleaning services in Palo Alto, CA, and the surrounding area, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by calling (650) 800-3448 or by emailing office@SERVPROpaloalto.com

Technology: A Powerful Force for Preventing Water Damage in Sunnyvale, CA, Businesses

7/16/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto highlights the advantages of utilizing technology to prevent a costly water damage disaster in a commercial setting.

Water damage prevention technology has made great strides in combating water damage disasters in commercial settings. A small water release or intrusion in the wrong location can cause damage so expensive to repair that the future of the business may be threatened. A retail store, a medical office, a restaurant, and a factory share a high-risk hazard of a water damage disaster, especially if a fire sprinkler system is in play or if the manufacturing process requires ample water and water supply points. The implementation of technology such as moisture detectors and temperature sensors aids in the prevention of a water damage disaster from pipes that become frozen or cracked.

The discussions about the billions in water damage caused by hurricanes often crowd out interest in the more mundane and less dramatic non-catastrophe (non-CAT) damage from a local natural disaster or single-structure water damage disasters from a fire sprinkler malfunction or a roof leak flooding a data center. Hardware, software, and mechanical damage can be difficult to deal with, but the financial injury from water damage to a commercial property such as a warehouse, hotel, office, medical facility, or manufacturing unit can be catastrophic.

Yet, such local and single-facility water damage events are a common reason for filing insurance claims to cover expenses for property loss. A large loss from a natural disaster is of concern, but property owners, facility managers, and safety coordinators must maintain an acute awareness of the risks of water damage originating within the facility.

Sources of Damage

Water damage can spring from a variety of sources in a commercial facility, including valves, fire sprinkler systems, broken or frozen pipes, roof leaks, a water main break, sewage backup, a malfunction in the onsite water treatment center, and a ruptured supply line to a machine used in the production process. Water exposure in a commercial setting can be complex and multi-faceted, requiring the risk manager to be focused, attentive to details, and vigilant.

The Scope of Water Damage Effects at a Commercial Enterprise

A business that suffers a large water damage loss must deal with a wide scope of consequences directly and indirectly related to the actual water damage event. These consequences include:

  1. Extensive water damage cleanup involving water removal, drying, and dehumidification of affected items
  2. Disinfection, sanitization, and deodorization
  3. Repairs to the structure and damaged equipment
  4. Replacement of non-salvageable items
  5. Replacement of damaged inventory and production materials
  6. Employee displacement (Payroll continues even though the provision of goods and services does not. Some employees will seek other employment. The cost of re-training new employees or hiring qualified personnel can be staggering.)
  7. Disruption of the revenue cycle
  8. Loss of customers and the expense of acquiring new customers

These direct financial losses may be overshadowed by indirect challenges and expenses. Machinery replacement may take weeks or months due to supply chain issues or customer backlogs from the manufacturer. In addition, mold remediation may be required throughout the facility, and this process can be extensive if the facility is an office complex, hotel, or school. In severe cases, access to the premises may be suspended for a time while repairs, replacement, and restoration are implemented. Therefore, the impact on the corporate culture, customer confidence, and employee morale must be considered when engaging in risk analysis.

This brief discussion highlights the need for a robust, dynamic, and responsive water damage mitigation plan. The plan should include:

  1. The identification of potential risks
  2. Prevention and loss control strategies
  3. An easy and effective reporting process for employees
  4. An emergency response protocol

In light of the complexity and cost of a water damage disaster in a commercial setting, now is the time to integrate water leak detection technology into a water damage prevention and mitigation program. Also, recent innovations make leak detection sensors affordable and easier to install and manage. As a result, ROI can be achieved within one or two events.

Leak Sensors in the Workplace

Leak sensors are optimal for properties that have high frequency or high loss exposures. A water leak from a one-inch water line with a flow rate of 9 gallons per minute can release over 500 gallons of water in an hour. A water sensor can send a notification the instant a release is detected, initiating a rapid response that limits the impact of the water damage.

Automatic Shutoff Valves

Automatic shutoff valves stop water flow to a connected pipe when valve sensors are triggered. The water released from a burst one-inch pipe with a flowrate of nine gallons per minute can flood an office complex or warehouse with 26,000 gallons of water over a weekend. For context, 26,000 gallons is enough water to fill a standard swimming pool.

Temperature Sensors

Temperature sensors can send alerts that warn business owners and property managers of the potential for frozen pipes. A swift response to the alert can prevent a major water damage disaster. Water and temperature detection technology has developed to the point that these systems can economically improve a company’s damage mitigation program. Business owners and facility managers are in the best position to make decisions and recommendations and to take action to minimize risk.

SERVPRO of Palo Alto is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to quickly regain control of a water damage situation and begin the water damage restoration process. Quick response, rapid remediation, and minimal or no disruption enable the business to continue to meet the needs of customers or tenants in a safe environment.

For more information about commercial water damage cleanup services in Palo Alto, CA, and the surrounding area, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by phone at (650) 800-3448 or email office@SERVPROpaloalto.com

Why Good Communication between Clients and the Restoration Company Is Essential

7/16/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto highlights the value of communication as a key to customer satisfaction and a cornerstone of the property damage restoration process.

SERVPRO of Palo Alto makes every effort to facilitate communication with every customer throughout each step of the cleanup and damage restoration project. The communication process begins with the homeowner, business owner, or property manager placing a call to the property damage cleanup and restoration company.

Frantic calls in the middle of the night to half a dozen service providers can take quite a while, especially in the chaos and confusion of a fire or a natural disaster. The sooner a company is selected, the sooner a crew can respond, arrive on the scene, evaluate the damage, and begin the cleanup and restoration.

The qualification process can take more than a minute or two. Questions to ask include:

  1. Is the company available 24/7?
  2. Will there be a delay for several hours until the next business day, or will the team rapidly respond in about an hour?
  3. Is the company reputable, well-established, and locally owned and operated?
  4. Are technicians experienced, well-trained, and IICRC-certified?
  5. Will the latest equipment, cutting-edge technologies, advanced cleaning techniques, and EPA-approved products be used during the restoration?
  6. Does the company have positive reviews on social media and with the Better Business Bureau?
  7. Are references available?
  8. Will an estimate with appropriate documentation be provided?
  9. Does the company handle the insurance claims process from beginning to end?

Once the customer service agent answers these questions, the property owner must answer questions about his or her personal information, the nature of the property damage disaster, insurance information, and payment method.

The best time to qualify a property damage restoration company is prior to an emergency restoration incident. The property owner can take time to make a list of providers, research the companies on the internet, select finalists, and then communicate with each company when the home is not smoldering or submerged in flood waters. At the end of the process, a dedicated service provider has been chosen so that when disaster strikes, only one call needs to be made.

Since the company has been pre-qualified, all the necessary information for the customer is on file. The customer service representative only needs to glean information about the nature and extent of the disaster. By streamlining the process, the customer can promptly reach out to the dedicated service provider. Delays in beginning the damage cleanup and restoration add layers of complexity to the project. Advanced secondary damage increases the labor demands while reducing the number of items that can be salvaged. Replacements are much more expensive than restoration. Pre-qualification and quick communication by the homeowner save time and money.

The Importance of Internal Communication

Effective communication within the restoration company is necessary to deliver a rapid response by crews that are prepared to act when they arrive on the scene. During the qualification process mentioned earlier, SERVPRO gleans vital information from the customer. Much more than the physical address of the property, the crews have access to vital information about the home or business, such as the location of the main water valve, electrical panels, layout, entrances, and any onsite hazards that might endanger the crew or the occupants of the structure. The technicians are also made aware of the nature and extent of the disaster so they can bring the equipment, tools, cleaning products, and PPG to quickly and safely begin the cleanup. No time is wasted in unnecessary discovery and disclosure. A failure to communicate leads to costly inefficiencies and errors, but accurate communication makes for a rapid response, efficient staging, and a quicker cleanup.

Crew to Customer Communication

When technicians communicate with the customer, everyone benefits. Confusion and conflict are avoided, expectations are fulfilled, and customers are satisfied. Clear, honest communication creates a positive, trusting relationship between the restoration company and the customer.

Communication and the Claims Process

The insurance claims process can be a nightmare for the typical homeowner. The importance of the restoration company communicating with the insurance company to manage the claims process is invaluable because it removes a heavy burden from the shoulders of the property owner or property manager.

The Importance of Communicating a Positive Message about the Service Providers and the Service Provided

Positive reviews communicate social proof of a company’s professionalism, integrity, and performance. A positive review informs others of the good experience a customer had, as well as the expectations future customers can have. The typical SERVPRO franchise embraces the idea that property damage cleanup and restoration is both a service and a way to help others in a time of distress, anxiety, and personal need. Kind words of affirmation and thanks on social media are encouraging and empowering for technicians who often sacrifice to serve others when the call comes in.

A satisfied customer posted the following review of the damage restoration company: “SERVPRO came out the same day we called. What a relief! I received clear communication from Veronica every step of the way. Much appreciated.”

Contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto to learn more about water damage restoration, fire damage restoration, mold remediation, storm damage cleanup, and other restoration and cleaning services. The office can be reached by phone at (650) 800-3448 or by email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com

Electrical Fire Damage Risks That Palo Alto, CA, Residents Need to Be Aware Of

7/16/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto raises awareness about five electrical fire hazards: faulty outlets and appliances, overheated light fixtures, the misuse of extension cords, the unsafe use of space heaters, and aging wiring.

SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides fire and smoke damage cleanup and restoration for homes and businesses in Palo Alto, CA, and surrounding areas. The team is also committed to helping property owners prevent fire damage, which can be devastating and expensive.

Knowledge about the common causes of electrical fires enables residents and businesses to avoid or correct situations that increase the risk of an electrical fire. 

Common sources of electrical fires

#1. Faulty outlets and appliances

Faulty electrical outlets and aging, outdated home appliances stand out as the leading cause of electrical fires in the home. Defective or malfunctioning switches, receptacles, and appliance cords create conditions that elevate the risk of a fire. Avoid using an appliance if it has a worn, frayed, or crimped cord. The frayed or worn cord can become hot and ignite nearby combustible materials and surfaces such as rugs, curtains, and floors.

Appliance cords generally are not manufactured to specifications that can hold up under heavy foot traffic. Avoid exposing cords to conditions that could cause damage. Do not run cords under rugs since the rugs do not provide adequate protection for the cord, and if the cord is damaged, the rug becomes a fuel source for a fire. The rug also conceals any fraying or damage the cord might have sustained.

The grounding plug prevents an appliance from being plugged into a receptacle that cannot handle the extra electricity the appliance needs to function properly. Removing the grounding prong to enable the cord to be plugged into a two-pronged electrical outlet creates a serious fire risk. This practice can lead to a circuit being overloaded, which can result in an electrical fire.

#2. Light fixtures

Light fixtures, lamps, and light bulbs are all common electrical fire hazards. Lamps and light fixtures are designed to handle bulbs within a certain range of wattage. The higher the wattage, the higher the electrical draw. The higher wattage also generates an intense heat that may damage the lamp or fixture, resulting in an electrical fire. An incandescent light bulb converts only 10% of the electricity to light. The rest is lost in heat. The filament in an incandescent bulb is 4600 degrees Fahrenheit. The surface temperature of the bulb may vary from 150 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid exceeding the recommended bulb wattage on any lamp or light fixture. LED bulbs are becoming the standard in homes and businesses. LEDs convert 80% of electricity to light and generate much less heat, reducing the risk of a fire. An LED light will last up to 25,000 hours, 25 times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb.

#3. Extension cords

Extension cords have many practical uses and make life around the home or office much easier, especially as more people choose to work and study from home. However, the misuse of extension cords is another leading cause of electrical fires. If an appliance must be plugged into an extension cord, it should only be on a temporary basis. Appliances should be plugged into outlets. If existing outlets cannot handle the appliance load, hire an electrician to install outlets that are designed to carry the load demand required by the appliance.

#4. Space heaters

Space heaters are small, affordable, efficient, and portable. However, because space heaters are so portable, people sometimes put the handy devices too close to combustible items such as clothing, beds, curtains, rugs, couches, and chairs resulting in a fire. One of the most dangerous culprits causing an electrical fire is the coil space heater. The coils can reach temperatures from 800 to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to very quickly ignite any combustible material that is in close proximity to the device. Flammable items will ignite almost instantly upon coming in direct contact with the coils. Quartz infrared heaters can reach similar temperatures and present a comparable risk hazard, especially if the elements are covered with a thick layer of dust.

A safer alternative to a coil heater is the radiator-style heater. It diffuses heat over the entire surface of the unit, making the appliance less of a fire risk hazard. Combustible materials should still be kept away from a radiator heater. It is unsafe to hang clothes over a radiator heater to quickly dry the garment.

#5. Aging, outdated wiring

Another leading cause of electrical fires is aging, outdated wiring that is degraded or unable to handle modern electrical loads required by newer, more powerful appliances such as wide-screen TVs, computers, air conditioners, and microwaves.

Breakers are designed to interrupt a circuit when overloaded by too much electricity. Outdated breakers may fail to break the connection when overloaded, causing the system to overload and cause an electrical fire.

From faulty outlets to outdated breakers, homeowners, property managers, and businesses need to be aware of the common causes of electrical fires and the safety measures that can prevent this type of fire.

SERVPRO of Palo Alto responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to fire damage and other property damage disasters in the Palo Alto area. The team implements a response quickly, carries out a thorough fire damage cleanup process, and rapidly restores the damaged structure to its pre-disaster condition.

For more details about fire damage restoration and cleanup services, email the SERVPRO of Palo Alto office at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com. The team can also be reached by calling (650) 800-3448.

Recovery Assistance Options for Sunnyvale, CA, Businesses That Have Suffered Property Damage

6/10/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto offers important tips to help Sunnyvale, CA, businesses choose the best recovery assistance options to overcome a property damage disaster.

SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides commercial property damage cleanup and restoration services for businesses in Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, and the greater Bay area. Core services include fire, smoke, and water damage restoration services. Commercial cleaning, biohazard cleanup, trauma scene cleanup, and mold remediation round out the service menu.

Property damage can sidetrack a business, slowing or disrupting the flow of goods or services to customers. A catastrophic property damage disaster can derail a business, completely halting all business operations, interrupting the revenue cycle, and putting the company at risk of bankruptcy and ultimate failure. The economic impact of a business failure negatively impacts the owners, employees, vendors, customers and clients, the supply chain, and even city, county, and state tax revenues. Quick recovery and resumption of normal business operations and profitability are in everyone’s best interest, from the CEO to the customer.

Getting back on track and moving forward after a property damage disaster is challenging. Businesses that have proactively formulated a comprehensive recovery plan that considers every exigency must still overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Here are several crucial tips for driving the business recovery process forward as quickly, as efficiently, and as economically as possible.

Tips for driving the business recovery process forward

Tip #1: Accurately assess the scope of damage and the feasibility of restoring normal business operations.

Carefully inspect the damaged areas of the facility. Immediately open the lines of communication with all insurance companies that will be involved in the recovery process. Delays can be very costly, affecting the overall cost of the physical damage restoration, the ongoing overhead, and the loss of revenue. Document damages with photos and video of the disaster scene. Archive the images, audio, and written notes in a secure but accessible cloud storage platform. In the mayhem and confusion of a large-scale disaster, a cell phone can be easily lost, destroyed, or stolen.

Realistically address the following difficult questions and issues:

  • What is a realistic timeline for the resumption of normal business operations?
  • What is the estimated cost of a rebuild?
  • Is re-opening within the financial capabilities of the company? Seek competent, independent, third-party financial advice, if needed
  • What equipment is salvageable?
  • Is the support base of neighbors, colleagues, fellow business owners, and Chambers of Commerce broad enough to help carry the physical, emotional, and financial burden through these difficult times?

Tip #2: Execute the recovery plan.

A business continuity plan is an indispensable element of doing business in the twenty-first century. Every business should have one and update it as the business grows, takes on additional liabilities, changes its business model, or reshapes its brand. A major property damage disaster is the reason for the plan in the first place. When disaster strikes, the plan must be swiftly implemented. The plan should include many elements, including:

  • Assignments: Verify that the existing staff assigned to recovery roles still possess adequate job performance competencies to fulfill their duties. IT, robotics, and HR are dynamic and ever-changing. A lateral move or a job promotion may render an employee incapable of handling previous responsibilities due to changes in technology or labor laws.
  • Public relations and lines of communication: Keep employees, customers, vendors, and media abreast of the situation. Employee and customer flight can be kept to a minimum if the lines of communication are solid and reliable. Include lenders in the communication loop.
  • Recalibration: Adapt to changing situations and quickly adjust the recovery plan to confront and overcome new challenges.
  • Future plans: Think strategically about the restored business. Will another facility be needed? How does a new location affect marketing strategy? If gross vehicle traffic was crucial, how can the lost exposure be replaced? The rental or purchase of a facility with high traffic volume could be exponentially more expensive than when the company, practice, retail outlet, or restaurant originally opened.

Tip #3: Exercise operational flexibility.

If the property is unsafe, if the business must be relocated, or if the workforce shifts to remote work, management must be creative, flexible, and patient. Customers, vendors, employees, management, and owners need time to embrace the new situation and work concertedly towards success.

Tip #4: Identify reasonable financial options to replace or repair the facility, equipment, and infrastructure.

At this point, sound financial consultation can provide lending and grant options for the damaged business.  For small businesses, the Small Business Administration is a great place to start.

Connect with a Property Damage Restoration Company before Disaster Strikes

Pre-qualify a reputable property damage cleanup and restoration company before a disaster strikes at the business, factory, office complex, or retail outlet. Include this information in the recovery plan. The professionals at SERVPRO of Palo Alto work with business owners to customize an emergency response plan.

In case of a property damage disaster in a commercial setting, SERVPRO of Palo Alto is available 24/7, 365 days a year, to help a business begin the recovery process. One phone call to one damage cleanup and restoration company at any time day or night delivers a crew on the scene in about one hour.

For more details about Sunnyvale, CA, water damage cleanup, email the office at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com or call (650) 800-3448.

Restoring Home Libraries and Collections after a Water Damage Disaster Has Occurred

6/10/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto offers tips for the care and preservation of home libraries and provides water damage restoration services if the collection suffers a water damage disaster.

SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides water damage restoration and contents cleaning for water-damaged home libraries and collections. For the homeowner who has suffered a water damage disaster that has affected a prized collection, it is comforting to know that competent, skilled, and certified restoration professionals will be handling the cleanup and restoration of these valuable contents.

Californians love collecting. Motivations are varied, including the prospect that the value of the collectibles will dramatically increase as time passes. Rarity and antiquity (the age of the item) are a factor in the value of the collection. Some people create collections as a hobby simply because they enjoy the hunt. Some of the most popular things Californians collect include coins, movies, video games, books, music CDs, stamps, rocks and gems, key chains, dolls, and sports cards.

A collection of mass market paperback novels may have little or no value. On the other hand, out-of-print, rare, or vintage books could be worth a fortune. A shoebox full of old baseball cards may have a rare rookie card worth thousands of dollars. A large collection of comic books may have great sentimental value, while only a couple of the items have any real monetary value.

Restoration of Water-Damaged Libraries and Other Collections

National Park Service archivists, who preserve some of the most valuable books, documents, and other antiquities in the history of America, explain the challenges of dealing with water-damaged books: “Wet books and papers are some of the most fragile items to be salvaged from a home or library after a flood. Paper loses strength when it gets wet, and books suffer damage due to swelling. Additionally, mold may begin to grow when objects are left damp for approximately 72 hours.”

Preventative Measures

SERVPRO of Palo Alto offers advice on how to prevent damage to a personal book collection and how to clean up and restore materials should they suffer water damage. Preservation of a prized personal library or other collection begins with taking proactive steps to prevent water damage. Here are some tips to safeguard collectibles.

Tip #1: A cool, dry, dark environment is best for books and other paper documents. Mold loves moisture and warmth, and direct sunlight can fade printed materials.

Tip #2: Handle books with clean, dry hands or gloves. Dirt and oils can stain books or accelerate deterioration.

Tip #3: Keep food, pets, post-it notes, paper clips, and rubber bands away from books and documents. Food attracts destructive pests. Pets chew on books. Post-it notes, paper clips, and rubber bands can degrade or stain pages and book covers.

What to Do When Books Suffer Water Damage

Some water damage disasters are beyond human control and are unavoidable. Follow these tips when dealing with books that have suffered water damage.

Tip: Take immediate action when a water damage disaster occurs in the home, even if books and other paper collectibles are not directly affected. Close off the library from the rest of the house. The additional moisture will be absorbed by the dry covers and pages of the books if moisture levels are not quickly reduced with dehumidifiers or rapid spin fans. Place a room dehumidifier in the collection room to keep moisture levels low.

Tip: Monitor for signs of mold and mildew. Mold thrives on organic matter such as books, and a mold outbreak in the reading room could develop in as little as 24 to 48 hours.

Tip: Turn to book, document, and photograph cleaning and restoration specialists.

SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides document restoration services with the understanding that a home is the heart of a family. The SERVPRO restoration specialists strive to restore water-damaged contents such as books and documents endowed with precious, priceless memories. The team at SERVPRO of Palo Alto has helped restore legal documents, family heirloom Bibles, and other important mementos for homeowners in Menlo Park, Stanford, and Palo Alto.

Books, documents, and photographs that have suffered water damage must be handled with extreme caution. Not all items can be fully restored to pre-damaged condition. The SERVPRO team, however, is able to save many books and documents from being ruined by water damage.

The type of documents and the severity of the water damage determine which of the following options best fit the restoration needs: air-drying, dehumidification, freezer drying, vacuum freeze-drying, or vacuum thermal drying. These state-of-the-art technologies make SERVPRO of Palo Alto proficient in book and document restoration.

To learn more about water damage restoration in Menlo Park, CA, and the surrounding area, contact the office by phone at (650) 800-3448 or email office@SERVPROpaloalto.com

Tree Damage and Wildfires: The Connection between Insects and Fire Damage

6/10/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto explains how bark beetles and other insects contribute to forest fires and fire damage in Palo Alto and the greater Bay area.

Known for putting the customer first, SERVPRO of Palo Alto specializes in smoke, water, and fire damage restoration services for residential and commercial properties. The team at SERVPRO of Palo Alto highlights how insects contribute to forest fires and fire damage.

Pests That Perpetrate Wildfires

Bacteria, fungi, parasitic plants, animals, humans, chemicals, high temperatures, drought, and insects can cause trees to become diseased, weakened, and vulnerable. Though tiny in size, insects in large numbers can devastate a forest very quickly.

Insects Can Be Beneficial

It is both natural and essential for a healthy forest to experience some diseases and infestations. Insects, along with bacteria and fungi, break down organic matter, which releases nutrients, creating humus. Insects pollinate plants and trees, and the insect population also includes predators that keep harmful pests in check.

Insects annually destroy more trees than wildfires. When the insect population explodes, the pests typically impact individual trees or small, scattered groups of trees, with stressed or unhealthy trees succumbing first. Stressors include drought, competition for limited amounts of water, sunlight, and nutrition. Too much water or physical damage to the tree can also stress and weaken the tree.

Healthy trees are able to fight back against an onslaught of insects. When attacked, a healthy tree produces pitch (resin or sap), so insects are drowned by the pitch. Visible signs of pitch on the bark indicate the tree is still alive and healthy. If a tree produces little or no resin during a known insect infestation, expect to find beetle larvae under the bark at the point of attack. Sadly, the tree may be dying.

Drought and Bark Beetles

An article at CAL FIRE of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention entitled “Drought and Beetles–A Killer Combination” highlights a connection between trees, the weather, and an insect that can lead to devastating wildfires:

“Little creatures, big impact… Tiny insects known as bark beetles are deadly when combined with drought. Together they’ve killed millions of trees, greatly increasing the risk of wildfire in California. When trees are weakened due to lack of water from prolonged drought, they are more susceptible to attacks from bark beetles. Once attacked, the tree will die. More than 147 million trees have already died from drought and bark beetles in California. In some communities, up to 85 percent of the forest trees have been killed. These dead trees dry out and become quick-burning fuel for wildfire. A tree’s only defense against bark beetles is sap (pitch), which is produced by a healthy tree. But when a tree is diseased or stressed by drought, it may not be able to produce enough sap to protect it from being overrun by bark beetles. Healthy trees best withstand drought and resist bark beetle attacks.”

A Deadly Duo: Bark Beetles and Engravers

The most problematic insects in California forests are bark beetles and engravers. Stressed and weakened pine and fir trees are most vulnerable to these bark-boring brutes. The two insects often work in tandem. Engravers will further weaken an already stressed and unhealthy tree. The bark beetle will follow up, killing the tree. Look for a general reddening in the tops of affected trees.

Foliage-Eating Insects

Healthy trees can withstand the partial loss of foliage. Left unchecked, foliage-feeders will defoliate a tree to the point of hindering photosynthesis which can stress or kill a tree. If a tree is compromised by the loss of foliage, bark beetles can gain a foothold and finish off the tree. Look for damaged needles and leaves. Foliage-feeders will lay their egg masses in small pouches of webs in protected areas under branches and leaves or in the bark. Twigs, buds, twigs, roots, and cones are also on the menu. Signs of trouble are an overall decline in tree vigor or severe damage to a section of the tree.

What to Do When Trouble Is Spotted

Keep an eye out for signs of trouble: reddening foliage, loss of leaves and needles, tiny holes in the bark, pitch streams, loss of bark, and loss of limbs and branches. Reach out to a reputable arborist, a forestry management company, or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention for assistance. Stressed, unhealthy, dying, or dead trees present a massive fire hazard.

Fire Damage Prevention, Preparation, and Recovery for Bay Area Homeowners or Businesses

In 2020, the worst wildfire season on record, thousands of wildfires consumed over 4 million acres, destroying over 10,000 structures. Property damages exceeded $10 billion, and fire suppression costs more than $2 billion. The Bay area was hit particularly hard. Fire prevention strategies in and around the home or business and an emergency readiness plan are crucial.

In case of a fire damage disaster or other property damage disaster in a residential or commercial setting, SERVPRO of Palo Alto is available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, to help homeowners and businesses clean up and restore fire, smoke, and water damage. To learn more information about fire damage restoration in Redwood City, CA, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by calling (650) 800-3448 or emailing office@SERVPROpaloalto.com

How to Safely React When a Smoke Alarm Activates

5/16/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto offers four tips on how to react to a fire alarm alert.

SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides water and fire damage restoration services to homeowners and businesses in the Bay area. The team of professionals at SERVPRO is very involved in helping foster a culture of fire safety in the home and the workplace. Fire safety involves several crucial components:

  • Fire safety readiness
  • Fire prevention strategies
  • Fire response alertness
  • Fire damage recovery

Fire prevention is the first line of defense against a fire damage disaster. A proper response to a fire or smoke alarm alert is the best way to survive an actual fire in the home or workplace.

When the smoke alarm alerts the occupants of a home or business, they must know how to conduct themselves and be able to respond according to the training they have received. An emergency plan can be in place and fire prevention strategies up to date, but if the occupants of the home or business fail to appropriately respond to a smoke alarm, property damage, personal injury, or even loss of life could occur.

Some potentially life-saving tips for responding to a fire alarm alert.

Tip #1: Always assume the smoke alarm is real and not a false alarm.

Smoke alarms very rarely self-activate without being triggered by smoke, but that smoke may not always be from a life-threatening fire. The cause of the smoke could be a dish cooking on the stove, in which case the homeowner just needs to turn on the exhaust fan over the stove or open a door or window to let in the fresh air. Once the source of the smoke has been identified and adequately resolved, life can return to normal. Everyone can sit down at the table to enjoy a delicious meal. However, the smoke is real, and the alarm response is accurate. Even in the case of a smoking dish that is not on fire, a cooking fire could still result if the problem is not resolved.

If a fire alarm system activates in the workplace, policy dictates the response. Employees have protocols they must follow, whether the alarm is a drill, an actual fire, a prank, or a false alarm. Often included in these procedures are stringent time goals that must be met. These time markers ensure evacuation will be achieved within a safe time frame. In some work environments, a fire can spread across dust-laden rafters in seconds, and safe escape may be measured in seconds rather than minutes.

Tip #2: Remain calm, alert, and ready to act.

Stay calm, and do not panic. Remember the drills. Stay focused on the necessary and immediate tasks that must be accomplished prior to evacuation. If the smoke alarm activates in the middle of the night, safe and immediate evacuation is the top priority. Get children and pets out of the home safely while alerting first responders to the possible emergency. If the smoke alarm goes off during the day in response to a known fire from an appliance, electrical short, or a cooking fire, take immediate steps to extinguish the blaze. Extinguishing a fire is easiest and most successful when only smoke or minimal flames are involved.

When evacuating the workplace, take the time to gather personal keys, business keys, a purse or backpack, and the cell phone if the activity can be completed in seconds. Desk knickknacks, photos, or other mementos can be left behind. Most commercial buildings are outfitted with a sprinkler system that will minimize fire damage. Occupants in a multi-story complex should immediately take the designated evacuation route. Elevators may become non-operational during a fire.

Tip #3: Follow the smoke alarm response procedures.

In the case of a fire in a house or apartment, exit the structure quickly. A fire may ignite volatile substances that could explode or produce toxic fumes, so keep a safe distance. Check to make sure everyone, including pets, has been evacuated. Wait for emergency responders to arrive. Under no circumstances is anyone to re-enter the burning or smoke-filled home or apartment complex.

In the workplace, be familiar with and follow the smoke alarm response outlined in the Emergency Response Plan. Evacuation is only one part of the escape and survival portion of the plan. Some plans involve groups, crews, or teams meeting outside the facility and completing a digital or paper attendance registry to ensure everyone has exited the building. Employees are usually required to remain a safe distance from the facility. Under no circumstances are employees to re-enter a burning, smoke-filled building. Take time to notice how co-workers are doing in the stress of the moment and offer mental support and encouragement where needed.

Tip #4: Do not interfere with first responders when they arrive on the scene.

Do not hinder the efforts of or attempt to assist firefighters or other first responders. Carefully follow any instructions given by the fire crew.

When property damage affects residential or commercial buildings, SERVPRO of Palo Alto is available to respond 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. The team helps regain control of the situation quickly and begins the restoration process promptly. For more information about Sunnyvale, CA, fire and water damage restoration, call SERVPRO of Palo Alto at (650) 800-3448. The office can also be reached by emailing office@SERVPROpaloalto.com