Fire Season is Upon Us
We all love the holiday season. There’s nothing better than getting together with family and friends, eating incredible food and taking a few days off for a celebration.
Here at SERVPRO, the months from November through January have a slightly different connotation. That’s because home fires peak in these colder times.
While home fires can certain happen anytime, fall and winter are absolutely the worst times of the year. The reasons for this vary, but the major issue is that there are simply more potential causes of fire when it gets colder out. Furnaces and fireplaces designed to heat your home can malfunction and cause major disasters. Candles, a common holiday decoration, can easily catch draperies on fire if not properly attended.
This holiday season, take time to enjoy yourself. But also remember to stay safe.
This Holiday Season, Burn Candles Responsibly
The holiday season comes with many decorations, like Christmas trees and twinkling lights. Many people also like to line their homes with candles, creating a celebratory atmosphere and filling the room with tantalizing scents.
As much as we love candles, they can also pose a risk. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, over 7,500 home fires were started by candles per year from 2014 – 2018. While many of these fires were minor, some turned into serious blazes, claiming 81 lives, injuring 677 people and causing $278 million in property damage.
These types of fires peak during the holiday season, with an average of 21 home fires caused by candles reported each day. The peak day? Christmas.
Thankfully, using candles safely is not rocket science. The main thing you should remember is to keep your candles at least 12 inches from anything that could possibly catch on fire, and to blow them out when you’re done.
Stay safe this holiday season: burn candles responsibly.
Employee of the Month - Devin
Each month, we honor one employee who has gone above and beyond to provide our customers with the highest standard of service.
In February of 2021, that was Devin. Devin has always been one of our top production technicians. He combines expert-level knowledge of disaster restoration with a sunny demeanor and a sharp sense of humor that often makes him a favorite for both customers and his fellow team members.
In February, Devin really stepped it up, knocking a variety of water, fire and carpet cleaning jobs out of the park. Nearly every single customer that he helped, no matter how dire their circumstances were, called our office at the end of the job to tell us how much they’d loved working with Devin.
Thank you, Devin, for being such a rock star! We’re honored to have you on our team and we’re looking forward to working with you for years to come!
Employee of the Month - Taylor, Dan and Chris
Usually, when we pick an Employee of the Month, we choose a single employee and highlight them.
In April of 2021, though, that was tough. It’s not that we didn’t have anyone to honor – in fact, it was the opposite problem. We had too many people that deserved to win.
To make matters even harder, everyone we picked turned the honor down, saying modestly that they were just “doing their job.”
In the end, we decided that instead of honoring none of them, we’d honor all of them – the “Three Amigos” of SERVPRO of The Southtowns: Taylor, Dan and Chris.
Taylor earned his spot by volunteering to work several afterhours jobs over the course of the month, even when he wasn’t on-call, in order to make sure that we didn’t have to tell our customers “no.”
Dan, meanwhile, kept our reconstruction team on track during a very busy season with several of his employees out on leave. With him at the helm, we were able to meet our deadlines despite missing an entire crew.
Chris, for his part, kept the whole show running. As our production manager and lead estimator, he is the lifeblood of the company, and he made sure that we were able to scope and perform every single job that came our way, even if it meant working long hours putting together estimates and explaining them, in great detail, to both homeowners and adjusters.
Thank you for everything, guys! We’re proud to have you on our team!
Insurance Does NOT Cover All Water Damage
Most people assume that their homeowners insurance policy will automatically cover any water damage that they suffer in their home. After all, isn’t that what it’s for?
Unfortunately, the reality is that not all water damage is the same in the eyes of your insurance carrier. While many water intrusions are covered in full, there are plenty of examples of situations where coverage was insufficient or inapplicable to a major water disaster.
What does homeowners insurance cover?
Most policies cover water damage for which the cause is “sudden and accidental.” These situations often include burst pipes, water heater failures and other incidents that are potentially catastrophic and difficult to predict.
Your policy also likely includes separate coverage for your dwelling and your personal property. Your dwelling coverage includes the structure of your home, while your personal property coverage includes your belongings.
What doesn’t homeowners insurance cover?
Even on covered losses, most policies require the homeowner to pay a deductible out of pocket. They also usually include coverage limits – the insurance carrier is only required to pay out an amount up to the coverage limit to fulfill their end of the policy.
Generally, losses that aren’t “sudden and accidental” are not covered. If it’s determined that the damage was ongoing and could have been prevented with maintenance (e.g. a slowly leaking plumbing fixture), the damage will likely not be covered.
Dealing with the source of the water damage also likely isn’t covered. If your pipe bursts, you’ll probably pay for that out of pocket, while your policy will cover the damage from the water itself.
Water backups, like from a sump pump, often require a special type of coverage called “water back up coverage” to be paid out by an insurance carrier. Floods also aren’t covered by standard homeowners policies. If you think that there’s a chance that you’ll suffer a sump pump backup or a flood, you should call your insurance agent ASAP to inquire about how to insure yourself against this sort of damage.
Keep in mind that this blog post is just a guideline – every insurance situation is different. If you have any questions or concerns, we suggest that you call your agent before a loss happens to make sure that you’re protected. If you wait until after to start asking questions, then it’s already too late.
Don't Use Your Vacuum to Extract Water!
We’re not exactly sure where this misconception came from, but we hear it all the time. People seem to think that, when they have a water intrusion in their home, it’s a good idea to break out their regular, residential vacuum cleaner and try to suck up some of the water before we arrive.
Don’t get us wrong: anything that you can do as a homeowner to safely extract water and mitigate damages before a certified restoration technician arrives is incredibly helpful. It’s the best way to minimize primary damage from the water and speed up the drying process. Extraction, after all, is 1,200 times more effective than evaporation when it comes to dealing with water damage.
The key word, however, is safely. Using a regular residential vacuum cleaner to suck up water is just plain unsafe, as well as ineffective.
Think, for a second, about your vacuum cleaner functions. Most modern vacuum cleaners either have bags in which debris collects, or they have reusable plastic compartments which can be emptied once the job is done.
Even if you manage to effectively vacuum up some of the water on the ground, neither of these collection systems is designed for water. They’re not watertight, which means they’re likely to leak some or all of the water that you’ve sucked up.
That leak makes this situation very dangerous. You already should know that water and electricity don’t mix – yet if water leaks into the components of your vacuum cleaner, including the motor, that’s exactly what will happen.
The consequences can vary. Your vacuum may break down and become ineffective. It also stands a chance of electrocuting you. Neither option is very attractive.
So take it from us – don’t use your regular household vacuum on water. If you have a wet-dry vac that is specifically made for collecting water, then you may be able to use that to extract some water.
Past that, we recommend trying to soak up the water with a mop, towels or anything else absorbent. If you can’t soak it all up, you can still set towels down to impede water migration. Some homeowners have saved themselves thousands of dollars simply by setting towels down along the base of their walls so that water could not wick up into the wall chambers.
Again, the key word is safety – don’t do anything that might put you in harm’s way. The best thing you can do is call a professional restoration team like SERVPRO of The Southtowns when you need us – we’re here to help.
Restoring Water Damaged Art
People sometimes associate SERVPRO with a big response after water damage. We like to tell people that, if necessary, we can bring in an army of technicians and equipment to restore their home or business to a preloss condition.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t also pay attention to the details. That goes double when it comes to restoring contents that are special, valuable or sentimental, especially water damaged art.
Can water damaged art be restored?
The restoration of water damaged art depends on many different factors. Where did the water originate? How saturated did the art or the photographs become? What, exactly, got wet? What kind of condition was it in before it got wet? Even in the best situations, restoration is rarely a sure thing.
That said, if restoration is possible, it’s often a much better alternative than simply letting the art dry on its own. Water damaged art can become stained, discolored or wrinkled very easily. If it’s framed, it might fuse to the glass. Mold can also develop, especially on photographs and paintings. Aside from the aesthetic damage, this type of damage can also cause serious health effects.
How does SERVPRO restore art?
Our restoration team has kept up with the cutting edge of art and document drying technology, combining speed of service with the highest standard of care to help our customers to retain more of their prized possessions after water damage occurs.
For most documents, photographs, and books, we utilize vacuum freeze-drying technology, as well as gamma irradiation technology for sterilization. Combined, these techniques allow us to safely dry most of the items that come our way. These are the same techniques that the LIbrary of Congress utilizes to restore documents in-house.
When it comes to other types of art, like paintings and sculptures, there are a wide variety of concerns (based on things like material, provenance and damage) that we can’t get into in detail. Suffice to say that we employ the same standard of care and specialization when it comes to restoring these valuable pieces.
If your art, documents or photographs have become water damaged, don’t hesitate to call at 716-646-6684. We’re here to help.
Tips to Save Furniture After Water Damage
After serious water damage, it’s important to take whatever steps that you can to salvage your structure and contents before a professional restoration team like SERVPRO of The Southtowns can get there. Among other things, furniture is a major concern. Here’s how to salvage as much of your furniture as possible:
Tips to Save Your Furniture After Water Intrusion
While every situation is different, the following tips are good rules of thumb in an emergency.
- Act fast! When you’re dealing with water damage, it’s a race against time. The longer that your furniture is exposed to water, the more likely it is to be damaged beyond repair.
- Take lots of photos. Document every aspect of every piece of furniture, including hard-to-see areas like the back and the bottom. You never know what might make the difference to an insurance adjuster.
- If you can, move furniture to a dry area. If the furniture is too heavy to move, try to put down blocks, pads or foil under the legs to protect the floor. Don’t enter an area if it is unsafe to do so, however - no furniture is worth the risk.
- Upholstery can be tough, but can often be saved if the source of the water was clean. To the greatest extent possible, separate different fabrics and colors to prevent bleeding.
- Wood furniture is more resilient and can usually be cleaned - move it to a dry indoor area as soon as possible. If exposed to sunlight, the wood may warp or crack.
- If doors or drawers have become swollen due to water infiltration, don’t force them open. Wait for them to dry.
Of course, the best advice is to leave the restoration to the professionals. The best thing for most people is to move what they can, block/pad the rest, and call SERVPRO of The Southtowns for help at 716-646-6684.
Electrical Safety After Water Damage
After water has infiltrated your home, safety should be your top concern. This goes double when it comes to electricity. Water and electricity don’t mix (or, they mix too well) and after a flood, there are many potential hazards that you should be aware of with your electrical system.
Electrical Safety Tips After Water Infiltration
As you might have guessed, the biggest risk that you’ll have to protect yourself against is electrical shock. The best way to keep yourself safe is to assume that, if an electrical device gets wet or is covered in standing water, it is compromised and potentially dangerous. Here are a few more tips:
- If electrical devices are covered in standing water, assume that it is already charged with life-threatening amounts of electrical current.
- Use your eyes and ears. If you see sparks or hear popping or buzzing noises, do not enter the room.
- Use your nose as well - the first sign of an electrical fire is often the smell of burning plastic.
- If electrical equipment has come into contact with water at all, don’t take an unnecessary risk - have a certified electrician clear it before using it.
Even if water damage is not visible and obvious, there’s still a chance that moisture can negatively affect your electrical system, devices and appliances. Often, this damage comes in the form of rust and corrosion that only becomes apparent long after the initial water damage has been mitigated. We recommend speaking to a certified electrician after your incident, especially if the following have been exposed to moisture:
- Wiring and circuitry;
- Switches and outlets;
- Water heaters;
- HVAC equipment;
- Major appliances (especially appliances that have motors).
When it comes to electricity and water, don’t take any risks - work with a professional restoration company and a certified professional to return your home or business to preloss condition.
Top 3 Sources of Post-Winter Storm Damage
SERVPRO of The Southtowns is called on to respond to storm damage from all across the country. Sometimes, that means hurricanes. Sometimes, that means wildfires.
In Western New York, that means severe winter storms that cause deep freezes and major damage across the region.
Often, it’s not the storm itself that causes the most damage. It’s the strain that the conditions of the storm cause on building systems that can be catastrophic. Here are three examples.
Water expands when it freezes. In an ice cube, this is no big deal. Inside your pipes, this is a huge deal. If the water inside your pipes freezes, it can cause your pipes to leak, fracture and burst, resulting in serious water damage in your home.
The best way to avoid a burst pipe is to insulate your pipes and leave your water running slightly when temperatures fall under 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This can often be more difficult than it sounds, especially with outdoor pipes and pipes in unheated areas like basements and garages. Still, it’s worth making the effort - burst pipes are some of the most common calls we get after a winter storm.
An ice dam is exactly what it sounds like - a dam that forms on the edge of your roof as snow melts and refreezes. Normally, the runoff from a snow melt will drain into your gutters and away from your home, but if it refreezes unevenly, damming can occur.
Damming itself may not cause immediate damage, but it can cause water to back up under your shingles and into your home. The dam itself may even become heavy enough to tear off gutters and parts of your roof.
If you see an ice dam start to form, you should not wait to address it. You may be able to use a roof rake to deal with it yourself, but if it’s a serious dam, or if you can’t access it safely, you should call a roofer.
If your roof is older or poorly maintained, you’re at significant risk of suffering serious damage during and after a winter storm. The weight of the snow and the ice can cause your roof to bow and collapse, and the constant thawing and freezing of water can cause shingles to crack and your roof to leak.
Again, the best solution is maintenance. Keep your roof in good condition and try to mitigate the risks that come with heavy snowfall, and you should be okay. If your issues are greater than you can handle on your own, call a roofer.