Property Damage Restoration Blog | ServiceMaster of Tacoma - Part 2

Case Study: Consignment Shop Fire

Take a look as the crew performs a pack out at a local consignment shop. The shop had a significant fire, and being an older building, showed traces of mold and asbestos, which is why our crew is decked out in PPE gear. These items will be inventoried and transported back to our facility for professional cleaning, and then stored until the shop is restored and ready for inventory again.

Restoration Relay

In case you wanted to see more of our “Restoration Relay” from the BBQ last Friday… things got a little competitive.

Fire Damage: Filing a Claim

Even the most cautious and prepared people sometimes experience firesIf you do find yourself suffering from some unfortunate fire damage, first call 911 (if they haven’t been called) and then, your insurance agent. The sooner your insurance is involved, the better. You could face negative consequences by delaying your insurance claim.

When you get in contact with your agent or adjuster, you will need to provide information, such as a list of your losses, living expenses post-fire, fire or police reports, and any repair estimates.

List of Losses:

Document everything from the beginning to the end of the loss. Try to make a list of everything lost in the fire, and take as many pictures as possible. Any visual documentation you can provide to your insurance company should make the claims process move smoothly.

Living Expenses:

If fire damage doesn’t allow you to live in your house, your insurance company may be able to provide you with temporary housing and assistance. Store receipts from hotel stays, restaurants, gas fill-ups, laundromats, and any costs associated with your fire loss.

Fire or Police Reports:

After the fire, get copies of the report from the fire department to report to your insurance company. Firefighters could have cut holes in your roof, broken down doors, or broken through windows to let heat and smoke escape. These damages may be covered by insurance. Also, if there are any police or hospital reports applicable to your loss, provide those as well.


Contact a fire damage restoration company such as ServiceMaster Restore to provide you with a scope and estimate that you can present to your insurance adjuster. Make sure that all of your contents have been evaluated and recorded before throwing anything away. You may be surprised at what can be restored by the proper professionals.

Throughout the process, keep in constant contact with your adjuster. If you need a professional opinion on fire damage at your home or business, don’t hesitate in contacting ServiceMaster of Tacoma. Remember, don’t wait to mitigate!

DIY Mold Removal: When to contact a mold remediation specialist

Mold is everywhere.

Mold is a type of fungus that grows from tiny spores that float in the air. These spores can land and thrive wherever there is moisture. There’s a chance that there is currently some form of mold in your home right now! Some people are seemingly unaffected by mold, while others have severe sensitivity to mold. Mold can be invisible or visible, smelly or undetectable, and anywhere from black to white and everything in between for color. Some molds are more toxic and destructive than others. Because of all these things, we do not suggest trying to “clean” mold yourself. 

When it comes to determining what type of growth you have, you should hire a professional. This would be an “industrial hygienist” or an “environmental hygienist”. Their services often include: 

  • Mold inspection & testing 
  • Air quality testing 
  • Asbestos survey & analysis 
  • Lead testing & analysis 
  • And more. 

A certified mold inspector can then give you a recommended plan of action based on the scope and results. You can read up on common household molds but again, to know for sure, pursue the advice of a mold professional. 

If you aren’t scared off by mold and want to attempt to clean up a small mold job by yourself (think 5-10 square feet), you can use a mold removing cleaner to wipe down the surfaces. For any materials being removed, bag and contain the affected materials before moving them throughout your house and spreading it further. Check out this article for how one DIYer handles mold

Once again, we do not recommend taking mold removal into your hands, at least without consulting a professional first. There’s a chance of spreading a mysterious growth through your house and putting yourself and your family’s health at risk.  

 Need to talk about a mold issue? Give ServiceMaster of Tacoma a call at 800-339-5720.  

ServiceMaster’s Melissa M.

Meet the newest addition to our Accounting Department, Melissa! masterofdisaster


Sewer Backup – What do I do?

An overflowing toilet is stressful enough, but when sewage becomes involved, a simple clean-up turns into a health hazard. When it comes to a sewer backup, it’s more of “who to call” rather than “what to do”.

Since sewage is hazardous, you will want to call a professional crew. A professional sewage clean-up crew will:

  • Remove all items that have been damaged due to sewage backup.
  • Properly discard items that cannot be salvaged.
  • Properly disinfect saved materials off-site.
  • Remove all water and sewage with specialty equipment.
  • Dehumidify affected areas.
  • Ventilate dangerous fumes and airborne particles.
  • Disinfect flooring and surfaces within a contaminated area.


What can cause a sewer backup? 

  • Soil settlement around the structure, putting stress on the plumbing and sewer system.
  • Cracked pipes or misaligned connections and joints in the plumbing system.
  • Tree roots infiltrating pipes and plumbing.
  • Grease build-up and improper flushing habits in the building.
  • Irregular cleaning and maintenance, especially in high-volume settings.

Through regular sewer and plumbing inspections, you can work towards preventing a sewer backup in your home or business. Always make sure you know where the water shut-off is, whether in your home or at the office.

If you happen to experience an unfortunate event such as a sewage backup, contact a licensed plumber to detect and stop the source, and then call a qualified disaster restoration company such as ServiceMaster of Tacoma at 800-339-5720 to take care of the clean-up.

For more information on what to do when your sewer backs up, visit or contact your city maintenance department.

When Lightning Strikes: Thunder and Lightning Safety Tips

Did you know that lightning is a leading cause of death from weather-related hazards? The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000. While only about 10% of lightning victims are killed, injuries can range from severe burns and permanent brain damage to memory loss and personality change. If you find yourself in a thunderstorm, get yourself indoors or in a car.

lightning tips

If you are in your home, do not use a landline phone and stay away from windows and doors. Most people struck by lightning while inside their homes are talking on the telephone near a window at the time. Even if you have surge protectors, you need to unplug all appliances and electronics. Even surge protectors do not protect against direct lightning strikes. Electricity can also travel through plumbing, so avoid using running water.

If you are out on the water, get to land and find a grounded shelter or vehicle immediately. Water is a good conductor of electricity.

Keep in mind, thunderstorms can include much more than lightning, such as strong winds, hail, flash flooding, tornadoes, and so on. Always be alert and err on the side of caution.

Earthquake Tips: Are you ready?

With the recent earthquakes in Southern California, we are reminded that here in the Pacific Northwest, an earthquake, let alone the earthquake of all earthquakes, could hit at any time. We can’t control when and where we will be when it hits, but we can control how prepared we are. Read on for what to do in preparation, during, and after a quake strikes.


  • Secure. Take the time to secure large furniture against walls, such as TV’s, dressers, cabinets, along with objects that hang on walls.  Store heavy and fragile objects on lower shelves. 
  • Practice. Rehearse “drop, cover, and hold on” with your family and coworkers. Drop to your hands and knees, cover your neck with your arms. Crawl only as far as you need to reach cover from falling materials. Hold onto any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops. 
  • Communicate. Create a family communications plan that has an out-of-state contact. Plan where to meet if you get separated. 
  • Prepare. Put together a supply kit that has enough food and water for at least three days, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher, and a whistle. Consider each person’s specific needs, including medications, care items for babies and small children, or pet care items. Include extra batteries and charging devices for phones. 
  • Protect. Consider getting an earthquake insurance policy. Standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover earthquake damage.  
  • Inspect. Is your home’s foundation in good shape? Correct any structural issues now to avoid a collapse in the event of an earthquake.


  • “Drop, cover, and hold on” as you practiced above. 
  • If in bed, stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow. 
  • If inside, stay there until shaking stops. Do not run outside. 
  • If in a vehicle, stop in a clear area that is away from buildings, trees, overpasses, underpasses, or utility wires. 
  • If you are in a high-rise building, expect fire alarms and sprinklers to go off. Do not use elevators. 
  • If near slopes, cliffs, or mountains, be alert for falling rocks and landslides.


  • Expect aftershocks. 
  • Check yourself for injuries, and then help others if able. 
  • If in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from the building.  
  • Do not enter damaged buildings. 
  • If you are trapped, cover your mouth. Send a text, bang on a pipe or wall, or blow a whistle to call for help instead of shouting. 
  • If you are in an area that may experience tsunamis, go inland or to higher ground as soon as shaking stops. 
  • Save phone calls for emergencies. 
  • Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery-operated radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.  
  • When it comes time to clean-up, wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean-up. Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself. 

For more information, visit There’s no better time than now to prepare!

Workplace Fire Safety

Do you know what to do in the event of a fire?

Does your employer have a fire safety plan in place? If you are the employer; do your employees know what to do in the case of a fire? Chances are, your fire escape/safety plans haven’t been discussed recently, and there’s no time like now to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Obviously, it’s smart to have a plan in place, but sometimes it’s required by law. Are you compliant?

Tips for employers:

  • Take time to educate your employees about fire hazards in the workplace.
  • Include fire safety training when training new employees.
  • Alert the staff of any changes to the plan.
  • Post the plan around the office in multiple visible places.
  • Conduct fire drills regularly.
  • Keep fire equipment in plain sight and regularly check that they are up-to-date.
  • Have an alarm system, both visual and audible. Schedule to change out the batteries regularly.
  • Go over rules for smoking, including where to smoke and how to properly dispose of cigarettes. Schedule proper cleaning and maintenance of heat-producing equipment.
  • Appoint a fire safety leader.

Tips for employees:

      • Keep your work-space clean and free of clutter, including trash and recycling.
  • Keep your electrical cords organized, and replace any damaged ones.
  • Pay attention to any machinery that could overheat.
  • Do not overload circuits, including power strips.
  • If you use a space heater, do not plug it into a power strip, and unplug it when not in use.
  • Smoke safely in designated areas.
  • Be familiar with your fire safety/escape plan, and know where the fire equipment (pull stations, extinguishers, etc.) are located.
  • Follow building security measures, such as locking up at night, to help prevent arson fires.

ServiceMaster’s Luis J.

Meet this week’s Master of Disaster from the remediation and water crew, Luis!