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Property Damage Restoration Blog | ServiceMaster of Tacoma - Part 4

ServiceMaster’s Lydia M.

Meet this week’s Master of Disaster, Lydia. She does it all: accounting, HR, and IT!

Frozen Temps – Protecting your home from frozen pipes and water damage

Ready or not, here comes the cold front. Snowfall has hit Western Washington, and it’s ready for round two. Are you ready for the freezing temps?

The most common cause of home damage in cold weather is from frozen pipes. As you may know, when water freezes, it expands. When water freezes in a pipe, the pipe can rupture, or as the ice blocks the pipe completely and continues to expand, the pressure continues to build up, and eventually cause the pipe to burst.

Long-term, you should implement steps you would normally take for conserving energy and heat in the home, such as:

  • Sealing cracks and openings in the walls, attic, basement, and crawlspace.
  • Weatherstrip and caulk around crawlspace doors and basement windows.
  • Check on your home’s insulation, especially where pipes are located.
  • Insulate unprotected pipes with either insulation or pipe sleeves. Don’t leave any gaps!

Short-term — if you don’t have much time to prepare, these tips can still help protect your home when you get that winter storm warning:

  • Know where your water shutoff is so that you can turn off the water quickly if necessary.
  • Disconnect hoses from outside faucets to prevent water from freezing in the hose and rupturing the faucet.
  • If your exterior faucets have cut-off valves, close them and drain the faucets.
  • Close foundation vents.
  • Fix or board-up broken basement windows.
  • Keep cabinet doors under sinks open to let warm air flow around the supply lines.
  • Keep your thermostat on!

If your home does suffer from a burst or damaged pipe, turn off the water supply and call a licensed plumber immediately. While you’re waiting for your plumber to arrive, call your insurance provider to file a claim, and contact ServiceMaster of Tacoma to begin cleaning up the mess and restore your peace of mind.

ServiceMaster’s Briana B.

We were lucky to have spent the past week with Briana! Briana typically works from home, but still manages to be a Master of Disaster from miles and miles away.

Preparing for Disaster: Making a Business Continuity Plan

Did you know that over 50% of small businesses don’t reopen their doors after a disaster?

Today’s topic is a bit different than our usual topic. We often cover what to do if your home is struck by disaster… but what about your business? Business disruptions can happen abruptly and unexpectedly. Having a continuity plan in place to keep your business flowing can reduce the risk of having to shut down in the wake of a disaster.

Commercial disaster restoration

An ideal business recovery and continuity plan should: 

  • Minimize long-term interruptions
  • Reduce the severity of a disruption
  • Lessen financial loss
  • Expedite restoration services
  • Prevent you from closing your doors permanently

To help cover all these areas, use the following tips:

  1. Designate a team — The best ideas don’t come from an individual mind. Putting together a preparedness and response planning team to strategize will help come up with the ultimate list of what processes and assets need to be maintained for business to continue during a disaster and put together realistic recovery strategies for each component. 
  2. Assess threats — Identify potential threats, including natural disasters like fires, floods, earthquakes, and even hurricanes.  The odds of a catastrophic natural disaster occurring is fairly slim, but there are plenty of other threats, such as a power outage, data breach, or equipment malfunction. Your list of threats should be determined by your location and the types of assets your business has. 
  3. Gather contact information — Depending on the event, you will likely need to contact some people to keep them informed. Your contact lists might include staff (and their emergency contacts), customers, your business’s insurance company, financial institutions, reputable disaster restoration companies and other vendors.  
  4. Identify essential staff and inventory — Once you make a list of staff, it’s a good idea to identify which jobs are crucial to keep the business functioning. Then, determine what equipment and supplies each of those people need to perform their job. This could be a computer, desk, phone, or even something like a server and software. 
  5. Determine ways to protect and access the company’s data — One of the most valuable and overlooked assets is data. Important data and sensitive information should be backed up on a regular basis and stored on a cloud-based platform as well as a reliable external hard drive. That way, you don’t lose data, and you can access it during recovery efforts. 
  6. Determine an off-site location where staff can work — For the staff that you determined crucial to the function of business who must work post-disaster, it’s important for everyone to know where to meet. Make sure it’s a place that has multiple routes, in the case that the most common route is blocked off. 
  7. Create an emergency preparedness kit for your office — Much like your home emergency kityour business kit should include essentials that can help your staff, customers, and business survive a disaster, with items such as food, water, copies of your business continuity plan, flashlights, batteries, first aid kits, tool kits, and battery-powered radios. 
  8. Practice your plan — It’s a good idea to run this plan over with your team, not only for practice but so that you can find flaws. With regular practice, your team will feel more confident about what to do if a disaster does strike. Lastly, make sure all staff members have a copy of the plan, so they can review as needed. 

Sustaining business after being hit by a disaster is never easy, but with a proper business continuity plan in place, your business is more likely to survive and reopen its doors once again.  

Did you know, ServiceMaster of Tacoma is a designated Commercial Response Team (CRT)? This means that we can work with your business before a loss ever happens, to come up with a pre-loss recovery plan tailored for your business’s unique needs. Want to know more? Contact us to set up an appointment.  

 

ServiceMaster’s Ernie D.

Meet this week’s Master of Disaster from the sales/marketing team, Ernie!

Prevent Water Damage in Your Home

Typically, we don’t think about water damage in the home until we have water damage in the home. 

In some situations, it isn’t preventable. The least we can do is reduce the risk of suffering from a water loss by checking on the most common sources of water damage: appliance leaks, broken pipes, water overflow, and sewer backup.

Water damage

You can count on ServiceMaster to help restore your home post water damage.

1. Appliance Leaks

Malfunctioning and/or clogged appliances often leads to leak. For example, even the smallest dishwasher leak can cause water damage. You can expect damaged cabinets, warped floors, and even mold damage. A rule of thumb is that if there is water where you can see it, there is likely water where you can’t. It’s best to clean up the water and any damage and replace or repair the faulty appliance. 

2. Broken Pipes

Tis’ the season for burst pipes! Sometimes, all it takes is freezing temperatures or a change in water pressure to force a pipe to burst. A hint towards a pipe that might be close to failure is simply searching for leaks and water damage. If you catch a pipe in this stage, you can repair it and prevent the mess of a burst pipe.

3. Water Overflow

Unfortunately, one of the most common causes of water damage in the home is simply a human error — leaving the faucet on. Water overflow, whether it’s from the sink, toilet, or tub, can wreck flooring, and even break through floors/ceilings. Preventing this seems simple enough, yet it happens every day. Keep an eye on running faucets and know how to turn off the water supply on the toilet. 

4. Sewer Backup

Sewer backups can be caused by severe storms or even tree roots blocking your house’s pipes. Both situations are fairly unpredictable, but you can have a sewer expert clean out your sewer line every other year.  It’s a good idea to discuss your homeowner policy’s coverage on water damage caused by sewer backups with your insurance agent. 

 

As mentioned, there’s only so much we can do to prevent a water loss and subsequent water damage in our home. When your home does suffer from water damage, call on ServiceMaster of Tacoma at 800-339-5720 to act quickly, mitigate the damage, and restore your home.

 

Meet the Manager: Jeff Sorenson

General Manager, Jeff Sorenson, is celebrating his 25th anniversary here this month. Find out his keys to success are and what he loves most about his job!

Lights Out — What to do when your home loses power

This past weekend, following the wind storm that ravaged the Puget Sound, you might have found yourself without power. Were you prepared? Hopefully, by now you have power, but to be better prepared for next time, follow these steps:

power outage

  1. Put together a “lights out” kit. This should contain things like flashlights, lanterns, batteries, and even candles and matches. Something else to consider might be glow sticks, which are easy to carry or wear around. When putting these items together, keep in mind that you’ll want them stored in a place you can easily find in the dark, and perhaps split up throughout the house. When everything goes dark, the last thing you want to do is try to find your way downstairs to get to your kit. For a full emergency preparedness kit, see our list.
  2. Fill up on water. Water you pull immediately after the outage will be safe to drink, but if the power outage is extensive, the water sanitation system might not continue to function. You can plug your sinks and tubs and fill them with water, and you should consider grabbing a few pitchers and filling them up, too.
  3. Unplug your electronics and appliances. Not only should you unplug your cell-phones and computers, but kitchen appliances, such as toasters, coffee pots, etc. Anything with sensitive electronic components should be unplugged to prevent a power surge, which might damage electronics or worse, start a home fire when the power comes back on. You might also have forgotten about an iron or stove burner that was on before the power went off. If you’re away from home when the power is restored, you could be coming home to an unfortunate scene. To be extra cautious, you can just switch off your main breaker. This does mean that you might not realize when power is restored, so be wary of that.
  4. Find out what you’re dealing with. Go outside and look around (if you’re not in the middle of a storm) to see how widespread the outage might be. You can also call the power company, who will likely have a recording indicating why the power is out and the estimated time before restoration. Companies like Puget Sound Energy (PSE) have an outage map on their website, that you can access through your smartphone. Lastly, turn on your emergency radio. Tune-in to an AM station, and you will likely find a station covering the widespread outage.
  5. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. The food in the fridge will stay cool for 4 hours, and the freezer food should last up to 24 hours. If it doesn’t appear that your power is going to come back on anytime soon, it might be a good idea to start eating your perishable food, starting with dairy products. Try not to continuously open and close the doors, as more cool air will escape, and your food will spoil quicker. Lock-in as much cool air as possible. If you think that your food might be bad: when in doubt, throw it out. Nobody wants to deal with food poisoning, especially when the power is out.
  6. If the power goes out, so does your central heating. If it’s cold outside, like it is currently in Washington State, keep doors closed to rooms as much as possible, and cover the windows with blankets to trap in the heat. Your best bet for staying warm is to gather the family in a smaller room. See our post for more tips on conserving heat.
  7. As your cell-phone is likely your only device for communication, keep handy a portable charger, a solar charger, or even utilize your car charger.
  8. Lastly, you can always use a portable generator, if you have one. Never run a generator inside, as the fumes can be deadly.

Keep in mind anything that might pertain specifically to you and members of your family, such as medical devices that require power or medications that need to be refrigerated. For more information, go to https://www.ready.gov/power-outages.

Christmas Tree Fire Damage

Christmas tree fires are one of the leading causes of home fires during the holidays; here’s how to avoid costly fire damage in your home.

Christmas tree fire damage.

Don’t let your Christmas tree cause fire damage in your home.

Along with joy, love, peace, and hope, the holiday season can bring extra fire hazards into your household. You might be busy hanging lights, baking cookies, and placing presents under the tree, but all of this can go up in flames (literally) in a matter of seconds if you don’t take proper precautions when it comes to Christmas tree safety.

Placement:

  • Place your tree three feet away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights.
  • Make sure the tree isn’t blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand daily. See what the difference is for yourself:

Lighting:

  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and ensure they are for indoor use.
  • Replace any strings of lights with worn, frayed, or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Needles can also get stuck in empty light sockets and create a potential fire hazard.
  • The manufacturer’s instructions should indicate the number of light strands you are able to connect, but typically no more than three strands should be connected.
  • Do not use lit candles to decorate the tree. 25% of Christmas tree fires are because a candle or other heat source is too close to the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • You might already have a problem with the cat knocking off ornaments, but make sure your pets aren’t chewing, pawing, or damaging the lights, or knocking your tree over onto a heat source.

Disposal:

  • Dispose of your tree after Christmas, or when your tree starts to dry out (about a month after it’s cut). Dropped needles are a sign of a dried-out tree.
  • Dried out trees are very flammable, and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.
  • Check with your local garbage service provider for specific directions on how to dispose of your tree properly. Pierce County residents, check the Pierce County website for “treecycling” instructions.

As always, test your smoke alarms and ensure that they are properly located and in working order. If your home does end up suffering from fire damage, call the experts at ServiceMaster of Tacoma for quick fire restoration services.

Heating Maintenance Tips

Winter is almost here in the Pacific Northwest! You’ve probably already kicked on your heater.  Don’t forget that your heating system needs regular maintenance— don’t wait until it goes out and you’re left in the cold! Plus, read on for some tips on conserving heat and making your system work as efficiently as possible.  

  • Change your air filter as necessary— experts recommend every month unless otherwise instructed by the manufacturer of the furnace.  
  • Verify the accuracy of your thermostat with a thermometer. If temperatures vary by more than three degrees, you may need to re-calibrate it.  
  • If your heating and air-conditioning system make unusual noises, such as banging, thumping, or squealing, it’s probably a good time to contact your HVAC technician to come to check things out.

Ways to conserve heat…

  • Set a timer, so that the heat kicks on when you need it, and isn’t wasted when you don’t.  
  • Roughly 25% of heat is lost through the roof. You can try adding insulation in your attic to help reduce this. 
  • Check your windows for gaps and cracks. There are other places that you can check for leaks; check out this article https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=diy.diy_index for some DIY help. 
  • Use curtains to help retain heat in your home. If the sun happens to be shining, open the curtains to let some of the natural heat in. Even if it’s a cold day, the sun is still warm. Otherwise, keep them closed! 
  • Move furniture that might be blocking vents and absorbing or redirecting the flow of heat. 
  • Keep doors closed to keep specific rooms warmer. This leaves fewer gaps for heat to escape.  
  • Lastly, do some holiday baking! Using the oven keeps the areas around the kitchen a bit warmer, and (hopefully) smelling oh-so-good.

If you think that there is something wrong with the heating system in your home, do not hesitate in calling a technician to come to take a look. Stay warm, folks!