Property Damage Restoration Blog | ServiceMaster of Tacoma - Part 5

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

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.


  • 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:


  • 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.


  • 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 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! 

Home Maintenance Checklist

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, especially during the holiday season, it’s easy to forget regular home maintenance. You can easily prevent fire or water damage to your home if you take preventative measures. Now’s the time to purchase your 2019 calendar, and pencil in time throughout the year to do these home maintenance checklist items:



  • Inspect air filters and replace if needed.  
  • Inspect fire extinguishers. Check the date, and read to learn about the different types of fire extinguishers. 
  • Clean your garbage disposal. To clean your garbage disposal, fill an ice cube tray with vinegar and freeze overnight. Place the vinegar cubes directly into your disposal and run the disposal and water for 10-20 seconds.  



  • Test smoke & carbon monoxide detectors. 
  • Check your toilet tank for leaks. To check your toilet tank for leaks, place a few drops of food coloring in the tank and leave overnight. If color appears in the bowl, you could have a problem.




Sometimes taking all the preventative measures in the world can’t protect your home from water or fire damage. Call ServiceMaster of Tacoma at 800-339-5720 to restore your home or business and peace of mind.

Turkey Tips


This year, you might have noticed the social media trend where young adults send the following text message to their mother: “Mom, how do I cook a 25-pound turkey in the microwave?”.  In return, these mothers typically reply with something like “Don’t do it” or “Please just use the oven”. Hopefully, this remains a light-hearted prank this year, which takes us to our first turkey tip:

1) Do not cook your turkey in the microwave. Some might argue that there is a method to cooking it in the microwave (if it even fits), but the best-case scenario you end up with a “blah” tasting turkey, with no flavor and rubbery skin. Most likely, the turkey will not cook evenly, and your dinner guests could get some nasty food poisoning.  Turkeys need to reach 165°F internally in order to be safe to eat.

2) If you choose to deep fry your turkey, you need to defrost it first. The short explanation is, if you drop a frozen turkey into hot oil, the ice turns to steam. The rapidly expanding steam causes the oil to boil over, and thus an explosion potentially ending with fire damage to your home. Days before the big meal, you will need to begin defrosting your turkey in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. When it comes time to deep fry the bird, place the fryer outside, and away from any structures. Don’t overfill the pot with oil and keep the oil under 350°F — the hotter the oil is, the more combustible it is. Turn off the flame before lowering the turkey into the pot and be sure that you have a working fire extinguisher nearby.

3) This might seem like a no-brainer, but keep an eye on your turkey and whatever else you’re cooking. You might not realize how into the football game you are, how long Uncle Dan has been blabbing on, or how much you’ve been fussing over your table décor until your unattended food catches fire. Try to keep yourself contained to the kitchen area, or assign a trustworthy adult to food-watching duties.

If your home or business does endure fire or water damage over the holidays, know that the pros at ServiceMaster of Tacoma are available 24/7/365, to get your life back to normal as quickly as possible. Happy Thanksgiving!

Holiday Fire Prevention


holiday decor

The holiday season is right around the corner! Whether you’ve had your Christmas decorations up since the first of November or you’re waiting until after Thanksgiving, make sure to follow these tips to avoid any fire damage this holiday season. 

While making your holiday feast, remember: turn pot/pan handles away from the front of the stove to help prevent knocking them over. Don’t leave the house, even just to run to the store for your missing ingredient.  Don’t fall asleep while cooking — your nap will be even more rewarding after you stuff yourself with turkey and pumpkin pie. And lastly, always turn off cooking equipment when not in use.  

Have you taken a trip to the Christmas tree farm yet? Live trees should be green and have sap at the trunk. Dry trees can ignite much easier. Keep the tree well-watered once inside your house. If you’re not in the market for a live tree this year, look for fire-resistant artificial trees.  

When it comes time to deck the halls, check decorative lights for frayed wires or broken bulbs. Don’t overload outlets and read instructions for proper surge protector use.  

Make sure it’s only the chestnuts roasting by the open fire. Only burn wood in your fireplace. Keep the screen closed while using the fireplace. 

The holidays are hectic, and sometimes these safety tips can be forgotten in the hustle and bustle. If your home or business does endure some fire damage, give a call to the experts at ServiceMaster of Tacoma at 800-339-5720. We’re available 24/7/365, ready to get your life and holiday festivities back on track.   

Fireplace Safety Tips

Before you make yourself a cup of hot cocoa and curl up by the fireplace this fall or winter, make sure that you take these precautionary measures in order to avoid a disastrous home fire:

1) Call your chimney sweep. Have your fireplace cleaned when necessary, ideally in late spring or early summer. 

2) Open the doors. Fireplace doors should be open when you’re burning a fire. 

3) Burn the right wood. A well-seasoned hardwood, like oak, produces less creosote, a flammable bi-product that builds up in fireplaces.  

4) Stack firewood near the back.  

5) Use a spark guard. It helps prevent sparks, and thus fires in your home. 

6) Keep a fire extinguisher handy, and never leave a fire unattended!

If you do suffer from a home fire, call the masters of disaster at ServiceMaster of Tacoma, (800)339-5720, to give you peace of mind and get things back to normal.

DIY Emergency Kit

Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we don’t get hit by the hurricanes that ravish the east coast. Unfortunately, this does not mean that we are devoid from other natural disasters and emergencies, such as earthquakes and storms. In order to protect what’s important, it’s always a good idea to be prepared and regularly audit your preparation measures. A good starting point is an emergency preparedness kit, which should contain the items listed below:

  • Water. You should have at least a gallon per person, per day, for at least three days. This is for both drinking and sanitation, too.
  • A three-day supply (at least) of non-perishable food.
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
  • A flashlight.
  • Batteries for both your radio and your flashlight – double check that you have the right size!
  • A first-aid kit, containing personal medication, bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment, pain reliever, and medication for upset stomachs. When auditing your first-aid kit, make sure that your medications are not expired!
  • Sanitation items. Moist toilettes, garbage bags, plastic ties, and even dust masks, to filter out contaminated air.
  • A multi-tool, that at least has a pocket knife, wrench, pliers, screwdriver, and a can opener.
  • A battery pack or solar charger for your cellphone.
  • A whistle, to signal for help.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags for each person.
  • A change of clothes.
  • Matches kept in a waterproof container.
  • Plates, cups, utensils, and paper towels.
  • Paper and pencil.

Keep in mind any other items that might pertain to your families, such as diapers and formula for a baby, feminine hygiene products, or pet food and extra water for your pet. Books, games, and puzzles are also items you should consider adding to your kit, to help entertain children and adults alike.

Need help recovering post-disaster? Don’t hesitate to call the disaster restoration specialists at ServiceMaster of Tacoma (800)339-5720 to get things back to normal.  

ServiceMaster Blood Drive

Hurricane Michael is the second-large scale hurricane relief effort the American Red Cross is responding to in less than a month. Want to know how you can help? Donate blood! Severe weather like Hurricane Michael forces the cancellation of blood drives and decreases donor turnout in affected areas, resulting in thousands of blood and platelet donations to go uncollected. They are counting on sponsors in unaffected areas like ours to ensure that they have enough blood products to support patient needs.

This blood drive is open to anyone, but spots are limited! Here’s the signup link:


Kitchen Inspection Tips

Fire Safety Tips: Kitchen 

It’s National Fire Prevention Week! Did you know that the majority of home fires start in the kitchen? The most obvious way to prevent a cooking-related fire is to stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on your food while cooking. There are some other easy fixes (that might not be quite as obvious) that you should do to prevent a dangerous fire in your home.   

Be sure that you have the proper outlets installed per the building code in your area.  These requirements vary by area and appliance. You can find these specifications by calling your local government. 

Make sure that cooking areas, including on top of the stove and oven, are free from towels, potholders, cooking oil or food packaging – these items can catch fire. It’s good practice to clean these areas often, as messes can also lead to fires.  

Make sure your cooking vents are cleaned per your manufacturer’s directions. You can usually find these directly on the manufacturer’s website. 

Properly plug in kitchen appliances. If they’re not in use, it’s just a good idea to unplug them and put them away.  

If you do keep matches in the kitchen, keep them out of reach of curious little hands.  

Keep a fire extinguisher handy and make sure it’s charged and ready for use.  

Finally, make sure you have a smoke alarm installed in the kitchen and in every bedroom. Replace the batteries and check them every month. 

Need to get your home back to normal after a fire? Call the disaster restoration specialists at ServiceMaster of Tacoma at 800-339-5720.