The Steps That Lead Back Home (Part 1)
Major Fire Damage affects many people on the same level as the loss of a close family member.
What Just Happened?
A customer once told me that he had been called at work and told that his house was on fire. For a second he thought it was a joke but then he could hear the sound of nearby fire engines moving down the road. He immediately left work and began to rush home. He worked relatively close to home so it didn’t take long before he saw a huge plume of smoke in the distance. As much as he wanted to believe it wasn’t his house, he knew what would be at the end of this particular drive home. At least he thought he knew.
Every homeowner reacts differently to major damage to their home. Some homeowners grieve their loss very quickly and move on to the logistics of getting their life put back together. Others find it much more difficult to deal with the devastation that a major property damage delivers to their front door. The unfortunate part of life is that no matter what their mental and emotional state is, there is still a lot that must be dealt with. Regardless of what tasks lie ahead, it’s important to acknowledge the emotional impact on our customers.
What Do I Do FIRST?
After the fire is out there are only a handful of things that need to be done immediately. This blog series is focused on recovery relating to the dwelling (structure) and of the personal property (contents) components of a property damage and will not be able to address any insurance related issues outside of our scope of services. We also try our best to acknowledge and provide help for the mental and emotional state of those who have suffered such a loss where we can.
Protect Your Property
One of the first things that needs to be done regarding the property is to have it secured or “boarded up” from any damage to windows, doors and other openings either from the fire or the fire fighting efforts. BEWARE: This step can happen as soon as the fire department is wrapping up their equipment and many times a line of contractors that has been listening to police/fire scanners is already waiting at the end of your driveway hoping to get you to use them. They may be legitimate contractors, but what does it say that they trying to get you to sign a contract for repairs when the fire department hasn’t even left yet? That’s high pressure. If you run into this and decide to use one of them for the board up, it would make sense to only agree to board up services at this time and nothing else. DON’T SIGN a contract for all of the repairs right now! You will have time to decide what to do with your home and who to use for the repairs. If do you need board up services, call us anytime 24 hours a day and we’ll respond to help you out.
Find a Place To Stay
Many times, the Red Cross is called out to provide immediate assistance and can even help with temporary lodging if needed. If the Red Cross does not respond, then you may unfortunately be on your own to find a hotel or other arrangement. Ultimately your insurance will likely cover this cost of lodging, but depending on the day of the week your damage occurs on, you may not meet with a claims representative at your property for several days. That’s the earliest possible time that you would begin to receive any kind of compensation for your loss and the added expenses of staying somewhere else.
Your world has just been turned up-side-down. People are calling from all over the place. Some are wanted calls of support, some are not. There are a million things racing through your head and each idea gets interrupted by the next one, and the next emotion. Take some time now, at the beginning and try to remind yourself of what you do have. There is a tremendous amount of help throughout this process that you can count on. For the rest of this day, don’t try to plan out the whole repair or even the next week. Today, just take this one step at a time. The rest of your decisions will be better if you have had time to grieve this loss and prepare mentally for all the steps that will lead back home. One of the best ways to help calm the mind is to write down your thoughts and concerns as they happen so that you can set each burden down for a while, but know that you won’t forget about it. Almost all smart devices have a notebook or journal of some kind. Many of them can record voice notes. If all else fails, text someone you trust the thing you want to remember. This way you’ll have a written record and some help remembering to check on that concern!
Safety First, Valuable Items Right Behind
Firearms and other weapons should be a priority for you to gather up and remove from the property to a safe location. Even that sword that you think of as a family heirloom or cool decoration should be addressed. Ammunition should be inspected for heat damage and may need to be properly and safely disposed of if it has become compromised. Once those safety concerns have been addressed it is time to focus on other important items. Keep in mind that over the next several months there could be many people in your home assisting your restoration. Miscommunications between different companies could result in items being misplaced or even disposed of that are important to you. It is best for you to get the most important, most valuable items out and take them with you. Start making a list of things like jewelry, important papers, medicine and medical devices, cash, credit cards and checkbooks and other personal high value and high importance items. At this point, don’t worry as much about collections, tools or large items, but focus more on important personal items that you can’t afford to lose.
Hurry Up And Take Your Time
There’s no doubt that time is of the essence at the beginning of a severe fire damage. If the fire department used heavy amounts of water fighting the fire, the drying process needs to begin immediately to prevent secondary damage. The longer soot sits on your belongings, especially electronics, the more damage it does and the harder it is to clean. Companies need to be notified, services need to be paused, reports need to be filed, lists need to be made. It can feel like it all has to be done right now! While it’s true, certain things need to be done to prevent further damage, it’s OK to take a minute with each decision to make sure you are comfortable with what is happening.
Ask More Questions
Ask, ask, ask! If you feel embarrassed to ask a question because you may have already asked it, ask anyway. If you don’t know the question to ask, but you don’t quite understand what's going on just tell someone that this doesn’t happen to you all the time and ask them to explain it again, or in more detail. The only way to get comfortable with what’s going on is to learn about what’s going on. Most professionals understand the situation you are in and are glad to answer questions (again) and provide clarity.
Several more blogs will follow this one to help lay out how to handle the details of cleaning up and rebuilding from a severe fire damage. The next part will dive into how to handle all of the personal property that must be sorted through and put onto one list or another. If you should find yourself in this situation, please know that SERVPRO of Cheviot and Cleves is always Here To Help.
Service Increases With Knowledge
Water damage may not look tremendously devastating to a home initially, but if left untreated it can cause great harm to the home and the homeowner.
IICRC Water Restoration Technician training
Running the office at SERVPRO is a pretty interesting job. The scenario changes day to day; you literally have no idea what the next phone call will bring.
With our extended winter and several rain storms so far this spring, the bulk of our work lately has been water damage mitigation. I know my fair share about water damage (I thought) just from processing the jobs, taking the calls and speaking with the technicians that complete the work and take the pictures of job sites.
When the Water Certification Class came around, my boss, Kevin suggested that I take the course. I thought….me? Why would I need to be certified in Water Damage mitigation if I’m not a technician? I just work in the office. Well, after taking the class, I now know why he wanted me to.
Getting Down To Business
For the average person, the thought of learning the ins-and-outs of water damage mitigation may be mind-numbingly boring. However, the folks that work for SERVPRO are a different breed. I sat in a class of about 30 people, most of them new technicians for several SERVPRO franchises across Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. This group was stoked to learn the “right way” to get these jobs done. They were full of enthusiasm and questions. What I thought would be the longest three days of my life, flew by.
I learned how to address each situation upon entering the premises, to make sure to do no further harm, and to spot safety issues at the start. I learned how to STOP the “bleeding” and start the healing for each homeowner. I learned what things are the most important, and which things can be addressed a little later. I learned the technical aspects of which product to use, which dehumidifier works for each specific situation and why you don’t direct an air mover onto a surface that contains mold (it could contaminate adjoining areas). But beyond that, what I realized is that these trainers that journeyed from our corporate office in Tennessee to teach us…was not just how to clean up a backed up sewer or overflowing washing machine….but how to put people back to “whole”. How to help a distraught customer who sees his belongings floating in river water. How to empathize with someone who just bought new furniture and now sees it soaking in water from an upstairs bathroom leak.
A New Excitement
I realized that SERVPRO isn’t just about cleaning up the job and moving onto the next one. They really are about putting the customer at ease and assuring them that everything WILL be all right….and the phrase “Like it never even happened.™” isn’t just a slogan. I realized that these people in the class with me were EAGER to learn how to do this, so that they too would be “hero ready” when the time comes.
I think I did pretty well on the test (we won’t know for a few weeks), but what I took away from the class was not just a possible certification in Water Damage Mitigation, but a better understanding and lesson in compassion for our fellow man. I just run the office at SERVPRO of Cheviot and Cleves, but I think that’s a lesson that we all could learn.
You're Most Likely Underinsured
Water Damage throughout a finished basement can easily cost more than $5000 to fully repair. Make sure you have what you need when the time comes.
The Man Family Cave
I was supposed to have the project done before my son was born, but before I knew it, there he was at 2 years old, climbing through the cabinets I was about to install as part of my basement remodel. It turns out that when you do it yourself, it takes a little longer! When I finally completed it, my family had a re-vamped basement that we could use for entertaining, playing or just connecting while watching a movie together. I was proud of my work and began to add up all the money I saved by doing it myself. Then I thought about the money I spent just on materials like carpet, drywall, paint, cabinets and tile not to mention the furniture and my son’s toys.
Being a SERVPRO owner, I know that the most common damage in basements is water damage. There are all kinds of sources like broken pipes, water heaters, washing machines, water softener tanks and of course anything that happens upstairs will eventually find its way down to the basement. But I felt really good knowing that if any of those things happened in my revamped basement my insurance would kick in and I could have someone else repair it!
Not So Fast!
Our customer was a young traveling sales rep and was gone from her home for several days at a time. This particular time, she had returned to find that the basement she just recently spent thousands of dollars to have finished sustained a water damage. There was a drain in the laundry area that backed up after a heavy rain and it was estimated that only about an inch or two of water got into the basement, but it made its way all over. By the time she returned home to find her wet basement and called us out, the water had already wicked up the walls about 14 inches!
No worries though! Insurance was there to cover the loss and everything was returned to preloss condition with little-to-no financial harm to the customer, right? I wish I could say that was the case. However, our customer discovered that this source of loss was only covered by a special coverage attached to a homeowner’s policy. Good news – she had that coverage. Bad news – there was limit of only $5000!!! For this job we had to cut out drywall 2ft from the floor, tear out carpet, remove baseboards, steam clean, apply a sanitizer and install drying equipment just to get the basement clean and dry. There was also a small bar that had to be removed and 4 rooms of furniture that sustained water damage plus the cost of repairing everything that had to be removed. I’m sure you can see that $5000 left our customer woefully underinsured.
The next day I began to think about my own basement and a particular drain right in front of the washing machine. I knew that I had drain back-up coverage, but I never really looked at my policy in detail to see how much. My basement wouldn’t be nearly as expensive to repair as our recent customer's if the same thing happened, but I also knew that it would take more than $5000. The next day I called my agent and found out that that I did indeed only have $5000 of coverage, so I asked to increase it. At that time, for an extra $50/year I could increase my coverage by $20,000 with my carrier. What a bargain!
All Things In Moderation
I’m not saying to run out and buy a bunch of insurance for drain back up if you don’t need it. I’m not saying go buy $50,000 or $100,000 of drain back up coverage if you do need some. However, I highly recommend taking a quick inventory of what you have in your basement and maybe do some online shopping to see what it might cost to replace those items if they were damaged by either rain water or sewage backing up from a sump pump or drain. Think about the materials that were used to finish your basement. Tile can withstand water damage especially when installed on concrete. Carpet may survive a sump pump or water heater failure, but it has to be disposed of if the water originated from a sewer drain. Cabinets may survive a sump pump failure, but not if the water sits long enough to cause warping. My advice is to work with your insurance agent to determine the right coverage for you and your situation. If you need this special coverage, you will be happy you have it if you sustain this kind of loss. If you need higher limits because you have more to lose it will cost a little more, but you will be relieved that you have it if you ever need it. Make sure you review your policy or call your agent today before it’s too late.
The last thing you want is to find out it’s going to cost more than you have to put your home back “Like it never even happened.™”
Tough Commercial Cleaning
Tough Commercial Cleaning Job in Cincinnati
Fire Damage Clean up Prepares SERVPRO for Tough Commercial/Industrial Cleaning Jobs
SERVPRO Technicians and Project Managers gain valuable experience by cleaning up some of the toughest property damage around, and that experience benefits your business when you have a tough cleaning job. A typical fire damage in a home or business can have hundreds of different materials exposed to drastically different conditions such as soot level, amount of heat, pre-existing conditions and moisture levels. There are also safety concerns and specialty equipment that is needed on many jobs. You can use this valuable experience to your advantage by calling on SERVPRO for those tough commercial and industrial cleaning jobs.
Employees do what employees do best
We hear time and time again that regular employees dread and sometimes even refuse to do heavy cleaning on the equipment they run and maintain daily! SERVPRO technicians receive training on cleaning processes which start by identifying the surface being cleaned and the soil that needs to removed. Next it’s time to put a plan together by identifying cleaning processes and solutions that will ensure the best result possible. Sometimes there is a perfect cleaning agent and process that will cut through the grime and sometimes it is a matter of good old fashioned elbow grease! Either way, our experience in property restoration translates directly to cleaning your toughest jobs.
Consider safety and efficiency
Safety and ergonomics play a role in this type of cleaning too. Your employees have extensive training and experience on running your machines safely and SERVPRO employees are well trained on the proper mixing, using and disposing of cleaning agents, use of ladders and lifts and also accessing confined spaces. Inefficiencies can even pop up after the project is complete if you use your own staff to do the work. Regular employees are typically not prepared for the physical demands of this difficult work and can develop injuries from over-use of muscles they don’t normally use in their daily jobs.
What is a tough cleaning job anyway?
Tough projects we have completed in the past range from a deep cleaning of a break/lunch room at a foundry to the basement of a distribution business. We have taken on jobs from cleaning brand new equipment on a processing line after it was installed to cleaning a machine that was roughly 80 years old that had the built up grease and grime to prove it! We’ve cleaned warehouse walls and floors and even ceilings above sensitive machines that required protection from falling debris from cleaning at night while the set up also allowed the machine to run during the day. Whether Fire, Water, Mold or General Clean Up, SERVPRO can help make it, “Like it never even happened.”™
It Will Be Alright Again
Sunrise on Virginia Beach . . . nothing more to say.
The Sun Is . . . Rising
While in Virginia Beach helping to clean up from the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew I was fortunate enough to stay right on the beach. (It turns out off season rates are as good as anywhere else in the area!) I began taking a picture of the sunrise over the ocean each morning because I don't get that opportunity very often and I would send the picture to my wife each day.
I was in Virginia Beach throughout the Presidential campaign season I returned home just before election day. When I was looking back over my pictures from this trip I saw this particular sunrise and thought of a story I have heard several times over the years. It is said that when the Constitutional Convention was concluding Benjamin Franklin commented on a chair that George Washington had been sitting in throughout the convention that had a semi-circle sun carved into it. He said that he was unsure if that was a rising sun or a setting sun throughout the convention. Finally, at the end of the convention he became certain that for America, the sun was indeed rising.
When I thought of that story and this picture of the sun rising over Virginia Beach I thought about this Hurricane and all the other Storm Events that I have travelled to. I thought about all the storms that have hit our country in the past and I thought to myself, it's going to be alright for these people. Our country is at its best when helping those in need and we have an amazing ability to overcome difficulties in order to keep moving forward. That story of the rising sun chair and the picture I took reminded me that everyone on the East Coast that was affected by Hurricane Matthew may never be the same and it may take a long time to fully recover. But I am certain because of the people I met that for Virginia Beach and any other community affected, the sun is rising.
City crews in Virginia Beach take garbage from the mess created by Hurricane Matthew. Servpro was there to take care of people and property.
Too much Too Fast
Recently we were able to serve customers out of town that were affected by Hurricane Matthew. While North Carolina grabbed most of the headlines, our crew was sent to Virginia Beach, VA. It never ceases to amaze me how nature can put a wrench in our plans by damaging our property. We saw a tremendous amount of damage, not from ridiculously strong winds or trees falling on homes, but from flooding. While I certainly believe that North Carolina sustained heavier damage, Virginia Beach got a lot of the rainfall that accompanied the hurricane which caused pockets of extreme flooding. One of our customers was injured during the flooding and rescue crews had to use a boat to get him from his house to an emergency vehicle. I couldn't imagine having to boat up to my front door!
Many Hands Make for Light Work
Once the flood waters receded it was time for SERVPRO to go into action. One thing that excites me about this company is our ability to respond in times of need. SERVPRO's Storm Team is able to organize and send hundreds of crews to help when our customers need it the most. We have the resources to get all the equipment, supplies, tools and trained team members to the right spots quickly. It was phenomenal yet again to see so many SERVPRO trucks and vans from so many different parts of the country helping a city in need.
Help Isn't Just Being There, It's More
It's not just quantity that matters. We follow the same standards to help flood victims that we do every other day of the year. It's important to me that our customers know that we are there to help, not to take advantage of the situation they are in. Some contractors only see dollar signs. We follow IICRC standards for completing the job and we use the same estimating and pricing system that we always use. I found that this allowed our customers to trust us immediately even though we were from out of town. And trust is important to helping restore our customers. After all, it's important to restore the property, but it's more important to restore the customer's faith that it will be alright.
All In 216
Congratulations to the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers! For basketball fans and Cleveland natives today is a great day of celebration and and awe. Having been born in Cleveland and being a die hard Cleveland sports fan I feel a sense of connection with those players and certainly with all the Cleveland fans.
Why even think you can win?
A documentary was recently released called "Believeland" that told the story of Cleveland almost winning so many times in the past only to have championship runs end in some miserable fashion. It had been 52 years since the last major sports championship in Cleveland. Cavs were down 3-1 in the best of seven series where no team in NBA history had ever come back to win in the finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers had never won a championship before. So what makes you think you win?
Perseverence is that thing that doesn't look at the final result when deciding whether or not to get out of bed tomorrow and try again. Living in the Cincinnati area as a Cleveland fan I get ridiculed on a regulare basis and I get asked why I continue to root for teams "that can't win". The answer is perseverence. There once was a drought that caused devastation to the farmers and others who called that area home. Being a spritual people they asked different priest, tribal leaders and everyone they could think of to get it to rain. Finally they found a "rain doctor" that claimed a 100% success rate at making it rain. Many people didn't buy into it, but they hired him in desperation and he began his rain dance with intense focus and belief that it would rain. Weeks went by with no rain but he kept dancing. Weeks turned into months and he kept dancing. There were cloudy days that still produced no rain and he kept dancing. Then finally, after the last believer had giving up on him, a rain drop finally fallen from the sky followed by another and another. When the rain came pouring down the people ran out to celebrate with the rain doctor who had never given up and continued to dance everyday. One skeptic asked the rain doctor on that day, "How could you be so sure you could make it rain and not give up?" He replied with what he thought was obvious, "Because I dance until it rains."
Belief in a win
As excited and relieved as I am as a fan to have the long drought end I still can't help but draw a parallel to the customers we serve. When there is a major fire, water, mold or other damage to their home it can be a gut wrenching blow. Many times it can feel like they have lost and that they just don't know how they'll be able to win again. My hope is that through our service we can help give our customers that hope so that they can persevere and rebuild not only their home, but their hope that it will be OK. That one day it will be "Like it never even happened®".
Cincinnati - The Party's Over
Fire extinguisher dust coated a stair case and made its way into 2 businesses. Only problem - there was never a fire!
Vandalism comes in many forms
This clean up was a new one to me, but given what caused the damage it seems like it shouldn't have been. A commercial property in Cincinnati had a top floor that was a residential apartment. There was a social gathering at the apartment and a fire extinguisher was used. The only problem . . . there was no fire! The extinguisher was discharged in the common stairwell by one of the party guests and found its way into two of the businesses in the building. This may seem somewhat harmless and just a little mess, but this was considered vandalism and cost over $10000 to clean up (thank goodness for insurance!)
It's just dust, right?
Fire extinguisher powder is a made up of very fine particles that can be harmful to our lungs, but is very effective against fire. Although this looks like it is "just dust" it will make its way through a typical shop vac or vacuum cleaner filter and back into the air. Sure, some will get trapped in the filter, but it will take a tremendously long time to keep cleaning and recleaning until it's all gone. In this case the dust didn't flow exactly like soot in a fire because there was no heat to create the same kinds of drafts, but the extinguisher dust did go throughout 2 businesses that had their doors closed. Several of the workers in one office were extremely concerned about their respiratory health and told us about coughing spells that they had after trying to work in there. They only made it half a day before leaving and trying to work from home.
If you were to pull out a human hair, cut it in half and then look at the surface you just cut you would be looking at something about 90 microns in size. Fire extinguisher dust is about 20 microns in size, less than 1/4 the size of a human hair. It's designed this way to get into small nooks and crannies to do it's job. Cleanup requires equipment that is up to the challenge. HEPA filters, by definition, trap particles down to .03 microns in size. We use special vacuums and air scrubbers with HEPA filters that are rated to trap these tiny particles so that they don't go right back in the air.
We sent a small army to this job and got the common areas and the business offices cleaned within 2 days so those companies could get back to work ASAP. It was a great feeling as a business owner knowing that we were able to get other businesses up and running again. It's always satisfying on a job like this to know that our specialized equipment worked as it should and there was no call back for any dust resettling. But the most important result we achieved in this job was that employees of those businesses felt safe going back to work knowing the job was done right and their health was not at risk. "Like it never even happened®".
Anderson - Gobble, Gobble
A wild turkey flew up and crashed into this second story window shattering glass into a bedroom.
Better on sandwich
Every other customer that I've ever served that had a turkey involved in their clean up also had cooking involved. Without a doubt this was one of the most unique situations I've ever come across. I've seen jobs before where a deer had crashed through a basement door or window and I've seen times when a bird tried to fly through a window like on the glass cleaner commercials, but failed with a resounding thud. This was the first time I'd ever seen a bird succeed. A wild turkey flew up high enough and was large enough to shatter the glass on this second floor window. It wasn't able to get through the screen, but the damage was done.
Extent of the problem
Glass in automobiles is tempered glass which tends to break into small chunks when it is broken for safety. The glass that generally goes into windows for our homes is typically not tempered and one, two or three panes. This type of glass breaks into large, sharp, pointed pieces and also very small slivers that can be very hard to see. In this case, the window burst into a carpeted bedroom with no clear idea exactly where every single piece went. There was a bed next to the window, a dresser within a few feet and clothing in a closet right across from the bed. Small pieces of glass can get embedded in fabrics like carpeting, clothing and bedding and this is a room where skin comes in contact with those materials on a regular basis.
Our technicians began immediately to clean up the glass and then remove the carpet. We just can't take a chance that a small sliver of glass gets stuck in the carpet and then makes its way into our customer's foot later on. We emptied all the dresser drawers, removed all the bedding and had all the clothing professionally cleaned. We thoroughly cleaned the subfloor and took extra care to make sure that nothing we removed could possibly allow a piece of glass to leave the room. Whether it's vandalism due to animals or humans, we've seen it before and we have a plan. Of course the best plan of all is to keep the turkey on a sandwich!
Lawrenceburg - Cool down and get Aggressive!
Dry Ice Blasting is a very aggressive and very effective cleaning method as seen in this fire in Cleves, OH.
Wow that fire is hot!
Recently we were challenged with a very extreme basement fire. The fire was so hot that it actually burned through several floor joists and created a hole in the first floor. It is estimated that this basement was over 1100 degrees Farenheit and with that much heat the fire doesn't just create soot, but it bakes the soot into everything. It's one thing to clean smoke and soot residue off of walls, ceilings, floors and belongings at the opposite end of a house from the fire, but quite another when extreme heat is a factor.
Baked on soot meets its match
They say that sometimes you have to fight fire with fire, but not in this case. In order to find a cleaning process that will get the baked on soot cleaned off we turned to . . . ice? Dry Ice actually. Dry Ice isn't actually ice in the sense that there is no water present in Dry Ice. It is made up of CO2 cooled and compressed into a solid and shaped into pellets that are about -109 degrees F. Special equipment then blasts these pellets at the surface that needs to be cleaned much like sand or soda blasting. Dry Ice blasting is less aggressive than sand blasting which is perfect for fire damage clean up without the need for heavy, burdensome suits and other personal protective equipment. The other major benefit is the speed of clean up after the blasting. Once the Dry Ice hits a surface it turns back into a gas and "evaporates" instead of leaving hundreds of pounds of media (sand, soda, etc.) to clean up.
A solution for every situation
Whether it's a small trash can fire that is put out immediately or major catastrophe SERVPRO of Cheviot and Cleves has the answer to the big question - "How do I clean this up?"