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Tornado Preparation Tips and Resources for Business Owners

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Smart business owners prepare for every contingency, big or small. Backing up data, purchasing liability insurance – these are all no-brainers for protecting your business interests. Another area you need to consider is natural disasters and catastrophic events, such as earthquakes, severe weather, hurricanes, and fires. Today, we will be discussing tornado preparation tips for commercial businesses.

Tornado Preparedness

Tornadoes are perhaps the most violent storms that Mother Nature can brew up. With powerful winds, driving rain and hail, and wide area of potential damage, a tornado can touch down with little warning and cause massive damage to homes and businesses in its path. Under the right conditions, several cyclones can touch down, making matters even worse.

What is a Tornado

Tornadoes are rotating columns of air that extend from a severe thunderstorm and eventually touch down upon the ground. They are massively violent storms that can reach wind speeds of up to 300mph. Their path of damage can exceed a mile in width and up to 50 miles in length, leaving behind destroyed buildings and uprooted trees.

A tornado spawns from severe thunderstorms, spurned on by the meeting of warm, moist air from one system and cool, dry air from another.

Tornado F-Scale Explained

When a tornado is measured in terms of power, the F-Scale – or Fujita Scale – is used to measure its intensity and wind speed. Below is a list of the F-scale ratings from weakest to most powerful:

  • F0: 40-72mph
  • F1: 73-112mph
  • F2: 113-157mph
  • F3: 158-206mph
  • F4: 207-260mph
  • F5: 261-318mph

Once a tornado reaches F1, it can begin to several damage mobile homes and houses with weak roofing material. At F2, mobile homes are typically completely destroyed and roofs of homes are often ripped off. Storms that are rated F3 or above can damage walls of a building or completely level them. At this level, cars can be thrown several hundred yards and massive devastation begins to occur.

Tornado Alerts

  • The National Weather Service has several tornado alerts that they issue when there is a probability of a tornado forming. Below is a list of the different tornado alerts:
  • Tornado Watch: A tornado watch is issued when there are favorable conditions for a tornado to develop near the “watch” area. Typically a tornado watch is issued before severe weather occurs and lasts for anywhere between four to eight hours.
  • Tornado Warning: A tornado warning is issued when a tornado is seen by spotters or a radar. They can be issued even when a tornado watch is absent, and generally last 30 minutes.
  • Tornado Emergency: Tornado emergencies are issued when there is solid proof that a tornado is in the area and is causing damage to structures.

Business Tornado Preparation Tips

As with most catastrophic events in business (and life), the most important aspect of surviving a tornado for a commercial company is to be prepared. This preparation includes many things – the least of which is a Continuity of Operations Plan. In a nutshell, a Tornado Continuity of Operations Plan is a blueprint for how you will continue business if you are affected by a tornado.

There are different levels of consideration when developing a plan. For example, what do you do if you power supply is cut off for a day? How about a week? How will employees get to work? Will customers be able to purchase from your company or website? What alternatives do you have in place to continue business if your main location is compromised by storm damage, water damage, or fire damage?

You may wish to have a back-up location to continue business operations in the event that your main office suffers structural damage during the tornado. Ready.gov has a great page for building a Continuity of Operations Plan.

Another way to prepare for a tornado is to create a disaster preparation kit for your office. This will include emergency supplies (such as a first aid kit), back-up drives for data, batteries, water, food, and so forth. Ready.gov has a terrific basic disaster supplies kit guide that you can follow, substituting in items that are pivotal for your business operations.

Awareness is just as important as preparedness when it comes to a tornado or any other type of disaster. Keeping a hand-cranked or battery-operated weather alert radio in your office is important to keep you and your employees up to date on vital information during the storm.

Having a communication plan in place for employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers in the event of a tornado is pivotal for the continuation of business operations as well.

Business Disaster Recovery and Remediation Services

In the event that your business is hit by a tornado and you require commercial disaster recovery and tornado cleanup services, you will want to contact a disaster restoration service that specialized in businesses, such as the catastrophe experts at ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration . Services such as this will help develop a disaster recovery plan, asses any property damage, and help in the tornado cleanup and recovery process. They will also help work with your insurance company to make sure the claims process goes as smoothly as possible.

Prevent Frozen Pipes and Burst Pipes

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Frozen pipes and burst pipes are one of the most common household disasters. Thousands occur each year as the cold season descends upon homeowners across America. Inside today’s tip sheet, we are going to discuss some tips to prevent flooding in the home, flooded basements, and what to do in the event that a burst or frozen pipe should occur.

What Causes a Burst Pipe?

There are several reasons why pipes burst. The most common of which is below freezing temperature. As the air gets colder, water resting in pipes can become exposed to rapidly cooling air, causing the liquid to form into ice. During this “freezing” process, the water expands. Unfortunately, not all of the water in your pipes freezes at the same rate, and as new water rushes into the pipes, the combined pressure of frozen water and incoming water builds up, leading to burst pipes.

The aftermath of the above scenario can range anywhere from a leak to a full on flood.

Another cause of burst pipes is water pressure. As material collects in your fixtures and piping, it leads to clogs or plugs. These blockages, in turn, can cause pressure to grow, leading to an eventual – often sudden – burst pipe. A typical example of this type of plumbing problem comes in the form of a homeowner that pours grease and fatty foods down their kitchen drains. Over time the organic material builds up and hardens, resulting in a block. If the home owners is lucky, they will have a clog on their hands and will need to get the drain unclogged. More often than not, however, the end result will be a burst pipe and flooding in the walls or floors of their home.

Trees, too, can lead to burst pipes and flooding in the home. Many homeowners with flooded basements discover the culprit behind their woes is a much beloved tree that has been growing in their yard for as long as they can remember. What they never knew, however, was that the tree’s insidious roots were hard at work, seeking out a source of water and finding one in the sewage pipes connected to their house.

Once a root system finds its way inside a home’s plumbing, it begins sending out runners to soak up any liquid they can find, causing cracks, clogs, and, eventually flooding.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Prior to the winter season or any cold snaps, there are several steps you can take to help prevent frozen pipes.

Winterizing Hose Bibs

For starters, remove any outdoor water hoses and store them in your garage or storage shed. Make sure all indoor valves that supply outdoor hose bibs are closed, then drain the hose bibs outside of your home by opening them and letting any remaining water out. Do not close the outdoor bibs after they have finished draining Instead, leave them open.

Securing Water Supply Lines

There are many areas in and around the home that require – or make use of – a water supply. Sprinklers, swimming pools, hot tubs, and washing machines should all have their water supply lines drained. Any supply lines within the home that are in unheated locations should be insulated when possible to help reduce the risk of freezing.

Other Tips to Stop Freezing Pipes

Some other tricks you can use to prevent frozen pipes include opening any cabinet doors where there are plumbing fixtures or plumbing pipes (for instance, the kitchen or bathrooms). This lets warm air have access to your pipes and will help keep the temperature higher. If there is no heat in this area or electrical equipment, and your pipes are not insulated, you can consider bundling newspaper around the pipes in a pinch. However, do not do this in areas where there is a hot water heater or any heated areas, as it could be a fire hazard.

Another quick tip is slightly turning on sinks and letting water trickle out of faucets. This slow trickle of water will help slow the freezing process and could save your pipes from breaking. Note: you do not need a large amount of water for this to work. The slowest trickle you can manage should be fine.

How To Unfreeze Pipes

Even under the best circumstances and despite any preventative measures you may take, sometimes pipes will freeze. If the weather outside your home is chilly and you turn on a faucet and only a small amount of water comes out, you may have a frozen pipe.

Your first option in this case would be to call in the professionals. Odds are, however, that plumbers in your area may be busy handling other, similar, situations, and you may have to wait a while for service.

If this occurs, you can opt to take measures into your own hands. For starters, locate any areas in the home where you suspect there is a frozen pipe – chances are, you will have multiple frozen pipes. Choose one location and open the faucet, let water trickle out. At the same time, locate the supplying pipe and apply a small amount of heat to it. Heating pads and hair dryers are good options. If you have access to hot towels, you can wrap them around the pipes to help the process along too.

Stay away from high heat devices or those that require an open flame, such as blowtorches or gas operated (propane, kerosene, etc) heaters. In addition, be sure to remove any hazardous and flammable chemicals or materials from the area as well.

Once full water pressure is returned to the area, move on to the next frozen pipe, if applicable, and repeat the process.

What to Do: Pipe Burst and Basement Floods

In the event that a pipe bursts or a flood occurs in your home or basement, be prepared to act quickly. Your first step should be to shut off the main water valve in your home. This will stop the flow of water and help prevent the flood (and resulting water damage) from getting worse. If you do not know where your main water valve is, be sure to locate it after you finish reading this article – the last thing you want is to have to rush around trying to find it while an actual pipe has burst!

Next, go to your electrical panel and shut off electricity to the affected area. This is crucial, as it can help to prevent a fire (and resulting fire damage) from breaking out. Again, make sure you are well-versed in how your electrical panel works and clearly label what area of the home each switch controls.

Once the water and electricity is shut off, you will want to call in the professionals. For starters, call your plumber. Hopefully you will already have a relationship with a licensed plumbing service prior to any issues. Having a well-vetted contractor can help save you money and ensure the problem is fixed right the first time.

In most instances, flooding will result in mild to significant water damage. This includes, but is not limited to, damaged documents, mold and mildew, damage to carpets and upholstery, the need for water extraction, and, in some instances, fire and smoke damage. Because this type of damage can be difficult to repair or remediate, you will want to call in a professional disaster restoration team to assess the situation and come up with a water damage remediation plan. The team at ServiceMaster is a great place to start!

Finally, your insurance agent will need to be notified of the event and will require documentation, including reports from the plumber, pictures of the damage, and so forth. If you hire a disaster recovery service like ServiceMaster, they will be able to help you document for – and work with – your insurance company to make sure your insurance claim is handled properly.

Resources for Frozen Pipes and Flooded Basements

Below are some additional resources for homeowners experiencing frozen pipes, burst pipes, home flooding, or basement floods in Georgia, Tennesse, and Florida.

Education and Tips

Redcross Advice for Frozen Pipes

University of Georgia discussion on burst pipes

Georgia.gov tips for preventing pipe freezing

Plumbing Services from the Better Business Bureau

Note: For other areas, simply change your location and click the “Search” button

BBB List of Plumbers in Metro Atlanta, Athens, and NE Georgia
BBB List of Plumbers for Tennessee
BBB List of Plumbers for Northern Florida

Water Damage and Disaster Water Recovery Services

Servicemaster Cleaning and Restoration

Cartersville, GA 770-882-2723
Chattanooga, TN 423-954-7154
Ormond Beach, FL 386-277-1189

Pipe Freezing Resources from Insurance Companies

Allstate article on Pipe Freezes
Liberty Mutual tools for preventing frozen pipes
Nationwide Pipe Freeze Tips
Farmers how to prevent frozen pipe toolkit

Miscellaneous Water Damage and Home Flood Resources

List of Fire Departments by State

Georgia: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/georgia
Tennessee: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/tennessee
Florida: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/florida

Wunderground’s U.S. Severe Weather Map

Fire Prevention Tips and Resources

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Fires are one of the most devastating disasters homeowners can face. With little to no warning, a fire can break out and quickly engulf a home and all of its content. Even if the flames are doused early on, the residual smoke damage and water damage left behind
from rescue efforts can ruin your property and personal belongings. To help you prevent (or in worst case scenarios recover from) fires, ServiceMaster is proud to present some fire safety tips and resources for homeowners.

Fire Prevention Tips

Unlike other home disasters (such as those brought about by tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods), the majority of household fires are preventable – with a little thought and preparation. In our next section, we discuss some fire prevention tips to help you avoid the devastation this type of catastrophe can cause.

Prevent Electrical Fires

Roughly 10% of all home fires are a direct result of electrical malfunctions, resulting in roughly $1 billion in property damage each year and up to 1500 reported injuries or deaths. Fortunately for homeowners, electrical fires are one of the easiest types of fires to prevent.

For starters, always be sure to keep flammable items away from any appliance that gets hot. This includes space heaters, ovens, water heaters, and so forth. The same goes for electrical outlets or sockets – never leave paper or other easily ignitable objects anywhere near a power source. All it takes is a single spark to start a blaze!

Another way to prevent electrical fires is to inspect plugs and power cords on appliances and electrical equipment. Be sure to replace any frayed or damaged cords. Do the same for electrical outlets or sockets. Scheduling inspections for the change of each season is a great way to make sure you follow-through.

Overloading electrical outlets is another frequent cause of electrical fires. This occurs when you plug too many appliances into a socket or piggyback one power strip onto another power strip or extension cord. Try to avoid this practice, especially with powerful appliances like refrigerators and dish washers.

Finally, consider having a home inspector, licensed electrical contractor, or electrician conduct an inspection on your home’s wiring – particularly if you have an older home or suspect shoddy electrical work. Outdated wiring practices, such as aluminum wires or using the wrong gauge of wire, are fire hazards and something you will definitely want to get fixed if they are discovered in your home.

Kitchen Fire Prevention

Another leading cause of household fires involves the kitchen – and cooking in particular. The number one rules to avoid a fire of this nature is to never leave cooking food or a hot stove unattended. In addition, be sure nothing flammable is ever kept near the oven or stovetop – this includes towels, electrical cords from appliances, pot holders, wooden spoons, candles, paper, and chemicals of any kind.

Home Heating Fire Prevention for Winter

During the winter season, electric blankets and space heaters can lead to fire damage and property loss if left unattended. Never fall asleep with either of these devices plugged in or turned on. If you leave your home, be sure to switch them off and ensure that they are no longer hot prior to leaving. If you notice any frays in the cords or power plugs, replace the blanket or space heater immediately – don’t risk fire to save a few dollars.

Also be certain that you never leave flammable items (paper, chemicals, cloth or clothing, and so forth) within 3 feet of space heaters and electric blankets.

If you own a fireplace, the above advice is applicable as well. Never leave a fireplace burning unattended or when you go to bed. Likewise, keep all flammable items well away from the hearth. If possible, purchase a mesh guard and place it in front of any fire you start – this will help prevent ash or “sparks” from spitting out of the fireplace. Finally, a dirty fireplace can lead to a fire, as buildup in the chimney and flue can attract flames
and ignite. To avoid this, have them cleaned at least once a year to remove ash, soot, and debris.

Fire Prevention for Children

Young minds are curious and this curiosity can (and does) lead to household fires. Talk to your children about the hazards of fire and the dangers of playing with matches, lighters, and candles. Leave these items out of reach of young children, storing them in high spaces. You may even want to consider putting a lock on your storage space. Train your kids to bring any flammable items to you if they find them.

Finally, develop a fire escape plan, including escape routes, and make sure your children understand it. Post your plan in a place they can find, that is at eye level for them. Include important numbers for them to call in the event of a fire (such as 9-1-1 and immediate family members). Educate them about fire safety and what they should do in the event of a fire.

General Fire Prevention Tips

Below is a list of some general fire prevention tips to help protect your home from fire, fire damage, smoke damage, and water damage (as a result of rescue efforts).

  • Never Smoke in Bed.
  • Never use light bulbs that exceed the maximum wattage for a light socket.
  • Never leave candles unattended or leave them lit when you leave the home.
  • Keep all flammable liquids far away from heated areas.
  • Clean lint filters in drying machines between every load.

Resources and Information for Fire Safety and Prevention

The following resources provide further information for fire safety and fire prevention, as well as information on recovering and mitigating fire damage, smoke and soot damage, and water damage.

Fire Prevention and Safety Education and Advice

Disaster.com is an excellent resource for Disaster-related information, including information on wildfires, home fires, severe storms, and more. Includes a comprehensive forum where users can ask questions and seek advice for preventing and recovering from catastrophic events.

Fire Safety and Wildfire Preparation Tips from Disaster.com

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) page for Fire Safety Tip Sheets
http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/safety-tip-sheets

American Red Cross Home Fire Safety guide
http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/home-fire
Safe Kids Fire Safety Tips for Children

Fire Damage and Fire Disaster Recovery Services

ServiceMaster Cleaning and Restoration

Cartersville, GA 770-882-2723
Chattanooga, TN 423-954-7154
Ormond Beach, FL 386-277-1189

Fire Departments by State

Georgia: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/georgia
Tennessee: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/tennessee
Florida: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/florida

Preparing for Hurricane Season

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Hurricane season has officially kicked off and here in the United States, we have already seen our first tropical storm of the year. Severe weather can be devastating in terms of property damage and loss of personal items – not to mention the possibility of personal tragedies. To help you prevent storm damage, here are some tips and resources you can use to keep your home (and family) safe during the hurricane season.

Preparing for Hurricane Season

The best time to prepare for a hurricane or tropical storm is long before one ever forms in the ocean. Once hurricane season rolls around, you should begin preparations to secure your home and make sure you have enough supplies on hand to “weather the storm”. Waiting until a storm actually forms before preparing can not only lead to extra stress in your life, but could lead to you not finishing your prep work before the severe weather actually strikes – a situation you definitely want to avoid.

When is Hurricane Season?

Hurricane season (for those of us that live off the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico), officially begins June 1st and ends November 30th. Tropical storms can, however, arrive before and after these dates, but the majority of hurricanes and tropical storms in this region occur during this time period.

Difference Between a Tropical Storm and Hurricane

Severe tropical weather here in the United States comes in three main varieties: tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes. Knowing the difference between the three is an important step to properly preparing for one of these violent storms.

The beginning stage to any tropical threat is known as a tropical depression. It may also be called a tropical system, tropical disturbance, tropical wave, or tropical activity. At its core, a tropical depression is a weather formation that may or may not turn into a tropical storm or hurricane, depending upon certain conditions.

A tropical depression is the result of low pressure and thunderstorms that create a circular wind pattern. The maximum wind speed for this type of weather pattern is 39mph, while the average falls a little lower. If the pattern becomes more organized and the wind remains at 39mph or higher (up to 73mph), then the tropical depression is upgraded to a tropical storm and it officially receives a name.

If a tropical storm passes 74mph or greater, it is considered a hurricane and will be placed into a category ranging from 1-5, with 5 being the most powerful. Wind speed for each category can be defined as below:

Category 1 Hurricane: 74-95mph
Category 2 Hurricane: 96-110mph
Category 3 Hurricane: 111-130mph
Category 4 Hurricane: 131-155mph
Category 5 Hurricane: Greater than 156mph

How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Even though weather forecast and storm predictions improve each year (thanks to technological advances and better understanding of severe weather patterns), tropical storms and hurricanes are still unpredictable and the property damage they can leave in their wake is often greater than analysts predict. Because of this, it is important to start preparing for a hurricane at the beginning of the hurricane season – if not before.

If you live near the coast or even a few hundred miles inland, it is important that you have a map of all evacuation routes in your area. Make sure you drive the route at the start of hurricane season and that your family members know how to reach them as well. If you get separated in a storm, you will want to make sure every one knows how to get to safety the quickest way possible.

Inspect your home (or have a professional inspect it) to make sure your house is up to code and is capable of surviving a hurricane. Check for loose roof tiles, structural damage, poor seals around windows and doors, and so forth. If you do not have storm shutters or impact proof windows, we highly recommend you get them installed. Studies show that they greatly reduce storm and water damage in the event of a hurricane.

It is important to take care of the above items prior to the start of hurricane season, as finding shutters or getting a contractor to install them during peak storm season may be difficult, leaving your home unprotected from the possibility of wind damage.

Once the season begins, it is a great idea to stock up on non-perishable supplies. Batteries and flashlights are essential, as is a hand-cranked radio, which you can use to listen to local weather forecasts and emergency broadcasts. Purchasing additional cell phone batteries for each family member is advisable too, in the event you should get separated from your loved ones. Note that cell phone towers could be affected during a hurricane, so cellular service is not always guaranteed.

Canned food, can openers, powdered milk, and plenty of water is also a necessity. For water, always have on hand one gallon of water, per person, for a minimum of three days. The more you can store, the better. This water will be used for drinking and sanitation.

We also recommend a minimum of three days worth of non-perishable food for each family member, including any pets. Be sure to pack snacks and comfort food as well, especially if you have young children.

Medications are another, often-overlooked, part of a hurricane supply kit. Where possible, have at least a week’s worth of any prescribed medication for all family members and animals. Over the counter medication, such as cold medicine, headache medicine, pain relievers, and so forth, are always good to have as well. A first-aid kit that is fully stocked should be kept on-hand for emergencies.

Ready.gov has a great list for a basic disaster supplies kit that every homeowner should follow.

What is a Hurricane Warning and a Hurricane Watch?

Once a hurricane watch or hurricane warning is issued, you will want to take further steps to secure your home against storm damage. A hurricane watch basically tells you that a hurricane making landfall in your area is probable or likely and that you should prepare for that eventuality. Hurricane watches are issued 48 hours prior to the anticipated onset of tropical storm strength winds.

A hurricane warning means that severe weather is imminent. If a warning has been issued, your area is either already feeling the effects of a hurricane, or is about to. Hurricane warnings are issued 36 hours before the anticipated onset of tropical force winds.

When a watch is issued, you will want to make sure you secure any outside objects or bring them inside. This includes things like lawn chairs and tables, pool umbrellas, outdoor canopies that may come loose in strong winds, and so forth. These types of objects, if not secured, can cause property damage to your home or your neighbor’s house. This is also the time to put up any storm shutters or secure your windows with plywood boards.

If you have not filled up your vehicles with gas and if you have not fully prepared your hurricane readiness kit, make sure you do this as well. Odds are other residents in your area will be rushing to do so, so practice patience and expect a crowd at your local supermarket. You should also take this time to go over any safety plans and evacuation routes with family members and ensure everyone knows what to do if a catastrophe occurs during the hurricane.

What to Do During a Hurricane or Tropical Storm

If you have not been ordered to evacuate and you feel safe in your home, once a hurricane or tropical storm hits, you should always stay inside, as long as the structural integrity of your home is okay. Find a secure room in your home and gather your family there. Keep clear of any windows, as debris could shatter them and enter your home. Keep any essential tools nearby, as well as a first-aid kit and a radio to listen to weather updates.

What to Do in the Aftermath of a Hurricane

After a hurricane or tropical storm has moved on from your area, make sure the local news has given the okay to venture outside. If there is any indication that the storm is not entirely out of your area, wait a while longer, as hurricanes can often spawn tornados and hail even after they have left your region. Also, don’t be fooled by the eye of the hurricane. Depending upon the size of the storm wall, you will experience anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour of no storm activity. Never venture out when the eye of the hurricane is passing over, as you can quickly get caught in the storm once it picks back up again.

Once you are certain it is safe to venture outdoors, check the area for any downed power lines. If you find them, report them to the local power company and steer clear of them. Avoid puddles and standing water, as they can house hidden dangers and safety hazards.

Next, inspect your home for any structural damage. Damaged walls, collapsing roofs, and floods are particularly dangerous, and if you encounter them, you will want to evacuate the premises immediately. Document any damage with your phone or a camera. This includes property damage, as well as content damage. Hurricanes often result in water damage and flood damage, and may result in mold and mildew, as well as fire damage.

Once you have taken note of any damage and your family is safe and secure, your next step should be to call your insurance company and a storm damage restoration company, such as the catastrophe remediation professionals at ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration. Not only can they help repair your property and its contents, they can also help guide you through the insurance claims process and develop a safety plan for any future catastrophic events.

Hurricane Preparation Tips and Resources

Are you looking for more hurricane preparation tips and resources? If so, you may find the links below useful.

Redcross.org | Hurricane Preparedness Resources

Ready.gov | Information on Hurricane Safety

NHCH | National Hurricane Center Hurricane Preparation Guide

CDC | Emergency Preparedness for Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

Disaster.com | The Essentials of Hurricane Preparedness

Disaster.com | Forum for Hurricane Survivors and Advice

Fema.gov | Disaster Survivor Assistance Page

Hurricane, Tropical Storm, and Tornado Storm Damage Recovery Services

ServiceMaster Cleaning and Restoration

Cartersville, GA 770-882-2723
Chattanooga, TN 423-954-7154
Ormond Beach, FL 386-277-1189

Types of Disasters and Catastrophes

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When it comes to catastrophes and disasters, no home or business is safe. While planning and preparation can help mitigate property damage and loss from a financial and personal perspective, at the end of the day, surviving a disaster is only part of the equation – recovering in the aftermath is just as important and, sometimes, more difficult.

Types of Disasters and Catastrophes

There are a large number of disasters and catastrophes – both natural and otherwise – that can affect a homeowner or commercial business. Some of these events are preventable – such as a fire or basement flooding due to a burst or frozen pipe – while others can be unavoidable. Tornadoes, hurricanes, tropical storms, earthquakes, and severe weather all fall under this latter category.

At the end of the day, however, each disaster comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles, from both a survival standpoint and a disaster restoration and cleanup perspective.

Tornado Disaster Restoration and Cleanup

Tornadoes are spinning cyclones that are spawned when two weather fronts collide and severe weather occurs. They range in speed from 40mph through 318mph in their most severe rating. Their size is measured in length and width and they can exceed a mile wide and 50 miles long, spreading damage in a huge path.

There are several types of tornadoes, but no matter what type, they are capable of causing massive amounts of property damage in the form of: fire damage, water damage, wind damage, structural damage, mold and mildew, electrical fires, flooding, and content damage.

For more information on tornado preparedness, visit our Tornado Preparation Tips resource section.

Hurricane Disaster Restoration and Cleanup

Hurricanes, like tornadoes, are spawned from severe weather and can cause a wide breadth of residential and commercial property damage. While a homeowner or company can prepare for a hurricane or tropical storm, they can still be devastating and cause the loss of a home or the loss of significant revenue.

Tropical weather comes in several forms, including the weakest – tropical depressions – the middle level tropical storms, and the most deadly – hurricanes. Associated hazards of a hurricane include: fire damage, electrical fires, water damage, flooding, structural damage, mild and mildew, and content damage.

For more information on hurricane preparedness for homeowners and businesses, visit our Hurricane Preparedness Tips resource section.

Residential and Commercial Fire Damage Restoration and Cleanup

A fire can break out in a home for many reasons. It can start from something as simple as an unattended frying pan or from poor electrical work and overloading of power strips. Fires can also happen during a hurricane or tornado as a result of fallen power lines, power surges, and lightning strikes. Wildfires are another devastating concern for certain areas as well.

No matter the cause, fires cause millions of dollars in residential and commercial property damage each year. While there are methods to help prevent fire damage, at the end of the day it is impossible to prevent every type of disaster.

Fires cause fire damage, soot damage, smoke damage, and resulting odors to carpet and upholstery. During the fire rescue efforts, water damage can occur, leading to the need for water extraction, carpet cleaning, dryer service, content restoration, and mild and mildew mitigation.

For more information on fire safety, view our Fire Prevention and Fire Safety resource section.

Basement Flooding, Frozen Pipes, and Burst Pipes

While not as nefarious as fires, tornadoes, or hurricanes, another real threat to homeowners is floods. Caused by something as simple as a frozen pipe or something as dangerous as a tsunami, floods are capable of costing enormous property damage and, in some instances, loss of life. No matter what the source, homeowners and business owners must act quickly in the aftermath of any type of flood to prevent further water damage from occurring.

When a flood does happen, you may find yourself in need of a dryer service and water extraction. Upholstery and carpet damage are also a concern, as are mold and mildew, which only get worse as time progresses.

One area we often do not associate with flooding or basement floods is fire damage. Electrical fires are not uncommon in such a situation, and as such, it is always important to shut off all electricity at the electrical panel in the event that a flood does occur.

Looking for more information on flooding basements and home floods? Check out our resource forPreventing Frozen Pipes and Burst Pipes.

What To Do In the Aftermath of a Disaster

Once you and your family members (or co-workers in the case of a commercial business disaster) are safe and rescue efforts are finished, a safety professional should tell you whether or not it is safe to enter your property. Your first step at this point should be to call your insurance company and a disaster restoration service. You will want to take photos of any damage and inventory any items that suffered during the catastrophe. Call friends and family to alert them of the situation and let them know that you are okay.

When the disaster remediation specialist arrives on the scene, he will quickly assess the situation and come up with a Disaster Recovery Plan, which will include temporary board-ups for damaged windows and doors, strengthening any walls that suffered damage, and preparing your residence or building for cleanup efforts, which may include content pack out of furniture and valuables for cleaning, water extraction, mold and mildew mitigation, smoke and soot removal, and fire damage restoration.

The disaster recovery service will also work with your insurance company and help guide you through the claims process to make sure it is as stress-free as possible.

Disaster Restoration and Catastrophe Cleanup Resources

Below you can find resources for disaster recovery and cleanup, as well as disaster prevention and preparation tips for many types of catastrophes.

Fire Prevention and Safety Education and Advice

Disaster.com is an excellent resource for Disaster-related information, including information on wildfires, home fires, severe storms, and more. Includes a comprehensive forum where users can ask questions and seek advice for preventing and recovering from catastrophic events.

Fire Safety and Wildfire Preparation Tips from Disaster.com

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) page for Fire Safety Tip Sheets

http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/safety-tip-sheets

American Red Cross Home Fire Safety guide

http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/home-fire

Safe Kids Fire Safety Tips for Children

Fire Damage and Fire Disaster Recovery Services

ServiceMaster Cleaning and Restoration

Cartersville, GA 770-882-2723

Chattanooga, TN 423-954-7154

Ormond Beach, FL 386-277-1189

Fire Departments by State

Georgia: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/georgia

Tennessee: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/tennessee

Florida: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/florida

Hurricane Preparation Tips and Resources

Are you looking for more hurricane preparation tips and resources? If so, you may find the links below useful.

Redcross.org | Hurricane Preparedness Resources

Ready.gov | Information on Hurricane Safety

NHCH | National Hurricane Center Hurricane Preparation Guide

CDC | Emergency Preparedness for Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

Disaster.com | The Essentials of Hurricane Preparedness

Disaster.com | Forum for Hurricane Survivors and Advice

Fema.gov | Disaster Survivor Assistance Page

Hurricane, Tropical Storm, and Tornado Storm Damage Recovery Services

ServiceMaster Cleaning and Restoration

Cartersville, GA 770-882-2723

Chattanooga, TN 423-954-7154

Ormond Beach, FL 386-277-1189

Resources for Frozen Pipes and Flooded Basements

Below are some additional resources for homeowners experiencing frozen pipes, burst pipes, home flooding, or basement floods in Georgia, Tennesse, and Florida.

Education and Tips

Redcross Advice for Frozen Pipes

University of Georgia discussion on burst pipes

Georgia.gov tips for preventing pipe freezing

Plumbing Services from the Better Business Bureau

Note: For other areas, simply change your location and click the “Search” button

BBB List of Plumbers in Metro Atlanta, Athens, and NE Georgia

BBB List of Plumbers for Tennessee

BBB List of Plumbers for Northern Florida

Water Damage and Disaster Water Recovery Services

Servicemaster Cleaning and Restoration

Cartersville, GA 770-882-2723

Chattanooga, TN 423-954-7154

Ormond Beach, FL 386-277-1189

Pipe Freezing Resources from Insurance Companies

Allstate article on Pipe Freezes

Liberty Mutual tools for preventing frozen pipes

Nationwide Pipe Freeze Tips

Farmers how to prevent frozen pipe toolkit

Miscellaneous Water Damage and Home Flood Resources

List of Fire Departments by State

Georgia: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/georgia

Tennessee: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/tennessee

Florida: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/florida

The Leading Causes of Household Fires

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According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading factor in household fires in the United States. From overheated stoves to unattended flames, the kitchen presents a variety of hazards for even the most astute home chef. While living room and bedroom fires account for a small percentage of annual household fires, staying safe in the kitchen will prevent significantly more fires from damaging your property and endangering your safety.

Avoidable Accidents

Everyone experiences an accident in the kitchen from time to time. You might forget to turn off the burner or allow a sudden blast from the oven to set off your smoke alarm. Tiny accidents can lead to big trouble down the road. Here are some ways to prevent kitchen fires:

  • Set timers and pay attention to them.
  • Cover up unused outlets with plastic covers to prevent sparks.
  • Wear protective clothing when you cook with hot oil.
  • Keep small children away from pot handles and other hot objects.

If your kitchen begins to fill with smoke, try opening a window or another door to increase ventilation. You may even consider installing a fan to help circulate the air. You might be tempted to disable a ringing smoke detector out of annoyance. Avoid disabling your smoke detector even for a minute because you might forget to turn it back on when you really need it.

Staying Alert

Kitchens might present the most dangerous opportunity for fire hazards, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the rest of your home. Turn off electric items that aren’t in use, and keep flammable fabrics away from direct heat sources. Not only will monitoring your electrical items keep you from causing a fire, but doing so will also help you save energy in the long run. The key to effectively preventing household fires is establishing a system of vigilance between you and your whole family.

If you’ve recently experienced damage as a result of water or fire damage, then let ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration be your go-to source for information and advice. We offer a variety of services from cleanup to restoration, and we can help mitigate the loss you suffer due to fire and water damage.

ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration | Fire & Water Damage
ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration | Fire & Water Damage

Fire Prevention and Safety Tips for Business

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You work hard to grow your business and keep the doors open. From lack of new business to ever-changing economic times, you have plenty of challenges that are out of your control. However, there are some things that can damage your business that you can prevent – such as fires or natural disasters. In today’s post, we are going to share some fire prevention and fire safety tips for business owners.

Business Owner Fire Safety Tips

No matter whether you run a one man operation or a Fortune 500 company with thousands of employees, suffering from a fire can be a financially devastating and potentially tragic event that you (and your business) may not be able to recover from.

Aside from property damage and safety hazards, fires can also cause financial loss to a business from a liability perspective (think employee or customer lawsuits), as well as from downtime – if your doors are closed, odds are, you are not making money!

Fire Extinguishers and Business Safety

One of the most important tools you have at your disposal if a fire breaks out are fire extinguishers. They can make the difference between a small, inconsequential fire and a full blown blaze. Having them in areas that are prone to fire outbreaks (think kitchens or break rooms) is key. They should also be in plain site, so that you or your employees do not need to go searching for them.

In fact, part of every employee training should include safety measures. Pointing out the location of all fire extinguishers should be a part of this effort, as well as teaching each employee how to actually use one in the even that a fire does break out.
Lastly, be sure that you have the right class of fire extinguisher (Class A for regular combustibles, Class B for flammable liquids, Class C for electrical equipment, and Class D for combustible metals) and that your fire extinguishers are fully charged.

Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms

Early fire detection is crucial to preventing a fire from getting out of control and causing fire and smoke damage. Because of that, you want to ensure your building has smoke detectors in each room and fire alarms on each floor. Smoke detectors should be tested each month and batteries replaced at the change of each season (once every 3 months). If your smoke detectors are ten years old or older (or if you do not know their age) replace them – like everything else, smoke detectors have a life expectancy too!

Overhead Sprinklers Prevent Fire Damage

Another important tool for fire safety and fire prevention in a business setting are overhead sprinklers. When smoke is detected or a fire alarm is triggered, the sprinklers will turn on, dousing any flames and preventing fire from spreading.

If you have water-sensitive equipment or are concerned about documents getting water damage (and that threat is just as dangerous for your business as smoke and fire damage), you can consider installing overhead fire sprinklers in areas that are more prone to fire outbreaks.

Fire Extinguisher Safety Tips

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Fire extinguishers can be a homeowner or business owner’s first line of defense in the event that a fire should break out. However, owning a fire extinguisher is not enough – you must also know how to use them and what type is right for your particular home or business. We discuss this very topic in today’s fire safety blog!

Fire Extinguisher FAQ

Picture this scenario: you are at home or in the office and you suddenly smell the unmistakable odor of smoke. You quickly realize something is on fire, so being the smart person you are, you run and grab your fire extinguisher, locate the fire, and aim the fire extinguisher at the flames. Then it dawns on you – how exactly, does this thing work anyway?

Reducing fire damage and making sure your family stays safe in the event of a disaster requires a mix of planning, preparedness, and remaining calm in any given situation. One way you can achieve this is by learning how, when, and why to use your fire extinguisher – not to mention what type you actually need.

When to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Whether you are at home or at your business, if a fire breaks out, you may only have moments to decide between fight or flight. If you think you can safely put out the fire, grab your fire extinguisher and get to work. If there is even the slightest chance you cannot, get your family or co-workers to safety and dial 911 immediately.

If you do not know how to use your fire extinguisher before the fire breaks out, call in the professionals. Mid-fire is not the time to learn. In addition, never try to fight a fire unless there is a clear path or route of escape. If there is a clear exit, but it won’t remain so for very long, do not risk it – leave the premises.

Finally, if you are unsure if your fire extinguisher class (more below) is appropriate for the type of fire you are fighting, call 911 instead – using the wrong extinguisher can only exacerbate the problem.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

There are five types of fire extinguishers that homeowners or business owners can use to fight fires and reduce the risk of fire damage on their property. The types and what sort of fire they are good for are listed below:

  • Class A: Normal combustibles and flammables, including cloth, paper, and wood.
  • Class B: Flammable liquids, such as gas, oil, paint, paint thinner, and solvents.
  • Class C: This type of fire involves electrical equipment and appliances that are plugged in or receiving electricity. Fires caused by electric drills, table saws, computer equipment, televisions, engines, wiring, and fuse boxes all qualify for this class.
  • Class D: Fires involving combustible metals such as magnesium, sodium, zirconium and so forth). If this type of fire breaks out, do not attempt to fight it unless you have been specifically trained to handle this class.
  • Class K: Restaurants are prone to this type of fire, as it involves cooking oil and commercial grade cooking equipment.

In addition to the types above, some fires can, of course, be classified as multiple types. All fire extinguishers are labeled for the type of fire they are capable of fighting, as well as which ones you should never use them on. For example, you would never use a Class A fire extinguisher on a Class B or Class C fire – the results could be deadly!

Fire Extinguisher How-To

Follow the below advice when using a fire extinguisher.

  • Stand six to eight feet away from any flames.
  • Ensure that you have a clear exit from the area in the event the fire spreads or becomes out of control.
  • Pull the pin to unlock the operating lever.
  • Aim the fire extinguisher hose at the base of the fire.
  • Apply pressure to the lever located above the handle to release the agent.
  • In a sweeping motion, saturate the base of the fire back and forth until it is extinguished.
  • Continue this process if the fire re-ignites.
  • If the fire does not go out or spreads, retreat to safety.
  • Other Fire Extinguisher Tips

The following fire safety tips should be followed to ensure your fire extinguisher is ready to use in the event of a fire.

  • Install fire extinguishers in areas where fires are likely to break out, including kitchens and break rooms.
  • Make sure all fire extinguishers in the home or at work are fully charged.
  • Make sure all family members or employees know the location of any fire extinguishers and fire alarms.
  • Train yourself, loved ones, and co-workers on the proper use of fire extinguishers.

What to Do In The Aftermath of a Tornado

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One of the most terrifying natural disasters a homeowner can face is a tornado. Dropping down with little warning from a stormy sky, tornadoes leave behind a devastating aftermath of wind damage, water damage, and personal tragedy. Knowing what actions to take after a tornado is pivotal to preventing loss of personal property and lives. Here are some quick tips for handling the aftermath of a tornado.

From minor structural issues, to complete collapse due to wind damage, recovering from nature’s most violent storm is no simple task. To further compound issues, the longer you wait to restore your property to its original state, the more collateral damage you are likely to receive. Standing water damage can (and will) quickly lead to more severe problems, such as rotted wood, damaged upholstery, ruined carpets, and the growth of unhealthy mold and mildew.

Below is a list of precautions and actions you can take to mitigate storm damage after a tornado or severe storm.

Tornado Aftermath Safety Tips

In the immediate aftermath of a tornado, it is crucial to remain calm and assess the situation before taking any action. The first step is to ensure that you are out of harm’s way. Survey the area for fallen power lines, leaning or weakened trees, and standing puddles. If you find any of these, move far away and avoid them at all cost. If you are inside of a building, business, or home, look for signs of structural damage, such as cracked ceilings or damaged walls. Be sure the storm has passed and it is safe to go outside prior to leaving the home. Be aware that lighting and hail can still occur after a tornado has left your area.

Once you know your immediate area is safe, locate any loved ones and make sure they are okay. If you are in a group and there are injuries, designate one person to call emergency services (ambulance, fire department, and so forth). In the event of a tornado, there will likely be many injuries and people calling for help. By assigning one person to call 911, you help limit the amount of people tying up emergency phone lines and communications. Hold off calling non-critical family and friends, as this too, can tie up phone lines.

Other things to look out for include: hazardous material spills, broken glass and jagged metal, nails, and wild/roaming animals that may still be spooked by the storm (and therefore prone to attack).

Assessing, Mitigating and Cleaning Up Tornado Damage

Before attempting to clean up any mess left in the aftermath of a tornado, make sure an emergency professional has given you the all clear and declared the area safe. If there is any structural damage, threat of collapse, bare electrical wires, or fire, do not attempt to enter your property. It is always a good idea to shut off electricity to the home (through the electric panel) and shut off any gas valves to the home.

Once the area is safe to enter, consider wearing safety clothing, such as goggles, gloves, rubber boots, and a long sleeve shirt. A breathing mask can help protect you from any lingering smoke or hazardous chemicals. Once you have salvaged vital property (birth certificates, photo albums, and so forth) and cleaned up any spilled medication and hazardous materials, consider photographing the contents of your home to document damage for insurance purposes.

A good idea – and something you should consider before stepping foot into your home or business – is to consult a disaster restoration and cleanup service. If you live in North Georgia, Northern Florida, or Tennessee, catastrophe recovery professionals like the ones at ServiceMaster will come to your home or business, assess the situation, and develop a disaster recovery plan to help mitigate storm damage (including fire and smoke damage, mold and mildew, structure repair, carpet and upholstery cleaning, water extraction, and even document restoration). They can even help you work with your insurance company to make sure your claim process is as stress free as possible.

Electrical Fire Safety Tips

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One of the most common causes of fire in a home is electricity. Electrical malfunctions account for nearly 15% of all house fires in the United States and lead to personal and financial loss to thousands of home and business owners each year. Unlike other forms of natural disasters (such as severe weather, tornadoes, or floods), electrical fires can, for the large part, be prevented. Today we are going to discuss some electrical fire prevention tips that could save your home – and life.

How to Prevent Electrical Fires

With more than 25,000 electrical fires being reported in the United States each year (which result in injury or death to roughly 1500 Americans annually), the importance of fire safety cannot be understated. Fires started by electricity tend to be more costly from a financial perspective as well, dealing more property damage than their non-electrical counterpart. And unlike traditional home fires, those of the electrical nature can – in most instances – be prevented, with a little thought and action by the homeowner.

Overloading Electrical Outlets

Perhaps the easiest cause of electrical fires to avoid is overloading. Overloading a socket or outlet occurs when a homeowner or employee (in the event of a business fire) plugs too many cords or utilities into an outlet, power strip, or extension cord. You have probably seen this happen a dozen times – a power strip full of tangled cords with another extension cord piggybacking off of it.

This is a big no-no in the fire prevention world. If you do have to rely upon extension cords or power strips for additional electrical outlets, make sure you purchase the kind that has built-in overload protection (it should say so on the product packaging). This ensures the power strip will shut off in the event that it does, indeed, become overloaded, possibly preventing a fire.

Check for Damaged Plugs and Cords

Another cheap and simple way to protect your home from electrical fires is to inspect your appliances and electronics for any damage. Specifically, schedule a day to go through all of your electrical cords and plugs to look for frayed wires or damaged connectors. Doing this at the change of every season is a good way to keep on schedule and can prevent the outbreak of a serious fire in your home.

Hire a Home Inspector

Old homes have old wiring, and the older the wiring, the more likely there is to be an issue with it. Even if you have a newer home, hiring an inspector to conduct a home inspection is not a bad idea, as some electrical contractors cut corners (or worse – do not know what they are doing), and you may have bad or outdated wiring in your home (think aluminum wiring or an insufficient electrical panel for instance).

The cost of a home inspection is much cheaper than the cost of fire and smoke damage that can result from a fire. As with any contractor, be sure to conduct your due diligence and research any home inspector before allowing them onto your property.