When it comes to water damage, your energy is best spent on prevention. Many hardware stores and home centers sell moisture alarms you can put under sinks and appliances. But it’s also good to know how to handle an emergency. In most cases, these immediate actions can save you significantly:
1. Call a professional. Google or Bing search “emergency restoration” and call a professional remediation company. Tell them your situation, ask if they’re certified, bonded and insured; and see how soon they can be there. Then immediately call your insurance agent and get authorization. In most cases, your agent will instruct you to call the mitigation company back and give them the ok. If you call your insurance agent first, you may get an adjuster with their best interest in mind instead of yours.
2. Move valuables to dry land. Remove everything you can from a wet floor (dyes and stains on furniture may bleed onto the wood or carpeted floors); if you can’t move a piece of furniture, put aluminum foil or a plastic bag under the legs.
3. Lift other items above the water line. Get draperies up off the floor by putting them on clothes hangers and hooking the hanger onto the drapery rod. Remove low-lying accessories from walls and shelving units as moisture can leach up quickly.
4. Pay attention to everything water has touched. Look for water in the carpet or touching a wall. It may have traveled unseen under the carpet, possibly reaching cabinets, walls, insulation, other rooms and the subfloor. This is where mold grows undetected
For property managers and homeowners, a biohazard trauma scene (suicide, decomposing body, murder, etc.) was the last situation they were prepared to handle. Family members, friends or employees who try to clean blood, body fluid, human tissue, decomposing bodies, hypodermic needles, etc. find this task either physically or emotional overwhelming. Not to mention that cleaning after a a trauma scene opens up the “cleaning person” to be put in contact with hazards associated with blood, tissue and decomposition products. Please be aware that the physiological drama doesn’t end when the incident occurs. Many who clean up after a trauma scene have to deal with the emotional issues while cleaning. To compound the issue, the “cleaning person” most likely will not correctly clean the effected area correctly. This will lead to risks spreading the contamination and exposing others to pathogens.
When you hire a professional bio-recovery company or crime scene clean up company, you avoid the following:
1.Legal exposure to workers compensation claim and possibility of a lawsuit by an employee or even a family member or friend. Although some will down play the risk, with the public knowledge of bio hazards risks and the rising use of lawsuits, you may want to consider using a biohazard company to hand off the legal responsibility.
2.Companies should avoid the legal issues associated with the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Rules and state sanitary codes. OSHA requires that a company Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control Plan be in place if one employee can reasonably be expected to be exposed once per year. Federal Regulation 29CFRI910.1030 states that no employee can be placed in a position to be exposed to blood spills without first:
■Receiving bloodborne pathogen (BBP) training.
■Having a written BBP exposure control plan.
■Having been provided appropriate personal protective equipment.
■Having been offered the Hepatitis B vaccine with exposure evaluation and medical follow-up.
■Being provided with a method to remove and properly store the bio-hazardous waste in properly marked containers for disposal at an approved site.
Mold colonies can grow inside building structures. The main problem with the presence of mold in buildings is the inhalation of mycotoxins. Molds may produce an identifiable smell. Growth is fostered by moisture. After a flood or major leak, mycotoxin levels are higher in the building even after it has dried out.
Food sources for molds in buildings include cellulose-based materials, such as wood, cardboard, and the paper facing on both sides of drywall, and all other kinds of organic matter, such as soap, fabrics, and dust containing skin cells. If a house has mold, the moisture may be from the basement or crawl space, a leaking roof, or a leak in plumbing pipes behind the walls. People residing in a house also contribute moisture through normal breathing and perspiration. Insufficient ventilation can further enable moisture build-up. Visible mold colonies may form where ventilation is poorest, and on perimeter walls, because they are coolest, thus closest to the dew point.
If there are mold problems in a house only during certain times of the year, then it is probably either too air-tight, or too drafty. Mold problems occur in airtight homes more frequently in the warmer months (when humidity reaches high levels inside the house, and moisture is trapped), and occur in drafty homes more frequently in the colder months (when warm air escapes from the living area into unconditioned space, and condenses). If a house is artificially humidified during the winter, this can create conditions favorable to mold. Moving air may prevent mold from growing since it has the same desiccating effect as lowering humidity. Keeping indoor air temperature higher than 74 °F (23 °C) also has an inhibiting effect on mold growth.
Because common building materials are capable of sustaining mold growth, and mold spores are ubiquitous, mold growth in an indoor environment is typically related to an indoor water or moisture problem. Leaky roofs, building maintenance problems, or indoor plumbing problems can lead to mold growth inside homes, schools, or office buildings. Another common cause of mold growth is flooding.
Removing one of the three requirements for mold reduces or eliminates the new growth of mold. These three requirements are 1) Moisture, 2) Food source for the mold spores (dust, dander, etc), and 3) Warmth (mold generally does not grow in cold environments).
Molds are found everywhere inside and outside, and can grow on almost any substance when moisture is present. Molds reproduce by spores, which can be carried by air currents. When these spores land on a moist surface that is suitable for life, they begin to grow. Mold is normally found indoors at levels that do not affect most healthy individuals.
Because common building materials are capable of sustaining mold growth, and mold spores are ubiquitous, mold growth in an indoor environment is typically related to water or moisture indoors. Mold growth may also be caused by incomplete drying of flooring materials such as concrete. Flooding, leaky roofs, building maintenance problems, or indoor plumbing problems can lead to mold growth inside homes, schools, or office buildings.
For significant mold growth to occur, there must be a source of water (which could be invisible humidity), a source of food, and a substrate capable of sustaining growth. Common building materials, such as plywood, drywall, furring strips, carpets, and carpet padding are food for molds. In carpet, invisible dust and cellulose are the food sources (see also dust mites). After a single incident of water damage occurs in a building, molds grow inside walls and then become dormant until a subsequent incident of high humidity; this illustrates how mold can appear to be a sudden problem, long after a previous flood or water incident that did not produce such a problem. The right conditions reactivate mold. Studies also show that mycotoxin levels are perceptibly higher in buildings that have once had a water incident (source: CMHC).
Spores need three things to grow into mold:
Nutrients: Cellulose is a common food for spores in an indoor environment.
Moisture: Moisture is required to begin the decaying process caused by the mold.
Time: Mold growth begins between 24 hours and 10 days from the provision of the growing conditions. There is no known way to date mold.
By definition, disasters are rarely tame or predictable, and few businesses are truly prepared for the full extent and nature of a disaster when it does strike. While recovery is never easy, there are a few key steps you can take before and after an event to help make your insurance claim—which is, after all, the basis for your financial recovery—go more smoothly.
- Take photographs of property before a natural disaster occurs. Photographs will be important to prove the extent of your damages later. Take new photos every year, or after any development to the property.
- Back up business-critical information. Make sure your business-critical client records and communications systems are backed up off site so you can immediately retrieve key client information, financial documents, and sales histories. This responsiveness can make or break your public relations and disaster recovery efforts.
- Protect your property from further damage. It’s your responsibility to preform emergency work such as putting up tarps, removing wet drywall and carpeting to prevent mold, and boarding up openings and installing fencing where necessary to protect your belongings and keep others from getting hurt.
- Beware of contractors asking you to sign a contract for non-emergency services. Ideally, you should not hire a contractor to rebuild your home or business until you have agreed on a repair/replacement scope of damage and an estimate of pricing with your insurance company. Then you will know how much you have to spend on reconstruction.
- Document the damage. Photograph or videotape the scene, including the “debris pile” before you begin any cleanup efforts. When estimating damages, do not rely on your historical records. Instead, secure replacement cost estimates.
- Request a complete copy of your insurance policy. Read and make sure you understand your rights and obligations under your insurance policy before entering into any serious discussions or negotiations with your carrier. Seek out a professional to help you understand what your policy actually covers and, just as important, what it doesn’t.
- Document all your activities and expenses. keep a log of all activities and save all receipts after the damage, including those for property replacement and extra expenses. This will provide the documentation a disaster recovery professional requires to present expenses to your carrier, and you will know which expenses will be reimbursed as you rebuild.
- Make decisions that are best for the survival of your business. Policyholders often expect the insurance company to tell them what to do to save their business. Insurance company adjusters are simply auditors of your property insurance claim. Only you know your business and what’s best for your recovery.
Imagine waking in the middle of the night to a piercing noise. It’s your smoke alarm, and the shrill beeping registers only a split second before the smell.
Fire. Something in your house is burning.
You now have only a matter of minutes – maybe seconds – to escape. Do you know what your next steps would be? The following are some fire escape planning tips suggested by the U.S. Fire Administration.
- Make a plan. Remember, every second counts.
- Practice your plan. Make sure you, your employees and your family are well-versed in escape routes from every area of your home or business. Practice leaving the property with your eyes closed, felling your way out.
- Leave immediately. Don’t stop for possessions or keepsakes. Exit as quickly as possible, but if the smoke has already grown thick, crawl low and keep your mouth covered.
- Never open doors that are hot to the touch. When you come to a closed door, use the back of your hand to see if the door is hot to the touch. If it appears the fire is on the other side of the door, leave it shut and find another escape route.
- Designate a meeting place outside and take attendance. Designate a meeting location away from the building, but not necessarily across the street. For example, meet under a specific tree to make sure no one gets hurt looking for people who are already out of the structure. Designate a person to go next door to call 911.
According to the USFA (United States Fire Administration), smoking is the number one cause of home fire deaths across the country. In fact, almost 1,000 people are killed in home fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials each year. The following tips are courtesy of the USFA.
- If you smoke, smoke outside. Most home fires caused by smoking materials start inside the home.
- Wherever you smoke, use deep, sturdy ashtrays. Useashtrays with a wide stable base that are hard to tip over.
- Outdoor ashtrays should be filled with sand. Ashtrays should be set on something sturdy and hard to ignite, like a table.
- Put it out. All the way. Every time. The cigarette really needs to be completely stubbed out in the ashtray. Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them away. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash.
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