Winter Fire Prevention
It seems like every year, the holiday season approaches faster and faster—but that means the increased risk of house fires does, too. Our franchise has seen a dramatic increase recently in calls for house fire cleanup.
The leading cause of home fires is cooking regardless of the season, but the chances for heating and electrical-related fires always increases when the weather turns colder. Focusing on fire safety throughout your wintertime celebrations will ensure that fires are far less likely to get a chance to spark.
Tips for Fire Prevention Around the Holiday Season
Keep safe when cooking. Cooking is the top cause of house fires in every season, but during the winter, there are more large, family style meals and far more baking which causes the frequency of cooking related fires to increase. It is wise to always keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and be careful about utensils, potholders, dish towels and curtains being anywhere near the stove.
Heat the house with proper precautions. It is common to use space heaters throughout the winter season to knock the chill off, but it is important to be certain your model has safety features such as a tip over shutoff and overheating sensor. If you have a fireplace in the home, have your chimney inspected annually to reduce the risk of fire, and be sure to never leave a fire or a space heater unattended or going while you sleep.
Decorate with care. The decorations commonly associated with Christmas, such as trees and lights, present an electrical hazard if they are not installed correctly. Christmas tree fires due to electricity are extremely common, often as a result of the lights being plugged in improperly. Make sure to not overload outlets or power cables, and never use decorations with frayed wiring.
If you have fire damage at your home this holiday season, call the fire restoration professionals at SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler at (334) 287-1144.
Winter Weather Fire Safety
Winter weather isn’t a common occurrence in our area, but winter storms do happen from time to time. It is important to keep the following advice in mind before, during, and after a winter storm hits our area. These tips will help keep you and your family safe from a winter fire.
- Test all smoke alarms. Do this at least once a month. This way you will know they are working. Install carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Test the alarms.
- Plan two ways out of the home in case of an emergency. Clear driveway and front walk of ice and snow. This will provide easy access to your home.
- Make sure your house number can be seen from the street. If you need help, firefighters will be able to find you.
- Be ready in case the power goes out. Have flashlights on hand. Also, have battery-powered lighting and fresh batteries. Never use candles.
- Stay aware of winter weather. Listen to the television or radio for updates. Watch for bulletins online.
- Check on neighbors. Check on others who may need help.
- Generators should be used outdoors. Keep them away from windows and doors. Do not run a generator inside your garage, even if the door is open.
- Stay away from downed wires. Report and downed wires to authorities.
- Be ready if the heat stops working. Use extra layers of clothes and blankets to stay warm. If you use an emergency heat source, keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away.
- Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room. Turn them off when you go to bed.
There are more home fires in winter than in any other season. Half of all home heating fires happen in December, January, and February.
As you stay cozy and warm this winter season be fire smart! If you do suffer fire damage at your home, give the fire restoration professionals at SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler a call at (334) 287-1144.
Protect Your Home from Water Damage
You can protect your home from water damage in order to avoid costly insurance claims and ruined belongings. Follow these five steps to keep your house well-maintained in preparation for any event.
Locate Your Water Main
The best way to avoid water damage in your home is to locate your water main. If you can't locate the source of the water damage, turning off the water supply to your house will at least prevent more water from leaking in the meantime.
Check Your Water Pressure
If the water going through your pipes is too highly pressured, it may cause the pipes or hoses to buckle under all of that weight. Contact a local plumber for a checkup of your residential water system to ensure it is holding the pressure it was designed for. You can also get a damage assessment from SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler if the water leak has already begun and you need additional assistance locating the source or repairing the damage.
Maintain All Appliances
Broken appliances and poorly-maintained HVAC units are common reasons why there is water damage in your home. Invest in regular maintenance schedules so you can stay on top of your appliances. Make sure they still function properly. If you see the signs of disrepair, you can get in touch with a SERVPRO representative and schedule a water damage assessment.
Clean Your Gutters
Gutters should be cleaned 1-2 times per year to avoid too much blockage. Leaves, dirt, and other debris gather in the gutters over time and can create cavities for water buildup after a downpour. It’s also important to double-check that your downspouts are facing away from the home so the water can freely escape outside of your house.
Watch Your Water Bill
Some water damage is subtle, and you may not realize that you have damage at all. This can happen when the location of the damage is somewhere such as a crawlspace or your backyard. Keep an eye on your water bill to see if your usage charges skyrocket from one month to the next for no reason. This can be a good indicator that water is leaking somewhere in your home.
Call SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler at (334) 287-1144 at the first sign of water damage in your home. Our technicians offer full damage assessment and restorative solutions for issues big and small.
A Sump Pump Can Help Avoid a Flooded Basement
A sump pump can help remove any water that collects in your home’s basement. The sump pump will collect any water that makes its way inside from heavy rains or extra ground water. If the pump fails for whatever reason, any water that collects in the sump basin can eventually overflow into the basement and cause water damage.
Below are 6 tips to ensure that your sump pump is working properly.
- Confirm the pump is working before a storm. Pour a bucket of water into your sump pump to activate the pump.
- Clean the inside of your sump out. Some pumps that are not used regularly are more prone to developing sediment. If the lid of your sump pump does not cover the basin some objects may end up in some pump and cause a clog.
- Install a battery backup system. Install a secondary pump that is battery operated. This is important in the instance of a power outage. The battery backup pump is going to drain the battery when the primary pump does not have electricity, also in the situation where your primary pump is not keeping up with the extra inflow of water.
- Know what type of sump pump equipment you have. If your sump pump breaks or malfunction you know your model and serial number to quickly purchase any parts to fix your pump.
- Know how your sump pump operates. Knowing the workings of the system and how it operates will help you troubleshoot and determine any malfunctions allowing you to save money. Also, knowing how it operates will prevent you from being taken advantage of by professionals.
- Install an alarm system – Installing an alarm will let you know when your sump pump has stopped working.
It is important to either install a battery back-up or an alarm to your sump pump to prevent basement flooding. It will save you money in the long run.
If you experience basement flooding from your sump pump, call the professional team at SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler at (334) 287-1144.
All About Smoke Damage
Smoke damage comes with just about every fire. Even though we may not be able to see the effects of smoke damage, it is important to understand that smoke is an invasive substance that merits more restoration efforts than what initially meets the eye. By learning more about smoke’s invasive nature, you can better understand the dangers it poses to homes and commercial business.
Why Is Smoke Invasive?
Seeping into cracks and crevices, smoke has many hiding places. For that reason, attempts at cleaning surfaces will only cause soot particles to smear. The porous quality of drywall also makes for another place in which smoke can hide. When smoke makes its way into drywall, it can also infiltrate insulation, which often results in a need for demolition work in order to eradicate smoke odor in the affected areas. Based on the nature of the affected contents, as well as their proximity to the fire’s source, the intensity of smoke damage may vary.
Surprising Effects of Smoke Damage
After a fire, you may discover shapes resembling spider webs on the walls and ceilings of your home or commercial business. These are not spider webs, but smoke and soot residue left behind by the fire. In this case, smoke damage is visible. However, this is not always the case. For example, the aftermath of protein fires is characteristically invisible, as they do not leave a trail of smoke or soot. This does not mean that they do not leave behind damage. Instead, there is still a lingering smoke odor and soot, which is acidic, and can corrode metal objects over time, risking long-term damage.
Why Is Demolition Necessary?
While smoke damage is sometimes invisible, it is important to consider that areas of homes or commercial businesses that have endured smoke damage may still require demolition for a thorough restoration. Demolition work is frequently necessary because scrubbing surfaces does not combat the hidden aspects of smoke damage. Smoke, soot, and smoke odor often take refuge in small cracks and crevices. Additionally, these substances can also sneak into the gaps separating drywall and interior firewalls in homes and businesses. Specifically, smoke odor may infiltrate insulation and hot, humid weather can cause the smell to re-emerge. Scrubbing only scratches at the surface of the much larger issue of invasive smoke damage.
How Do We Combat Invasive Smoke Damage at SERVPRO?
As soon as we arrive onsite at the scene of the fire, we immediately get to work removing charred or burned materials. Additionally, we “chase” the smoke through open areas in an effort to identify every room of the home or business to which the smoke has spread. In this way, we can take thorough inventory of every area requiring smoke damage restoration services. Because water frequently accompanies smoke damage, we also prioritize extracting water and drying the affected area. Continuing the restoration process, we utilize our specialized equipment in order to eliminate the smoke odor. The final step of our process involves sealing off small, difficult-to-reach cracks and crevices that contain lingering smoke odor, using a sealant.
Trust SERVPRO with Smoke Damage
If your home or business has endured a fire that has resulted in smoke damage, be sure to call SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler right away at (334) 287-1144. Our 24/7 emergency services can guarantee that your smoke damage will be addressed immediately in order to reduce the spread and invasion of smoke. Our professional teams will arrive onsite quickly and get to work combating the issue, using our tried and trusted restoration techniques. From deodorizing affected areas to cleaning contents, we are capable of handling the entire restoration job from start to finish. You can trust SERVPRO to have you covered throughout the restoration, demolition, and mitigation processes.
What to Do After a Commercial Fire Damage
The word “fire” strikes fear in the hearts of most people, especially business owners.
If your business or commercial property caught on fire, don't panic. Instead, call the professionals of SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler and let us start cleaning up immediately. Immediate action is the key to limiting damages and expediting the restoration process, and choosing our team of industry specialists is the secret to attaining the sophisticated services you deserve. All of our IICRC-certified technicians will work with diligence and determination to get your commercial property back in pristine condition.
Knowing which steps to take in the face of a commercial fire can help prevent you from becoming anxious, losing money, and undergoing extensive property damages. To handle fire damage successfully and speedily, implement the following four tips:
- Call The Insurance Company Immediately.
Be sure that you call your insurance company once the fire is out. This step is important because your insurance agent will work with you to file a claim and determine how much coverage you'll attain for the commercial damages.
- Contact A Fire Remediation Expert.
In addition to fire, smoke, and soot damage, your business may also suffer from water damage as a result of the firefighting efforts.
SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler specializes in fire and water damage restoration. We have the specific damage restoration training, personnel, and equipment and can quickly restore your business to pre-fire condition. Don't ever attempt to handle any of the cleanups, drying, or restoration processes on your own. Doing so could put you in peril of injury and illness.
- Assemble Your Records.
In addition to contacting a fire remediation expert, make sure that you assemble your business's essential records. You'll want to have this information with you when you start working with your insurance company. To guarantee that you can have all of your files ready in a safe place, make a point to buy a fireproof safe where they can be stored.
- Get Permission To Reenter The Building.
Always ask the fire department or another local authority whether you can re enter your building. In some cases, a fire can weaken the structural integrity of the commercial property and make it subject to collapse. This is why you need to assure that reentry is safe for you and your employees.
Call SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler at (334) 287-1144 if your business has suffered fire or smoke damage!
Determining How to Clean Fire & Smoke Damage
Fire damages can present different cleaning and restoration situations depending on how elements interact as the fire progresses. When our team inspects a fire, they are looking at it from two angles. The first way of cleaning is “clean to clean.” Our team only uses this method if the amount of soot is very light. The second method is “clean to paint.” This method of cleaning is used in the majority of our fire cleanings. In this method, our technicians will remove as much of the soot as possible, but the majority of these surfaces will have to be painted once the fire cleanup is complete. Here are some factors our team considers to determine what type of method to use.
Type of Surface: Porous surfaces allow particles and odor to penetrate further and are much more difficult to clean. Nonporous surfaces such as vinyl wall coverings and glossy enamel paint are easier to clean than flat latex paint or paper wall coverings. Synthetic fibers can attract greater concentrations of residue than natural fibers, but usually synthetics clean better than natural fabrics.
Age of Surface: Generally, the older the surface, the harder it is to clean. This holds true whether the surface is paint, fabric, or carpet. For example, as older paint deteriorates, it becomes more porous and its adhesion to the surface is weakened.
Amount of Heat: The hotter the fire, the harder it will be to clean surfaces. Heat causes surfaces to expand and become more porous. Residue and odors can penetrate all surfaces more effectively. Heat can also char materials or melt and bubble finishes. In these cases, cleaning alone will not restore the surfaces. Refinishing will be required.
Amount of Moisture: Moisture sets residues and makes them more likely to stain surfaces permanently. In fires where sprinklers were activated or surfaces were saturated as firefighters were fighting the fire, residues will be much more difficult to clean. Damp weather and walls that are damp from condensation also help set residues. Moisture and heat can combine with smoke residues to cause surfaces to become yellowed.
Type of Material Burned: Burned synthetic materials produce residues much more difficult to remove than burned natural materials. Plastics and rubber create wet, smeary residues that can stain surfaces. Wood and other natural materials leave a drier residue that is easier to clean.
Air Pressure: Hot air expands. As the temperature of air increases, the volume of air increases. Expanding air creates pressure that can drive soot into cracks and crevices, making cleaning difficult.
Impingement: As the temperature of air becomes hotter, the air movement becomes more turbulent. This turbulent air moves with greater velocity through a structure and collides with surfaces. The sharp collisions of smoke residues splattering on vertical surfaces is called "impingement," and may leave residues that are more difficult to remove.
Temperature Change: Smoke residues may cause some types of damage due to heat changes. If residues contain hot oils and are cooled quickly due to temperature change, the residues may form a film on a surface that is difficult to clean.
If you experience fire damage at your home, call SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler at (334) 287-1144.
Kitchen Fires During the Holidays
Kitchen fires are the number one cause of home fires, and a grease fire is the most common type of kitchen fire. This definitely rings true during the holiday season. Your home’s kitchen is where heat, electricity, water and grease all come together. A grease fire is extremely dangerous as it can get out of control quickly and spread from the stove throughout the kitchen and other rooms of the house.
There are two common types of grease fires in the kitchen. One is in the cooking pan itself and the other is under the burner in the drip pan. Often, drip pan fires result from previous cooking sessions. When something is spilled into the drip pan it cannot be cleaned until the burner and the stove has cooled. It’s not uncommon for people to forget to go back and clean the drip pan, setting themselves up for trouble the next time they cook.
Here are some tips for preventing kitchen grease fires:
- Before cooking anything, make sure the burner is cool and wipe up any spills in the drip pan and around the burner before turning on the heat.
- The most common reason for a grease fire is leaving a hot pan unattended. Keep your eye on all pans while cooking.
- Pay attention to heat ratings for cooking oil. Some oils can be heated more than others before catching fire. If you are cooking and the oil starts to smoke, it is too hot. The flash point of a grease fire is 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease will smoke furiously before it ignites, so if you notice smoke, turn down the heat immediately.
- Keep cookbooks, towels, paper towels and anything combustible away from the stove. A grease fire can quickly turn into a bigger fire if it catches onto other combustibles.
- Avoid heating grease before putting food into it. Food can fall quickly into the grease and make it splash out, causing grease burns to you or hitting the heat source and catching fire.
- When deep frying, use a pan or cooking container designed for deep frying that will allow equal space of the grease and food contents above what you are frying. For example, if you are cooking chicken and the grease and chicken are three inches deep, the pan sides should be at least six inches deep.
- Have a class ABC fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Experts recommend having at least three fire extinguishers in your home; in the kitchen, garage and main living area.
- If a pan does catch fire, the best thing to do is smoother it, by using an oven mitt and placing a lid on top of the pan or by using a fire extinguisher. NEVER throw water on the fire or try to run it to the sink or outside.
And if a kitchen grease fire does get out of control, resulting in damage or odor to your home, our experts at SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler (334) 287-1144. We can clean your home "Like it never even happened."
What You Should & Shouldn't Do After a Fire
When a fire happens in your home, it’s a scary moment. After your home has been released, and you are allowed to re-enter it, seeing the damage for the first time can be shocking. Your first instinct is to start touching damaged items, and attempting to clean them. But we advise highly against that, as it can cause more damage by doing so. There is a lot to know when it comes to a fire clean up. To help, we’re going to provide a list of things that you should and shouldn’t do after a fire.
- Wear gloves before touching anything. Oils in your hands can permanently set soot.
- Limit movement in the house to prevent particles from being embedded into upholstery and carpet.
- Place dry, colorfast towels or old linens on rugs, upholstery, and carpet traffic areas.
- If the electricity is off, empty freezers and refrigerators completely. Prop doors open to help prevent odor.
- Wipe soot from chrome on kitchen and bathroom faucets, trim, and appliances. Then protect these surfaces with a light coating of lubricant.
- If heat is off during the winter, pour RV antifreeze in sinks, toilet bowls, holding tanks and tubs to avoid pipe and fixture freezing.
- Wash both sides of your house plant leaves.
- Change the HVAC filter. Leave the system off until a trained professional checks the system out.
You Should NOT:
- Attempt to wash any walls or painted surfaces until you talk to a SERVPRO professional.
- Attempt to shampoo carpet or upholstered furniture without consulting with a SERVPRO professional.
- Attempt to clean any electrical appliances. They may have been close to the fire, heat, or water source.
- Consume any food or beverages that may have been stored close to a fire, or heat source.
- Turn on ceiling fixtures if the ceiling is wet. The wires may be wet or damaged and it could cause electrical shock. Air movement may cause secondary damage.
- Attempt to clean smoke-damaged laundry. If sending garments to a dry cleaner, make sure they specialize in fire/smoke damaged materials.
SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler is Here to Help you during your difficult time. We are trained and certified to assess and restore your loss. Call us at (334) 287-1144!
Common Causes of House Fires
Our franchise has had an influx in calls recently from homeowners who have suffered fire damage. Fire can happen at a moment’s notice. Below are a few things that are common causes of residential house fires in our area.
1) Unattended Candles - Leaving a burning flame unattended is not always a recipe for disaster until you have a pet or small child. The child or pet can inadvertently knock the candle onto the floor and start a fire. Make sure you have those in an area that is without reach or keep a constant eye on the candle.
2) Unattended Contents on Oven/Stove - It is easy to step away from the stove or oven when cooking/baking. A quick run to the restroom or visitor at the door can take attention away from the stove and contents can boil over and quickly start a fire. It does not take long for the fire to spread, make sure to keep a watchful eye on what you've got cooking!
3) Dryer Vents - The vent tube on your dryer is a constant collector of lint which when heated enough can cause fire. When running a vent tube try to minimize the number of turns you have in the tube to promote proper airflow and minimization of lint accumulation. At least once a year clean your vent tube, your local hardware store should have a kit to help get the hard to reach areas. As an added benefit, this should help your clothes dry better.
4) Poorly disposed of cigars/cigarettes - With the dry leaves and grass outside it is easy for smokers to flick their cigarette butts into the yard, but a small spark alone can start a fire. Though northwest Iowa has suffered from its fair share of wet conditions, things may change and this is something to keep in mind. Dispose of your cigar/cigarette butts responsibly.
5) Faulty Electrical - Many homeowners have taken to doing their own projects around the house including electrical. Some things to consider when doing electrical work is making sure everything is grounded properly and that there are no loose connections. Make sure to have wire nuts handy as well as electrical tape. By not having proper connections the electrical current can arc and start a fire. Also keep in mind as you replace outlets, when putting an outlet in high moisture areas, use a GFCI outlet to add an extra layer of protection.
By taking a few precautionary steps, preventing a house fire can be easy. Take the extra time and make sure it is done right and keep an eye on those potential hazard points.
If you suffer fire damage at your home, call the fire restoration professionals at SERVPRO of Livingston, Demopolis & Butler at (334) 287-1144.