Recent Fire Damage Posts

Be Ready

1/2/2018 (Permalink)

According to a study done by National Fire Protection Association

Home fires

  • Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Only one in five home fires were reported during these hours.
  • One-quarter of home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom. Another quarter resulted from fires in the living room, family room or den.
  • Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • In 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 365,500 home structure fires. These fires caused 2,560 deaths, 11,075 civilian injuries, and $7 billion in direct damage.
  • On average, seven people die in U.S. home fires per day.
  • Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.
  • Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths.
  • Most fatal fires kill one or two people..
  • During 2010--2014, roughly, one of every 338 households reported a  home fire per year.

Escape planning

  • According to an NFPA survey, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
  • Almost three-quarters of Americans do have an escape plan; however, less than half  ever practiced it.
  • One-third of survey respondents who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening. The time available is often less. Only 8% said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out!

Smoke alarms

  • Three out of five home fire deaths in 2010-2014 were caused by fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
  • In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 94% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated 80% of the time.
  • When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.
  • An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, or where extra time is needed to awaken or assist others, both types of alarms, or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms are recommended.  

When disaster strikes, call SERVPRO of Monroeville!

Facts about Home Fires and Smoke Alarms

12/20/2017 (Permalink)

SERVPRO of Monroeville is always here to help and we want to make sure that everyone stays educated so that way we can find ways to avoid home disasters. Here are some recent home fire facts to keep in mind when replacing smoke detectors and keeping our homes as safe as possible. 

  • Having a working smoke alarm can cut the risk of home fire deaths in half.
  • It's important to know the difference between hardwired and battery powered smoke detectors. Hardwired alarms operate 90% of the time and battery powered ones only work 84% of the time. Which is a pretty decent difference when it comes to a home fire.
  • According to a National Fire Prevention Week survey only 1/3 of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.

It is important to have a plan in motion. If you need help developing a fire escape plan SERVPRO would gladly help you along. Or you can visit www.nfpa.org for more information. 

Monroeville Properties Receive Smoke & Fire CleanUp from SERVPRO

11/29/2017 (Permalink)

Your chimney and flue add architectural interest to your home, but the real function of your chimney is to take dangerous flue gasses from the wood stove, fireplace, or furnace out of your home safely. It helps the air in your household stay breathable, just like your windows in your kitchen vents, bathroom windows, and attic. However, unlike the other exhaust points in your home, wood stove and fireplace chimneys need a particular kind of care. 
 
In action, a chimney fire in your South Hills home can be impressive and cause you to need fire damage repair from a professional remediation company such as SERVPRO. Indications there is a fire in your chimney includes plenty of dense smoke, a loud popping or cracking noise, and a hot, intense smell. 
 
Chimney fires can be dramatic and noisy enough to be detected by people passing by or your neighbors. Dense smoke or flames could shoot out from the top of the chimney. It has been reported by homeowners that they were startled by a low rumbling sound which is reminiscent of a low flying airplane or a freight train. 
 
Undetected Chimney Fires 
Chimney Fires which are slow-burning do not receive enough air or have the fuel to be visible or dramatic, and they many times go undetected until an inspection of the chimney later. However, very high temperatures are reached and can create as much damage to the chimney structure, and parts of the house close to it, as their more spectacular counterparts explosive fires.
 
Chimney Fires and Creosote 
Wood stoves and fireplaces are made to contain wood-fuel fires safely while heating your home. Chimneys have the job of getting rid of combustion by-products, which are the materials made from burning wood, including water vapor, smoke, gasses, wood particles that are unburned, tar fog, hydrocarbon, and different minerals. As these materials are rising and flow into the cooler chimney, condensation occurs. The residue which that is left sticks to the inside walls of the chimney and is known as creosote. 
 
Black or brown in appearance, creosote can be flakey and crust, shiny and hardened, or drippy and sticky. All forms can occur in a chimney. No matter the form it takes, creosote is very combustible, so if enough quantity builds up and the temperature of the inside of the flue is high enough, you could be dealing with a resulting chimney fire. 
 
When a fire in your chimney damages your home, SERVPRO is always ready to help you clean up the mess and repair the damage. Smoke and odor remediation and indoor air quality are focal points of a SERVPRO service. It is, however, important to have your chimney regularly cleaned to try and avoid this problem in the first place. 
 
SERVPRO of Monroeville and surrounding areas, knows how damage chimney fires can be to your home. Give them a call as soon as possible after the fire is out at (412) 825- 5480, so they can prevent further damages from occurring. 

What Will Your Sign on the Door Read?

11/29/2017 (Permalink)

Information at Your Fingertips! 

I recently had a conversation with a maintenance manager, John. His office shares space with one of the buildings he manages.

 I asked, "John, what would happen to this facility if you were at one of your other locations and a emergency happened here?"

"Well, I would have to leave that site and travel here" he stated.

"But what if that building also had an emergency? Who would be able to get access to your mechanical room to get a situation under control?"

"Well, I have the keys. The managers all know to just call me."

"So you are managing a broken sprinkler line at site A and site B calls with a broken water line... What do you do" I asked.

John thought for a moment, I went on. 

"John, you like to fish. You are out on the river with no cell service. How are the people who depend on that space being usable to stay productive going to manage a emergency in your absence?"

His organization had stretched him too thin and had failed to develop contingency plans to help him manage emergencies remotely. His basement office housed the only emergency plans and blueprints for the facility he was in. His office was kept locked when he was not around. And, as you can guess, he had the keys on his person.

Luckily, SERVPRO has a Solution!

The SERVPRO Emergency Ready Program (ERP). A quick cloud based collection of need-to-know information to handle building emergencies. It's not as exhaustive as a complete risk management program, but it can serve as a great starting point to begin those emergency preparedness discussions with important information that key people at every site should know.

Make sure a primary employee at every site has keys to the mechanical room and knowing where the shut off values are.

In John's case it was a relatively painless fix. Every site now has another person with a set of keys to the mechanical room and that data is fed into the ERP cloud so every business in the building can access it. It was a time investment of less than two hours that almost certainly will save both time and money in an emergency.

The best part? John now has a plan to be able to prioritize his response and emergency needs. He also feels a little less worried when goes off grid.

For questions or to set up your no-cost Emergency Readiness Program, call 412-825-5480. 

SERVPRO's Tips for Summer Grilling Safety

6/28/2017 (Permalink)

Grill Safety to consider when breaking out your inner backyard culinary skills.

June and July are peak months for summer grilling fires.  The Memorial Day weekend is approaching quickly, it’s time to dust off the grills and let the inner backyard culinary skills to work.  As exciting as it is to break out the grill for the official start of the summer season right, we have to always consider the safety that needs to be taken when preparing to light up the grill.

NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) says that the U.S. fire department responded to an average of 8,900 home fire that involved the use of grills, hibachis, or barbecues per year.  These 8,900 fires caused annual averages of 10 civilian deaths, 160 injuries, and $118 million in direct property damage. Almost all the losses resulted from structure fires. The leading causes of grill fires were a failure to properly cleaning of the grill, placement of the grill because it was placed to close to a structure, and leaving the grill unattended. Five out of six (83%) of grills involved in home fires were fueled by gas while 13% used other sources of fuel.

Precautions to take while grilling

Propane:

  • Stay alert when grilling. Avoid grilling when you are tired or have consumed too much alcohol.
  • Do Not leave your grill unattended.
  • Keep the grill in a place that is free from flammable items and away from porch rails, and low lying branches.
  • Keep children and pets as far away from the grill as possible
  • Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year.

NOTE: A light soap and water solution applied to the hose is a great way to check for leaks. You can often smell a propane leak, but propane will also release bubbles when the soap and water solution is applied. If you detect a leak, turn the gas tank and grill off. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.

  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before igniting.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately move away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.
  • If the flames go out for any reason, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 15 minutes before re-lighting it.
  • Keep your grill clean by regularly removing grease or fat buildup from the grates and trays below.

Charcoal grill safety tips to consider:

  • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquid to the flames.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • Electric charcoal starters do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container with a lid.

What To Do After a Fire

6/28/2017 (Permalink)

The first 48 hours after a fire damage can make the difference between restoring versus replacing your property and personal belongings. SERVPRO of Monroeville provides timely response with mitigation services ranging from fire, smoke and soot removal to contents claims inventory and document restoration. These services help ensure your property, belongings and memories are restored to preloss condition when possible.

What You Can Do Until Help Arrives

  • Limit movement in the home to prevent soot particles from spreading and additional damage from occurring.
  • Place clean towels or old linens on rugs and high traffic areas and upholstery.
  • Coat chrome faucets, trim and appliances with petroleum jelly or oil.
  • Place aluminum foil or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpet.
  • Do not wash any walls or painted surfaces.
  • Do not shampoo carpet or upholstery.
  • Do not clean any electrical equipment.
  • Do not send clothing to a dry cleaner since improper cleaning may set smoke odor.

SERVPRO of Monroeville is available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year to help you regain control quickly. Give us a call at 412-528-5480

Don't Let a Holiday Fire in Monroeville Ruin Your Holiday Spirit

11/21/2016 (Permalink)

Fire Damage Don't Let a Holiday Fire in Monroeville Ruin Your Holiday Spirit SERVPRO of Monroeville is here to help, with any size fire damage- 412-825-5480

Smoke residue comes in different varieties, and some are easier to clean than others. Dry, wet, protein and fuel oil smoke residues are all important to know how to remove. Take the guesswork out of cleaning and restoring your fire damaged property in South Knoxville by hiring our expertly trained technicians today. We're here to help you through the situation and return your property to its pre-damage condition. Our SERVPRO technicians understand that as a fire progresses through its stages, it can produce both wet and dry smoke. A different cleaning approach is needed to handle each type of residue left over by an event.

The smoke residue left behind depends on the rate of combustion, the amount of oxygen and kind of material or substance that burns throughout the entire fire. While we understand that if the event is fast-burning and oxygen-rich, it will produce dry smoke, while the fire is oxygen-starved, it will produce slow-burning, smoldering wet smoke. Natural Materials such as wood, paper, cork and other natural fibers create dry, small powdery residues that don't smear. However, synthetic materials like plastic and rubber often produce large easily-smeared particles.

SERVPRO technicians are trained to determine the conditions of a dry versus wet smoke event and apply the proper cleaning procedures to handle each particular situation.

Cleaning Dry Smoke Residues - These types of residues can be easier to clean. Dry smoke only contains a few aerosols that deposit small, dry particles on surface areas and usually don't stain as deeply as wet smoke. Meaning that the residues and odors left behind by dry smoke take less aggressive cleaning tactics to remove. However, dry smoke fires tend to burn hotter and therefore cause more heat damage than others do.

Cleaning Wet Smoke Residues - This type of residue consists of a large concentration of aerosols including varnishes, solvents, and other liquids. With these slow-burning fires, air currents aren't as high and give the wet smoke more time to creep into crevices and small enclosed areas that typically avoid damage in faster-burning fires.

We often run into circumstances at SERVPRO where many items exposed to wet smoke aren't restorable even though damage appears minimal. The aerosols end up penetrating surfaces and are absorbed into different materials, leaving large black particles behind and stripping stained finishes. Taking a minute to understand the possible reasons behind the causes of losing items in a fire is only one reason to hire us. We take a lot of pride in the work that we do for you and want to assist you during this trying time.

Contact SERVPRO of Monroeville, Pennsylvania at (412) 825-5480 

13 Trends in the Restoration Industry

6/8/2016 (Permalink)

We find this an excellent article & have shared with many via email & our social media. Now we want to post it as a blog because it is great insight into our industry.

An article from "Restoration & Remediation" magazine, January 9, 2016

Written by Michelle Blevins and Michael A. Pinto, CSP, CM

National Credentials, Struggling Franchises, Bureaucracy, & more

Think back through 2015. Can you think of any changes in the restoration and remediation industry? Yep, I bet you probably can. There were some major changes to mold remediation regulations in New York State, updates to the ANSI/IICRC S500 and S520 standards, we lost an industry pioneer with the passing of Marty King, and there were numerous changes and updates to available equipment, software, etc. It’s a list that goes on and on. Change is inevitable.

Now, look ahead into 2016 and beyond. Do you have any predictions of what may lie ahead?

Michael Pinto, CSP, CMP, has published more than 200 articles and several books on IAQ, mold remediation and other remediation-related topics. As the CEO of Wonder Makers Environmental, Pinto also serves on the board of directors for the Indoor Air Quality Association and Cleaning Industry Research Institute. Seriously, his credentials go on and on. When it comes to this industry, he knows his stuff.

In November, Pinto spoke at PLR Expo and shared these 13 predictions for the future of this industry. Just before his presentation, Mr. Pinto approached me and offered up this presentation (in article form) to R&R’s readers, if I did the writing! So, I’m honored to take on the task of putting his future outlook into words. What you read below is straight from him – just put to paper by me.

1. National Credentials for Restoration Work

This is happening on different levels, primarily in government. After every major disaster, talks start again about possibly requiring specific credentials for people working in disaster zones. It’s a slow process that’s been going on for 15-20 years both in government and industry. It did start getting some legs after Hurricane Katrina. In Louisiana, some state-required certifications were widely ignored to the point it drew attention from the governor who waived certain rules for 60 days.

With franchises and industry organizations growing, there is more and more talk of credentials like this, especially among emergency managers. Those managers understand the risk involved in not having a larger organization to draw upon for credible workers in case of a disaster.

On the flip side, there are arguments against these credentials. They could slow down response, and in an emergency could create violators out of competent restorers.

Incidents like the recent terror attack in Paris could also fuel the effort toward pre-screening responders for mass casualty events. Such pre-screening could include background checks, plus OSHA compliance. During TV news coverage of the Paris attacks, we witnessed some of the biological matter on the sidewalks and streets being simply hosed off into the drains. Is that really the best way to deal with a mass casualty scene? Putting proper procedures in place could be a good starting point.

2. Government Will Continue to Dabble with Licensing, but Slowly

There continues to be inconsistency with licensing for mold, lead, and asbestos remediation. Basically, licensing is being driven by money and statistics. What we’re finding out in many places is the promise doesn’t always live up to the reality. Government expects these programs to be self-funded through fees, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Virginia once had a mold licensing law, but repealed it after three years because it was difficult to sustain.

If the licensing route isn’t chosen, restoration contractors could be forced to work together to form some kind of training regimen, similar to what happened in British Columbia. (http://bcarc.ca/)

3. Bureaucracy Will Get Worse

It’s hard for a government agency to be focused on customer service and public service simultaneously. From a structural and attitude standpoint, bureaucracy is getting worse, not better, and more aggressive enforcement will be at the expense of real assistance. The whole idea of the bureaucracy becoming kinder, friendlier, gentler is not a reality at all.

This kind of attitude can mean documentation suddenly becomes more important and a bigger part of the focus than the actual process. All the ducks have to be in a row before you even dream about serving a customer. There seems to be more of a “gotcha” mentality where agencies make examples of some businesses that make a mistake, rather than fostering growth and learning within businesses and helping them succeed, while following the rules.

4. Insurance Industry Splits

Look for the insurance industry to continue to split. You’ve already seen this a little bit with treatment of preferred vendors. Some insurance companies are trying to “vertically integrate” by buying lumber yards, hygiene firms, creating their own restoration companies, etc. Their thought process is if they’re already insuring the risk then providing the payout, so they essentially want to own the whole process from top to bottom. It’s unclear how far this will get.

On the other hand, some insurance companies understand the liability of having preferred vendors. It’s the one out of 1,000 cases that goes wrong that draws the wrong kind of attention and liability. So, these insurance companies are thinking about softening the relationships they have with preferred vendors.

In fact, some insurance companies are tending to prefer to go back to the “olden days” where there were more personal relationships between insurers, vendors, adjusters, etc., because they see where there can be problems among bigger companies, such as liability and customer service.

5. Franchises May Struggle

There is a case that could very well make it to the U.S. Supreme Court in which the government is trying to redefine who are contractors, subcontractors, temps, who owns them, etc. The government is trying to say a franchisor is a co-employer with the franchisees. That iscompletely opposite to why we set up franchises! They are meant to help with overall business functions, marketing, tools, training, etc., but franchisees are still running their own business.

Should that ruling get upheld that franchisors are co-employers with franchisees, there will be a huge ripple effect through the entire industry. All of a sudden, becoming a franchisee has more risk and the corporate people have to have a lot more input. It would also mean, under the Federal Health Care Law, every employee beneath the franchisor be offered a certain level of insurance. It would not work for someone in Los Angeles to carry the same liability as someone in Terra Haute, Ind.

On the flip side, cooperatives (DKI, Contractor Connection, Code Blue, IMACC, etc.) could benefit. It will be much more far-fetched to say coops made up of a number of independent contractors are co-employers because they do not have some of the same legal and financial ties.

6. Growing Public Awareness

This is particularly in reference to growing environmental issues and awareness. Restoration contractors deal with hazards and contaminants all day. When you introduce new chemicals, technology, and other products as quickly as we do (especially on the home building side – new paints, flooring, etc.), we are adding a lot of things into buildings that weren’t there even five years ago. And truth be told, manufacturers don’t always know how these are going to react over time, or in a loss like a fire or flood. Now – all those items are in these homes, and the restoration industry comes in with their new chemicals and machines to remediate. How do we know what’s really happening when all the chemicals and materials mix?

Have you heard the term WDB for Water Damaged Building? It’s a term growing in popularity as we learn there is a lot more going on in a WDB than just mold. We’ll talk more about this a little further in just a moment.

7. A Tighter Connection

There is a growing tie between medicine and the environment. Restorers and other professionals are increasingly aware about caring for “sensitized individuals.” Years ago, I (Michael Pinto) said there was too much anecdotal evidence of people getting sick after being in a mold-contaminated building for doctors to deny the problem, even if they don’t yet know the causative factors. Once they figure out a treatment drug and big pharma is involved, this will take off.

Today, there are symptoms, causes, and prescriptions for people sensitive to mold. Plus, we have discovered a genetic component that makes some people more sensitive to mold than others, and the naming of a related illness: CIRS. There is even a $15 non-invasive screening test for people to see if they’ve been exposed to mold.

There is also the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index, which analyzes dust samples for 26 different species of mold. Two-thirds of those species are considered to be indicators of water damage. Plus, the EPA has created a comparison chart to identify a WDB. (http://www.epa.gov/mold)

All of this could trigger permissible exposure limits. Technology is already catching up with the computerized Mold Propensity Index. For about $200, it provides remediation recommendations for a mold contaminated home.

8. A More Active Justice System

Just look at all the points above! There are a number of legal hazards out there – including mold, lead, water damage, and infectious diseases. We can expect similar results compared to how lawsuits from asbestos exposure have skyrocketed in recent decades.

9. Continued Bleed-Over of Technology

There is a lot more cross-over between industries. Technology and chemicals are finding numerous uses, often traveling from the health care industry to remediation and into restoration. For example, look at how foamers started in the agricultural industry and traveled to food service, then remediation, then restoration, then health care. Similarly, surface sanitizers went from health care to remediation to use with sensitized individuals.

It’s also important to note the use of hydroxyl generators in a variety of situations, and some remediators opting for different techniques with sensitized individuals like essential oils, salt solutions, Hydrogen peroxide, organosilane surface protectors, etc.

10. Action vs. Talk

More and more people are rejecting marketing and want scientific proof of claims regarding equipment, chemicals, and other products. Ebola made a big difference in this. There was (and still isn’t) a proven killer of the Ebola virus. People want proof products are doing the job correctly.

11. Green vs. Greenwash

Claiming something is green is no longer going to cut it. Like the point above, people want proof what’s being used in their home is safe. Therefore, the industry is taking meaningful steps toward green chemistry rather than greenwashing. On the safety side of this, there are huge studies going around about nanotechnology as we continue manipulating things on the molecular level. Those changes are in turn appearing to affect people, especially sensitized individuals. It’s a huge trend in the safety field.

12. Closer Cooperation Between Industry Associations

This is already happening! ASHRAE and the IAQA recently merged; APIC and ASHRAE coordinated on responding to the Legionella outbreak; RIA, IAQA, and the IICRC presented a united position on Florida’s mold law changes; ISSA and CIRI worked on a joint standard; and the IICRC currently has nine MOUs. As the world becomes more complicated, it takes more people to get it right – so collaboration becomes key.

13. Marketing Will Keep Shifting

The industry is already trending toward social media promotions and educating through marketing, rather than straight sales techniques. The way you reach customers today will likely be very different in years to come.

Don’t let this list scare you. The restoration and remediation world will continue to evolve, just as it always has. Staying ahead of the curve is key. So stay informed through industry training, conferences, webinars, publications, and other resources.

In the words of Doc Brown in Back to the Future III, “Your future is whatever you make of it, so make it a good one!”

"Fire Board Up and The Human Touch"

6/8/2016 (Permalink)

Fire Damage "Fire Board Up and The Human Touch" Furnace Mineral Products building fire, Mercer, PA (2014)

A crew is called out by the production manager in the middle of the night. A residential fire is in process and will need a board-up. A crew chief arrives on the scene investigating how many windows are broken out; how many doors are broken out; is the house secure; what do we need to preserve for the fire marshal or investigators?

The next day estimators go out and listen to the family’s concerns regarding content/ belongings (china, urns with ashes, family heirlooms, etc.). If there are firearms in the house, a homeowner has to immediately remove these items on their own. SERVPRO teams learn what the family needs regarding clothing or temporary support and helps with resources. SERVPRO crew members begin packing out belongings to bring back to the franchise warehouse to ozone and clean according to restoration industry standards and SERVPRO best practices.

The signature touch? SERVPRO franchises are trained to help families and business owners who are devastated by fires, floods or other horrific circumstances – to care, to show the human side of the work. We certainly can make anything regarding a structure or contents “Like it never even happened.” but the emotional side of crisis takes a special team of people who understand, empathize, listen, and hold out their hand.

Fire Safety Around Your Home - Learn Not To Burn

6/8/2016 (Permalink)

Thanks to The Western Pennsylvania Hospital Burn Trauma Center for these Fire Safety Tips for the upcoming summer months:

IN YOUR YARD:

*Keep children away from BBQ grills.

*Use an electric starter to light your BBQ. Avoid lighter fluid, gasoline and newspaper.

*Keep hot coals in the BBQ until they are completely cooled. A child may pick up a hot coal left on the ground.

*Turn your lawnmower engine off and let it cool before adding gasoline.

*If burning leaves is permissible in your community, make sure the fire is in a contained area, and do not leave until the fire has been extinguished.

IT'S SPRING & SUMMER SO CLEAN YOUR BASEMENT:

*Throw away old newspapers, rags and other trash. These materials easily catch fire.

*Store flammable liquids such as gasoline, kerosene and paint outside in a cool, locked storage area. Do not store them in your basement or garage.

*Make sure power tools are properly grounded. Use the voltage specified on the tool or instruction manual. 

IN YOUR CAR:

*Repair your car outdoors, not in a closed garage. 

*Let an experienced mechanic handle all extensive repairs (priming the carburetor, etc.).

*Wait until the engine cools before unscrewing the radiator cap.

*Do not siphon gasoline or transport gasoline in the back of a truck.