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Protecting Your Home From Storm Water Damage

A heavy rainstorm has finally stopped. Or maybe a long winter has finally ended, and the deep snows have begun to melt.

While good weather may seem like a relief, the potential for water damage may just be beginning. Storm water runoff can quickly overwhelm natural and manmade systems, leading to flooding and property damage.

The steps you take today to prepare your home and yard for proper drainage can help avoid time-consuming and costly repairs when the bad weather does blow through.

In a natural environment, storm water runoff is absorbed by soil, evaporates into the atmosphere or flows into bodies of water, such as streams, lakes or rivers. Homeowners may need to recreate the natural environment on their property to address storm water runoff. This includes planting trees and other vegetation, building rain gardens and installing rain barrels or cisterns to collect roof water.

Rain on roof of a house

How Can You Protect Your Home from Storm Water?

“The key to developing a yard drainage plan is to understand the specific characteristics of your property and implement the system that works best for you,” says Mike Koppang, a Travelers Risk Control professional. During a storm, you can go outside and observe how the water flows. Take note of the different grades and slopes and whether they divert the flowing water away from your home. Look for any low spots that collect or pool water and for any steep slopes that have indications of surface erosion.

Consider the steps needed to protect your property from water runoff. Rain that falls on roofs, driveways, patios, roads and other impervious areas moves across the ground surface at greater speeds. The property adjacent to these areas could be more susceptible to damage. Frozen soil can also increase risk of damage by preventing water from being absorbed by the soil. Replacing impervious areas with pervious surfaces, such as permeable paving stones or pavers, can also help.

Other questions you might consider:

Is storm water that falls on impervious surfaces diverted away from your house? This is the work of things like roof gutter downspouts, driveways, walkways and patios. Runoff from these surfaces should be directed to an area that has the ability to absorb or slow the surface flow, such as landscaped areas, and away from your house.

Does your house have a stream, pond or lake close by? Consider the flood potential and how it may impact your property. You can research local flood maps that will detail flood water levels for various storm events and their flood potential.

Does your driveway or other impervious surface have a negative pitch back toward the house? Consider installing trench drains or area drains to help prevent pooling and divert water away from the house.

Do you have retaining walls on your property? If so, it is important that the walls have a drainage system in place to alleviate pressure behind the wall. Periodically clean weep holes to ensure they are not clogged. Surface water should not be allowed to cascade over the top of the wall and instead should be diverted to the end of the wall or around it.

Is a portion of your house below ground level, such as a basement? Make sure any sewer and water lines, or any other pipes or lines that penetrate subsurface walls, and foundation cracks are properly sealed. Basements that are prone to water intrusion should have a water collection system in place, such as a sump pump system. This system should be maintained with a battery backup for continued operation in the event of a power failure. Consider elevating mechanical systems or installing curbs around areas that need protecting but cannot be elevated, such as finished areas and storage areas. Exterior basement window wells should have covers and the ground surface of the well should be below the well rim.

Do you have a sewer or septic system and property with known high water tables? Have the system checked by a professional. If the groundwater rises too high, it can affect the efficiency and operation of the system. In some cases, this may lead to sewer back up or waste leaching above the ground or back into the house.

Surface storm water is not the only consideration for protecting your home. It is also important to assess the functionality of your whole home envelope system. Make sure that your house exterior is maintained, including roofing, flashings, weather barriers, windows, doors and sealants.

While you cannot prevent against all damage from storm water runoff during large acts of nature, these steps can help protect your home when storms do hit.

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Protecting Your Home From Storm Water Damage” Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent. Travelers Insurance. 7 Nov 2017 

Dishwasher Flooding

The standard dishwasher is a modern-day convenience many of us utilize with a great degree of satisfaction. This economical water-saver offers much relief when it comes to daily chores. In fact, Energy-Star rated dishwashers use, on average, as little as three gallons of water per load. On the other hand, washing dishes by hand consumes up to 27 gallons of water per load! Modern appliances like the handy dishwasher are a built-in time saver as well as an environmentally friendly machine.

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Dishwashers, like most kitchen appliances, are built to last. Many offer years upon years of convenience. On occasion, these dependable appliances have a tendency to leak or break, causing utter devastation within the kitchen. Not only is the automatic dishwashing convenience temporarily halted, but the damage that results can be an expensive fix.

Problems with Broken Dishwasher

The suds and dirty water that leak from a broken dishwasher can seep into your kitchen floorboards within minutes. Mold growth occurs within as little as 24 hours. So unless you detect the flood sooner rather than later, you’re in for a costly cleanup.

Periodically inspecting your handy dishwasher for leaks or potential problems is a tedious task, but one that will save you significant labor expenses and, perhaps, a high-cost replacement.

How to Prevent a Broken Dishwasher

The dishwasher is a tidy and prim device, with all the central hoses and components tucked neatly away inside. The appliance seems relatively uncomplicated. Checking your dishwasher takes a little familiarity with its inner workings. So where do you begin?

Inspect the Gasket

What is a gasket? The gasket is a rubber lining that keeps the suds and water from leaking out of your dishwasher anytime it operates. Easily check the functionality of the gasket with, first, a visual inspection for any obvious wear, and second, a piece of paper. Close the dishwasher door upon the paper. If the paper can be easily removed when the door is closed, a tight seal is not in place. Replace the gasket in this instance.

Notice the Water Level

In general, an operational dishwasher’s water level will remain at the lowest part of the dishwasher door. Upon running the dishwasher, if you notice the water level to be higher than the edge of the door when you open it just prior to the wash cycle, the float switch could be damaged; or, food particles may have clogged the strainer. Simply remove the strainer and thoroughly rinse it to remove any debris. If the water level continues to be high, replace the float switch.

Examine Both Hoses

Dishwashers come equipped with two hoses, one that fills and one that drains. Prior to inspecting the hoses, be sure to turn off the power to the dishwasher from the breaker box. You can check the hoses by removing the lower panel of your dishwasher. If you see any traces of wetness, the hoses may be too worn to operate efficiently. Significant water damage is likely to result over the long run. An additional method to check for the functionality of the hoses is to place a piece of paper underneath the hoses. If the paper becomes wet or saturated at any point, replace both hoses. Also check for and undo any kinks in the hose.

What to Do About a Flooded Dishwasher

An unexpected leak may spring if you do not perform periodic checks of the dishwasher’s internal mechanisms. Soapy suds that spread along the kitchen floor leave more than watery puddles to clean up. Developing mold spores are a cause for concern. Plus, in no way is it safe to step into a wet kitchen floor with a malfunctioning electrical appliance. The combination of electricity and water is extremely dangerous. All is not lost, when you are aware of the steps necessary to remediate the sudden mechanical failure.

Turn Off the Electricity

First, turn off the electricity to the kitchen. This safety precaution ensures that leaking water and electricity do not mix. Advise your family that the kitchen is off limits until the dishwasher is safe to use once again.

Shut off the Water

A quick reaction is necessary to prevent additional water damage to the flooring or paneling of surrounding cabinets in your kitchen. Find the waterline that works in conjunction with your dishwasher. You’ll likely locate this under the kitchen sink. Turn the valve clockwise completely to shut off the water to the dishwasher. Once the water source is turned off, take this time to examine the cause of the flooded dishwasher.

Mop Up Excess Water

Soak up any water that leaked onto your hardwood flooring, kitchen tiles or surrounding cabinetry. Hardwood flooring and wooden cabinets absorb water easily, creating a risky environment that encourages mold growth or discoloration and damage to surfaces, including swelling and warping. Swift action can prevent mold spores from contaminating the space as well as reduce other unfavorable conditions.

Call a Professional

Once water seeps deep into the kitchen flooring and cabinets, the resulting damage is difficult to remediate without professional help. Water damage restoration professionals are trained and experienced in all facets of water extraction and drying. Reputable companies like ServiceMaster by Restoration Contractors are immediately available to eliminate the standing floodwater that easily and effortlessly penetrates surfaces. Advanced water-extraction machinery is the most effective method used by trusted water damage restoration experts to thoroughly dry water-damaged areas, furnishings and structures.

When your dependable dishwasher suddenly interrupts your peace of mind with an unexpected leak, water damage restoration experts are a phone call away. Service technicians are available 24 hours a day in the event of emergencies to thoroughly remediate the results of any and all water damage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke Armstrong. “Dishwasher Flooding: How to Prevent and React” Web blog post. Restoration guides, Restoration Master. 31 Oct 2017

 

Snowbirds: Winterize Your Home While You’re Away

If you are a snowbird heading south for the winter, there are several key things you can do to help protect your vacant home. Taking these steps can help protect your home from theft, water damage, heating or electrical system malfunctions and other possible threats while you are away for an extended period of time.

Image result for winterized home

1. Make Your Home Appear as Though It Is Continuously Occupied

  • Forward your mail, stop newspaper delivery, and ask a friend or relative to collect flyers or other items that may be left at your door.
  • Arrange for someone to remove snow after storms.
  • Put motion-sensitive exterior lights and interior lights on timers and set them to come on at varying times to discourage prowlers.

2. Take Steps to Protect Your Home from Thieves

  • Confirm that your alarm systems are in working order and have been activated.
  • Secure external doors and windows with deadbolt locks, security-type hinges and sturdy door frames that cannot be spread apart. Install slide locks or other equivalent security locks on sliding glass doors or French doors.
  • Store valuables that you are not taking with you in a safe deposit box or other secure offsite location.
  • Do not post your vacation or travel plans on social media sites, as potential thieves can use that information to learn that your house is vacant.

3. Protect Your Pipes to Avoid Water Damage by Turning Off Your Water Supply

  • If a pipe bursts or leaks while you are away, it could cause significant damage. Consider completely turning off the water supply if no one will be in the home for an extended period of time. If your home is heated by an older steam heating system, consult with your heating professional to determine if it is safe to turn off the water supply for your particular heating system. Also, if your home is protected by a fire sprinkler system, do not turn off the water to this system.
  • Drain your pipes of all water by opening the faucets, and flush your toilet to clear the water from the tank and bowl, then consider pouring antifreeze in toilet tanks and bowls to prevent any remaining water from freezing and cracking.* Always use non-toxic antifreeze rated for plumbing systems.
  • To help confirm that the pipes have been drained, consider having a plumber blow compressed air through the pipes.

4. Keep Your Home and Plumbing Warm if Your Water Supply Stays On

  • If you decide against draining your water pipes, keep the furnace running to help ensure the home stays warm and the pipes do not freeze.
  • Set the temperature at 55°F or higher to help keep the interior of the floor and wall cavities, where the water piping is likely located above freezing temperatures. Keeping room and cabinet doors open also helps heat to circulate and warm the areas where pipes are located.
  • Shut off the water to washing machines and dishwashers where possible, to avoid any leaks or broken hoses while you are away.
  • Turn off the heat source and water supply to hot water heaters (if separate from your boiler).
  • Consider shutting off and draining outdoor water faucets to prevent vandalism and freezing damage.
  • Have a water flow sensor and low temperature sensor installed on your main water supply pipe and hooked into a constantly monitored alarm system or your smart phone.

5. Perform Routine Maintenance Before You Leave

  • Have your heating system inspected and serviced before winter. Have your fuel tanks filled before you leave, and ask someone to check on heat and fuel levels regularly while you are gone.
  • Be sure to maintain electrical power if required to keep the heating system running. If electrical service to the home is to remain on, consider having a licensed electrical contractor inspect your main electrical panel, wiring and outlets, if necessary. This way, they can repair or replace anything that may be defective.
  • Have your roof inspected before you leave and clean your gutters to help prevent ice from building up.*
  • Remove dead trees or large overhanging limbs that could damage your house.
  • Unplug all unnecessary appliances before you leave. Make sure you can retrieve messages on your home answering machine or voicemail so it does not indicate FULL or unattended when someone calls.

6. Make Your Home Unattractive to Pests

  • Clean your home thoroughly to help discourage new “residents” from moving in.
  • Clean, defrost and unplug refrigerators and freezers, wiping them dry and leaving doors propped open to prevent mildew. Also clean the oven.
  • Inspect your home for openings that animals could use to enter. For example, make sure your fireplace flue is closed, as bats, birds and squirrels are known to get inside this way.
  • Check weather-stripping, insulation and exterior doors and windows to ensure no major deficiencies are present. Water and insects can enter through these openings.
  • Chimneys should be inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned to ensure that they are free from obstructions such as nesting birds. Install chimney guard screen-caps to help prevent any infestation.

7. Be Ready for Emergencies

  • Notify the police department that the property will be vacant, and provide emergency notification numbers.
  • Install smoke detectors on at least every floor (preferably tied to a constantly monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will automatically be notified in case of alarm), and confirm that the sensors and system are tested regularly.
  • In higher wind-exposed or coastal areas, install storm shutters (or other mitigation measures, such as 5/8” marine plywood) to secure windows. Properly anchor personal property that will remain outdoors.
  • Ask a trusted friend, neighbor or relative to keep an eye on your home and be available in emergency situations. Give them access to your home so they can regularly monitor heating, electrical and water systems.
  • If the weather turns frigid, have them also check the roof for ice dams and inspect for leaks inside. Make sure they have your contact information and a list of local contractors they can reach if repairs or service are needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Snowbirds: Winterize Your Home while You’re Away” Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent, Travelers Insurance. 30 Oct. 2017

How to Stay Safe During a Hurricane

Image result for trees in hurricane

After our first hurricane since living in Texas, we realized there was a lot we didn’t know.  I know there are many more people out there who aren’t quite sure what to do in the event of a major hurricane.  We’re sharing these with you in hope that they’ll help you stay safe and be as comfortable as possible in the event that you lose power or find flood waters seeping into your home.  Here’s what you need to know.

 

 

Hurricane Survival Tips

1. Evacuate. Evacuate. Evacuate.
When you can and it’s safe to do so, leave low-lying areas or danger zones and move inland and to elevated areas.  Call a friend, contact a shelter in another city or make plans to stay in a hotel.  Fill up on gas and get out of town as soon as you are able to.  In the event that you can’t get away, here are more tips to help you stay safe.

2. Fill your car with gas.
If you don’t plan to evacuate, at least make sure that you’re family cars or rentals are loaded and full of gas.  It’s not a bad idea to fill a couple of gas cans and keep those in your trunk just in case.  It’s always better to be prepared, than to need it and not have it.

3. Have plenty of cash on hand.
In the event that the power goes out, stores may not be able to sell you items by using a credit or debit card.  Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand to buy emergency supplies, for hotel stays or to help another person in need, should the situation arise.

4. Make sure you stock up on water and food.  
Sometimes power can be out for a week or even longer.  Make sure you’re well prepared with plenty of fresh drinking water.  Often times flooding will cause sewage and chemicals to infiltrate your water sources.  Don’t rely on water from the pipes.  Make sure you have clean water on hand.  Buy food that doesn’t require cooking.  Bread, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, powdered-milk, sandwich supplies and snacks are always a good bet.   If you’re able, you can grill meats outside after the storm has subsided, even after you’ve lost power.  So make sure you have grilling supplies like charcoal and fire starter.  Canned goods that don’t require heating, like canned fruit, potted meat, etc., are also a good idea.  If you have pets, make sure you stock up on food for them as well.

5. Plastic cutlery and supplies.
You won’t have access to clean dishes during a hurricane if the power and water stops running.  Make sure you have plenty of plastic plates, bowls, utensils and cups on hand.  Wrap them in plastic bags and tie them securely to make sure that the contents stay clean and dry.  You can do the same with your food supplies.

6. Buy lots of bug spray.
After a flood or heavy rain, the mosquitos are out in force.  You more than likely won’t want to stay indoors in the sweltering heat without air conditioning, so make sure that you get plenty of bug spray and repellent to keep pests away.

7. Have flashlights, candles, lanterns and extra batteries on hand.
If the power goes out, you’ll need a way to see to make trips to the bathroom at night, to eat or just to keep the kids distracted when they get scared of the dark.  Make sure you have plenty of flashlights, candles, battery-operated lanterns and alternate lighting options to last you at least a few days.  Also, stock up on batteries.  AA, AAA and C batteries are usually the most common.  After a hurricane, the power can be out for 1-2 weeks at least, so make sure you have enough to be prepared for the worst.

8. Buy a weather radio.
Keep a hand crank or battery operated radio on hand so you can stay up to date with weather reports.  You’ll probably be able to use your cell phone at least until the storm hits, but once the power is out, the battery dies or signal drops due to the storm, you’ll be completely in the dark.  Make sure you have a back up device, like a weather radio, to keep you informed.

9. Keep your devices charged.
More than likely, you’re going to lose power at some point.  Make sure you charge your kids tablets so they have something to do when the storm gets scary or the house is dark.  Charge your cell phones so you can maintain what might be your only lifeline or way to check in with family and friends throughout the storm.  You can also use a portable rechargeable battery to keep your devices charged long after the power has gone out.

10. Stock medical supplies.
If you have medicines, prescriptions or other items you’ll need, make sure you stock up before the storm.  Many stores may be closed for days or weeks after a major hurricane.  In case of injury, you’ll want to have some basic first aid items on hand.  Getting to a hospital isn’t easy during a hurricane and especially if there’s flooding.  Make sure you have medicines, antibiotic ointments, tourniquets and other supplies on hand in case of an emergency.  And remember that allergies are at their highest in the aftermath of a hurricane, so make sure you have plenty of allergy medications and remedies on hand, especially for small kids who often won’t know how to cope with the effects.  Keep kids well hydrated and order extra allergy medications ahead of the storm so you have them on hand.

11. Bring in all outdoor items and secure patio furniture so they don’t become projectiles.
Clean up your yard and patio area so that your lawn chairs, children’s toys and shovels don’t become projectiles.  This is for both your protection and your neighbor’s.  Make sure that all items are secured in your garage, basement, or in your home.  We also tied down our trash can to make sure if wouldn’t blow into the streets and block traffic during the storm or cause any damage.

12. Board up your windows to prevent damage and exposure to the elements.
Make sure you have plywood or another solid type of covering to secure your windows.  This will prevent fencing, branches or other debris from entering your home and will also hold back intense rain and flood waters.  If you can’t board your windows, you can at least cover them with a mattress or heavy blankets from the inside if needed.

13. Place sand bags in front of your doors and in other areas where water might seep in.
Typically, your city officials will pass out free sand bags if you live in an area affected by a hurricane.  Make sure you watch news reports and follow your city, police or fire departments social media pages to find out when and where you can pick up your sand bags.  Place them in front of doorways or anywhere else where water might seep in.  This will slow the flooding process so you can hopefully make it through safely until the storm ends.

14. Put things up away from flood waters.
Make sure you put up things that you don’t want to see destroyed by flood waters.  Family pictures, memorabilia, heirlooms, electronics, etc.  Put them up on top of furniture, desks, counters, in cabinets or the tops of closets when possible.  If you have a safe, dry place to store important items, please get them put away well ahead of time.

15. Fill your bathtub with water so you can flush toilets.
During a hurricane, you may find that you can no longer flush your toilet or access water in your home.  Make sure that you fill up your bathtub, sinks and washing machine with water so that you’ll be able to flush toilets even in the event that you don’t have water.

16. A closet is usually the safest place to go in the event of high winds.
Clean out a closet and make enough space for your family to sit comfortably inside.  If your closets aren’t large enough, you can also use a bathroom.  This will be a place where your family can escape the loud winds and comfort small children.  It is also a safe space in the event that a hurricane or tornado may cause damage to your home.

17. Pack clothes and personal care items.
Whether you evacuate or not, make sure you pack a few pairs of clean, dry clothes (including undergarments and extra shoes) and supplies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.  Pack as if you were going on a week-long trip and make sure they you also put these items in plastic bags and seal them tight to protect them from the elements.

18. Prepare important documents and records.
In the event of a hurricane, you’ll need to protect all of your most important records.  Make sure you have your insurance policies, lease agreements, car title and registration, marriage license, birth records, forms of identification, pet records and any other important records packed in air-tight bags and ready in case you need them.

19. Stock up on baby and kid supplies.
After the hurricane, most stores will be closed and you likely won’t be able to find a place to get supplies for weeks.  Make sure you stock up on diapers, wipes, formula, sippy cups, snacks and other supplies well before the hurricane hits.  You definitely don’t want to be without these in the event of a disaster.

20. Emergency contacts.
In the event of an emergency, make sure that you have the phone numbers, Facebook pages and Twitter handles of people who could help you if needed.  Have contact info for the police department, city government and both national and local organizations that help with hurricane rescue and relief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Hurricane Survival Tips: How to Stay Safe During a Hurricane” Web blog post. Tips & Safety. Bicultural Familia. 25 Aug 2017. 23 Oct 2017.

10 Most Likely Places To Find Water.

Finding water damage can be one of the most annoying problems to find for property owners; it’s one more task to add to the never ending to-do list and it can be costly to fix, depending on where it has spread. But it is highly recommended by water damage restoration professionals to have it restored as soon as possible to prevent the problem from becoming worse over time. Mold can also develop from any untreated areas containing high amounts of moisture.

But if you can restore the water damage yourself, know that the first step is to locate and remove the source of the damage; it wouldn’t help to repair the damage if the water keeps flowing. If you can’t find it right away, here are the most likely places to find water leaks:

 10-Most-Likely-Places-to-Find-Water-Leak-ServiceMaster

Common Places To Find Water Leaks:

1. Hot Water Heaters. About 70% of all water heater failures have been caused by a water leak or sudden burst. This can occur after 10 – 15 years of having the water heater, depending on the quality and size of the tank. To check if this is the source of the water leak, remove the drain pipe and listen for a hissing sound. You may also notice a puddle underneath the tank. Water-Heaters-Most-Likely-Places-to-Find-Water-Leaks

2. These clog all of the time and can become messy if they overflow. But they can also seep water around the seal in the floor. If you find a small puddle around the toilet, turn the water off and inspect the tank. Depending on the severity of the damage, you may have to call a plumber.

3. Water Pipes. Especially in the winter time, pipe bursts are extremely common as the water expands and adds more pressure to stressed pipes. Be sure to inspect each one thoroughly for any drips or small holes.

4. Refrigerator and Freezer. Because it is constantly pouring water, ice maker leaks are very common. To see if there is a leak, unplug the appliance and inspect the back of the freezer or freezer to find any water damage on the wall. There could also be a small hole or two in the pipes if they are plastic. If you see any dripping, consider replacing the tubes with copper pipes.

5. Air Conditioner. While moisture around this appliance is common and won’t hurt anything as long as there is not any moisture on the drywall, excessive dripping can cause significant damage. To see if there is a problem, check the condensate pump, refrigerant, and drain line for any leaks.

6. Washing Machine. During each cycle, there are about 15 to 30 gallons of water running through the washing machine. Any small hole within the appliance, drain, or tubes can result in major water damage.

7. Gutters. Not all water damage sources are located within the home. Any gutters containing significant amounts of leaves, dirt, and other debris can cause water to flow over the side and seep into the foundation; this is a very common source of basement flooding.

8. Showers and Sinks. Next to washing machines, sinks and showers are among the most common sources of water damage. Any holes in the water supply lines or worn-out caulking can spring major damage at any time.

9. Sump Pump. Especially after a big storm, sump pumps can fail and create the risk for basement flooding, if it hasn’t happened already. After repairing the pump, it would be best to schedule annual maintenance and inspect its condition to prevent future failures.

10. Air Ducts. Because they are connected to the air conditioning unit, it is common for moisture to accumulate within the ductwork and spring a leak. If you notice any condensation on the air registers or ducts themselves, you may find a leak in another area. Professional air duct cleaning can also prevent this problem in the future.

Restoring Water Damage From Leaks.

While you will need a plumber to fix any pipes or leaks, fixing the water damage is crucial to prevent additional destruction. Once an area has been affected, the water will spread and damage additional areas. But as soon as the source has been removed, don’t hesitate to call a water damage repair professional.

 

Widely known as the nation’s top restoration company, ServiceMaster specializes in flood cleanup and water damage restoration. Their professionals are available 24/7 and will arrive within 2 hours of your initial call to prevent the damage from spreading, dry out the affected areas, and restore the property structure. You can count on them to return building materials of all types to their original condition. They will even work with your insurance provider to allow you to focus on other matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke Armstrong. “10 Most Likely Places To Find Water” Web blog post. Restoration tips, Restoration Master. 18 Sep. 2017. 3 Oct, 2017.

How to protect yourself from hurricane repair scams.

Homeowners affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey have already absorbed a body blow from damaged homes and lost possessions.

Now, they’re bracing for another: repair scams.

After weather calamities, fraudsters — also known as “storm chasers” — exploit the severe strain on insurance companies. In affected cities, like Houston, due to the extent of damage, insurers have had to recruit independent claims adjusters, some from out of state. This gives scammers an opportunity to sell themselves to unsuspecting homeowners.

The overall bill will be steep: The cost of Irma and Harvey will range between $150 billion to $200 billion, including property damage and lost output.

While filing insurance claims, consumers should keep detailed records of communications, and be wary of potential scammers.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you signed the dotted line without checking with your insurance company first, give them a call,” Chris Hackett, senior director at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told CNBC.

Government assistance is available

In the meantime, government agencies are stepping in. U.S. attorneys in four Florida districts have formed fraud task forces. The National Center for Disaster Fraud, formed in response to Hurricane Katrina, also has a hotline.

Also in Florida, the nonprofit Citizens Property United, which provides insurance for homeowners who can’t obtain private coverage, has warned policyholders to “be wary of unlicensed contractors or deals that sound too good to be true.”

Other organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau, make public consumers’ accounts of scams. Victims of fraud are encouraged to report incidents, too.

“It’s terrible that there are people who will take advantage of storm victims, but we see it all the time at BBB,” said spokeswoman Katherine Hutt. “Storm victims need to protect themselves and be vigilant.”

“If someone shows up at your house unannounced and claims to be an insurance adjuster, do not invite them into your home. Ask for company ID. If they don’t have any, ask them to leave your property and shut the door,” Hutt said. “If they do have identification, call your insurance company to verify. Don’t give them any information until you’ve confirmed their identity, and never give them any money.”

Beware that phony insurance adjusters and contractor scammers will frequently insert themselves between homeowners and insurance companies, according to Angie Hicks, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Angie’s List, a home-services consumer-review site.

For homeowners, here are some precautions to take:

  1. File a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible.
  2. Document the destruction. Take detailed, interior and exterior photos of your home, said Hicks.
  3. Don’t hire just any contractor or adjuster. “The first impulse might be to hire the first contractor who comes along,” Hackett said. Ask for proof of identity, Hicks said.
  4. Pay via credit card or check to create a paper trail. No cash.
  5. Pay for repairs incrementally. “Don’t pay for all work upfront before work begins,” Hackett said.
  6. Do your homework. Research consumer-review sites. Consult with trustworthy people — family, friends, neighbors — before hiring a contractor.
  7. Get several estimates on the cost of damages.
  8. Continue to pay your mortgage. Doing so protects your credit score and helps you avoid defaulting on a loan. Also ask your insurance agent and bank to explain what’s covered versus what’s negotiable. “These are extenuating circumstances, so ask for leeway on what is most important to you; the worst they can say is no,” Hicks said.
  9. Try to limit further damage. “Protect or repair what you can, but keep all receipts for materials to give to your adjuster,” Hicks said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natalie Daher. “How to protect yourself from hurricane repair scams.” Web blog post. Personal Finance, CNBC. 20 Sep 2017. 26 Sep 2017. 

Removing Water From Your Home After A Flood.

Making a Flooded House into a Livable Home Again

House floods are terrible, catastrophic, and unfortunately, common in many parts of the world. The destructive power of water is amazing to behold from afar, but when it starts inching its way up to your doorstep or in though the basement, that same water becomes your nightmarish reality.

Flooded House

After the flood waters have receded, trying to pick up the pieces may seem daunting, but if you follow the right steps and put in some hard work, it’s not that hard to make your home liveable again. Here’s our guide to removing water from your home, and making it livable again.

Flood Water Contact Rules

Rule Number One: You should always assume that flood water is contaminated. This means that you need to wear appropriate gear when cleaning up your home and follow strict guidelines of how to deal with items that have come into contact with the water. Some of the most important rules to follow are:

  • Wear waterproof boots or waders and gloves.
  • Throw away any food (including canned goods) that have been in contact with flood water.
  • Disinfect after clearing away remaining water.
  • Clean and protect any bodily cuts.
  • Keep children and senior citizens away from flood water.
  • Bury any fecal matter you discover immediately.
  • Wash your hand thoroughly with soap before eating anything or touching your eyes and mouth.

Removing Flood Water from a Home

The first step when recovering from a flood is removing remaining water that is left inside your home. This can be done with a shop-vac or water pump that is specifically designed to suck up water, or it can be done the old-fashioned way with buckets. The key here is to get as much standing water out of your home as quickly you can.

If you decide to use a shop-vac, make sure you thoroughly read the instruction manual as you may need to remove the filter prior to use.

Maintaining a Drainage Environment

Although a flood will saturate a city or town’s drainage capacity, it will not be long before the infrastructure is capable of draining away remaining water. In order to utilize this, make sure that your home’s drains are clear of debris and that the water in and around your foundation has a clear path to the city sewage systems.

Additionally, it would be wise to make sure the street-gutters near your home are not blocked with debris. It’s very common for leaves and trash to accumulate around your drainage system in your street, preventing excessive amounts of water from draining in an efficient manner. If you keep this area clear of debris, the water will recede at a quicker pace.

Drying Out Your Home

Once all of the standing water has receded or been removed, you can begin the process of drying out your house and your possessions. Anything that can be removed from the house to dry in the sun (as long as it is not raining, obviously) should be removed immediately and set outside. If it is dry you should also open all of your home’s windows and doors to let the trapped moisture escape. It would also be wise to invest in an indoor dehumidifier to remove the evaporating moisture from your home.

A dehumidifier is the best tool you can use for this, but it would also be wise to put a couple of fans in the area to help speed up the drying process. The circulating air will help the drying process.

Looking for Trapped Mud or Water

Completely removing all trapped moisture will prevent mold and decay from causing serious problems for your home down the road. This is much easier said than done as you must remove baseboards, shower trays, and anything that has space beneath or behind it. Remove the mud you find and begin drying these areas immediately. Before replacing the fixtures, these spaces need to be completely dry.

The Risks of Allowing Trapped Moisture to Linger in Your Home

When looking at the flood waters bearing down on your home, the risks of floods are immediately apparent, but you might not be aware of how dangerous it is to let even a little moisture trapped in your home. Some of the risks of trapped water include:

  • Compromised Structural Integrity:

    Moisture locked in flooded home supports can cause the wood to rot, weakening its ability to hold up the weight of your house.

  • Illness Inducing Mold:

    Some molds can be deadly if they are left to grow in your home for too long. It is only after the surfaces of your house are completely dried that you can begin to bleach and clean up mold. If there is remaining moisture, mold will continue to grow.

  • Severely Depreciated Home Value:

    Although a flood will almost always make your house less valuable, you can minimize the loss by properly cleaning and drying out your home after a flood. If a prospective buyer finds that trapped water has created hazardous living conditions, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to sell your home when you wish to or for anywhere close to your asking price.

Home Sweet (and Dry) Home Again

By following the right steps, removing flood water from your home is easier than many people think. With the proper equipment, including a dehumidifier and water pump, you can make your home ready to live in even after something as terrible as a flood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Flowers. How to Remove Water From Your Home After A flood. Web blog post.  Learning Center, Compact Appliance. 5 Feb 2014. 18 Sep 2017

Returning Home After A Hurricane.

Preparing to return home after evacuating will keep you safer while inspecting and cleaning up the damage to your home. Before traveling, ensure local officials have declared that it’s safe to enter your community and that you have the supplies you will need. Follow the suggestions below for returning to, inspecting and cleaning your home.

Image result for after a hurricane

(Photo: Survival Life )

Before Returning

  • Find out if it is safe to enter your community or neighborhood. Follow the advice of your local authorities.
  • Carry plenty of cash. ATMs may not work and stores may not be able to accept credit or debit cards.
  • Bring supplies such as flashlights, batteries, bottled water and non- perishable foods in case utilities are out.
  • Create back-up communication plans with family and friends in case you are unable to call from affected areas.
  • Plan for delays when traveling. Bring extra food, water, pillows, blankets and other items that will make the trip more comfortable. Keep the fuel tank of your vehicle as full as possible in case gas stations are crowded, out of fuel or closed.
  • Carry a map to help you route around heavy traffic or impassable roads.
  • Find out if local medical facilities are open and if emergency services are functioning again. Do NOT call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number to do this.
  • Understand that recovery takes time. Focus on the positive and have patience. Others will have similar frustrations.

First Inspection

  • If possible, leave children and pets with a relative or friend. If not, keep them away from hazards and floodwater.
  • Beware of snakes, insects and other animals that may be in or around your home.
  • Before entering your home, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines, foundation cracks and other exterior damage. It may be too dangerous to enter the home.
  • If you smell natural gas or propane, or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and contact the fire department.
  • If your home was flooded, assume it is contaminated with mold. Mold increases health risks for those with asthma, allergies or other breathing conditions.
  • Open doors and windows. If the house was closed more than 48 hours, let it air it out before staying inside for any length of time.
  • Turn the main electrical power and water systems off until you or a professional can ensure that they are safe. NEVER turn the power on or off, or use an electrical tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • Check the ceiling and floor for signs of sagging. Water may be trapped in the ceiling or floors may be unsafe to walk on.

Cleaning Your Home

  • Be careful when moving furnishings or debris, because they may be waterlogged and heavier.
  • Throw out all food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood waters and mud, including canned goods and containers with food or liquid that have been sealed shut. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Some cleaning solutions can cause toxic fumes and other hazards if mixed together. If you smell a strong odor or your eyes water from the fumes or mixed chemicals, open a window and get out of your home.
  • Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected (mattresses, carpeting, cosmetics, stuffed animals and baby toys).
  • Remove all drywall and insulation that has been in contact with flood waters.
  • Clean hard surfaces (flooring, countertops and appliances) thoroughly with hot water and soap or a detergent.
  • Return to as many personal and family routines as possible.
  • Caution: Carbon Monoxide Kills
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.

Items to Take When Returning Home:

  • Government-issued photo ID and proof of address
  • Important phone numbers
  • Bottled water and non-perishable foods
  • First aid kit
  • Cleanser/hand cleaning gel for personal use
  • Hygiene products and toilet paper
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen
  • Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, sturdy waterproof boots and work gloves
    Flashlight, portable radio and extra batteries
  • Cameras for photos of damage for insurance claims

Using Generators Safely

  • When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system.
  • If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.
  • Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.

Let Your Family Know You’re Safe

If your community has experienced a flood, or any disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Web site available through RedCross.org to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don’t have Internet access, call 1-866-GET- INFO to register yourself and your family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Red Cross. “Returning Home After a Hurricane or Flood” Web blog post. Hurricane Central, The Weather Channel. 19 Sep 2014. 13 Sep 2017

Clean Up Safely After A Disaster

Highlights

  • Stay away from damaged buildings or structures that have not been examined and certified by an inspector.
  • Wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole cleanup work.
  • Carbon monoxide can cause illness and death.
  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected.
  • Never turn power on or off or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.

When returning to your home after a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster protect yourself and your family by following these tips.

 

Reentering Buildings

  • Stay away from damaged buildings or structures until they have been examined and certified as safe by a building inspector or other government authority. You may want to wait to return to buildings during daylight hours, when it is easier to avoid hazards, particularly if the electricity is off and you have no lights.
  • Leave immediately if you hear shifting or unusual noises that signal that the structure may fall or if you smell gas or suspect a leak. If you smell gas, notify emergency authorities and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke, or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to the house until you are told it is safe to do so.
  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.

General Safety Measures

  • Have at least two fire extinguishers, each with a UL rating of at least 10A, at every cleanup job.
  • Wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank) for cleanup work.
  • Wear earplugs or protective headphones to reduce risk from equipment noise.
  • Use teams of two or more people to move bulky objects. Avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds (per person).
  • When using a chain saw, operate the saw according to the manufacturer’s instructions, wear appropriate protective equipment, avoid contact with power lines, be sure that bystanders are at a safe distance, and take extra care in cutting trees or branches that have gotten bent or caught under another object. Use extreme caution to avoid electrical shock when using an electric chain saw. For tips on safely operating a chain saw, see Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/chainsaws.html).
  • If there has been a backflow of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of the affected area.
  • In hot weather, try to stay cool by staying in air-conditioned buildings, taking breaks in shaded areas or in cool rooms, drinking water and nonalcoholic fluids often, and wearing light and loose-fitting clothing. Do outdoor activities during cooler hours. For more information on protecting yourself against heat-related illness, see the CDC Extreme Heat Web site(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html).

Carbon Monoxide Exposure

  • Never use generators, pressure washers, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, or camper—or even outside near an open window, door, or vent. Carbon monoxide—an odorless, colorless gas from these sources that can cause sudden illness and death—can build up indoors and poison the people and animals inside.

For more information, see Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/carbonmonoxide.html).

 

Mold and Cleanup

  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

See Mold After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/mold/), Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters and the CDC Flood Web site(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/index.html) for further guidance on safely reentering flooded homes, cleaning up flood or storm water, worker safety issues, and mold cleanup issues.

Electrical Issues

  • If electrical circuits and electrical equipment have gotten wet or are in or near water, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off.
  • Never turn power on or off or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • Do not connect generators to your home’s electrical circuits without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices. If a generator is on line when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard and it may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area.

 

Hazardous Materials Issues

  • Call the fire department to inspect or remove chemicals, propane tanks, and other dangerous materials.
  • Wear protective clothing and gear (for example, a respirator if needed) when handling hazardous materials.
  • Wash skin that may have come in contact with hazardous materials.
  • Wear insulated gloves and use caution if you have to remove a car battery. Avoid any acid that may have leaked from a car battery.

 

Hygiene and Infectious Disease Issues

  • After completing the cleanup, wash with soap and water. If there is a boil-water advisory in effect, use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing). Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of 1/8 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • If you have any open cuts or sores that were exposed to floodwater, wash them with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.

Water Issues

  • If the building is flooded, the waters may contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems and agricultural and industrial waste. Although skin contact with floodwater does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, there is risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated with floodwater.
  • If you have any open cuts or sores that will be exposed to floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and applying an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection. (See also Clean Hands Save Lives: Emergency Situations(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/handhygienefacts.html) .)
  • To reduce cold–related risks when standing or working in water which is cooler than 75 degrees F (24 degrees C), wear insulated clothes and insulated rubber boots, take frequent breaks out of the water, and change into dry clothing when possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Fact Sheet: Clean Up Safely After a Disaster” Web blog post. Disasters, Clean up. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. 30 Aug 2017, 12 Sep 2017.

How To Prepare An Emergency Kit.

Hurricane Irma could hit the United States by this weekend, meaning now is the time for coastal residents — along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico — to prepare.

Irma strengthened to a Category 5 storm Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, with sustained winds of 175 mph.

AccuWeather meteorologist Dave Samuhel issued a warning on Monday: “Have emergency supplies ready.”

Here’s what to pack in an emergency kit and additional steps to take ahead of a hurricane, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Emergency kits should combine basic staples (food, water) with supplies reflecting your family’s unique needs, such medications or baby formula.

Water: First and foremost, store at least three gallons of water per person — enough to last each three days. If you think you’ll be cut off longer, add an extra gallon per person per day.

Cash: Banks and ATMs could shut down. Power outages render debit and credit cards useless.

Documents: Keep copies of key documents in a waterproof, easy-to-carry container. These include identification such as passports and Social Security cards as well as insurance policies and bank account records.

Medications: Keep a one-week supply of prescription medications plus any over-the-counter items like pain relievers and antacids.

Food: Lay in a three-day supply of canned foods and dry mixes — nothing that needs refrigeration. Avoid thirst-inducing foods, and remember the dietary needs of those around you, including infants (ready-to-feed formula) and pets. Secure a hand-operated can opener.

Sanitation: Think moist towelettes, garbage bags and diapers. Consider paper goods such as plates and cups as well as plastic utensils.

Backup phone batteries: Extra batteries for your devices, also called portable power banks, could prove essential in a power outage. Here’s how to prep your smartphone for disasters.

Additional items: Flashlights with spare batteries, blankets, a first aid kid and NOAA weather radios are all recommended.

FEMA offers an extensive printable checklist for all-purpose emergency supply kits, too.

The agency also recommends tailoring supplies to whether you plan to evacuate or stay put at home, and to sign up for local alerts (just Google your city or country name plus “alerts”).

 

 

 

Josh Hafner, USA TODAY. Hurricane Irma: How to prepare an emergency kit. web blog post. News, USA Today. 5 Sep. 2017