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Analyzing the Locations Where Fires Frequently Start in the Home and Cause Fire Damage

11/24/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto warns homeowners about the places where fire damage frequently originates in the home.

SERVPRO® of Palo Alto highlights three rooms in the home where fire and fire damage commonly originate: the kitchen, the bedroom, and the living room. The team of IICRC-certified property damage restoration professionals also offers top fire safety tips to keep life in the home safe from fire.

Where fires most commonly originate in the home

Residential house fires account for approximately one-fourth of reported fire events in the United States each year. The majority of fire-related fatalities occur during a house fire.

Two factors give the homeowner a decided advantage when it comes to surviving a house fire:

  • Knowing where a house fire most commonly originates
  • Knowing when house fires are most likely to occur

Ground zero: The kitchen

The kitchen is ground zero for house fires. Most house fires start in the kitchen, with unattended meals cooking on the stove being the flashpoint. Most fire-related injuries occur in the kitchen, the heart of the home. Fortunately, flaming meals on the stovetop are very preventable, with only a few changes in cooking practices.

Top safety tips: The kitchen

  • Eyes must always be on the stove, oven, and toaster oven.
  • Keep dishcloths, rags, paper towels, and flammable liquids away from hot burners.
  • Never leave the kitchen when cooking with high heat (frying, boiling, or broiling).
  • If life situations take the cook away from the kitchen, ALWAYS turn off hot burners and make sure handles are not accessible to curious hands (or paws) from below.
  • When cooking is completed, remember to turn off all burners.
  • Avoid storing pots and pans on the stove when not in use. If a stove eye were to be left on, great personal injury could result.
  • Dress for safety. Do not wear baggy sleeves. Wear a tight apron over loose, flowing clothing to avoid catching fire.
  • Do not rely on the oven for household heating needs.
  • Keep a Class B fire extinguisher handy and train capable children and adults to properly use the device.
  • Never douse a cooking fire with water. Keep pot lids nearby to cover the dish in case it bursts into flames.

The kitchen should receive great attention because of the high-risk dangers of fire, personal injury, and death. Remember, it only takes a few seconds for a small flame to become a raging blaze.

The bedroom

Electrical fires most often originate in a bedroom. Because these fires typically start when people are asleep, the potential for serious injury or death is very high. The main culprits are overloaded circuits or faulty lighting fixtures, but damaged or overloaded extension cords are also sources of fire in the bedroom. Space heaters and electric blankets carry high-risk hazards. The abundance and types of fabrics and other flammable materials (carpeting, drapes, magazines, books, papers, and bedding) in the bedroom provide ample fuel for the flames.

Top safety tips: The bedroom

  • Repair or replace outlets that are worn out, cracked, or malfunctioning.
  • Immediately replace damaged or worn power cords as soon as they show signs of wear. Exposed wires are a sure sign that the item needs to be taken out of service and discarded.
  • Avoid overloading wiring and circuits with power strips.
  • Unplug devices when not in use.
  • Keep heating devices, especially space heaters, at least three feet from combustibles.
  • Teach children not to play with matches or lighters in the home. Four in ten home fires started by children originate in the bedroom.

The living room/den/great room

The living room is where life happens in the home. A cozy fireplace or warm wood stove can often be found here. Yet, the second leading cause of house fires is the very thing that makes the home so cozy, relaxing, and peaceful: heating equipment, primarily chimneys.

Top safety tips: The living room

Listed below are some safety tips to help keep wood stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and space heaters safe.

  • Have the chimney, fireplace, and wood stove inspected and cleaned by a professional in the fall before the full brunt of winter hits.
  • Maintain at least a three-foot zone around the heat source free of combustibles.
  • Invest in a better-quality fireplace screen to prevent sparks from escaping.
  • Practice total fire safety: Never leave a fire unattended, and always completely extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the home.
  • Heat with cured hardwoods in the fireplace and wood stove.
  • Teach children proper fire safety, including staying at least three feet away from the heat source. Pets and children should be under adult supervision when the fireplace or wood stove is in use.

The top safety tip: Smoke detectors throughout the home

Install smoke detectors throughout the house to alert everyone anywhere in the home of the danger of fire. Smart technology allows for all smoke detectors to be connected so that when one is activated, all detectors activate. First responders can be notified through the internet when an alert system activates.

In case of fire damage in the home, SERVPRO® of Palo Alto is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to help stabilize the situation and begin the restoration process. A rapid response and a quick fire damage cleanup process enable life to return to normal as soon as possible.

To learn more about residential fire damage restoration services in Permanente, CA, and surrounding communities, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by phone at (650) 800-3448 or email office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.

Preparing for Storm Damage When the Storm Is About to Strike

11/24/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides helpful tips on how to prepare when severe weather and heavy thunderstorms are imminent.

A thunderstorm can pop up in what seems to be only minutes, leaving little time for preparation to prevent storm damage. Seconds count when severe weather is barreling down on a community of homes and businesses. These quick, easy-to-follow tips will help the homeowner get ready for the onslaught of heavy rain, hail, and high winds.

Tip #1. Set aside a safe, secure room.

The first and most important step to take occurs before any danger is on the horizon. This step involves designating an area or room in the home as a ‘safe room.’ Look for the following features which qualify a room or area as safe:

  • The room has no windows. Window panes can break under the stress of high winds or from impact from airborne debris. Flying shards of glass can cause serious injuries, including cuts, bruises, and eye injuries. The pain, shock, and loss of eyesight can hinder escape and rescue once the storm has passed.
  • The room needs to be near the center of the home. The exterior walls provide protection and support. A closet or bathroom usually meets these criteria.
  • The room is located on the lowest level of the structure, preferably in the basement.
  • An old-fashioned storm cellar or a reinforced concrete enclosure is a great option.

Tip #2. Clean up and clear out.

Clean out the garage so vehicles, lawn furniture, a grill, and garbage cans can be quickly moved or rolled into the space. If time permits, move these and other items into the garage.

The room selected as the location in which to barricade during severe weather may need to be cleaned up and cleared out. A few garbage bags of debris, old clothes, and junk can make enough room to save lives. Remove lamps, ceramics, glass, and other breakables from the designated safe room. Store emergency supplies and the first aid kit inside the safe room.

Tip #3. Close and reinforce the garage door.

If time permits, collect and store lawn furniture, grills, bikes, plastic toys, and garbage cans in the garage. If the garage is full, take some of the items in the house. Close the garage door and install bracing to protect against collapse under the force of high winds. Failure to close the garage door or the collapse of the door during high winds can result in catastrophic structural damage to the home.

Tip #4. Take cover immediately.

Do not wait for the brunt of the storm to arrive. Shelter in a safe room under mattresses, under a table, or beside a heavy piece of furniture with a low center of mass. This type of furniture is not easily toppled. Use the arms to cover the neck and head from flying or falling debris.

Tip #5. Stay connected and informed.

Connectedness and current information are crucial for safety and survival before, during, and after severe weather. Create a communication action plan with multiple backups. Knowledge of weather patterns and looming danger can save lives. The use of electronics that have been plugged into an outlet increases the risk of electrocution. Use a cell phone or invest in a weather radio that can operate on electricity generated by a hand crank.

Stay connected on social media outlets such as NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC). Enable wireless emergency alerts on everyone’s cell phones. The National Weather Service broadcasts emergency alerts.

Tip #6. Be prepared for the power to go out.

Anticipate power outages and prepare accordingly. Charge devices to keep the lines of communication open with family members and emergency personnel. Switch devices to low battery mode. Store the devices in a dry, safe location during the storm. Keep an ample store of fresh batteries to fit different needs. AA, AAA, C, and D batteries should be included in the supply kit. A heavy-duty, long-lasting battery backup will prove beneficial during a long-term power outage. A small gas-powered generator or power inverter is relatively affordable and can sustain a family for days with a modest supply of fuel.

Tip #7. Know the difference between a ‘watch’ and a ‘warning.’

Confusion between a ‘watch’ and a ‘warning’ can put everyone in a home a risk.

  • A ‘watch’ means thunderstorms are possible, and it is time to prepare for the storm.
  • A ‘warning’ means dangerous weather has been reported. Seek shelter in the safe room.

When severe thunderstorms, hail, and high winds damage a home or business, do not delay in calling a storm damage cleanup and restoration company to clean up the water and repair any damages. Homeowners and businesses can pre-qualify SERVPRO of Palo Alto as the go-to provider before a disaster strikes. With just one call, a team responds in about an hour to begin the cleanup, 27/7, 365 days a year, including holidays.

For more information about storm damage restoration, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by calling (650) 800-3448 or by emailing office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.

Electrical Safety Tips to Prevent Injury after Flood Damage in Redwood City, CA, Homes

11/24/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto offers advice to help homeowners stay safe before, during, and after a water or flood damage disaster.

SERVPRO® of Palo Alto provides emergency flood damage restoration services Bay area residents can count on when flood waters cause water damage in a home or business. Available 24/7, 365 days a year, the team of certified technicians arrives in about an hour equipped with the latest restoration technology, advanced cleaning techniques, and EPA cleaning products.

The potential for electrical shock in a flood disaster is a real and present danger. Most flood deaths occur when vehicles are swept away in turbulent water, but some fatalities are caused by electrocution. Water conducts electricity, so the possibility of electrical shock is elevated whenever water and electricity are close to each other. Flood conditions make the threat of electrocution even greater.

Before floodwaters rise

Persons living in or near a high-risk flood zone can take precautions to reduce the risk well in advance of severe weather conditions. One risk-reduction strategy is the installation of ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) electrical outlets. These special outlets have been a building code requirement for bathrooms for decades, but usage is not limited to the bathroom. The safety devices can be installed throughout a home at a reasonable cost and usually with no alteration. A circuit breaker in the outlet automatically trips when the plug grounds, cutting off or “interrupting” the flow of electricity.

When the risk of flooding is very high, but before waters rise to dangerous levels, take a proactive approach to immediately reduce the threat of electrocution by shutting off the power to the structure.

Below is a three-step process to make the home safe should floodwaters threaten to rise.

Step #1: Locate the panel box.

Start this process by locating the panel box inside the home. It is usually hidden in a closet or pantry. The panel box houses circuit breakers for every circuit in the structure, along with the main shut-off switch.

Step #2: Shut off the power.

This process begins by flipping each individual circuit breaker.

Step #3: Turn off the main breaker.

Once the individual breakers are off, turn off the main circuit breaker. Sometimes, the breaker box is located in the basement or outside. If floodwaters have flooded the basement or engulfed the outside panel box, do not try to turn off the power. The danger of electrocution is very high. Instead, immediately contact the utility company servicing the home to request the power be shut off at the meter.

While waiting for the utility company to act, unplug all electrical devices very carefully. Relocate the devices and other important furniture, documents, and valuables to a higher location in the home. Take great care to prevent an injury when lifting items. Lift with the knees. A lighter object, if improperly lifted, can cause a back, joint, or muscle injury.

During the flood

If flooding is in process, implement the following electrical safety measures to minimize the danger of electrical shock:

  • Avoid coming into contact with any electrical devices or appliances while standing in water.
  • Avoid touching or operating electrical devices that are wet or moist from floodwater.
  • Stay out of areas where the water level is at or above electrical outlets.
  • Beware of areas where any wiring may be underwater.

Fallen power lines create a high-risk environment. If evacuation from the structure is necessary, scan the area for downed power poles or power lines. Contact with live wires or pools of water electrified by downed power lines can be fatal.

When floodwaters have receded

Just because the water is gone does not mean the risk of electrocution has de-escalated. In reality, the risk hazards are still high. Exercise caution when beginning the cleanup and restoration. Do not enter the structure until the utility company or other professional has inspected the home or business and verified that the location is safe. Even if the power was turned off before the flood struck, do not turn it on without having the wiring inspected and approved by a licensed electrician. Then and only then should the circuits be re-energized.

Have water-damaged appliances been inspected by a certified technician? Moisture trapped inside an electrical device can cause major damage. Thankfully, some appliances can be refurbished and returned to duty. The homeowner should not attempt to use an appliance that has not been properly inspected and approved for use.

In case of a property damage disaster such as a flood, entrust the water damage cleanup and restoration process to SERVPRO® of Palo Alto. The SERVRPRO team is ready to serve homeowners and business owners suffering a flood damage disaster, burst pipes, fire damage, smoke damage, or mold damage.

For more information about SERVPRO of Palo Alto’s water damage restoration services in Menlo Park, CA, contact the damage restoration and cleaning company by phone at (650) 800-3448 or email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.

How a Business Can Maneuver the Difficult Insurance Claims Process after a Water Damage Disaster?

11/24/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO® of Palo Alto explains how businesses affected by a water damage disaster can resume normal business operations and navigate the complex insurance claims process.

The team at SERVPRO of Palo Alto is dedicated to getting a business up and running as soon as possible after a commercial fire damage or a water damage disaster. A burst water pipe can disrupt and possibly shut down normal business operations. In business, time is money. Here are some tips to help business owners navigate the turbulent waters of the claims filing process. The goal is to ensure maximum coverage for water damage to a commercial building.

Not all burst pipe claims are the same

Some burst water pipe claims are more costly than others. This variation in the cost of the water damage cleanup and restoration reflects the difference in the extent of the actual damage. A flooded office may only require the repair of the damaged pipe and the replacement of the carpet. A slow, undetected leak may impact not just one office but several floors of offices. In a best-case scenario where the leak only lasts for a few minutes, the mini flood can soak flooring and walls. Repairs can cause the partial or total shutdown of the business.

Many considerations factor into the scope of damage from a burst pipe, including:

  • The location of the business
  • The design and construction of the building
  • Fire sprinkler system
  • Number of floors in the building
  • The age of the structure

The location of the business

A burst water pipe is one of the most common causes of water damage in a commercial building. One of the leading causes of the ruptured pipe is freezing temperatures. A sudden drop in temperature can cause water in the pipes to expand, rupturing the pipe. Areas, where snow and ice are infrequent, may be at the greatest risk. Proper pipe insulation may have been neglected or ignored. On that rare occasion when the temperatures dip into the twenties, unprotected or exposed pipes freeze and burst, causing a massive water damage disaster.

The design and construction of the building

How a building is designed and constructed will have an impact on both the probability and scope of a water damage disaster. Burst water pipes are directly related to several common design and structural features. Water pipes in an unheated attic are at high risk of freezing during a cold snap. The failure to appropriately insulate pipes between interior and exterior walls can lead to a water damage surprise on Monday morning after a weekend cold wave. Faulty or substandard plumbing installation will become evident sooner rather than later.

Fire sprinkler systems

A fire suppression system in a commercial setting can effectively extinguish flames before fire damage is extensive. A fire sprinkler system also saves lives. A discharge from a fire suppression system can cause widespread damage, driving the flooding insurance claim to astronomical heights. Fire sprinklers emit large amounts of water under high pressure, and the overhead location and wide angle of the water discharge amplify the effects of the water damage.

Number of floors in the buildings

The physical properties of water are such that it will spread across floors, seep into porous materials, and stream into the lowest regions of a building. Water from the burst pipes contaminates everything in its path. A flood originating on an upper floor of a hotel, apartment complex, or office building may result in the owners having to replace lights, flooring, drywall, and carpeting on every lower floor affected by the water.

The age of the structure

An older building is subject to greater risks of flooding from burst pipes. Plumbing materials have a limited lifespan, and with age, the risk of a pipe burst increases. The costs associated with cleanup and restoration also tend to be elevated.

A failure in one section of the plumbing may indicate an imminent catastrophic failure of the system. The entire system may need to be replaced. The water damage restoration and repairs must meet current building codes, and this code compliance could be very costly.

Below are several important steps to take when a burst water pipe causes water damage in a business or commercial building.

Before a property damage disaster strikes, take time to understand the terms and conditions of the property damage insurance policy. The best time to work through this document is before a property damage disaster occurs. If needed, set up a consultation with an insurance agent to discuss the policy in detail. Focus on these three elements:

  • what losses are covered by the policy
  • what events will trigger coverage
  • which, if any, coverages may be extended in a large-loss situation

In the event of a water damage disaster, take the following steps:

Step #1. Shut off the water flow to the burst pipe. This step may be as simple as turning off the main valve. In some instances, the services of a professional plumber may be needed.

Step #2. Notify the insurance company. Strict guidelines must be followed regarding prompt notification of losses. Early reporting allows the claims process to commence as soon as possible.

Step #3. Before any cleanup or restoration, document the extent of the damage with pictures and video. The goal is to capture the condition of the property damage immediately after the flooding occurs.

Step #4. Prevent further damage to the building.

Begin any reasonable or necessary flood mitigation, such as cleanup of standing water and drying procedures to prevent further losses. Do not make any permanent repairs until an insurance agent has inspected the damage.

Step #5. Complete and file the claim.

The claims process can be challenging, requiring extensive documentation, including an inventory, past and projected income estimates, and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses. Keep a copy of the claim.

The solution for dealing with a water damage disaster

A water damage disaster from a burst water pipe disrupts normal business operations. The goal is to get the doors open and the products or services flowing as soon as possible. The cleanup and restoration process and the insurance claims process are distracting and time-consuming. The solution is to call in the property damage professionals at SERVPRO of Palo Alto. Crews arrive in about an hour. A trained technician inspects and assesses the damage. A detailed and well-documented estimate (including photos and video) is presented to the customer. The industry-standard estimate meets or exceeds the rigorous demands of the insurance company. Cleanup and restoration begin without delay, as delays can lead to advanced secondary damage such as mold.

For more information about commercial water and fire damage restoration and cleaning services in Sunnyvale, CA, contact SERVPRO® of Palo Alto by phone at (650) 800-3448 or email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.

Five Ways Saltwater Complicates a Water Damage Disaster

11/24/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto highlights the effects of saltwater in a water damage situation.

As a city located on the California coast, Sunnyvale has seen its share of flooding, and the local community is no stranger to dealing with water damage. When a coastal home or business floods, the presence of saltwater has distinctive effects on the nature of the property damage situation. SERVPRO® of Palo Alto is highlighting several areas where saltwater exacerbates property damage.

King tides and coastal water damage

King tides, a yearly occurrence of unusually high tides, can be a cause of saltwater flooding at properties in the Sunnyvale area. This year, the California King Tides Project forecasts that king tides will occur between December 23 and 24 in 2022 and between January 21 and 22 in 2023.

An article from NPR explains how the observation of king tides can help anticipate damage from storms and heavy rainfall. “They are indicators of how and where rising water levels can extend further inland, especially when they occur under storm conditions. And, in addition to increased flooding, encroaching waves erode beaches and cliffs and raise coastal groundwater levels.”

The article goes on to state: “In August 2020, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office reported: ‘Scientific estimates suggest the magnitude of sea-level rise (SLR) in California could be at least half of one foot in 2030 and as much as seven feet by 2100. Moreover, storm surges, exceptionally high “king tides,” or El Niño events could produce notably higher water levels than SLR alone.’ According to the same study, up to $10 billion worth of existing property in California is likely to be underwater by 2050. An additional $6 billion to $10 billion will be at risk during high tides.”

What happens when saltwater is a factor in a water damage disaster?

  1. The floodwaters become more conductive.

In any type of water damage event, homeowners and business owners should always be careful to avoid coming in contact with water that has potentially been electrified. However, the presence of salt in the floodwaters allows the water to more easily carry an electrical current. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains this phenomenon: “Because dissolved salts and other inorganic chemicals conduct electrical current, conductivity increases as salinity increases.”

  1. The drying time increases, causing an elevated mold risk.

Because of interactions between salt and water at the molecular level, saltwater evaporates at a slower rate than fresh water. As a result, saltwater stays in the damaged property for a longer period, continuing to cause damage and increasing the scope of the water-damaged area. Once the water finally evaporates, salt will still remain, leaving white, grainy layers on the inside of the home or business. Delays in moisture evaporation also allow for mold to take hold and a mold infestation to develop.

  1. Construction materials begin to dissolve.

Saltwater eats away at all kinds of building materials, including wood, drywall, gypsum board, mortar, plaster, concrete, metal, cinder blocks, and bricks. In areas that frequently experience storms and tidal flooding, recurring exposure to saltwater can cause severe structural issues.

  1. Metal corrodes more rapidly.

Highly salinated water creates a corrosive environment that affects metal supports and piping in a home or business. Copper piping is especially vulnerable to damage from saltwater, but cast iron and galvanized steel plumbing are also at risk. If saltwater weakens the integrity of a pipe, the pipe may crack or burst in the future, leading to another water damage disaster.

  1. The structure’s foundation starts to erode.

Saltwater upsets soil chemistry and stresses surrounding plant life. This increased soil salinity causes shifting, which destabilizes the foundation of a building and can cause structural problems.

The water damage remediation solution

When saltwater floods a Sunnyvale, CA, home or business, the property owner needs to enlist the services of a local full-service restoration company that has experience dealing with the property damage issues that affect homes and businesses in Sunnyvale and surrounding areas. The team at SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides water damage repair, cleaning, and reconstruction services to residential and commercial clients. Highly trained restoration technicians deliver round-the-clock emergency service, respond rapidly to the situation, and remediate the damage promptly so the client’s life can return to normal as quickly as possible.

For more information about Redwood City, CA, water damage restoration, call SERVPRO of Palo Alto at (650) 800-3448 or email office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.

How the Forces of Floodwaters Can Damage a Home and Cause Severe Water Damage?

11/24/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto highlights the damage that severe flooding can have on a home.

SERVPRO® of Palo Alto specializes in seasonal hazards and restoration for homes and businesses in the Bay area. The team utilizes the latest equipment, cutting-edge moisture-detecting technology, advanced cleaning techniques, and EPA-approved cleaning products to make the disaster like it never happened.

 Floodwaters are a powerful force capable of causing great destruction. Homeowners and prospective home buyers should familiarize themselves with the dynamic forces that cause structural damage to a home. This knowledge will ensure the scope of the post-disaster inspection will identify the range of flood damage.

Hydrostatic load/pressure

Some floods involve rising water, much like a bathtub filled with water. These relatively calm waters exert hydrostatic pressure, which refers to the force exerted by still water against a structure’s foundation, wall, slab, or basement wall. The static pressure is powerful, stressing a foundation or causing water to flow through fissures or cracks in walls.

The pressure can accelerate seepage through solid concrete, which is surprisingly porous. Equilibrium is achieved if the water level on the exterior of the structure is identical to the water level inside the structure. This balance may translate into less severe structural damage.

Hydrodynamic loads/pressure

Hydrodynamic pressure is the force exerted by water in motion. Floodwater flowing around a home generates hydrodynamic pressure on the structure. The forces exerted are directly related to the velocity of the water. The faster the water flows, the greater the pressure exerted where the water collides with the structure. A suction or vacuum force occurs on the backside of the home, opposite the impact zone.

If flowing water impacts a home at an angle, this lateral pressure is quite destructive. Walls can separate, and floors break up. The home may shift off its foundation or possibly suffer a catastrophic failure and collapse into a heap of rubble carried away by the current of the floodwaters.

Buoyancy and buoyant forces

Buoyancy refers to the capacity to float. Vehicles are very buoyant and are often seen floating in the current of floodwaters. Rising floodwaters create buoyant forces that can float a home off its foundation. Homes with pier and beam foundations or raised foundations are more vulnerable to these uplifting forces. In some instances, the connection points to the foundation may not be strong enough to keep the structure moored to its foundation.

Many homes are largely constructed of wood. Wood-framed walls, floors, and roofs are highly buoyant. A home can quickly become a floating barge, and cars can become water-born in only two feet of water.

Impact loads or forces

Impact load refers to the forces exerted when a floating object crashes into a home. The sudden jolt can be catastrophic. Impact loads include water current, waves, turbulence, and floating debris. The debris may be vehicles, other structures, trees, tree trunks, limbs, furniture, and propane tanks. Alone or in combination with other floating items, any of this debris can torpedo a home, knocking it off its foundation or ripping off sections of the structure. Floor joists, rafters, trusses, wood floors, framing timber, and walls can suffer significant damage. Floors buckle. The roof may suffer catastrophic failure and collapse.

Illustrating the force of  floodwaters

Some floodwaters are calm and still, rising like water in a pool or bathtub. Some floodwaters are rushing, turbulent rivers destroying anything and everything in their path. In both cases, the forces exerted by water are extreme. The walls, foundation, and flooring are no match for the power of floodwaters.

These examples illustrate the tremendous dynamic force of water. When the water level on the exterior of the home is three feet higher than the water inside the house, the inward pushing pressure exerted on the structure is roughly 180 to 200 pounds per square foot. The pressure against a home with walls 50 feet long and 10 feet high could destroy the house. Flood water traveling at a velocity of 10 miles per hour impacts a structure with the similar force of a wind gust of 270 miles per hour! Severe flooding has the power to uproot trees, wash out roads and bridges, and demolish homes and businesses.

When severe weather brings flooding and storm damage, reach out to the storm damage cleanup and restoration professionals at SERVPRO of Palo Alto. Available 24/7, 365 days a year, crews arrive on the scene in about an hour. The rapid response and quick cleanup reduce advanced secondary damage while getting life back to normal as soon as possible.

Contact SERVPRO® of Palo Alto to learn more about storm damage restoration. The office can be reached by calling (650) 800-3448 or emailing office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.

Strategies to Avoid a Mold Infestation Requiring Mold Remediation Services

9/6/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto shares strategies to help prevent mold damage in Atherton, CA, homes.

SERVPRO of Palo Alto is dedicated to helping homeowners and businesses overcome property damage disasters, such as a mold infestation. To prevent mold growth in Atherton, CA, homes, the team at SERVPRO of Palo Alto is providing a mold prevention checklist.

Mold thrives in dark, warm, moist places with plenty of organic matter such as wood, paper, and natural fibers. In a day or two, mold can appear on walls, furniture, cabinets, clothing, appliances, and upholstery. An infestation can prove difficult to remediate without professional help, sophisticated equipment, and products to remove and kill the mold. Mold can be found in plain sight, but it can also hide between walls, on the backside of furniture, in the attic, and in seldom used closets. Mold growth can cause structural damage if its progress is not halted. The mold prevention checklist provided below can help homeowners get a handle on a mold problem in the home.

Home Checklist for Mold Growth

Moisture promotes mold growth. Excessive amounts of moisture accelerate mold growth, so mitigating excessive humidity in the home can help prevent mold growth. To detect moisture in the home, use a moisture meter. If humidity levels are at or above 50 percent, steps need to be taken to mitigate the problem. A musty smell in the home may indicate mold growth, and the odor will be most obvious after leaving the house and returning a couple of hours later.

A key indicator of excessive moisture is the presence of mold in closets, on windowsills, and behind furniture. Look and feel for condensation on toilet tanks, toilet seats, exposed pipes, and window panes.

Water stains are another red flag for excessive moisture. Check for bronze and brown stains on ceilings, windowsills, and walls. Feel the underside of plastic storage containers kept in the basement. If moisture levels are low, the containers will be dry. Damp bottoms on boxes stored in the basement indicate excessive moisture. Since plastic containers and corrugated boxes are seldom moved, any moisture on the bottoms of the items should alert the homeowner to moisture issues.

Tips for Controlling Indoor Moisture Levels

Changes in lifestyle practices can help reduce moisture levels in the home. Where possible, hang wet laundry outdoors to dry in the Palo Alto sun. Do not bring wet shoes, clothing, and umbrellas into the house. A clean home inhibits mold growth. Crumbs, dander, dust, and dirty dishes provide much-needed food for mold. Standing water in glasses, plates, and bowls increase moisture levels in the home. Cover aquariums to prevent moisture loss. Limit the number of houseplants, or select plants that require very little water. Interior xeriscaping allows a homeowner to have fresh greenery without moisture intrusion. Keep pet areas clean and dry.

How to Reduce Moisture from Appliances

An improperly vented clothes dryer can pump large amounts of moisture into a home and the crawl space where mold can proliferate. Inspect the dryer connection several times yearly to ensure the moist air is evacuating the house. Empty and clean the refrigerator drip pan. Check for leaks and cracks when cleaning the unit. Pay attention to water levels in room dehumidifiers. When not in use, keep the reservoir empty and dry.

Proper HVAC maintenance of coils, lines, and filters helps the system run smoothly and efficiently. Inefficient or malfunctioning HVAC systems can be a major source of moisture in the home.

Humidifiers increase moisture levels in a room or other living space. Use this appliance sparingly as it elevates the humidity in the home. During the winter, high-temperature levels in the house increase humidity levels in the home. Lower the thermostat and add a layer of clothing. The cooler, drier air will reduce the likelihood of a mold outbreak.

Other Strategies to Reduce Moisture Levels in the Home

As soon as a plumbing leak is discovered, have it immediately repaired. Clean up any water damage. If needed, call a professional damage restoration company to ensure affected areas are dry and any mold issues have been eliminated.

Keep gutters and downspouts clean and flowing freely. Ensure the grade around the foundation is sloped to avoid pooling around the foundation. Keep plants and shrubs trimmed away from the foundation. Create a barrier between mulch and the foundation. Make sure that sprinklers do not wet the side of the home. Install a moisture barrier to reduce moisture in the crawl space.

What to Do If Mold Is Discovered

The team of IICRC-certified professionals at SERVPRO of Palo Alto has the training, equipment, advanced cleaning techniques, and EPA-approved products to remediate mold issues in the home. Crews are available 24/7, 365 days a year, including holidays.

For more information about Sunnyvale, CA, mold remediation, call SERVPRO of Palo Alto at (650) 800-3448 or email the office at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.

Water Damage Restoration for Flooding Caused by California Mini Floods

9/6/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto highlights the risk of mini floods to California homes and businesses.

The water and flood damage restoration professionals at SERVPRO of Palo Alto are proud to serve the Palo Alto community, as well as surrounding areas. Palo Alto is described as: “a dynamic global city…named after a majestic 1,000-year-old coastal redwood tree along San Francisquito Creek, where early Spanish explorers once camped… Palo Alto is recognized as a global leader in cutting-edge technological development and is known as the ‘Birthplace of Silicon Valley.’ This exciting mix of tradition and innovation makes Palo Alto an extraordinary destination for visitors.”

This beautiful area is a magnet for new residents and tourists. The burgeoning population stresses the public works infrastructure. In 1998, a sudden, heavy downpour caused a devastating flood that did almost $30 million in storm damage. San Francisquito Creek overflowed its banks by more than 11,000 acres. An estimated 1,100 homes suffered flood damage. Nearly 500 people were forced to evacuate inundated areas. This flooding occurred in an area (Palo Alto, Atherton, Redwood City) that receives 17 inches of rain per year, a little more than one-half the long-term national average of 30 inches. The Bay area also boasts around 261 days of sunshine annually. With so much sun and so little rain, it is easy to be lulled into complacency with regard to the risk of a sudden mini flood.

The Risk of Mini Floods Are Real in Palo Alto, CA

Despite all the sunshine, the Bay area, including Palo Alto, Atherton, and Redwood City, is still subject to flood risk from King Tides, infrastructure mishaps and malfunctions, and stalled or slow-moving thunderstorms.

King Tides and Coastal Flooding

Residents and tourists flocking to the beach and coastal areas need to be aware of King Tides, which can cause mini flooding in low areas along the coast in the Bay area. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in an article entitled, “Coastal Flooding in California,” describes the risk: “Californians living on the coast may be used to seeing so-called ‘King Tides,’ a regular phenomenon where high tides are higher than normal on certain days of the year.” These unusually high tides have overwhelmed storm drainage systems, caused road closures, damaged the transportation infrastructure, and led to serious erosion.

Water Main Mishaps

Sometimes the direct cause of a mini flood may not be weather-related. Instead, the source of the flooding may be a water main. The water line may have been damaged by excavating equipment conducting road construction. Unexplained catastrophic failure, seismic activity, improper installation, or aging may account for the waterline breakage. Tens of thousands of gallons of water can flood basements, crawl spaces, and the living areas of slab homes.

Stalled or Slow-Moving Thunderstorms

A stalled or slow-moving thunderstorm can dump several inches of rain over a small area such as a subdivision or cul de sac. Flash flooding may result. Gutters may be overwhelmed, resulting in flooded attics. Storm drains may not be able to disperse the water, and the backup may flood low-lying homes. The landmass under the stalled thunderstorm may receive several inches of rain in an hour or so. This amount of intense rainfall may also spawn landslides. 

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

A semi-arid region such as the Bay area is not without the risk of flooding and water damage. Preparation can save property and lives. Below are tips to help homeowners stay on top of the situation.

  1. Put together a survival kit.

The survival kit should include the basics: flashlights, water, food, first-aid, toiletries, evacuation routes, contact information, two weather radios, etc. The kit will come in handy in the event of an earthquake or wildfire.

  1. Know the flood history of the area.

Is the area in a flood plain? If not, have stalled or slow-moving storm cells caused localized flooding and property damage in the recent past? Neighbors and local city officials are a good source of information regarding flooding, landslides, and wildfires.

  1. Pre-qualify a property damage restoration company.

In the event of a disaster, one phone call delivers results. In about an hour, a team of certified, experienced, and well-equipped technicians arrive on the scene to inspect and assess the situation and begin the cleanup and restoration. The customer is provided with a detailed, well-documented estimate. The SERVPRO staff can handle the insurance claims process from beginning to end. The homeowner can focus on recovering and returning to life as normal.

For more information about storm damage restoration in Palo Alto, CA, and the surrounding area, email SERVPRO of Palo Alto at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com. The office can also be reached by phone at (650) 800-3448.

How Smart Technology Can Prevent a Fire Damage Disaster in the Home

9/6/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto looks at the power of smart technology to prevent fire damage to homes in the Bay Area.

With the advent of the internet, an array of complementary smart devices have been developed to both detect and prevent fire damage in the home. Smart technology is a quantum leap forward in fire safety, providing alert notifications to the homeowner’s mobile device and the fire department, even if both parties are miles from home.

Smart Technology: Smoke Detection

Typical smoke detectors are only effective if heard by occupants in the home. Smart smoke detectors are connected to other devices such as a smartphone through the internet and can deliver alarm notifications to that smartphone or other devices in the network. Smart smoke detectors can also be connected into the home security system; this integration allows the smoke detector to be monitored by a central command and control station. Should the smoke detector activate, both the homeowner with a smartphone and the fire department are alerted to the presence of smoke in the home.

Upon detecting smoke particles, smart smoke detectors can be programmed to turn off the HVAC system. This deactivation of the air handling system can prevent or reduce the disbursement of smoke while occupants safely make their way out of the home. Some security systems have the capability to turn on lights and provide audible instructions about what to do in the event of a house fire.

Options for the tech-savvy homeowner do not stop here. A camera can be integrated with each smart smoke detector. In recent years, the price of cameras has come way down, and the functionality and quality of the devices have reached new heights.

If a smart smoke detector activates, so do one or more cameras, enabling the homeowner to record the alert event. This information can provide an understanding of the location of the smoke and the cause of the fire. Some integrations allow for real-time witnessing of the events as they unfold.

Other failsafe options include smart detectors sending an alert to a smartphone to notify the homeowner that the batteries need to be replaced. This safety feature is vastly superior to the annoying chirp of the low-battery warning of traditional smoke detectors. More advanced smart smoke detectors also can perform double duty as a carbon monoxide (CO) detector.

Smart Technology: Fire Detection

A heat detector adds another layer of fire protection. One type of heat detector operates at a fixed temperature. When temperatures around the device rise above the preset temperature, the alarm activates. Another type of fire detector activates when a rapid rise in temperature is detected. Often a device will have both features. Fire detectors are not a substitute for smoke detectors. They complement smoke detectors, which are the first line of defense against a fire. When these systems are interconnected, the activation of one alarm also activates other devices, resulting in a unified, seamless alert to occupants in the home to devices of family members not at home, to the security system, and to first responders.

Other Smart Devices to Consider for Home Fire Protection

A smart battery provides an alternative to purchasing a host of new fire and CO safety devices. The battery powers existing detectors while providing alarm notifications on connected smartphones. The battery also sends an electronic signal indicating that the detector’s battery power is waning. Motion sensing technology has been harnessed as an excellent fire prevention strategy in the kitchen, where unattended cooking fires are the top cause of fires in homes. If no motion is detected by the sensor after a predetermined time, a process is set in motion to shut off the stove. Smart outlets allow a homeowner to use a smartphone app to turn small appliances and lights on and off remotely.

Installation of these smart devices may require professional technical assistance if the systems are complicated, and the learning curve to gain proficiency with the systems may require time and effort. However, systems are becoming more and more user-friendly, more affordable, and more effective at alerting occupants and first responders to a fire.

By taking a smart approach to fire safety, the homeowner can significantly reduce the risk of a fire hazard. The purpose of smart technology is to alert occupants in the home and first responders to signs of smoke, fire, and CO so that a safe, fast evacuation can be implemented. Fire damage may be extensive, but no lives are lost.

In case of a property damage disaster, including a fire damage disaster, SERVPRO of Palo Alto is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to help regain control of the situation quickly and begin the fire damage restoration process. A rapid response minimizes the disruption and reduces the cost of the overall project.

Contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto to learn more about fire damage restoration in Redwood City, CA. The office can be reached by phone at (650) 800-3448 or by emailing office@SERVPROpaloalto.com.

How to Stay Safe and Avoid Property Damage When Conditions Are Right for a Landslide

8/9/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto shares strategies to stay safe before, during, and after a landslide or mudflow.

When a fire damage, smoke damage, water damage, storm damage, or flood damage disaster strikes, SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides Palo Alto and the surrounding Bay area with property damage cleanup and restoration services. Natural disasters such as landslides and mudflows can cause financial, physical, and emotional pain. SERVPRO of Palo Alto shares strategies to help homeowners and business owners stay safe when the risk of landslides and mudflows is high.

Understanding Landslides: Common Causes

A landslide refers to land sliding down a hill. A landslide occurs when large amounts of earth, rocks, and debris such as trees, plants, and structures move down a slope. Not all landslides are the same. One type of landslide is a debris flow. Also known as a mudslide, a debris flow is a common type of landslide. What sets the debris flow apart is its high velocity and the tendency to flow in channels.

Natural and Man-Made Causes of Landslides and Debris Flows

Earth and debris are usually stable. As the slope of the terrain increases, naturally stable ground becomes vulnerable and fragile. Any disturbance of the ground can cause a landslide if the slope is steep enough. Seismic tremors, full-scale earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions can tip the scales on heavily sloped land, triggering massive landslides.

A period of heavy rain followed by a season of drought creates conditions that are susceptible to mudslides when the rains return. Dry ground rapidly soaks up the moisture like a sponge. If the rain continues, mudslides are sure to follow. Mudslides typically start on steep slopes. Landslides are a risk hazard where wildfires and human encroachment have deforested a land area.

Health Risks from Landslides and Debris Flows

In areas where the likelihood of a landslide is high, so are the risks of property damage, physical harm, and even death. Landslides and mudflows account for 25 to 50 fatalities annually. Health hazards include:

  • Broken utility lines, such as electrical, gas, or sewage, that can cause injury, disease, or illness
  • Damage to the transportation infrastructure, which can endanger motorists traveling on the treacherous roads and prevent first responders from giving aid to injured persons
  • Trauma and broken bones from impact by swiftly moving water and debris

High-Risk Areas

An awareness of local areas that are prone to landslides and mudflows is essential. When conditions arise that would elevate the likelihood of a landslide, residents and businesses should be on the alert for danger. Preparation, awareness, and a swift response can prevent injury and property damage and save lives. Land areas and terrains most susceptible to a natural disaster such as a landslide or mudflow include:

  • Acreage where vegetation is sparse or absent (from fire or human modification)
  • Steep slopes
  • Sites that have already experienced a landslide
  • River and stream beds
  • Terrain altered to accommodate new construction and infrastructure
  • Areas modified to accommodate drainage and runoff

Anyone visiting or living in any of the areas above should keep alert to the weather, to wildfires, and to other natural disasters that could set in motion a wave of rocks, earth, organic matter, and mudflows.

Tips and Strategies to Stay Safe Before, During, and After a Landside or Mudflow

Tip #1: Know the area well.

Severe weather involving heavy rains, hail, and winds should signal a heightened state of alertness. Assume that high-risk land areas will produce some measure of erosion, flooding, and property damage. Prior to a dangerous situation, reach out to local authorities such as the police, fire department, and emergency medical services to learn if the area has a history of natural disasters, including landslides. The local university, a county agent, the planning commission, or the state geological survey may be able to provide some insight.

Tip #2: Plan, prepare, and practice before a natural disaster.

The key to weathering a natural disaster is to plan, prepare, and practice before a storm or flood strikes. Communicate with local authorities to learn about the area’s emergency preparedness and evacuation plans.  Formulate a family and business emergency response plan. Include several evacuation routes. Provide alternate ways to communicate besides cell phones in case family members become separated. Residents living in high-risk areas should consider leaving when severe weather is forecast or when hazardous conditions arise.

Tip #3: Stay on high alert during severe weather.

Weather radios can be lifesavers during a natural disaster. Stay tuned to accurate sources, and act accordingly on the information. Watch for sudden increases in water levels in streams and creeks. These sudden changes might indicate a mudflow upstream. If trees, fences, and telephone poles are tilting on a slope, the land may be shifting. Listen for a rumbling noise. This sound may give a family the seconds they need to seek safety on high ground out of the path of the landslide.

Tip #4: Practice extreme caution after a landscape or mudflow.

Keep a safe distance from the affected area in case more landslides or mudflows occur. If possible, attend to the needs of physical injuries and emotional trauma. Report downed powerlines, broken water lines, and ruptured gas lines to the proper authorities. Stay informed. Listen carefully to radio and TV broadcasts for emergency information, and update family members about the situation.

Tip #5: Begin the cleanup and restoration process.

In case of a storm or flood damage disaster from a landslide or mudflow in a residential or commercial setting, SERVPRO of Palo Alto is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to begin the cleanup and restoration process. A rapid response minimizes disruptions and enables life at home or at a business to return to normal as soon as possible.

For more information about flood and storm damage restoration services, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by phone at (650) 800-3448 or by email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com