They’re Everywhere

When one is gone, three more show up.  It feels that way in the restoration business and you should be concerned.  Not long ago, a one time major restoration company went out of business.  They had several trucks, ten to twelve employees and over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of equipment, not to mention several locations.  But their practices of short cutting, overcharging customers and scamming insurance claims through shady public adjusters finally caught up.  That sounds like like the end of the story right?  But it’s not.  The employees of companies like this, either basic tech’s or supervisors behind the scams start businesses not long after.  They buy the used equipment off of their previous defunct employer, lease a new truck, get a new name and claim to have many years of experience.  So how do you protect yourself?

First, you can ask for a copy of their license, which you have every right too.  Contractors can block out personal information on a license or EIN form, but they should never hide when the company was filed.  Another way to find out how long they’ve been in business, is to use sites that track website analytics which usually display the date of when the domain was registered and how long the site has been up.  Lastly, ask questions.  There’s nothing wrong with asking a contractor where their office is located, if they have one, where did they previously work and can they show documentation as to the training they claim.  Remember, hiring a contractor is a short term partnership and you’re allowing someone not only into your home, but into your life.

The Day After A Fire

Many people are lucky enough to never have gone through the devastating loss of a fire in their home.  But for those who have, these images are difficult to ever forget.  Here’s a set of photos displaying a home the day after the fire was extinguished, and a look at the severe damage it caused.  Please note, that all animals and residents were evacuated safely.  20151115_085912 20151115_085918 20151115_085926 20151115_085933 20151115_085941 20151115_085952

Sprinkler System Leaks

A fire sprinkler system is an active fire protection measure, consisting of a water supply system, providing adequate pressure and flowrate to a water distribution piping system, onto which fire sprinklers are connected. By a wide margin, wet pipe sprinkler systems are installed more often than all other types of fire sprinkler systems. They also are the most reliable, because they are simple, with the only operating components being the automatic sprinklers and (commonly, but not always) the automatic alarm check valve. An automatic water supply provides water under pressure to the system piping. What many may not know, is that anti-freeze is mixed into the solution of liquid that comes out of the sprinkler system.

So when a home has a water loss due to a fire sprinkler system, it’s not just water that has to be cleaned up.  Anti-Freeze can by sticky and also discolor certain pieces of furniture and clothing.  The quicker the loss can be cleaned the better, (although this is the case for all water losses), but certainly in this situation due to the solution soaking into fabrics and building materials. Odors from the sprinkler system can also be offensive and linger especially if the system which leaked or failed was on the top floor of the home and insulation in the attic got wet. Being sure that the wet materials are thoroughly cleaned and structurally dried, while also discarding all non-salvageable materials will have the home reconstruction ready and hence back to pre-loss conditions quickly.

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Most Common House Fires

1.  The most common type of fire in the U.S. is the kitchen fire. The reason that the kitchen is the source of many fire hazards is because the kitchen is where heat, electricity, water, and grease come together.  The most common type of kitchen fire is the grease fire. A grease fire is extremely dangerous as it can get out of control quickly and spread from the stove throughout the kitchen and into other rooms of the house.

Many grease fires occur because someone leaves a frying pan on the stove unattended. They also occur when someone overheats a pan during attended cooking if the grease catches fire. Grease fires can cause serious injury and extensive property damage.  Other types of kitchen fires include oven fires and appliance fires. Fires can also get started in the kitchen when electricity comes in contact with water.

2.  Electrical fires are another common type of fire. Electrical fires are caused by a number of different factors, including faulty appliances, worn or faulty electrical wiring, improper use of electrical outlets and worn out breaker boxes.  Older homes often do not have the proper wiring to handle the amount of electrical appliances in use today. Often old wiring inside walls becomes frayed or worn, causing shorts and sparks that can ignite.

Old breaker boxes are made to shut off electrical current when the circuit becomes overloaded as a fire prevention measure, but often the connections are worn or broken and do not activate the breaker switch.  Lighting is another cause of electrical fires, which can be triggered by improper wiring or the use of bulbs that are higher in wattage than the amount recommended for the lighting appliance.

3.  Heater fires are among the most common types of fires in the months of December, January and February. Portable heaters should always have automatic shutoffs that activate when they overheat as a fire precaution.  Coil space heaters are especially hazardous because the coils will ignite anything combustible nearby. Always keep any type of space heater a minimum of three feet from anything combustible. That includes curtains, bedding, clothing and furniture. Always shut space heaters off when you’re not in the room.

Extension cords should not be used with space heaters as they generate too much electricity and can start a fire.

4.  Another major type of fire is smoking-related. Fires caused by cigarettes account for 1,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Many times the smoker is not the person who dies.  Most smoking fires are started by embers igniting on furniture, bedding and trash cans. Smokers should always be sure cigarettes are completely extinguished before emptying ashtrays into the trash.

Never smoke in bed and never smoke when you are tired, inebriated, or drowsy from medication. Do not place ashtrays on flammable surfaces like couches, chairs, or beds where they can tip over and start a fire.  The best way to prevent smoking-related fires is to smoke outside the house and have a can filled with sand to extinguish cigarette butts.

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Types of Mold Inspections

Here’s a brief summary of the different types of mold inspections that can be performed to determine whether or not mold exists in a property.

Air Sampling:  Air samples can be used to gather data about mold spores present in the interior of a property.  These samples are taken by using a pump that forces air through a collection device which catches mold spores.  The sample is then sent off to a laboratory to be analyzed. Having samples analyzed can also help provide evidence of the scope and severity of a mold problem, as well as aid in assessing human exposure to mold spores.  After remediation, new samples are typically taken to help ensure that all mold has been successfully removed.

Surface Sampling:  To determine whether the suspected surface (visible stain, discoloration, etc.) sampled is indicative of mold growth on the sample location, a surface/lift sample can be administered. This type of test can identify molds actually growing on the surface sampled, as opposed to the mere presence of mold spores. This type of test is very effective if there is no indication of mold anywhere else other than one or two particular spots.

Swab Testing:  Very similar to surface or tape sampling but with the use of a swab,

Bulk Samples:  This type of test actually has the technician removing a piece of a suspect surface and then sending that piece off for analysis.  An example of this would be to remove a discolored piece of drywall, place it in a secured bag/ziplock, and then send it off to determine if the discoloration is indeed mold.

Petri-Dish:  A Petri-Dish is a glass or plastic container where fluid is added to the dish so that mold can be caught while passing over the liquid.  The instrument forces air to flow over the dish and contaminated material is collected. The sample container is then sent to the for Culturing. This is a dependable method of testing and actually grows the mold spores collected. This is a test for living Mold Spores.

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Top 10 Tips When Filing a Fire Loss – Part 2

In continuing our blog on Filing a Fire Claim, here’s the last five…

Keep Track of Your Living Expenses

  • While displaced from your home, you will get reimbursed for living expenses because of a clause in your policy called, “loss of use.”  Note, however, that you are only entitled to the difference between what it costs you while displaced and what it was costing you in your home. For example, if your monthly living expenses are $4,000 per month, but now you are having to add hotel stays, restaurant meals, laundry expenses, and extra gas for your car, totaling an additional $1,000, your insurance company will only reimburse you the extra $1,000 per month.

Continue to Pay Your Insurance Premiums

  • Just because you may not be residing in your home doesn’t mean you do not have to pay the insurance bill.  Many people stop paying the bill which is a huge mistake.  Your policy carries over to wherever you’re currently living.  If you’re staying at a friends home and your pet destroys a very expensive piece of furniture, without your policy being current, this is an expense that will be out of pocket.  It is very important to let your insurance company know where you are staying, and to always keep your policy current without a lapse.

You Can Always Reopen the Claim

  • Insurance companies are quick to close fire insurance claims, especially in mass disaster situations. The longer your claim is open, the greater chance for you to discover something you overlooked previously. This is actually a common occurrence. In such a stressful and confusing time, it is likely that you may forget to list an item of value in your initial insurance claim. Give yourself some time. Protect yourself by waiting a few months before consenting to closing your claim. You do have this power.
    Insurance companies will try and slide in a claim closing by adding language to your check. When they send you your check, they may say something like “acceptance of this payment will close your claim.” You do not have to accept this. Cross out the language, sign or initial next to it, and send them a letter thanking them for the payment, but asserting that you do not consider the claim closed.

Consider a Public Adjuster

  • A public adjuster is an individual hired to negotiate and handle the claim on your behalf.  Some people think that hiring an adjuster will anger the insurance carrier, but this is non-sense.  Insurance companies become multi-million dollar companies not by giving you money for your claim, but by trying every means possible to deny or close out your claim with them giving you far less than you are entitled too.  A public adjuster, who takes a percentage of the claim, knows the ins and outs of the insurance game, and will fight for every inch. We also have a blog on what to look for when hiring one of them,

Do Not Worry About Being Dropped

  • Too familiar with automobile insurance companies raising premiums or completely dropping drivers, many people fear that filing fire insurance claims will cause their homeowners’ insurance company to do the same. This is not the case. As long as you file only legitimate claims after real disasters, you are not a “habitual claimant,” and there is no evidence of fraud on your part, your premium will not increase and you will not lose your coverage.

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