How to Prepare Your Home for an Emergency
When disaster strikes, the last thing you want to think about is where the spare batteries are or whether your perishables have passed their expiration date. Make sure you're ready for any situation — and how to handle the aftermath — with these top tips.
1. Pack a "Go Bag"
If you have to leave your home in a hurry, you'll want to have some essentials packed and ready to go. Keep the following supplies, recommended by FEMA, in a portable container in the area of your house where you'll take shelter:
- Three days' worth of food and water (at least a gallon per family member)
- Battery powered (or hand crank) flashlights and radio
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Trash bags and duct tape, along with a dust mask
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Regional maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter, or solar charger
- Moist towelettes and any personal sanitation or specific family needs, like pet supplies
(For additional recommendations, be sure to check out ready.gov)
We also suggest having smaller versions of your kit stocked with a few necessities like walking shoes, snacks, and a flashlight at work. In general, you'll also need enough cash on hand for five days of basic needs (gas and food), but any amount of ready money will help if ATMs are down.
Once you have your supplies together, it pays to go through them at least once a year too, to weed out expired food and batteries.
2. Make an Action Plan
When things get chaotic, you want to make sure that every family member knows what to do. We suggest designating two meeting places (one close by and one a little further away in your neighborhood) and hang a map with the spots marked near your emergency kit.
It also pays to have important contacts written down if the power goes out and there's nowhere to charge your cell phone. Make a mini contact list — ready.gov has templates you can print out — with important numbers that everyone can stow in their wallets. Leave a copy in your emergency kit, too. Establish a plan for checking in with relatives in case local lines get jammed. Text messages will often go through, even when phone lines are clogged.
3. Prep Your Home
If the power goes out and you have time, unplug appliances and electronics and turn off air conditioners, whether you stay or go. This will prevent damage when the electricity surges back on. Leave one lamp on so you'll know when the power's back.
How you store food can also make a difference when it comes to salvaging items afterwards, according to the FSIS. If there's a chance of flooding, be sure to store dry goods in waterproof containers high enough that they will be safely out of the way of contaminated water.
Grouping food together in the freezer can help it stay colder longer in the case of a power outage. If you have advanced warning, freeze any items you don't need right away, like leftovers, milk, and fresh meat and poultry to keep them at a safe temperature longer and stock your freezer with as much ice as you can fit. Coolers stocked with ice can also be helpful if the power is out for more than four hours.
Though you'll want to minimize the amount you open and close your refrigerator door once the power goes out, FSIS recommends keeping an appliance thermometer in your fridge and freezer to help you determine if food is safe to eat. The refrigerator temperature should be lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer temperature should be below zero degrees Fahrenheit.
After the Emergency
Coming home after a major disaster can be daunting. Call SERVPRO of Northwest Charlotte to help you in the event your home is affected.
5 Tips For Decluttering Your Home This Summer
No one likes a messy home— especially when it's summer and the sizzling temperatures are making everyone just a little bit irritable! Luckily, the blistering heat is also the perfect excuse to stay indoors and do some decluttering.
From creating a detailed cleanup plan to the best way to get rid of your extra stuff, take a look at these tips that will make decluttering your home a bit more manageable:
Make a plan and stick to it. Crafting a list of all your home's problem areas and laying out a plan of attack will save you a lot of time and stress. It's also important to pace yourself and allot a realistic amount of time to actually finish the project you're working on. If your garage is filled to the brim with boxes you haven't gone through in ages, you're probably going to need more than a few hours to get through it. This will help you stick to your plan, even when life and distractions get in the way.
Organize and clean room-by-room. Once you start a project, finish it! It can get very hectic (and messy) if you have multiple projects going on at once— not to mention it gets super difficult to prioritize your clean ups when there are multiple spaces that need attention. Pick one room at a time, and then only move onto the next room after everything is tidy.
Start small. Decluttering your home doesn't happen instantly. It can be overwhelming to think about the entire house as one big project. Once you choose a room, you can choose a specific area of the room to focus on at one time, like a bookshelf or a cabinet. Find a small project and then build on from there.
Keep, toss or give away? Purchase bins and boxes so you can more easily organize your keep, toss and giveaway piles. Look through your things and decide which items you can't live without. For everything leftover, decide whether you want to donate it or throw it out. If you think someone else might benefit from the item, add it to the giveaway box. If not, toss it!
5 Common AC Mistakes You're Probably Making
1. You're Neglecting the Air Filter
Air conditioners work by sucking in air and passing it over a continuous liquid-to-gas-to-liquid chemical reaction. That reaction forces the air around it to absorb its heat, thus lowering its temperature. With all that movement, it's inevitable that dust, dander, and allergens get stirred up. The filter is designed to catch any nasty stuff accumulated in the air.
However, as it grabs more and more particles, the filter can become clogged. That means the air conditioner has to work much harder to cool a room. It can also force dust into the room, which you definitely don’t want. “Clogged air filters can damage your air conditioner system’s parts and result in costly repairs,” says Lenny Cipolla, an owner of Florida-based HVAC service and repair company Southern Coast Services.
You should clean the filter on a central air conditioning unit about once a month. The filter location will vary based on your model, but be sure to turn off the power before you do so. A window unit likely has a warning light indicating when it’s time to clean the filter. And cleaning an air conditioner filter is pretty easy. Simply suck up any loose debris up with a vacuum, then soak the filter in a mixture of equal parts hot water and white vinegar. Give it a rinse, let it dry, and you should be good to go!
2. You Installed It in a Sunny Spot
For window units, location is everything. If your air conditioner is located in an especially sunny place, the unit will have to work much harder to cool the air, which could cost you money over time. If possible, install it in a shady spot.
Another common installation problem is not sealing the window properly. If there’s space around the air conditioner, you'll let in hot air. Make sure that the fold-out shield on a window unit blocks as much air as possible. Then you can look into weatherstripping to seal up any gaps.
For outdoor units, make sure the space around it is clear: no trees, shrubs, flowers, or structures should block their flow.
3. It's Surrounded with Appliances
Most air conditioners have sensors that let you pick a temperature and prompt the unit to cycle on and off to maintain that temperature. But these can be unintentionally tricked.
Make sure there are no appliances that give off heat near your air conditioner. This includes lamps, kitchen appliances like refrigerators, and home electronics like televisions. Those items will raise the temperature in their immediate area and fool the air conditioner into working harder—and thus less efficiently. Consider using blackout curtains in the room with your AC unit.
“Close the blinds or drapes on the sunny side of your home during the hottest part of the day to naturally lower the inside temperature,” says Ted Noonan, owner of Noonan Energy in Massachusetts. “Avoid cooking meals that involve the oven, which can increase the temperature in your home and force your unit to work harder.”
4. You Use It On Mild Days
Frankly, we all probably use our air conditioners more than necessary. These units use a lot of energy, making them expensive to run; it could cost you as much as $25 per month per unit to run half of each day.
If it’s only mildly hot outside, or if you’re not in the same room as the air conditioner, turn it off. Fans, especially ceiling fans, are a good option, too as they do a great job of circulating air. Plus, a ceiling fan costs only $1.50 per month for the same usage. And the less you use it, the longer your air conditioner will last.
5. You Ignore Preventive Maintenance
For smaller window AC units, proper location and air filter cleaning will take you through the life of the system. But for large HVAC units, more maintenance might be needed. “At a minimum, air conditioning condenser coils should be cleaned at least twice a year,” says Richard Ciresi, owner of an Aire Serv heating and cooling franchise. “It is best to clean the condenser coils before starting the system for the season and again when the weather starts to get hot for prolonged periods of time.” The condenser coils are located on the exterior box of your HVAC system. To clean them, first turn off the power at the outdoor shutoff, then use a coil brush or vacuum to remove debris. Spray with a hose or wash with coil cleaner as needed.
There are few feelings of relief so perfect as coming in from a hot, humid summer’s day to a crisp, air-conditioned house. But it’s important to remember that these appliances won’t simply take care of themselves. Take care of them with our expert tips, and they’ll keep your family cool all season long.
What to do If Your House Gets Struck by Lightning
Lightning is an amazing natural phenomenon that scientists are still trying to figure out. With bolt temperatures hotter than the sun’s surface and voltages sometimes greater than 100 million volts, lightning is one of the most dangerous and deadly forces on the earth.
This being said, it’s not surprising that lightning has the ability to do major damage to any home that it strikes. It’s important to know ahead of time what to do if your house does get struck by lightning. Knowing what immediate steps to take in a lightning emergency could save you a lot of money and possibly even your life.
HOW DOES LIGHTNING WORK?
A lot of debate surrounds the topic of exactly how lightning is generated. However, scientists agree on the basics: Positive and negative charges separate inside clouds; positive charges move upward, and negative charges move toward the lower portion of the cloud. When enough negative charges build up near the bottom of a cloud, they attempt to reach the positively-charged earth as quickly as possible.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES A HOUSE?
If your home ever gets struck by lightning, you will hear a very loud, powerful boom that might shake your entire house. Many homes are built to withstand lightning strikes without succumbing to major damage. This is the purpose of lightning rods; lightning wants to get from the cloud to the ground as quickly as possible, and lightning rods facilitate that journey, providing the fastest route.
While staying inside your home, away from doors and windows, is the safest place to be during a storm, a couple of dangers exist inside the home when lightning is involved, regardless of whether you have lightning protection in place.
- Power Surges: When lightning strikes a house, the electricity often surges through a home’s wiring or plumbing system, searching for the quickest possible route to the ground. Make sure to unplug any electronics (especially valuable ones like TVs or computers), or they could be destroyed. Avoid running water during a lightning storm. You could get electrocuted if you are touching or standing near water or any electronics that are plugged into walls.
- Fire: When lightning shoots through a home, there’s a risk for fire. The most common place for a fire to ignite is in the attic, when a lighting bolt comes through the roof or top of the house. However, the heat from the electricity of a lightning bolt that runs through the walls inside your plumbing or wiring could start a fire as well. You may notice it immediately, or it may burn slowly inside the walls without your realizing it for some time.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR HOUSE GETS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING
- First, make sure everyone is okay. If you see fire or smell smoke, evacuate your home immediately.
- Call 911, and tell them your home was struck by lightning. Do this regardless of whether or not you detect a fire hazard.
- The fire department will come out to your property and assess the area for damage, including using thermal imaging cameras to search inside walls for heat that could or already has started a fire.
- Once your home is assessed and found to be safe, you will be able to return inside.
- Call your insurance company and explain what has happened.
- Call a trustworthy electrician to come out and inspect your home wiring.
Water Damage Clean Up
Tips for cleaning your home after water damage
Water in unwanted places can cause a lot of damage. Not only can it ruin your prized possessions, but also the house in which they are stored. If you’re able to act quickly, you can minimize the damage and possibly save some of your possessions. Some of your success depends on how long the water’s been around, there might be pieces of furniture that can be saved, and sometimes, even carpet, but any electronics hit by water are probably doomed.
Don’t treat flood water in unwanted places lightly: even if your basement only has an inch of water in it, or is even just damp, it is the perfect breeding ground for mold. Mold growth not only ruins walls, furniture, carpets, flooring, etc., it can lead to poor indoor air quality causing respiratory problems including asthma, and can lead to severe illness. Preventing mold growth is key to keeping your home’s air clean and healthy. So in addition to calling your insurance company, here are a few tips to deal with your flooded basement and minimize the water damage. (Call your insurance company before you do anything, and tell them what you want to do.)
- Disconnect the power, unplug any electronics, and remove electronics, furniture and movable items immediately. The faster you get items out of water’s way, the more likely you’ll be able to save them. Definitely move all electrical items first, and if you can, turn off your power leading into the affected area, especially if water rises above electrical outlets. Pull up any carpets (wall to wall and area rugs) and underpadding. You may be able to save the carpet if you get it cleaned and disinfected, however, it may shrink and be better off as an area rug afterwards. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to save the underpadding, which acts like a sponge and absorbs a lot of water.
- Get rid of the water. There are several ways to get rid of the water. If you don’t have power, or are worried about loose wires, the old-fashioned, manual way will work. Use old towels, buckets and mops to soak up as much water as possible. As long as sewers in your neighborhood aren’t backed up, you can pour the water down the drain, otherwise, pour onto your lawn or other permeable surface. A wet/dry vacuum can be used too, note: be very careful to plug it into outlets far away from water. Don’t use an extension cord as the connection could also short out and give you a nasty shock. Water and electricity don’t mix! If your basement or other flooded area is overwhelming and you have power, consider renting (if available) a sump pump from your local Rent-all or hardware stores. Getting rid of all the water and drying out the area is the most important thing you can do to prevent mold growth.
drywall cutaway, after flood waters are mopped up
- Dry out the affected area. Once you’ve mopped up all the water, use fans and a dehumidifier to help dry out the area. If it’s stopped raining, open windows to allow for air circulation and faster drying. You want to dry the area out as soon as possible. If you have a finished basement and the drywall was affected, you’ll probably have to cut away the areas that were touched by water as the drywall will crumble and the paper backing is a good source of food for mold. If you have baseboard trim, take it up first, and if it’s made from pressboard it will likely not be salvageable. If it was wood, you might be able to save it.
- Disinfect. After the area has dried out, including wood beams, insulation, drywall, etc., use a good disinfectant to get rid of any bacteria that might have come up through sewers, toilets, etc. Disinfect all areas affected by the flood waters including walls and wood and non-upholstered furniture that sat in flood water.
- Prevent mold growth. After you’ve disinfected and let the area thoroughly dry out, apply Concrobium throughout the affected area according to directions. I can’t say enough good things about this product; it is non-toxic, made with distilled water and inorganic salts. You can use it on furniture, walls, floors, basically anything that is susceptible to mold growth. Once a thin layer of Concrobium Mold Control is applied, let it dry overnight. As Concrobium dries, it forms a thin layer over any mold that may be growing and actually crushes the roots of the spores. Wherever it’s sprayed will prevent any mold from growing, providing continued resistance. If you’re spraying an entire room, you might want to consider renting a mister from a hardware store such as Home Depot. It’s easy to use and very fast.
- Dispose of damaged items responsibly: you’ll be tempted to throw everything into a dumpster and send it all away and out of site. But if you can organize damaged goods into piles and take what you can to recycling centres, you will help alleviate the pressure on your local landfill site. Go to your city or town’s waste management website to find out where to recycle old paints, stains, adhesives and other toxic liquids, any damaged electronics from cell phones to TVs and computers, furniture, and even drywall.
The First 48 Hours After a Basement Flood
Act fast. The sooner you clear the contents out of your basement during a water incident, the more likely you will be able to restore the condition to your items and possessions.
When a finished basement experiences significant water damage, such as a basement flooding or a water pipe burst, timing is everything. Where the sooner you begin the disaster recovery process, the more likely you will be able to restore the condition of your possessions and the finished basement environment.
The first 48 hours are considered the most important time period to react, as it is crucial to preventing further damage to the basement and the items within, as well as preventing a wide spread mold problem. Below are the first steps to take, preferably within these first 48 hours.
- Turn Off the Power. Never enter a flooded basement or touch the flood waters without cutting off the power.
- Call your insurance company. Policies differ. Most require special flood insurance to cover ground water leaks, but homeowner’s insurance may cover damage from indoor plumbing and hot water heater leaks.
- Get the water out as soon as possible. Call SERVPRO of Northwest Charlotte to extract any standing water. If there isn’t a lot of water, you might try to get it out yourself, with a “floor sucker” or a shop-vac.
Dry everything out as quickly as possible
To prevent items and building materials from becoming ruined, dry your basement as soon as the water is removed. Ideally, the basement should be completely dry within 48 hours. After that, the potential for mold growth increases considerably. A professional restoration company might help expedite this process. Alternatively, you can consider acquiring a powerful basement dehumidifier.
FIRE DAMAGE - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FIRE & SMOKE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Some FAQs about Fire & Smoke Damage
Fire and Smoke damage is not as rare as you may think. Those who are affected by a fire and contact us for help with the restoration process often have similar questions regarding what to do after. Some of those questions and answers are provided below.
Can I go back into my home to get my belongings after a fire damage?
We suggest an expert determine the safety of any home or building. While you may not see a risk in checking the fire damage in your home, it may be dangerous, or pose a hazard to your health.
What will happen to my items left in the home?
Your insurance agent may deem some that are safe be stored. If so, our technicians would remove those items and safely store them. Items damaged due to the smoke damage from the fire would need to be disposed of properly, which our technicians will also do.
Do you board up our home?
Yes, we can. SERVPRO of Northwest Charlotte can board up a home safety and securely to prevent possible theft after a fire damage has occurred.
Can I stay in my home after a fire?
Insurance adjusters will make this determination usually based on damage, but common sense will sometimes tell you to stay elsewhere. If a small situation is centered in one room and did not affect other areas, you may be able to safely stay.
Can we clean the fire or smoke damage ourselves?
Most people think fire or smoke damage can be easily cleaned. There are actually strict standards for fire restoration set forth by the IICRC, which all professional fire restoration companies follow to make sure your home is properly restored. While you may think you can do it, if you lack the proper training and experience, you are taking all responsibility for future hazards and problems that may occur.
SERVPRO of NW Charlotte is trained to respond to any disaster of any size. We have someone from the office on the phone 24/7 so you speak to a real person, in real time with the ability to respond to your emergency any time of the day. Within 1 hour of the call we are able to get you an ETA for a crew. With our on-site response time being less than four hours, we are able to prevent further damage and prevent any extra expenses. We work with your insurance company as needed to make sure you, your family and home are taken care of!
It is estimated that up to 50% of businesses that close due to a disaster, such as fire and flood never reopen! Of the businesses that survive, the overwhelming majority of them had a preparedness plan in place.
Are you “Ready for whatever happens?”
Preparation is a key component for making it through any size disaster, whether it’s a small water leak, a large fire, or an area flood. The best time to plan for such events is not when the event happens, but well before it happens.
The SERVPRO® Emergency READY Profile serves as a quick reference of important building and contact information or can be an ideal supplement to any well-designed emergency preparedness or existing contingency program. Rather than simply reacting to disaster situations, most prefer proactive measures to establish a relationship with a restoration services company.
By working with SERVPRO® of Northwest Charlotte to develop your personalized Emergency READY Profile your business will receive the benefit of over 40 years of experience in reducing the impact of any natural or man-made disaster. SERVPRO® is a leader in water and fire damage response and can help you quickly get your property back in working order.
COMMERCIAL MOLD DETECTION & REMOVAL SERVICES
Mold and Your Business. Mold contamination is a growing concern for businesses of all sizes. Mold, a fungus that is found in damp places, can grow almost anywhere moist conditions exist. Left unattended, it can cause health problems as well as serious structural damage to your facility. As your go-to experts in mold remediation, we take a methodical and systematic approach to carefully identify the source of the mold growth and help eliminate mold from your working environment.
WHY IS MOLD A PROBLEM?
Molds gradually destroy the things they grow on and can grow anywhere:
- HVAC system
- Furnishings and more
In your home, all molds have the potential to cause side effects:
- Breathing Difficulties
- Skin irritation
- Allergic reactions
- Aggravation of asthma symptoms
The presence of mold in your building means significant repairs may be necessary. This presents a financial problem for business owners.
If you suspect mold in your business, count on SERVPRO of Northwest Charlotte to quickly remediate the issue and let you get back to business as soon as possible. Once we assess the damage, we'll work with you to create a comprehensive remediation plan unique to your needs. Then, we'll keep you informed every step of the way to ensure we're always on the same page and providing the best work. With our guided expertise, innovative tools and technologies, we'll get your business up and running again as soon as possible.