Dealing With House Fire Aftermath
A fair share of emphasis is placed on fire safety and, needless to say, for some good reasons too. However, it is also very important to be aware of what follows after a catastrophic fire breakout. One should know what to do after the house fire. After the fire is out, you need to deal with the aftermath and get things in order. There is a checklist you could go through in order to ensure maximum remediation from the unforeseen and unfortunate fire. Let us go through what you should typically do after a fire is out.
Contact your insurance: This is probably the first thing you should do after the fire is out. You shouldn’t delay the restoration process at all. Call your insurance agent as soon as you can to work out a reasonable deal to restore your house and bring it back to a livable condition. It is imperative to contact the claims manager soon because the sooner your insurance company is alerted, the sooner your claim can be processed. You will probably receive various calls from different adjustment agents for your burned house, which can often confuse or baffle you, so it is advised to call your insurance agent directly.
Protecting the fire site: Burned out properties can become a site of vandalism and theft. Squatters can also inhabit these locations when left unattended and bad weather may take its toll on the damaged property structure as well. If you leave, you need to secure your property from all of this. If it’s rainy, make sure you cover all entries to prevent further damage. Additionally, request the police and your neighbors to keep an eye on the premises for any unwelcomed activity. Also, if your heating system is hot and the weather is cold, your pipes are at risk of bursting. In case that does happen, your insurance won’t cover the post disaster damage, so make sure you shut off the water system completely.
Cautions: Before turning the power back on, have a licensed electrician inspect the household wiring of potential water damages to make sure it’s safe to turn on power. Discard all food, drinks and pharmaceuticals that have been exposed to fire because they’re not fit for consumption anymore. Fires can severely weaken the property’s structure, so it’s ideal to have a local council’s building inspector to inspect the property floor, roof and other structures before you start living there again.
Tackling Fire Emergencies
You’re lying down, scrolling your bedtime Facebook feed like usual when your nose detects the distinct charred smoke effervescing from the seams of your bedroom door. What do you do? What do your instincts tell you? In dire moments in between life and death, panic and fear set in, impairing your judgment to make the right call on the spot.
We’ve all probably been briefed in safety training at some point of our lives and told not to panic in case of emergencies. Once something in your house catches fire, it can grow into a blazing white hot mess consuming everything inside in no time. And, if you’re a hoarder who likes to accumulate piles of old newspapers, boxes and other flammable materials, you are literally adding fuel to the fire.
Smokey Bear shouldn’t be the only one prepared for such circumstance. One must always be prepared in case of an emergency and you need pre set instructions to kick in during these pivotal moments. Let’s go through a couple of important things you should do in case of a fire.
- Know your way out: Smoke from the fire can fill up rooms almost instantaneously. Thereby, decreasing your vision clarity every passing second. If you need to feel your way through to the exit, it might be too late. You must be well aware of all the emergency exits, windows and main exits in order to safely evacuate the building with all your family members. Since, the thick black smoke will be filling up the place, it might block some of the exits. You must be familiar with all the possible escape routes to go for an alternate exit if one is blocked from collapsing debris or black smoke.
- Call 911 immediately and sound the alarm: You might be one of the first people in the vicinity to know of the fire. You can save many other unsuspecting victims by sounding the fire alarm on your way out. This will allow others to start evacuating simultaneously, preventing further damage. The first thing you should do once you establish your safety is to call 911 for disaster control.
Now, here’s what you should NOT do in case of a fire emergency and pay attention:
- Using the elevator: If you’re a resident of a building, you must use the fire exit or regular stairs because when the fire alarms are rung, most elevators are automatically sent to the lobby level and restricted for the Fire Department’s use only.
- Opening doors better left closed: Oftentimes when a fire starts in one part of the room isolated by a closed door, it’s not recognized until the fire eats through the door or smoke seeps in. If you see smoke coming out from beneath the door, through the hinges or seams, then touch the door or the door knob to feel if it’s hot. If it is, do NOT open the door, keep it confined within the room.
For your’s and everyone’s safety, please call 911 immediately to get the fire extinguished. Damage control can be done after. Remain calm, exit the building, then call for help.
(SERVPRO of Torrance specialized in fire and smoke remediation)
Importance of Having Regular Gutter & Air Duct Cleaning
Our home is where we recharge ourselves and prepare for another day. We often try to décor up the place and make it as comfortable as possible. However, there are some integral components of our home that we tend to miss out on. It’s not the paint, furniture or other superficial components. The gutters and air ducts are often the most over looked parts of our house. Perhaps it’s because their function is underestimated. Here are a few pointers to remind you why regular air duct and gutter cleaning is important.
Regular gutter cleaning
Moisture is a common enemy when it comes to the building’s structural support. Having blocked gutters can potentially cost you a lot in repairment and fixes especially in the rainy season. Overflowing water from the room moves into the gutters, but when it’s blocked, it has nowhere to go but seep down into the building’s base through the smallest cracks.
Water might go away, but it’s where it escapes to that’s important and where the problem starts. Over time, this collective water absorption can damage your building’s foundation. The idiom “out of sight, out of mind” unfortunately prevails amongst the common public when it comes to escaping water and gutter system health. Additionally, the accumulation of excess water due to clogged gutters is often the primary reason for damp basement conditions.
People neglecting their gutters leave their house more susceptible to pest invasion too. Damp rotting wood is ideal for all kinds of pests such as wood termite, rats and even mosquitoes. A bi-annual servicing and inspection of your gutters keeps you safe from hefty costs, saving you money in the long term.
Regular air duct cleaning
Air ducts have their own benefits, mostly unknown to the common people. Air conditioning systems regulate the indoor air quality of your home. This means any persisting fungal spores and bacteria, won’t loiter around in your living vicinity in the presence of a well maintained air conditioning system.
It is a common misconception that high efficiency windows and doors can serve as a good substitute for air ventilation. They may reduce your power bill by reducing the amount of internal and external air transfer, but they do not provide adequate ventilation. There might be pollutants, potentially pathogenic in nature, present inside your home and a properly functioning air conditioning system can solely ventilate these hazards out of your home.
Regular air duct cleaning is therefore, directly correlated with indoor air quality. Furthermore, warm air ducts can also harbor thermophilic bacteria. A thorough air duct cleaning including a disinfection process fogged through the system eliminates such dangers and removes any remaining mold, bacteria and dust mites.
Impact Of Hoarding on Living Conditions
Aside from the superficial problem of excessive storage of unnecessary items, hoarding has far graver implications. The amount of possible biohazards in your household can surprise you. The compulsive habit of hoarding can put the hoarder along with other family members in a dangerous situation. The kinds of items that you hoard determine the level of threat this accumulation presents to the occupants.
Aside from newspapers, boxes and clothes, people can go on to save items like food, chemicals, medication, human or animal excrements along with various flammables items. These practices are literal biohazards and must be dealt with accordingly. It’s not just hoarders that are in trouble, by the way; dog owners might be too lazy sometimes to walk their dog out resulting in the dog having to go within property premises. People can laze off taking out the garbage in a timely manner too. Let’s review some of these detrimental biohazards that are a direct result of our ignorant behavior and pose a threat to us.
The common practice of keeping medicines for long periods is something we’ve all come across at some point. The expired dates of these prescribed drugs may have been long gone during the storage and can become a health threat, especially if children are present, because it’s still lying around the house. Stale chemicals can also catch deadly fires and are a danger not only for the household’s occupants but for the neighbors as well.
Collecting boxes, magazines and newspapers can also serve as very good burning material and incase a small fire nearby is ignited, these materials will rapidly catch fire and eventually burn the whole place down. Avoid overcrowded spaces. Make sure you’re heating vents are not obstructed by any paper material. Throw out all the expired drugs and chemicals.
Did you know that communicable diseases can survive un-incubated, outside the body for months? Whether you don’t take your pet out so he can do his business or have a serious rat problem, these factors can contaminate surfaces in your house with pathogens. All it takes is contact with the infected surfaces for you to catch something bad. In indoor spaces, especially the ones with ill equipped ventilation, these harmful bacteria and viruses can stay in the air indoors and thrive. Once one family member becomes infected, the rest are bound to catch it as well.
Clutter obstructions can cause the accumulation of harmful particles suspended in the air. Breathing in this debris can cause bronchial inflammation and induce an allergic response. You have to watch out for the mold, chemicals, bacteria and other foreign bodies in your indoor air.
Crime Scene Remediation
The biohazard risks associated with the cleaning of crime scenes, especially those that have previously served as drug production establishments makes the entire remediation process too dangerous to be carried out by anyone other than professionals. Acquiring properties that have been former crime scenes requires a rigorous decontamination process so that they can be made safe again for living or operational purposes. The organic residue from crime scenes like blood and other bodily fluids can serve as ideal growth mediums for bacteria, potentially pathogenic in nature. If the property is to be made occupational again, then you must get rid of these nasty microbes completely, a job that is too meticulous to be carried out on your own.
Lingering blood borne pathogens
Crime scenes with blood can harbor blood-borne pathogens that are a hazard to human health. They include Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Human Immunodeficiency virus and Methicilin resistant staphylococcus aureus, bacteria and viruses that can lead to death. To prevent catastrophic consequences, certified professional crime scene remediation experts exercise OSHA’s blood-borne pathogen standards coupled with proper personal protective equipment. It is important to eliminate all sources of biological media that could facilitate microbial growth so that health and safety is ensured for all occupants of a particular property from there onwards. The affected areas should be disinfected to the level of zero detection.
Dangers of prior meth labs
Home cooked methamphetamines are becoming increasingly common in urban cities. Since this street grade drug that has to be synthesized, unlike marijuana or heroin, it requires cooks to use poisonous chemicals like acetone, ammonia, benzene, methanol and hydrochloric acid to make the finished products. The entire process leaves a lot of toxic residue that could remain in tucked away places of the property in traces or higher amounts. In any case, these chemicals need to be cleaned up, or they can easily get absorbed through the skin or inhaled with the air, building up a dangerous toxicity in your body unknowingly. Exposure of occupants to these substances and trace drugs can cause MANY harmful adverse health affects.
Don’t take any chances
Living in homes that were previously crime scenes must be dealt with precaution. Call up professional crime scene remediation experts to decontaminate the property, eliminating toxic residue from all kinds of places that might not even occur to you. Appropriate tests from the professionals will verify if any dangerous chemicals and microbes are present. In case they are, necessary steps will follow to make the place livable and safe again.
The Steps to Mold Remediation
There are many steps involved in a mold remediation. To explain, we must start at the very beginning and identify the moisture problem. Mold thrives in moist places, which usually means the structure has untreated water damage. In order to have a successful cleanup, there must be a dry area to ensure no recurrence.
After the moisture has been taken care of, the work area needs to be contained. Usually, Polyethylene plastic sheeting is used to erect the contaminants. This is done to prevent the mold from spreading to unaffected areas, and to contain the spores as you continue remediation.It is laid out, and the AC supply is turned off. Then, the ceilings, walls, and fixtures are all covered.
The next step is to manage air flow.Clean areas are positively pressurized, and the contaminated areas are negatively pressurized. The air is filtered in this way to prevent the contamination of clean rooms, and so the Air Filtration Device (AFD) can “filter” the spores out of the contaminated air. The air is filtered by the AFD as the job goes on.
Once the air flow has been managed, the demolition and removal of items/structures that have been infected by pores begins. Some items/structures will not be salvageable, due to the extent of mold contamination. Once those are removed, the remaining material will be cleaned, then a deep cleaning will commence of all surfaces in the designated work area.
Once the cleaning has been done, there will be a post job clearance testing. To prevent conflicts of interest, this is done by a third-party company to ensure all mold is cleaned and accounted for. This is to make sure that everything has been properly cleaned, and safe for human/animal interaction. After the last inspection, the reconstruction process can initiate.
How to Control the Mold Situation in Your House
Mold enters your house through open air passages and air inlets. Windows, doorways, vents and even your air conditioning systems can serve as an entry, since it is a spore floating around in the air. If you have water leaks and stagnant water anywhere in your home, be wary of mold development.
In order to get a handle on the indoor mold situation, you must control and adjust humidity levels, promptly fix any leaky places, clean and dry after flooding, and have properly ventilated shower, laundry and cooking areas. If you spot mold development anywhere in your house, you need to clean it and then fix the prerequisite leakage problem that’s causing it in the first place.
It is believed that you can easily get rid of mold growth by using widely available commercial products such as soaps, detergents or a bleach solution. You can remove mold this way, however, what many don't understand is that usually where there is surface mold, there's most likely more mold lurking behind your walls. It would be unwise to clean up the mold without the assistance of a professional (SERVPRO of Torrance specializes in mold remediation). If you try to clean the mold yourself, you risk not cleaning it thoroughly, and exposure to mycrotoxins. The safest way to manage a mold infestation is to call professionals that will run a mold inspection, and asses cleanup from there.
The Dangers of Black Mold
Even with the stigma surrounding black mold, not many fully understand the health affects that can present if contracted. Common symptoms in humans can include rash in sweaty places, dermatitis (another rash), headache, fatigue, tightness of the chest, and cough. Other, more severe symptoms are a burning of the nasal passage and eyes, edema of the mucous membrane that surrounds the throat and mouth, and bloody rhinitis. Workers usually show symptoms within three days after exposure, so it’s important to report any suspicions. It is also believed that Black Mold is the root cause of the biblical medical condition known as Leprosy, due to all the different rashes it causes, and eventually leading to death.
If you feel these symptoms, or smell any other signs of mold in your home, or office, do not hesitate to call SERVPRO of Torrance at 1(310)320-2112. A team will be sent out right away for a mold inspection. The Stachybotrys Chartarum and any other types of mold should be dealt with immediately to prevent further contamination of property, and further exposure of humans and animals alike.
Some History on Black Mold
Stachybotrys Chartarum hidden in the walls
Black Mold, or Stachybotrys Chartarum, is usually found in homes that have had recent water damage, and are still damp; the untreated home becomes a prime breeding ground for Stachybotrys Chartarum and all other fungi alike. What makes Stachybotrys Chartarum unique to other mold is the fact that is highly toxic, and very lethal when someone comes into contact.
The first documentation of the fungus was in 1873, when it was collected from a wallpaper sample in Prague, however, it’s thought to go back millenia. Black mold can be noticed easily, because it appears as a very dark blachish-brown; if spotted, contact a clean-up crew immediately (SERVPRO of Torrance specializes in mold removal).
Black Mold is mostly found in Europe, on different farms with animals and farm workers being the prime target for infection. Despite this, it doesn’t mean black mold never presents itself in North America. If mold goes untreated in a home or commercial property, it only festers more and more (this is true for all types of fungus, not just Stachybotrys Chartarum or molds in general). At first sign of mold, for the safety of everyone, it needs to be called in and inspected, then removed thoroughly.