Why SERVPRO – Steps for an Insurance Home Inventory
A home inventory can help you determine the kind of homeowners’ or renters’ coverage that’s right for your lifestyle!
Here at SERVPRO of Missoula, we work to make water, fire, and mold damage “Like it never even happened.” Restoring your home after damages of these kinds occur often means replacing items that were affected, so an up-to-date home inventory can be a big help for both restoration professionals and insurance adjusters working on your claim. Also, home inventories aren’t just for homeowners or for people who already have insurance; they can be a great first step in determining what level of coverage you might need and are also valuable in seeking a renter’s insurance or filing a claim as a renter.
While perhaps time-consuming at first, building a home inventory is a simple process. To get started on yours, just follow these steps:
- Go through your home room by room and take pictures of the entire room, as well as close-up pictures of individual items you would want to be replaced in the event of a loss
- For each item, record a description of the item, the serial number if applicable, when and where the item was purchased, and the cost at the time of purchase (or appraisal of cost if the actual cost is unknown)
- Add new items to your inventory as they’re added to your home, and keep copies or pictures of receipts whenever possible
- For antique items or collections, check with your insurance agent to determine if special coverage is needed
In our increasingly digital world, home inventories are easier than ever to create. You can organize one in an online spreadsheet, or check out several free app options to use directly on your phone or tablet. In the event of an emergency at your home, your inventory can then be accessed off-site. Finally, as an extra preparedness step, you can add important contact information to the bottom of your document, like the numbers for your insurance agent and for SERVPRO of Missoula!
Missoula Mold 103: The Black Mold Myth
All visible mold growth should be remediated, regardless of color.
Here at SERVPRO of Missoula, we often hear the question: “I found black mold in my home, what do I do?” We are also frequently asked how we test mold, or how we know what type of mold is growing in a home before remediation. Many homeowners urgently seek the answers to these questions because of the popular idea that black mold is more dangerous to human health than any other variety.
In truth, color does not tell you how dangerous the mold in your home is*, and the term “black mold” is even a bit of a misnomer. “Black mold” is often used to refer to a variety of mold called Stachybotrys chartarum, which is thought to be particularly dangerous because of the harmful mycotoxins it can produce. However, three issues arise from this classification. First, not all Stachybotrys chartarum produces mycotoxins. Second, not all Stachybotrys chartarum is black in color. And third, not all mold that appears black is Stachybotrys chartarum
So, the answer to ‘I found black mold in my home, what do I do?’ is, first and foremost, ‘don’t panic.’ But do call your local mold remediation professional. Many types of mold can produce allergens and irritants, which is why here at SERVPRO of Missoula, we follow the CDC guideline that any visible mold growth should be remediated, regardless of color or variety. Our technicians will use advanced methods of containment, air filtration, and removal to make your mold infestation “Like it never even happened.”
Preventing your pipes from freezing during a Missoula winter
Don’t let frozen pipes disrupt your holiday season!
In genuine Montana fashion, the seasons have changed rather rapidly here in the Missoula Valley; nightly temperatures are now routinely below freezing, and as they continue to drop, the chances of frozen pipes in and around your home only rise. Because water expands as it freezes, it puts pressure on the material containing it. If the pressure becomes too great, you could have a burst pipe on your hands.
Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to help keep those faucets flowing during winter months. The first step is knowing which pipes are most vulnerable to freezing. Outdoor pipes, like supply lines to swimming pools or sprinklers, are the most vulnerable and should be drained according to manufacturer instructions. (Don’t use antifreeze in these pipes unless specifically directed to do so, as it can be harmful to both pets and the environment.) Outdoor valves that run water from indoor supply lines (like hose bibs) should be left open to drip and allow water expansion outward, while the valve on the indoor side should be closed for the winter.
Winterizing doesn’t end there, though. Pipes along exterior walls, or in areas of the home with little to no insulation, are also at risk of freezing. Keep doors closed as often as possible to protect pipes in unheated garages or shops. Inside your home, open kitchen and bathroom cabinets containing pipes so that warm air can circulate, and consider adding insulation in crawlspaces and attics where pipes are present. There are a number of specialty products on the market for pipe insulation, such as pipe sleeves, heat tape, and heat cable, but even ¼” of newspaper can help protect pipes in freezing conditions.
When subzero temperatures persist, you can also take the extra precaution of turning your faucets to drip; even at a rate of 5 drips per minute, running water through your pipes can help prevent freezing. Then, if you’re going to be away from home for an extended period of time, be sure to keep your heat set to 55°F or higher. It’s better to spend a little extra on heat than a lot extra on property damage caused by a burst pipe.
Winter is Coming to Missoula: Winter Storm Preparedness
It’s important to prepare for winter storms before severe weather strikes.
Like those Christmas decorations in the department store, it may seem a bit early to think about winter storms, much less prepare your home for one. However, the middle of a blizzard is hardly the time to wonder when your heating system was last serviced. By taking action now, you can head into the holiday season comfortable with the knowledge that your home and family will be safe in the face of severe winter weather.
Before those nightly temperatures plummet, you’ll want to take preventative measures to keep your pipes from freezing (stay tuned for another post with more info) and help your home retain heat by weather-stripping doors and windowsills and replacing your heating system’s filter. Then, you might consider buying emergency heating equipment (and fuel) or a portable backup generator—but not before checking that your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector are in good working order! And in case you’re unable to leave your home for a prolonged amount of time due to weather conditions, having a stock of non-perishable food items in your pantry is always a good idea.
While you can hopefully avoid the roads entirely during a winter storm, in the event that you’re caught traveling or need to evacuate an area when a storm strikes, you also want to be sure your vehicle is winter-ready. The American Red Cross recommends having a maintenance check and tire evaluation in autumn so that any necessary maintenance can be completed before winter arrives, and having an emergency road kit with the following provisions: a windshield scraper, a small sack of sand (for generating traction), matches in a waterproof container, tire chains or traction mats, a bright red cloth to tie to your antenna, warm clothing, water, and snack food, and a battery-powered radio.
It’s never too early to think about emergency preparedness—for more ways to get started, check out the free SERVPRO Ready Plan App in the app store or at https://ready.SERVPRO.com/.
Filing an Insurance Claim: What Information do I Need?
Don’t let water damage get worse before calling for help!
Storm damage, a burst pipe, a leaking appliance—when you’re a homeowner, any of the above will present a stressful situation. The last thing you need is to add the stress of navigating the insurance system, especially if you’ve never filed a claim before and aren’t familiar with the process.
Luckily, filing an insurance claim doesn’t have to be stressful, and SERVPRO of Missoula has three steps to get you started:
- Call your agent. If you discover water damage in your home, don’t wait to contact your homeowners’ insurance agent. Water damage has the potential to get much worse the longer it sits, and your agent will be able to walk through the situation with you and advise on whether to file a claim.
- Take pictures. When damage occurs in your home, document, document, document. In most cases, coverage is contingent on the loss being sudden and accidental. Photographs taken immediately after the loss occurs will help the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim determine if the loss should be covered.
- Make a list of damaged items. Check out our blog post Steps for an Insurance Home Inventory for more info on why this is important, as well as tips on getting started.
When you call SERVPRO of Missoula to respond to your emergency water loss, we’ll also help you navigate your insurance claim, your project managers will work directly with your adjuster, so you don’t have to be a go-between.
Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your Missoula home
Half of carbon monoxide-related deaths are preventable with an audible carbon monoxide alarm!
In the movies, the most dangerous kind of villain is one the protagonist never sees coming. In your home, carbon monoxide is one such villain.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced whenever fuel is burned and is dangerous to humans and animals because when inhaled, it starts to replace the oxygen in red blood cells and can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or death. According to the CDC, carbon monoxide poisoning causes over 400 deaths each year, and more than 24,000 trips to the hospital, with the most incidents occurring in January and December (in direct correlation to the use of in-home heating systems).
You can typically run furnaces and use fireplaces in your home without the worry of carbon monoxide poisoning because fuel-burning appliances meant for in-home use are always designed with ventilation systems, like pipe vents for furnaces and chimneys for fireplaces, to direct emissions outside. However, a clogged chimney or poorly maintained furnace (or gas water heater, stove range, oven, etc.) can cause your home to fill with carbon monoxide. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, the CDC recommends: having your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician annually; having your chimney cleaned before winter each year; never burning charcoal or using a portable gas camp stove or a generator indoors, and installing carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home and checking their batteries every six months (the EPA estimates that approximately half of carbon monoxide-related deaths are preventable with the use of an audible CO detection unit).
By taking these precautionary steps, you can be comfortable in the knowledge that your family will be safe, warm, and CO-free this winter. For more prevention guidance, you can also visit cdc.gov/co/guidelines.htm
Should I have a fire extinguisher in my Missoula home?
Quick use of a fire extinguisher can suppress a small fire before it spreads throughout the home.
Home fire safety should start with a working smoke detector and a fire safety plan. If you already have those in your home, you may consider a fire extinguisher as the next step in fire preparedness!
A fire extinguisher works to put out a small fire by removing one of the three components of the fire triangle: heat, oxygen, and fuel. The most common fire extinguisher removes oxygen from fire by smothering it in dry chemical foam. If you’re going to invest in a fire extinguisher to help protect your home and family—which luckily isn’t a huge investment, with most home units coming in between $10 and $40—you don’t want a one-hit-wonder. The National Fire Protection Association recommends a multipurpose extinguisher that works to suppress fires from ‘ordinary combustibles,’ grease fires, and electrical fires. On the market, this translates to a fire extinguisher that is ABC rated, such as a unit with a 3A:40-B: C rating, or the slightly smaller 2A:10-B: C rating. These units with these ratings can be found at almost any home improvement store.
Also, just as important is having a working smoke detector in each room of your home should be your priority in home fire preparedness. Two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends checking the batteries in your smoke detector once a month, changing them once a year, and replacing the unit once in a 10-year period.
Creating a communication plan for severe storms and natural disasters in Missoula
Disasters are scary, but having a plan makes them less so.
Disasters happen. It’s frightening to think about the possibility of having to flee your home due to a widespread emergency, but it’s even more frightening to think that you would be entirely unprepared for such a situation. By making just a few considerations now, you and your family can be ready for an evacuation in the future.
If a local emergency triggers an evacuation, your family will need a place to go. That’s why the first step in your evacuation plan should be designating two or three out-of-town locations in separate directions where you could go. These locations could be hotels or houses of friends or family; if you have pets, it’s important to make sure they can shelter your pets, too. Then make sure you’re familiar with alternate routes away from your home, and means of public transportation in case driving your vehicle isn’t an option.
With many weather events and some natural disasters (like forest fires), there may be a forewarning that you’ll need to evacuate. In these cases, make sure to keep your gas tank full and to create a “go-bag” of essentials that you can pick up and take with you at a moment’s notice. When local officials give the word to evacuate, take as few cars as possible and stick to recommended evacuation routes as shortcuts could be blocked. Before you leave, it’s also best to unplug electrical equipment (though it’s only necessary to unplug refrigerators and freezers if there’s a risk of flooding), lock all of your doors and windows, and activate your family communication plan by letting an out-of-town family member know where you’re going and when you arrive. Only return home once local officials have said it’s safe to do so.
When a local emergency that necessitates evacuation has occurred or may occur, the most important steps to take are to keep updated with local news radio and to always follow local officials’ instructions. For more information on emergency preparedness, check out the other blogs in the “storm” category, and ready.gov/plan
Sump Pumps: What they are and how they work for your Missoula home
Sump pumps automatically direct water away from your foundation when it begins to pool under your basement or crawlspace.
From snowmelt runoff to river flooding to summer storms, groundwater has the potential to affect Western Montana properties no matter the season.
Because water naturally migrates through soil, elevated moisture on the surface can spell trouble for crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and even basements with concrete flooring. When groundwater penetrates the basement floor, it can lead to mold or mildew growth, and if the seepage is extreme, it can cause flooding and damage to your belongings.
So how do you keep your basement dry and mildew-free when those heavy rains strike? Installing a sump pump (or checking that your existing pump is in good working order) is one good option.
Over 60% of homes are at risk of underground wetness, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors—sump pumps prevent damage by collecting that seeping groundwater and redirecting it to a discharge pipe pointed away from the structure’s foundation. To accomplish this, the pump sits in a pit dug at the lowest point of the basement or crawl space and automatically comes on when the hole begins to fill with water. A one-way valve in the sump pump’s pipe, called a check valve, ensures that water doesn’t run back.
While sump pumps are not a cure-all for water damage in every home, they are a viable option for homes in several climates and terrains. If you’re concerned about dampness or the smell of mildew in your basement, call SERVPRO of Missoula today. Our technicians can perform a dry-out and mold inspection of the space, and help pinpoint the source so you can safely move forward with adding preventative measures and maybe even a sump pump.
SERVPRO of Missoula creates customized Emergency Ready Profiles for local businesses, for free!
Call SERVPRO of Missoula today to start your free Emergency READY Profile.
According to FEMA*, as many as 50% of small businesses close down following a disaster. Of the businesses that survive, the overwhelming majority had a preparedness plan in place. Pre-planning can serve as an insurance policy aimed at peace of mind, and lets your employees and patrons know that your business is “Ready for whatever happens.”
By developing a SERVPRO Emergency READY Profile for your business, you minimize business interruption by having an immediate plan of action. Knowing what to do and what to expect in advance is the key to timely mitigation and can help minimize how water and fire damage can affect your business.
What is a SERVPRO Emergency READY profile?
- A no-cost assessment of your facility.
- A concise Profile Document that contains only the critical information needed in the event of an emergency. It will only take a little time to complete and it will save a lot of time if ever needed.
- A guide to help you get back into your building following a disaster. This can help minimize the amount of time your business is inactive by having an immediate plan of action.
- Establishes SERVPRO of Missoula, a recognized industry leader, as your disaster mitigation and restoration provider.
- Identification of the line of command for authorizing work to begin. This saves time so we can start the work of mitigating the damage, which can save you time and money.
Having a quick reference of what to do, how to do it, and who to call provides solutions in advance of an emergency so that during the chaos you are “Ready for whatever happens” No one plans on a disaster, but you can prepare for one, and SERVPRO of Missoula can help. Call us at 406-327-9500 today to schedule your free facility assessment.
*Federal Emergency Management Agency