The Aftermath of Wildfires around Missoula: Flash Floods
Wildfires increase the risk of flash floods for valley towns.
Summer in Missoula always promises long lines at the local ice cream shops, river surfers at Brennan’s Wave, and the treasured huckleberry season along our most-loved hiking trails, but it also often brings about two natural hazards that can cut down our summer fun: thunderstorms and forest fires.
Even on years like this, where the wildfire smoke we’re experiencing is coming mostly from neighboring states instead of our own, the damage our mountains routinely see from wildfires makes the Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys particularly susceptible to flash flooding. Fire changes the landscape through which it burns, greatly reducing or even eliminating ground vegetation. That vegetation typically plays an important part in helping to absorb water from rainfall, and with it gone, water is left to flow freely and rapidly down steep terrain. Fires also leave behind ash and debris which, combined with heavy rain, can create mudflows that may reach structures miles away from the original site of the fire.
Because the risk of flash flooding is ongoing – an area affected by wildfire can take up to five years to adequately begin to recover ground vegetation – knowledge and prior planning are the most important components of your family and your home’s emergency toolkit. According to the National Weather Service, “half an inch of rainfall in less than an hour is sufficient to cause flash flooding.” You don’t want to wait until those summer thunderstorms strike to think about flood insurance, and you should always have an evacuation plan in case your home is affected. Ready.gov provides more information on how to build an emergency supply kit, and in the event that your home is damaged by flash flooding this summer, SERVPRO of Missoula is here for you.
Put SERVPRO Missoula in the Palm of your Hand
The SERVPRO Ready Plan App gives quick access to important information with just a few simple clicks
Our SERVPRO Ready Plan App is a no-cost tool that puts essential information at your fingertips in the event of an emergency.
When your property is affected by water, fire, or mold damage, safety should always be your top priority. This often means restricting access to certain parts of your property or even temporarily vacating it altogether, which, in turn, can make it difficult to gather important contact information you keep there. After you’ve added your home or business address to the SERVPRO Ready Plan App, the app will create an Emergency Ready Profile (ERP) for you to fill in the types of contacts you’re likely to need in the aftermath of a large loss due to water, fire, or mold. For example, there’s a section in the ERP for insurance information, as well as a place to list the companies that provide your utilities in case water or gas lines need to be shut off during mitigation or restoration. There’s even a place in the ERP to put pictures of the parking area and access doors of your property, to aid SERVPRO professionals in getting to you as quickly as possible if you ever request our services. The app also allows you to create unique ERPs for multiple locations, making it a great option for property managers and commercial property owners!
Having a plan before disaster strikes is the key to timely mitigation and minimizing the extent of damage to your home or business. To learn more, contact SERVPRO of Missoula at 406-327-9500, or head to https://ready.SERVPRO.com/home/mobileapp to get started using your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Emergency Readiness at your Missoula Business: Evacuation Plans
Having an Emergency Response Plan for your business can save precious time in the event of an emergency and can help keep your employees safe!
Emergency drills are not only commonplace in public schools across the nation, but are actually required by law in most states. The importance of these practices in schools is self-evident, and yet they are often completely dismissed in the workplace. While some emergencies are region-specific and don’t affect the Missoula area (such as hurricanes and tornadoes) all workplaces are vulnerable to emergencies of one type or another. Assessing risks and creating a plan for your business in accordance with those risks can make your employees feel safer at work, help your business get back up and running quicker after an emergency, and even save lives.
In any emergency situation, you have a choice to evacuate or to take shelter. The first step in creating an Emergency Response Plan for your business is to perform a risk assessment of your facility, and for each risk decide which course of action is appropriate. One risk common to all workplaces is the risk of fire, wherein evacuation is of course necessary.
Your evacuation plan should include the following: a recognizable alarm system that can be heard throughout the facility; at least two exits per floor, which are clearly marked and accessible; previously arranged accommodations (such as a designated aide, if necessary) for employees with disabilities; and a roster of employees (plus visitor check-in list, if applicable) so each individual can be accounted for once reaching your designated off-site assembly area. Once you’ve created an evacuation plan with these components, you should assign specific employees to tasks like directing others to the exit in the event of an evacuation, bringing along a first aid kit (this should be readily accessible within your facility), and bringing the employee roster. You also want to make sure to run practice drills with your employees no less than once a year.
To get started on your business’s evacuation plan, you can visit Ready.gov and download their Emergency Response Plan Worksheet. Also, keep an eye out for another SERVPRO of Missoula blog delving into Shelter-in-Place emergency plans.
Is mold damage in your Missoula home covered by insurance?
Keeping your home dry and being aware of potential water access points is the first step in preventing a mold damage claim.
If you own a home, there’s one four-letter word you never want to hear: mold. Mold can be an especially scary type of property damage because it can go undetected in out-of-the-way areas like crawlspaces, and can also cause health effects. That’s why the first step in dealing with mold should always be prevention.
That said, nobody ever plans on having mold develop in their home. So if the unexpected does happen, there are some things you may wonder about mold and insurance. Namely, does homeowner’s insurance cover mold mitigation?
Most often, mold is a result of water damage. Whether or not your insurance policy will cover the cost of mold mitigation, then, typically depends on whether that initial water damage was a “covered peril,” and the resulting mold wasn’t obviously preventable. Covered water damage is usually that which is deemed “sudden and accidental.” For instance, damage from a burst pipe that sprays water all over your basement would likely be a covered peril, but damage from a long-term leak that goes unfixed would not. Likewise, mold that begins to form as a result of that burst pipe would probably be covered by your policy, but mold growth due to that slow leak would not. However, even after a sudden, accidental water loss, you’re responsible for cleaning up the area to the best of your ability. Mold growth resulting from a failure to dry out waterlogged materials won’t be covered. That’s why prevention is key.
Of course, mold coverage is always policy specific. If you suspect mold growth in your home, it’s best to connect with your insurance agent or adjuster for your exact policy details, and call a professional cleanup and restoration service like SERVPRO of Missoula as soon as possible
The insidious side effect of fire in your Missoula home
Even fires that occur outside the home can have lasting effects on household contents when smoke damage isn’t addressed quickly and properly.
When a fire occurs in or outside your home, visible damage to your property is often your first concern. While this instinct is understandable, even materials completely untouched by flames can pose health risks and be permanently damaged if left unaddressed.
Smoke and soot damage ranges in severity, but most often leaves items in your home discolored and odorous. Because smoke is acidic in nature, it affects the majority of household materials, from fabrics to wood to metal surfaces. The fact that smoke and soot particles can also get into your HVAC system and be redistributed throughout your home makes this kind of damage particularly insidious. According to the IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification), cleaning within the first few weeks post-fire is crucial to removing odor, stopping the discoloration process, and minimizing the need for replacement of belongings. Improper cleaning can actually push soot further into porous materials, and using the wrong cleaners on hard surfaces will only move hazardous particles around without eliminating odor or discoloration.
The last thing you’ll probably think about in the days immediately post-fire is whether or not your household vacuum is HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) certified. So, while you’re making other important arrangements, let us worry about that! The technicians here at SERVPRO of Missoula are IICRC certified and travel with equipment—like air scrubbers, HEPA vacuums, and deodorization agents—that will make smoke damage “Like it never even happened.”
SERVPRO® of Missoula wants the residents and commercial businesses in Missoula to know that we are Here to Help. ®
Our team of highly trained fire restoration technicians are some of the best in the state and are certified in:
- Fire and Smoke Restoration
- Odor Control
- Upholstery and Fabric Cleaning
- Water Damage Restoration
All fire damage calls follow the same general process:
- Emergency Contact
- Inspection and Fire Damage Assessment
- Immediate Board-Up and Roof Tarp Service (if needed)
- Water Removal and Drying (if water damage is present)
- Removal of Smoke and Soot from All Surfaces
- Cleaning and Repair
No matter how big or small your fire damage emergency may be, SERVPRO® of Missoula is ready to help the Missoula community. Call us today at 406-327-9500. We’ll clean and restore your fire damage “Like it never even happened.”
SERVPRO® of Missoula is Independently Owned and Operated.
For more fire safety tips, head to https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire/if-a-fire-starts.html
How to prepare for a power outage in your Missoula neighborhood
If you have an emergency preparedness kit at home, you’re probably already prepared for a power outage!
Power outages are a familiar television trope—watch any sit-com long enough, and you’re likely to encounter and an episode wherein the characters battle darkness, boredom, and melting ice cream. They’re often woefully unprepared, but usually manage to scrounge up some candles and a guitar to play until the lights come back on. In reality, power outages don’t include scripted comic-relief and don’t end at the 30-minute mark, but they also don’t have to turn into a real-life drama.
Although power outages often occur without warning—as they’re most often caused by storm events or vehicle accidents damaging power lines—by preparing now, you and your family can be ready to ride out a power outage safely, and return to normal life quickly after power is restored. To start, you’ll want to create/restock your home’s emergency kit with extra batteries for any devices you’re likely to use in the event of an outage, a flashlight for every member of the household, a battery-powered radio, and non-perishable food (including bottled water). Your home should also have a carbon monoxide detector with a battery back-up, and you want to make sure you’re signed up for local emergency alerts on at least one mobile device (check out our previous blogs “Missoula County Emergency Alerts” and “Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your Missoula home.”) Persons with electric medical equipment or refrigerated medication should consult with a physician for guidance on power outage preparation.
If a power outage does occur in your Missoula neighborhood, remember that you’re prepared and there’s no need to panic. Keep refrigerators and freezers closed to keep their internal temperatures down and protect your perishable foods. Also, disconnect appliances and electronics with power cords to protect them from damage during power surges, and remember to never operate generators, camp stoves, or grills inside, or attempt to use a gas stove to heat your home. If safe, hunker down at home until the power outage is over. However, if extreme temperatures threaten the health of your family, travel to a community center where heat or air conditioning is available.
When power is returned after an outage, relax! You weathered the storm, and hopefully, you and your family can go right back to business as usual. Just don’t celebrate with those steaks that sat at 40° for two hours or longer (or any other refrigerated foods in that case – throw them out!) And if the power outage was caused by a storm that, in turn, caused water damage in your home, Call SERVPRO of Missoula to make it “Like it never even happened.”
Water – Filing an insurance claim for water damage in your Missoula home
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 previous blogs on readiness 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, and our project managers will work directly with your adjuster so you don’t have to be a go-between.
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 home owners 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 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 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 time of purchase (or appraisal of cost if 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 a 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!
Schedule a carpet cleaning for your Missoula business!
Dirty carpets? Call in the clean-up crew that’s been around since 1967!
The average lifespan of commercial carpet ranges anywhere from three years to ten years. Replacing carpeting is a significant investment, so if you’re a business owner with carpet in your workspace, you’re probably interested in seeing that carpet last closer to ten years, rather than having to replace it every three. And because carpet is a soft surface that can trap dirt and bacteria, carpet maintenance is about more than just financials; it’s also about the health of your employees and customers.
According to the International Sanitary Supply Association, one square yard of commercial carpet can accumulate up to a pound of dirt in just one week’s time, and up to twice that much during inclement weather. And dirt isn’t the only thing lurking between those carpet fibers. Dead skin cells, dust mites, bacteria, and pollen grains are also frequent offenders, and if your business is pet-friendly, pet hair and urine will also be a common culprit. Any and all of these particles can become airborne when disturbed (walked on), and agitate individuals with asthma or allergies.
You may still ask, “Does my workspace really need professional cleaning? Isn’t consistent vacuuming enough?” And while studies do show that frequent vacuuming can significantly lower allergens in a carpeted space, a standard vacuum just isn’t able to get deeply ingrained dirt and particles. In fact, most carpet warranties require you to have a professional carpet cleaning every twelve to eighteen months. That’s where SERVPRO of Missoula comes in. SERVPRO of Missoula offers a wide range of carpet cleaning methods with the use of specialized cleaners to help your commercial carpet last longer and protect the health of your customers and employees. For more info on our carpet cleaning services, check out https://www.SERVPROmissoula.com/carpet-upholstery-cleaning, or better yet, give our office a call at 406-327-9500.
Wildfire Preparedness in Missoula
Wildfires are unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean you have to be unprepared!
According to the Insurance Information Institute, Montana ranks 9th in the United States for extreme wildfire risk and 1st for percentage of properties at risk of damage by wildfire. So, what should you do to prepare for wildfire season if your home is in or near a forest, grassland, or prairie that makes it susceptible to damage by wildfire?
First, you should prepare before wildfire season, which is typically late summer and early fall. Wildfires, by their very nature, are unpredictable and can spread at speeds of up to 14mph. Sign up for your community’s emergency alert system so you can be assured you’ll get the earliest possible warning of an approaching wildfire and any associated evacuation recommendations. Next, plan out at least two evacuation routes from your home, and have a plan for pets and livestock. When creating your emergency go-bag, keep the needs of pets in mind as well as the individual needs of each household member.
There are also some steps you can take to make your home safer during wildfire season, such as using fire-resistant materials to build and renovate in and around your home, keeping a hose that can reach any area of your property attached to a water source at all times, and clearing all flammable materials (including leaves and debris) at least 30 feet away from your home.
If your home does sustain fire or smoke damage this year, SERVPRO of Missoula has the tools and training to make it “Like it never even happened.” Call us at 406-327-9500.