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/.
Fall is upon us, Missoula! Time to break out the rake!
Raking fallen leaves early and often can help keep mold growth to a minimum in your yard.
With the sudden cold snap we experienced here in the Missoula Valley, leaves have begun to drop from the trees at a rapid rate. Add in all that rain we’ve been getting, and your yard becomes a potential breeding ground for mold. That’s because freshly fallen leaves still have a fair amount of minerals and nutrients in their system, which promote mold growth under the right conditions. For the ‘right conditions,’ look no further than that perpetually shady, dew-covered spot under the tree in your yard or created by the shadow of your house. In other words, mold thrives in moist, dark environments.
However, there is a simple solution to preventing this: rake early and rake often. If you don’t allow those leaves to sit and collect moisture, they’ll have less of a chance to grow mold. That also means bagging and disposing of leaves once they’re raked, instead of leaving large piles in your yard. Leaf mold isn’t all bad, though! If you’re a gardener, you can look into repurposing those leaves as mulch; this gets the leaves off your lawn and puts them to work for you. Or if you’re looking for other ways to keep your home mold-free this autumn, you can also make sure that all of your gutters and water drainage systems are draining away from your foundation and clear those gutters of leaves and blockages.
SERVPRO of Missoula asks: are your pets in your fire safety plan?
Your pets are a part of your family – include them in your family’s fire safety plan!
In our ongoing effort to encourage Missoula families to create emergency preparedness plans, this week, SERVPRO of Missoula specifically challenges you to consider how your pets fit into your home’s Fire Safety Plan, and we have some tips to get you started:
- Include your pets in family evacuation drills. This means keeping a leash or other necessary equipment close to the main exit, and including pet necessities in your emergency supply kit. Training your pets to come to you when you call can also save valuable time in an emergency.
- Prevent your pets from starting fires by never leaving a pet unattended around an open flame, and securing pets away from fire hazards when you leave them home alone.
- When leaving pets at home, ensure firefighters can easily evacuate them in the event of a fire by keeping them in rooms or areas close to your home’s entrance. You can also put a pet alert sticker in a front window to let rescuers know the number and types of pets in your home (be sure to update this when necessary).
Discussing emergency preparedness is an activity that the whole family can (and should) participate in together and is definitely worthy of some home-schooling time! For more emergency planning tips, check out the blogs in our “Fire” and “Storm Damage” categories.
What to do when a lightning storm strikes Missoula
When thunder roars, go indoors!
Just as snow is expected, during a Montana winter, so are thunderstorms expected during a Montana summer. Here in the Missoula Valley, it is not uncommon for hundreds of lightning strikes to occur over the course of a single stormy weekend. And while lightning against the backdrop of the Bitterroot Mountains can offer some of the most stunning sights of summer, they are also cause for education and preparation.
The National Weather Service estimates that 49 people are killed by lightning in the United States each year, and thunderstorms are also often accompanied by harsh winds, hail, and even flash flooding. For these reasons, it’s important to remember the slogan “When thunder roars, go indoors!” Take refuge in a car or building for the duration of the storm, check for alerts and updates from local authorities, unplug appliances, and do not use landline phones. Once it’s safe to go outside, be on the lookout for downed power lines and trees, and report them immediately.
To better prepare your home and your family for future thunderstorms, Ready.gov recommends signing up for emergency alerts, cutting down or trimming trees that could fall under the force of powerful winds, and buying surge protectors to protect your appliances and electronics from power surges.
And if your home suffers damage from a lightning-caused fire or water damage from a flash flood, call SERVPRO of Missoula to make it “Like it never even happened.
Spring river flooding in the Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys
Springtime can mean spring river flooding – is your home prepared?
Spring has finally arrived in earnest here in Western Montana, and though that brings the joys of songbirds and green foliage, it also often brings rain, run-off, and the risk of flooding. The Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys are particularly vulnerable to rising waters in the Clark Fork and Bitterroot Rivers, and while there is nothing, we as individuals can do regarding water levels, there are things we can do to protect our homes against flooding:
- Know if your home is at risk! FEMA provides Flood Maps on its website that can help you determine if your home is in a flood zone. Another great resource is your local news station’s online archive, where you can find out where floods have occurred in the past.
- Know your coverage. Flood insurance is not covered in most standard homeowners’ policies, and according to FEMA, nearly 25% of flood insurance claims come from outside “high-risk” flood zones. If you have any reason to fear flood damage to your home, you may want to speak to your insurance agent about your options.
- Be diligent about shoveling snow away from your foundation, and make sure water is able to drain away from it, as well.
- Have a plan. Check out our “Steps for an Insurance Home Inventory” in the Why SERVPRO category for more tips that can help in the event of a flood.
Emergency planning is an activity that can—and should! —involve the whole family. And don’t forget, if your home experiences water, fire, or mold damage, SERVPRO of Missoula is always here to help.
Training Matters: SERVPRO Certifications and Commitments
SERVPRO technicians have the training to get the job done!
The SERVPRO of Missoula website has a lot to say about the training our technicians and project managers receive. This is because when the need for a remediation and restoration professional arises, the need is often urgent, and we want our customers to know right from the start that our technicians have the training to get the job done right.
We often specifically mention IICRC and RIA certifications. And why are these important? The IICRC—the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification—is a non-profit organization that has provided the most utilized information for the cleaning and restoration industry in the U.S. for more than forty years. The RIA—the Restoration Industry Association—is the oldest restoration trade association in the country and works with the IICRC to develop industry standards. The training our team leaders receive from these two organizations, in conjunction with specialized training provided by our corporate training facility, equip them with the expertise to address water, fire, or mold damage of any scope or scale. This is due to vigorous courses in all aspects of remediation—from advanced safety training to classifying categories of water damage to understanding microbial growth.
When we speak of our highly trained team here at SERVPRO of Missoula, it isn’t just idle chatter. Our team members are trained not only at the beginning of their SERVPRO careers, but via additional and refresher training throughout each year to ensure that we can deliver on our promise to make the water, fire, or mold damage in your home or business “Like it never even happened.”
Smoke Damage in Your Missoula Home
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 leave items in your home discolored and odorous. Because smoke is acidic, 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 the replacement of belongings. Improper cleaning can 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 Red Cross
What to do if a fire starts in your Missoula home
If a fire starts in your home, the most important thing to remember is “Get out, Stay out!”
Sometimes fires happen. Despite preventative measures, despite early warning systems, approximately 370,000 residential fires occur in the U.S. each year. In the event of such an emergency in your home, it is important to think and act quickly, and talking with your family about what to do during a fire can help ensure their safety if the unexpected does occur.
The most important thing to remember if a fire starts in your home (and becomes too large for a fire extinguisher) is to get out. The American Red Cross also advises us to shout “Fire!” several times as we are evacuating, to alert others. Checking closed doors on your escape route to make sure they’re not warm. If doors are in your path and are warm to the touch, do not open them; use your secondary route, or place a wet towel under the door and call 9-1-1 if you cannot evacuate safely. If your evacuation route is filled with smoke, stay low and close doors behind you until you reach an exit. As soon as you are outside, call 9-1-1 and go to your family’s emergency meeting place.
Once your family is safely evacuated and the Missoula Fire Department has responded to the fire in your home, call SERVPRO of Missoula as soon as possible to begin the process of making the fire “Like it never even happened.”
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
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.”