Recent Posts

Steps for an Insurance Home Inventory

1/16/2020 (Permalink)

A hand holding a smart phone, taking a picture of objects on a table. 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!

Commercial – Emergency Readiness: Shelter-in-Place

1/16/2020 (Permalink)

The corner of a sign that read “in case of emergency.” Every business is vulnerable to risks. SERVPRO of Missoula can help you come up with a plan for combating them!

If you manage a business or own a commercial space, you expect your employees to report to work per their schedule and fulfill their job duties in a timely manner. Your employees expect you to provide them with a safe environment in which to do their job. Most of the time, these expectations are met without incident. Every commercial space is vulnerable to risk, however, and it’s important to have plans in place to protect your staff when something out of the ordinary occurs.

Some regional risks for businesses in Western Montana include forest fires, earthquakes, and winter storms. Then, health hazards, vehicle or machinery accidents, acts of violence, and power outages or equipment failure are risks that should be included in every Emergency Response Plan no matter your geographical location. In certain emergency situations, evacuation is the safest course of action (scroll down for our previous post, Emergency Readiness: Evacuation Plans). In others—like in the instance of nearby chemical spills or a fire across the street—it’s safer for employees to remain in the building until emergency services say otherwise. For these situations, your business should have a Shelter-in-Place plan.

Shelter-in-Place plans need not be elaborate. To start creating one for your business, designate an area near the center of the building where employees can congregate; this area should be away from windows, and on the second or third floor if available. In the plan, a specific employee should be assigned to shut off the building’s air intake system. As with evacuation plans, your Shelter-in-Place plan should be triggered by an alarm or other alert system recognizable to your employees, and your staff should run practice drills no less than once a year.

Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place plans help keep your employees safe in the event of an emergency, and give them peace of mind all year round. Other ways to improve your business’s emergency preparedness include consulting local law enforcement in creating a Lockdown Plan (some departments even provide training) for our facility, and writing a Crisis Communication Plan, which lets your employees and your customers know exactly when and in what form they can expect contact from you about returning to work after a crisis.

If you’re interested in preparing a comprehensive Emergency Response Plan for your business, call SERVPRO of Missoula for more information!

Commercial – Emergency Readiness: Shelter-in-Place

1/16/2020 (Permalink)

Servpro ERP Logo. Every business is vulnerable to risks. SERVPRO of Missoula can help you come up with a plan for combating them!

If you manage a business or own a commercial space, you expect your employees to report to work per their schedule and fulfill their job duties in a timely manner. Your employees expect you to provide them with a safe environment in which to do their job. Most of the time, these expectations are met without incident. Every commercial space is vulnerable to risk, however, and it’s important to have plans in place to protect your staff when something out of the ordinary occurs.

Some regional risks for businesses in Western Montana include forest fires, earthquakes, and winter storms. Then, health hazards, vehicle or machinery accidents, acts of violence, and power outages or equipment failure are risks that should be included in every Emergency Response Plan no matter your geographical location. In certain emergency situations, evacuation is the safest course of action (scroll down for our previous post, Emergency Readiness: Evacuation Plans). In others—like in the instance of nearby chemical spills or a fire across the street—it’s safer for employees to remain in the building until emergency services say otherwise. For these situations, your business should have a Shelter-in-Place plan.

Shelter-in-Place plans need not be elaborate. To start creating one for your business, designate an area near the center of the building where employees can congregate; this area should be away from windows, and on the second or third floor if available. In the plan, a specific employee should be assigned to shut off the building’s air intake system. As with evacuation plans, your Shelter-in-Place plan should be triggered by an alarm or other alert system recognizable to your employees, and your staff should run practice drills no less than once a year.

Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place plans help keep your employees safe in the event of an emergency, and give them peace of mind all year round. Other ways to improve your business’s emergency preparedness include consulting local law enforcement in creating a Lockdown Plan (some departments even provide training) for our facility, and writing a Crisis Communication Plan, which lets your employees and your customers know exactly when and in what form they can expect contact from you about returning to work after a crisis.

If you’re interested in preparing a comprehensive Emergency Response Plan for your business, call SERVPRO of Missoula for more information!

Commercial – Emergency Readiness: Shelter-in-Place

1/16/2020 (Permalink)

Servpro Logo with ERP check box. Every business is vulnerable to risks. SERVPRO of Missoula can help you come up with a plan for combating them!

If you manage a business or own a commercial space, you expect your employees to report to work per their schedule and fulfill their job duties in a timely manner. Your employees expect you to provide them with a safe environment in which to do their job. Most of the time, these expectations are met without incident. Every commercial space is vulnerable to risk, however, and it’s important to have plans in place to protect your staff when something out of the ordinary occurs.

Some regional risks for businesses in Western Montana include forest fires, earthquakes, and winter storms. Then, health hazards, vehicle or machinery accidents, acts of violence, and power outages or equipment failure are risks that should be included in every Emergency Response Plan no matter your geographical location. In certain emergency situations, evacuation is the safest course of action (scroll down for our previous post, Emergency Readiness: Evacuation Plans). In others—like in the instance of nearby chemical spills or a fire across the street—it’s safer for employees to remain in the building until emergency services say otherwise. For these situations, your business should have a Shelter-in-Place plan.

Shelter-in-Place plans need not be elaborate. To start creating one for your business, designate an area near the center of the building where employees can congregate; this area should be away from windows, and on the second or third floor if available. In the plan, a specific employee should be assigned to shut off the building’s air intake system. As with evacuation plans, your Shelter-in-Place plan should be triggered by an alarm or other alert system recognizable to your employees, and your staff should run practice drills no less than once a year.

Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place plans help keep your employees safe in the event of an emergency, and give them peace of mind all year round. Other ways to improve your business’s emergency preparedness include consulting local law enforcement in creating a Lockdown Plan (some departments even provide training) for our facility, and writing a Crisis Communication Plan, which lets your employees and your customers know exactly when and in what form they can expect contact from you about returning to work after a crisis.

If you’re interested in preparing a comprehensive Emergency Response Plan for your business, call SERVPRO of Missoula for more information!

Emergency Readiness: Evacuation Plans

1/9/2020 (Permalink)

A fire exit sign on a gray door. 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/business/implementation/emergency 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.

Common Causes of House Fires

1/2/2020 (Permalink)

Fireworks in the night sky, with “2020” written in them. Ring in 2020 with these fire facts!

Happy New Year!

You survived the holidays, which means you survived the decorating, cooking, and joyfully overcrowded houses they bring with them. And since the holidays and their aforementioned cooking and decorating lead to the highest instance of residential fires each year, now that they’re over it must mean you’re in the clear as far as the risk of a home fire goes, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the case. Unintentional home fires can occur at any time of year, and according to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), are caused by four main activities: cooking, heating, using electrical equipment, and smoking. Knowing some of the main risk factors of home fires can help you be on alert throughout the seasons, and decrease the chances of a fire occurring in your own home.

On average, fire departments in the U.S. respond to 350,000 home structure fires each year, which result in 2,620 civilian deaths, 11,220 injuries, and $6.9 billion in property damage. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and injuries, causing more than 170,000 fires annually, but smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths. Fires caused by smoking account for 4.5x more deaths than do fires of any other category. Similarly, space heaters account for a disproportional amount of fire-related deaths (16%), considering they cause only 4% of home fires.

Other fire facts to be aware of are that the instance home fires peak nightly between 5pm and 8pm, and peak weekly on Saturdays and Sundays. Alcohol is also often a factor in the cause and result of home fires; impairment can affect how safely heating or cooking equipment is used, and can inhibit residents from getting to safety after a fire has started.

If you ask us here at SERVPRO of Missoula, keeping an eye on the safety instructions for all cooking, heating, and electrical equipment, and never cooking or smoking while excessively tired or under the influence is a New Year’s Resolution worth keeping!

Deciphering Water Damage: Clean, Grey, and Black Water

12/26/2019 (Permalink)

Homeowners inspect a leaking under-sink pipe with SERVPRO technicians. Whether water damage in your home or business is caused by clean, black, or gray water, SERVPRO of Missoula can make it “Like it never even happened!”

Water damage is water damage, plain and simple, right? Not exactly.

In the restoration industry, there are three categories of water as defined by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Remediation Certification (IICRC): clean water, gray water, and black water.

Clean water, also referred to as Category 1, is water that comes from a sanitary source such as rainwater or snowmelt, a faucet, or a broken pipe or toilet tank, and does not pose an immediate health risk to a structure’s inhabitants. When Category 1 water losses are caught and dried out quickly, the structure is much less likely to require repairs. If left for 48 hours or more, however, clean water can turn to gray water and require more extensive mitigation.

Gray water, which causes Category 2 water losses, includes dirty water from washing machines, dishwashers, aquariums, or shower or sink drains. Water from these sources is considered gray water because it contains significant levels of contamination from bacteria, mold, or chemicals and may pose health risks to a structure’s inhabitants. Category 2 water losses are likely to require the removal of soft materials such carpet pad, as they’re prone to bacterial growth. As with clean water, gray water can become black water if left for 48 hours or longer.

Black water, or water in a Category 3 loss, comes from sewage back-ups or floodwaters. The contaminants found in black water (bacteria, mold, viruses) are known to cause diseases, and therefore Category 3 water losses pose serious health risks to a structure’s inhabitants. The IICRC says that black water causes “grossly unsanitary” conditions and for that reason, Category 3 water losses usually require the removal of all affected materials within a structure.

When water damage occurs, the source of the water determines several steps of the mitigation process, from how much personal protective equipment (PPE) mitigation technicians should wear to whether materials should simply be dried out or removed entirely. Whatever the category of water, though, SERVPRO of Missoula has the tools to make water damage “Like it never even happened!”

Commercial Water Damage Prevention

12/19/2019 (Permalink)

A businessman consults a SERVPRO technician next to an open maintenance closet. Routine building maintenance is the first step to preventing water damaging in your commercial structure!

It goes without saying that commercial spaces are used differently than residential spaces. Usually, commercial spaces see a lot more daily foot traffic than a home does, and the wear and tear on a commercial building can differ depending on the type of business conducted there. And while many of the same causes of water damage commonly affect commercial and residential buildings, damage is often more extensive in a commercial space, and mitigation is met with more time constraints and special regulations. As a commercial building owner or manager, you can protect your business by knowing the common causes of water damage, keeping an eye out for early signs of a problem, and scheduling regular maintenance in key areas.

There are at least five areas in a commercial building where you can combat water damage with prevention: windows, outdoor water drainage systems, HVAC systems, sprinkler systems, and the building’s roof. Windows that don’t seal properly can lead to indoor moisture build-up over time, which also creates a risk for mold. Clogged gutters or drainage systems in disrepair can cause water to build up on the roof and around the foundation of your building, increasing the chances of water finding its way inside; sprinkler systems pose the same risk if not attended to according to the seasons (for example, having water blown out of the system before winter to prevent freezing). HVAC systems collect both particles and condensation, which means they need to be cleaned regularly (call SERVPRO of Missoula to schedule an HVAC cleaning no less than every five years) to prevent leaks or malfunction. Finally, roofs take the brunt force of the seasons to keep your building safe; in the winter, snow and ice build-up can compromise the integrity of the roof if not removed in a timely manner.

By ensuring that the windows in your commercial building seal properly, water has an unobstructed path to drain away from the roof and foundation, the HVAC and sprinkler systems are routinely cleaned and maintained, and that the roof is cleared off according to the seasons, you’re five steps ahead of water damage in your commercial building. But if the unexpected does occur, call (406) 327-9500; SERVPRO of Missoula will make it “Like it never even happened.”

What to do during and after a winter storm

12/12/2019 (Permalink)

A hillside in a snow storm. Montana winters are unpredictable, but having an emergency plan means never being caught off guard!

With Christmas closing in so quickly, hopefully by now you’ve done all your winter prep work—your pantries are stocked with non-perishables, your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors have been recently checked, and your pipes have been winterized. But what do you do when the words “Winter Storm Warning” actually appear on the forecast?

According to the American Red Cross, a Winter Storm Warning means “life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours.” When you see one go into effect on your local broadcast, the first thing you should do is get yourself, your family, and your companion animals to a safe place and remain indoors; avoid travel unless it is absolutely necessary (and even then, use public transport whenever possible). If you have livestock, make sure they have access to shelter and non-frozen water. Then, stay updated; keep a battery-powered radio tuned to your local news broadcast or NOAA station to get live-updates on weather conditions.

Winter storms can last for several hours or even days, which is why it’s so important to have that emergency kit well stocked and accessible. While you and your family are hunkered down, make sure everyone keeps hydrated (this means avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which can both lead to dehydration) and eats regularly, as the body needs energy to produce heat. Storms often put a stress on power systems, so conserve energy by closing doors to unused rooms and by setting your thermostat to 65°F during the day and 55°F at night.

If you must go outside during a storm, wear layered clothing, gloves, a hat, and cover your mouth. Avoid talking and taking deep breaths to protect your lungs from frigid air, and avoid overexertion; shoveling snow is a leading cause of heart attacks in the winter, and sweating in freezing conditions can lead to hypothermia.

Even after a winter storm has ended, it’s important to stay warm and tuned-in to local news for travel conditions. Always think safety first! And for more details on what to do during and after a winter storm, check out https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies.html

Oh, Christmas Tree

12/5/2019 (Permalink)

A Christmas tree ornament that looks like a house hangs on a bow amidst lights, beads, and other ornaments. Prevention is the key to a merry, bright, and fire-free holiday season.

Here at SERVPRO of Missoula, we’re committed to fire preparedness, which is why we’ve previously covered topics such as the importance of checking your smoke detectors routinely and having + knowing how to use a home fire extinguisher.

That said, prevention is really the most effective tool against home fires, especially during the holiday season. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), approximately 160 Christmas tree fires and 780 decoration fires are reported each year, with candle fires in particular reaching their peak on Christmas and Christmas Eve. Similarly, the peak days for home cooking fires are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Christmas Eve, respectively.

With these facts in mind, there are several preventative steps you can take to decrease the risk of a holiday fire in your home:

  • Never leave a stovetop unattended when cooking
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything flammable
  • For string lights, read the manufacturer’s instructions to find the maximum number of strands to connect
  • Replace string lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections
  • Make sure your tree is at least three feet away from any heat source or vent, and that it does not block exits
  • Water your Christmas tree daily
  • Get rid of your Christmas tree as soon as it dries out
  • Turn off string lights and blow out candles before leaving your home or going to bed

By working these preventative measures into your holiday routine, you can make sure your home stays merry and bright—and fire-free—this winter.

The SERVPRO of Missoula team wishes you and yours a safe and joyous holiday season!