Tag Archives: fire damage restoration

Cleaning up after Cape Cod’s tornadoes

When you think of Cape Cod, Massachusetts what sort of weather dangers come to mind? Hurricanes and Nor’easters are common answers, but “tornado” isn’t common at all. Seeing the aftermath of this week’s high grade EF1s that impacted Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Chatham and surrounding areas, that may change. Although Cape Cod wasn’t specifically prepared for the sudden impact of the rare weather event, the response of the towns and first responders was fantastic and thankfully no serious injuries have been reported.South Dennis, MA Tornado Weather 7/23/19

Once the storm had passed the sun came out for a moment allowing us a quick peek of blue sky. Although that tempted people to want to walk about and survey the aftereffects, local authorities urged everyone to stay inside. The hours after a natural disaster are the most crucial for restoration efforts. Immediate dangers need to be assessed, unsafe/impassible roads need to be blocked off and detour points need to be established, medial emergency responders need to be able to safely navigate the labyrinth of streets, utility emergency responders need the limited routes as clear as possible as they work to assess services, and as the tree blockades are found they need to be accessed quickly by fellers (because no one in need of an ambulance wants them stuck in a labyrinth of downed trees!). In addition to all that, downed wires are deadly and until they’ve been identified and secured it’s simply not safe.

Cape Cod Tornado Damage Willow Tree Uproots in Brewster, MAWith any natural disaster first you assess and secure, then clean-up and restore. Any serious wind event brings a surge of calls to professional restoration companies from property owners who’ve had trees fall on their home or business. The first thing to do is remove the tree from the structure. Once that is safely done and the tree is on the ground it’s important to immediately board-up any openings it created. After the property has been secured then it’s time to assess the interior damage.

When it comes to insurance coverage this is where things can vary significantly from owner to owner. The deductible on a policy is the portion you are personally responsible for paying out of pocket on a claim. Some policies have a special wind deductible that is different than the standard policy deductible (and often quite larger). If you have a wind deductible on your policy and the wind of the storm toppled a tree on your home then that’s the deductible you’ll be looking at paying with your claim. Other policies may narrow the criteria of the special deductible to hurricanes and named storms, not all wind events. An interesting exclusion we’ve run into on some calls is that although some insurance companies may include the cost to remove the tree from the structure in the claim, removing the tree from the property may not be included and then it’s up to the homeowner to get it chopped up and moved away (or stacked to season for cozy winter fires). These variables and this week’s storm are reasons why our monthly maintenance checklist schedule has you review the different deductibles of your policies with your agent at least once a year.

Cape Cod Tornado Wind downs Brewster Tree at Farm The support and acts of kindness seen and heard around the community have our hearts overflowing. Let’s keep that strength showing. If you see a first responder, thank them. If you’re still without power, be patient. Crews are still working around the clock to get you back up and running. A smile and snack will help them do that more than any complaint ever will. If you’ve offered a helping hand, even something as simple as checking in on your elderly or ill neighbors, thank you!

Have any questions about emergency board-up services or natural disaster response? Send us a message or give us a call! Sharing and supporting the #CapeStrong spirit? Show us on Facebook or Twitter! @whalenrestoration @whalenservices

 

It’s Personal…

What’s More Personal Than a Person’s Home?

HomeWe all hope that we’ll never need the services of a professional restoration company. The reality is that you or someone you know will have a situation that requires them. Why should Whalen Restoration Services be the first choice for Cape Cod, MA property owners? Most people want to work with an established company that has a great reputation. They want the company to be licensed and insured, the workers to be experienced and trained, and the best tools available to be used with up-to-date techniques. There isn’t a restoration company that won’t claim to have all of these positive attributes. Our special difference: Whether the project involves a residential property or a commercial property, our President, Bill Whalen, is tuned in to the needs of the owner.

Bill ensures that all of us at Whalen Restoration Services realize that there is nothing more personal than someone’s home. If put in the same situation we would want to be back in our own homes as soon as possible, and we work diligently to be sure that our clients are. Business owners have additional concerns, specifically the expense of being unable to operate the business while the restoration is ongoing. We helped one restaurant owner who had a fire just before a major holiday, and another restaurant owner whose building was hit by a car at the height of the summer season. Anyone who is familiar with Cape Cod knows that being closed during those times would be devastating for business! We also saved business for a hotel where, had we not responded in the fashion that we did, a wedding would have been forfeited. Our timely restorations also saved the insurance companies significantly in all of these cases. Bill’s empathy and understanding for the business owner contributes immensely to the successful completion of their restoration projects.

Many of us here at Whalen Restoration Services have homes and families of our own, so we completely understand that it is personal to have us in yours. This business is even family owned and operated. These are huge reasons why we’re committed to restoring every residential and commercial property to its pre-loss condition in a timely fashion with quality and courtesy.

Want to learn more about Bill and our office staff? Read on!

Soot – What, Where, Why, and How

firedamage

What exactly is soot?
On a chemical level, soot is impure carbon particles created by partial combustion of hydrocarbons. It is usually the flaky or powdery remains of burned matter after a fire. Soot also has a gas phase in which it contains a known human carcinogen. Carcinogens are agents directly involved in causing cancer.

What are common sources of soot?
When most people think of soot a live flame in a fireplace and a chimney come to mind. Soot can also derive from furnaces, coal burning stoves, boilers, incinerating waste, forest fires, and internal combustion engines. More locally, other sources include candles, cooking, oil lamps, and settled dust on halogen bulbs. The source of the soot and the level of oxygen present when burning directly impacts the type of soot created, whether it be dry and dusty or even greasy. You’ll notice soot created when oxygen is reduced around the flame of a candle if you hold heat-safe glass over it for a moment.

Why is soot harmful?
Aside from the carcinogen contained in the gas phase as mentioned above, many different types of soot can pose a number of hazards. Soot such as the type caused by diesel exhaust is harmful to the environment and eyed as a prime subject to air pollution and global warming. Air pollution is hazardous to the environment and the health of humans. Prolonged exposure to soot ridden air pollution can contribute to heart disease.

It’s the incomplete combustion that serves the formation of toxic compounds such as dioxins. You see the negative effects of this during the Industrial Revolution when factories were causing major pollution.

Soot is dangerous when it is not properly maintained in a chimney or other source of ventilation. When it is allowed to build up, it can cause chimney fires, stove hood ventilation issues, or even cause the particles from a fireplace to backdraft into your home. If that happens you may be looking at a large soot cleaning that will require professional services.

Is any soot beneficial?
Soot has been used for pigment in inks and dyes for centuries. Modern day utensils include fountain pens, toner for laser printers, and crayons. To treat rubber, a vulcanization process is used with a soot material called carbon black. In small quantities, dry dusty soot from clean organic material can be beneficial to vegetation when mixed in with the soil. Oil soot is never good for this purpose.
So there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly on soot. What it is, what causes it, and what it can do. If you have any other questions, feel free to write me and I’ll include it in a new segment.

Photo credit to isthatart on stock.xchng

Safely Enjoy Your Fireplace or Wood Stove

Every year over 35% of residential fires are caused by heating sources. Many of them are due to creosote buildup in fireplace chimneys and stovepipes. Having a fireplace or a wood burning stove adds charm to a home and can be a great heating element, but they come with a lot of responsibility. You need to keep them clean, know what to burn and what not to burn in them, know how to burn those materials and how to store them. It takes every piece of that knowledge to make sure you’re protecting your home and its company while they’re in use.

Fireplace

Keeping wood stoves and fireplaces safe starts with a yearly inspection and chimney sweep. Make sure the specialist you hire is certified to perform their services. It’s always good to do a little research on how long they’ve been in business, any unresolved complaints that may be filed against them, and by following up with some of their current references. Don’t forget to also ask about their business liability insurance.

The next part of keeping stoves and fireplaces in great shape is then using them properly. To help keep the creosote from building up inside your fireplace chimney keep the glass doors open while the fire is burning, but don’t forget to keep them closed when the fire is out. Have a screen cover in front the fireplace to protect the surroundings from sparks and stray embers. You may even want to slightly crack a nearby window while using it to keep good air flow. When it comes to avoiding creosote buildup with wood stoves keep air inlets open and make sure not to restrict the air supply. Whether fireplace or stove, place a nonflammable rug in front so that if a spark does escape it doesn’t damage your floor.

Knowing how to build and tend to a fire is crucial for safety and maintenance. Build your fires small with seasoned hardwoods for fireplaces and seasoned wood pellets for pellet stoves. Never use trash, plastic or any cardboard as burning materials. Fires should be built on a grate for support and towards the rear of the fireplace. First place in the kindling and logs and then open the damper. Before you light your fire, an easy way to make sure the smoke will properly escape up the chimney is by quickly blowing out a lit match and watching where the smoke travels. Never start a fire with flammable liquids, and only use your fireplace tools to handle burning logs.

Fireplace and wood stove safety doesn’t end inside of the home. Protecting the exterior of your home involves proper storage of your burning materials, proper disposal of ashes and landscape maintenance. Place your firewood rack 30’ from your house. Keep the ventilation areas clear by trimming any branches around the flues, vents and/or the chimney. You can put a mesh screen to cover the chimney and it will protect the roof from any stray sparks. Vent pipes should be at least 3’ beyond your roof line. Did you know it can take up to three days for fire ashes to completely cool?  When finally ready to remove them make sure you open the damper and a window so that rustled ash will be sent up the chimney with the negative air pressure, and then keep the removed ashes contained in a metal container at least 10’ from any structure.

Last but most importantly, test your smoke detectors on every floor monthly and don’t forget to change the batteries once a year. Need help with friendly reminders on that? Follow any of our social media accounts and we’ll post when it’s time.

So when your system is clean, the area maintenance is done, you have the correct burning materials properly stored, and all other safety measures are in place you’re good to go. It may sound like a bit of work but it is all completely necessary to protect your home from suffering a fire damage, smoke and soot damage. The best part you can then reap the rewards of all your efforts and cozy up to a nice toasty fire on one of these chilly nights. ‘Tis the season and I hear it’s going to be a cold week.  Enjoy!

 

 

I’ve had a fire! What now?

What can you expect after you’ve had a fire at your property? Well that’s highly dependent on the extent of damage the fire caused. We’ll explain here some typical expectations after a fire that has caused a decent amount of damage to the property.house_fire

The first 24 hours after a fire:

The fire department has wrapped up from extinguishing the flames. You’ll need confirmation from the fire department that it is safe to enter the property.

Contact your insurance company and start a claim. Make sure to ask them for a claim number when reporting.

  • TIP: Save important information such as policy numbers, important telephone numbers, and insurance contacts on a cloud based storage and/or on your mobile phone. If these options aren’t available to you, store them at a secure off-site location.

Be prepared: Different restoration companies may arrive on site after hearing of the fire, eager to assist you. You’ll want to hire someone for the initial board-up services to secure the doors, windows, or any other areas exposing the house to the elements or theft. If you already have one in mind, give them a call a.s.a.p.

  • TIP: This can be a mentally taxing time. Save yourself confusion and anguish by doing your research before the fire. Search your local fire damage restoration company options. Don’t hesitate to call, request references, and ask questions. Save their information off-site, on the cloud, and or/on your mobile phone for easy reference, just like you would those important insurance and policy numbers.

Make sure that the power and gas companies have been notified that the house had a fire. Depending on the size of the fire, the fire department may have the companies pull the meters from the property.

The next few days after a fire:

You’ll be getting a call from an adjuster to schedule a meeting at the property. During this appointment for the initial walkthrough, both the restoration company manager and the insurance adjuster should be present, so you may want to give the restoration company a call. The main purpose is to address the factors of contents, temporary living, and timeline of the restoration. By working with the insurance company directly and coming to an agreement on the scope of work, the entire process runs more efficiently.

If the fire was severe enough, use this time to call your cable, phone, and alarm companies to put a temporary hold on your services.

With approval, debris removal and pack-out services may commence.

  • TIP: Keep a home inventory list! Having all this information on file can do wonders for expediting the contents claiming. Depending on the extent of  the fire, some contents may be unidentifiable. Make sure everything is claimed at its value by updating this list often and keeping it in a safe place. Knowyourstuff.org is one of many great resources for doing so. They even have a mobile application!

The next few weeks

The insurance company will agree on a scope of work. This will detail what the insurance company is allowing to be done.

The restoration company will apply for the appropriate permits. Dumpsters or storage pods may be delivered to the property. Debris removal and pack-out services will commence if they haven’t already.

Unless it’s already been covered, the restoration company may want to review the scope of work with you, making sure you understand exactly what the insurance company is expecting.

Demolition of damaged areas will commence as necessary.

Your restoration company will work as efficiently as possible to give you back your property completely restored. The timeline depends on the extent of the fire damage, selection decisions and ordering of materials, and how responsive you are to insurance and mortgage company requests.

The Final Conclusion

Each fire loss has its own unique process based on how many variables there are to be considered.  Being prepared with an inventory list, off-site and mobile stored policy/contact information, and pre-loss research on reliable restoration companies is important to every one of them.