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9 Tips on How to Prepare Your Commercial Building for a Snow Storm

12/18/2018 (Permalink)

Commercial 9 Tips on How to Prepare Your Commercial Building for a Snow Storm 9 Tips on How to Prepare Your Commercial Building for a Snow Storm

Is your commercial building and HVAC system ready for a snow storm?

Prevent Costly Facility Issues with these Facility Maintenance Winter Tips

Snow, ice, and freezing rain can wreak havoc on a commercial building, especially if you are not prepared. Here is a checklist of tasks to help any building owner or property manager prepare for a snow storm.

Checklist to Prepare Your Office Building for a Snow Storm:

  • Have a Plan: As a property manager, it is important to have a written emergency and disaster plan in place, including preventive measures and procedures. Also, list critical shut-off locations for water, electrical mains, emergency generators, and fire protection systems.
  • Preventative Maintenance: Have your water heater and HVAC system inspected and serviced regularly. These systems work especially hard during the winter.
  • Identify and Address Potential Issues: Before the storm hits, it is important to identify and address potential issues, such as pavement deficiencies that may become covered by snow, or roof drainage issues that can cause water to drain onto walkways.
  • Snow Removal: The flat roofs on most commercial buildings are prone to freezing, thawing, and refreezing, which can plug roof drains and add excess weight, which could cause the roof to collapse. This is why it is so important to remove snow as necessary, ensuring areas around vents and exhaust pipes are clear.
  • Pipes: Wrap vulnerable pipes with insulation sleeves to keep them from freezing. If a pipe does freeze and burst, turn off the main water supply to the pipe immediately and leave the faucet open until repairs can be made.
  • Clear Walkways: Keep walkways clear of snow and ice. Use salt, chemical pellets, and sand as appropriate. It is also a good idea to display caution signs where appropriate.
  • Emergency Generators: Check the fuel oil supply for Emergency Generators in case there is a power outage.
  • HVAC System: Be sure your cooling tower heaters and piping heat traces are functioning to protect them from freezing. Also, heat pumps and condensing units can fail when snow builds up around them and restricts airflow, so be sure to keep them clear of snow & ice buildup.  Make sure your economizer is not calling for outside air. Check that outside dampers function properly as in some instances they may need to be closed manually.
  • Temperatures:  Check your set-back temperatures after hours and determine if hard-to-heat areas need to be adjusted to higher temperatures to protect critical building equipment and systems.
  • Fire Safety Tips for the Winter

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Fire Damage Fire Safety Tips for the Winter Fire Safety Tips for the Winter

    Winter is one of the most dangerous seasons  due to the need to heat your home, cook large meals, and decorate for the holidays.

    Half of all winter house fires occur between December and February; over 905 people die in winter home fires each year, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System. Two-thirds of those fires occur in single and multifamily homes. During the winter months cooking triggers most house fires, while heating equipment is the culprit of one in seven house fires and one in five winter house fire deaths. More than one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles, so be sure to keep all candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.

    Keep this checklist from the U.S. Fire Administration handy around your home to keep you and your family safe.

    What you should know about home cooking safety:

    • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
    • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
    • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
    • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.

    If you have a cooking fire:

    • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
    • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
    • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
    • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid

    over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.

    • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

    For More Information: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Top-causes-of-fire/Cooking

    Safety Considerations for Heating Your Home:

    • Only plug one heat-producing electrical appliance in at a time in an electrical socket (such as a space heater).
    • Make sure your space heater can automatically turn off in case it tips over.
    • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators or space heaters.
    • Close wood stove doors unless stoking the fire or adding wood or pellets.
    • Get a qualified professional to inspect your chimney and vents every year.
    • Install a metal or heat tempered screen around your fireplace.
    • Store cooled ashes at least 10 feet from your home in a tightly sealed metal container.
    • Make sure to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed and test it at least once per month.
    • Store portable generators away from windows and as far away as possible from your house.
    • Shovel snow at least three feet away from fire hydrants to be sure firefighters can get to them quickly if the need arises.

    How to Prevent Mold Growth in the Winter

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Mold Remediation How to Prevent Mold Growth in the Winter How to Prevent Mold Growth in the Winter

    Mold spores are all around us, but the growth of mold can be prevented.

    Mold needs moisture, warmth, and food in order to grow in your home. When you deprive mold of moisture, warmth, and food, you will stop it from growing, but you won’t kill the mold that is already there. The mold spores will stay dormant and start growing again if they get moisture, warmth, and food. So, it’s important to prevent mold from growing in the first place.

    If you live in a climate where you need to heat your home frequently, mold can start growing in the winter on your home’s inside walls, especially on the surfaces closest to the outside of your home. Moisture that travels through the air from your basement, bathrooms, or kitchen may condense when it comes in contact with a cold wall. One thing you can do to prevent mold growth is make sure your walls are well-insulated. Well-insulated walls can prevent condensation and mold, as well as cut down on your heating and cooling bills.

    Here are some other steps you can take to prevent mold growth during the winter:

  • During the cold season, make sure that your indoor humidity level is below forty percent. If you use a humidifier, as many of us do in the winter, make sure it does not produce an excessive amount of humidity.
  • Remove possible sources of mold growth by regularly vacuuming and cleaning. Pay close attention to bathrooms and other areas of your home that are likely to generate a lot of moisture.
  • Use area rugs or washable floor surfaces rather than wall-to-wall carpeting in areas or rooms that have a moisture issue. It’s not usually a great idea to have carpeting in your entryway, for instance, if you live in a cooler, wet climate.
  • Paper, books, and clothing are sources of food for mold, so don’t store them in humid parts of your home, such as your basement, especially close to the floor or walls.
  • Leaks in your roof or windows need to be repaired as soon as possible.
  • Make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clean and that the area under your downspouts is graded so that water from the roof flows away from your foundation. If necessary, extend your downspouts.
  • In the bathroom and kitchen, use exhaust fans or open windows when producing moisture, such as taking a hot shower. Exhaust fans should be vented to the outdoors and not to an attic or crawl space.
  • Make sure your clothes dryer is vented to the outdoors.
  • Consider getting a dehumidifier for your basement. The cool basement floor and walls can be a source of moisture build-up, and a dehumidifier will control the humidity level and make it harder for mold to start growing.
  • Make sure your attic is well insulated and ventilated.
  • If you have a crawl space under your house, cover the soil in the crawl space with waterproof polyethylene plastic, also called a vapor barrier. If your crawl space has vents, close the vents in the summer and keep them open in the winter.
  • If you have water problems in your basement or crawl space, clean up affected areas as quickly as possible and call an expert.
  • What to do After a Winter Storm

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Storm Damage What to do After a Winter Storm What to do After a Winter Storm

    You might be ready for the next winter storm, but after it hits, what is next?

    Here are some tips:

  • Continue listening to local news for updated information and instructions. Access to some parts of the community may be limited or roads may be blocked.
  • Avoid driving and other travel until conditions have improved.
  • Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of death during the winter.
  • Check on your animals and ensure that their access to food and water is unimpeded by drifted snow, ice, or other obstacles.
  • If you are using a portable generator, take precautions against carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution and fire.
  • Frostbite and hypothermia are cold-related emergencies that may quickly become life or limb threatening.

    Take these steps to avoid frostbite and hypothermia:

  • Be aware of the wind chill. Dress appropriately and avoid staying in the cold too long. Wear a hat and gloves when appropriate with layers of clothing. Avoid unnecessary exposure of any part of the body to the cold.
  • Drink plenty of warm fluids or warm water but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Stay active to maintain body heat.
  • Take frequent breaks from the cold.
  • Get out of the cold immediately if the signals of hypothermia or frostbite appear.
  • Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Water Damage Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem

    Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.

    Pipes that freeze most frequently are:

  • Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.
  • How to Protect Pipes From Freezing

    Before the onset of cold weather, protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
  • How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
  • How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
  • How to Clean Your Own Air Ducts

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Why SERVPRO How to Clean Your Own Air Ducts How to Clean Your Own Air Ducts

    One of the best ways to ensure that the air in your home stays tidy is to clean your air vents. The air ducts in your house contain millions of particles of dust, hair, dirt, pollen, spider webs and other allergens. Cleaning your air vents will also save you money on heating and air conditioning. So, read the tips listed below and learn about how you can clean the air vents in your house.

    Here's what you'll need:

  • Heavy duty vacuum
  • Face mask (N95)
  • Screwdriver
  • Broom
  • Cleaning Brush
  • Here's what to do:

  • Turn off the power connected to the heating and air conditioning system.
  • Unscrew the air duct covers or grilles from the walls. Use your brush to clean the grates thoroughly. If they're very dusty and grimy, you may want to use soap and water to make them gleam.
  • Vacuum the ducts as much as possible. Consider renting a heavy duty vacuum for this purpose. The standard household vacuum isn't powerful enough to clean deep into the crevices of the ducts. Make sure that the vacuum you rent has a long hose to reach deep into the ducts. If you want the ducts to be cleaned more thoroughly, consider hiring a professional to do the job.
  • Clean the grilles in your ceiling. If you can't reach them with the vacuum or screwdriver, use a broom to attack the dust. Remember that if you haven't cleaned them for a long time, you will want to protect yourself from all the dust and debris that will fall down by wearing a dust mask.
  • Winter Maintenance Tips for Commercial Buildings

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Commercial Winter Maintenance Tips for Commercial Buildings Winter Maintenance Tips for Commercial Buildings

    While the cold weather may be great for deer hunting or ice fishing, it can be challenging for maintenance and service teams. As a result, preparing your commercial buildings and facilities for winter becomes all the more critical.

    In this blog post, we will highlight maintenance tips you can do as a building owner or facility manager to prepare your properties for the heating season. Most of these tips are tied solely to your heating and cooling systems, while others focus on your building structure and the areas around it. All play a part in ensuring you are ready for whatever Mother Nature has up her sleeve.  

    Inspect Heating Systems

    It’s a no-brainer that maintaining your heating systems should be a top priority in colder weather. We recommend that you inspect heating systems regularly and create a written plan to outline what maintenance tasks need to be addressed daily, weekly, monthly and annually.

    Concerning equipment, hot water heating boilers will see increased use.

    To ensure their proper operation, we suggest you:

  • Examine flues for carbon buildup
  • Analyze combustion to ensure the flames burn cleanly and efficiently
  • Check safeties for proper operation
  • Look for cracked heat exchangers
  • Examine water pressure gauges to ensure they are calibrated correctly
  • Remove and clean burners
  • Brush boiler tubes
  • Check expansion tanks for proper air cushion and to ensure they aren’t flooded
  • Furnaces and rooftop units also need to be checked. Specifically, look for cracks in the heat exchangers, which can leak dangerous carbon dioxide into a building. *For furnaces older than 10 years, consider replacement. Efficiency ratings for today’s equipment far exceed those of older ones, sometimes as much as 40 percent or more.
  • Winterize Cooling Systems

    While heating systems move on-line, cooling systems not in use during the cold season need to be winterized. This might include draining your cooling tower, shutting down your chiller or emptying a condensate drain trap. Not addressing maintenance tasks as systems are taken off-line could result in significant damage to them. Additionally, necessary repairs can be addressed at this time rather than at the moment when you need cooling in the spring and summer.

    Calibrate Thermostats / Reduce Set Points

    This suggestion contains two points. First, by calibrating your building’s thermostats, you ensure your heating systems will operate more efficiently. And that saves money. You know what else saves money? Lowering the temperature in your building (not too much, though, as you don’t want building occupants to be uncomfortable). Studies show you lower your utility bill by an average of one percent for every degree dropped. Imagine the savings you’ll enjoy over the course of a winter!

    Fireplace Maintenance and Safety

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Fire Damage Fireplace Maintenance and Safety Fireplace Maintenance and Safety

    Enjoying a warm, cozy fire requires a clean, safe fireplace.

    Here are 15 tips for keeping it that way:  

  • Fireplaces should not be used as furnaces. Use a fireplace for a short-duration fire — no longer than five hours.
  • Keep the glass open to allow air to be drawn up to cool the chimney, but keep the screen closed to prevent sparks from jumping onto the carpeting.
  • Never leave a fire unattended when children are in the house. Adults, even if near, should not allow children to play near or with fire tools and equipment.
  • Open a window when using the fireplace to prevent the room from becoming smoky. The air coming in from the window will go up the chimney.
  • Before making a fire, open the glass doors, pull aside the screen curtains, and place the kindling, newspaper and logs inside. Next, open the damper and a window. The window needs to be open only a few inches. You can check to make sure the smoke will go up the chimney properly by lighting a match, quickly blowing it out and watching the smoke to see whether it's going up and out.
  • Keep a nonflammable rug (available at fireplace-supply stores) in front of the fireplace so that sparks won't melt or otherwise damage your carpeting.
  • Use fireplace tools to handle burning logs. Never use your hands.
  • Use a chimney cap to prevent water damage, to keep animals from nesting and to keep debris from blocking the chimney and causing carbon monoxide to flow into the house.
  • Use a spark arrester to help prevent sparks from flying out, which could start a fire on the roof or lawn.
  • Glass doors may develop tough stains from flames and heat. To clean them, make sure the glass doors are cool, then scrape off any thick gunk deposits with a razor blade. Add a squirt of liquid dishwashing detergent to a bucket of warm water, or add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water. Spray or sponge the cleaner on, and then wipe it away with newspaper (which is lint-free).
  • Fireplace coals can remain hot enough to start a fire for up to three days, so always wait at least that long before removing the ashes. At that point, close the damper to prevent cold air in the flue from stirring up excess dust while you're removing the ashes. Be sure to wear a dust mask and open a window in the same room as the fireplace to prevent negative air pressure. Use a shovel to scoop the ashes into a metal container. Store the container far from combustible materials and surfaces and wood floors.
  • Never use a vacuum to clean up ashes, because live coals may remain in those ashes.
  • Have a certified Chimney Technician inspect and clean the chimney when necessary. The chimney should be checked at least once a year or after about 80 fires.
  • Clean the firebox (the area where the logs burn) at least once a week during the months you use it, when ash builds up. Leave about an inch of ash because it acts as insulation, allowing the coals to heat faster and retain the heat easier. Keep the firebox completely clean during the months when the fireplace is not in use.
  • To clean an exterior slate hearth, wash, dry and coat it with lemon oil every six weeks to make it shine. For cleaning exterior brick hearths, buy a brick cleaner at a fireplace shop.
  • How to Tell if it’s Black Mold?

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Mold Remediation How to Tell if it’s Black Mold? How to Tell if it’s Black Mold?

    Since many types of mold can cause reactions, you should contact SERVPRO regardless of the color or type of mold. In many instances, multiple types of mold may exist in the same house or structure. If you suspect you have a mold problem, contact SERVPRO immediately. 

    If You See Signs of Mold, Call Us Today

    When water intrudes into your property, mold growth can start in as little as 48 hours.

    Consider the following mold facts:

    • Mold is present almost everywhere, indoors and outdoors.
    • Mold spores are microscopic, float along in the air, and may enter your home through windows, doors, or AC/heating systems or even become ingrained in your clothing or a pet's fur.
    • Mold spores thrive on moisture and can quickly grow into colonies when exposed to water.
    • Before mold remediation can begin, any sources of water or moisture must be cleaned and dried to an acceptable level; otherwise, the mold may return.
    • Mold often produces a strong, musty odor, and that odor can lead to possible mold problem areas.
    • Even higher-than-normal indoor humidity can support mold growth. Keep indoor humidity below 45 percent.

    How to Prepare for a Winter Storm

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Storm Damage How to Prepare for a Winter Storm How to Prepare for a Winter Storm

    Winter is here! Now is the time to prepare so that you are ready when snow storms hit.

    Here are some helpful tips:

  • Make sure your home heating sources are installed according to local codes and permit requirements.
  • Make sure your home heating sources are clean and in working order.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated. Caulk and weather-strip doors and window sills to keep cold air out.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.
  • Consider buying emergency heating equipment, such as a wood or coal burning stove or an electric or kerosene heater.

  • Stoves must be properly vented and in good working order. Dispose of ashes safely. Keep a supply of wood or coal on hand.
  • Electric space heaters, either portable or fixed, must be certified by an independent testing laboratory. Plug a heater directly into the wall socket rather than using an extension cord and unplug it when it is not in use.
  • Use a kerosene heater only if permitted by law in your area; check with your local fire department. Use only the correct fuel for your unit. Properly ventilate the area. Refuel the unit outdoors only, and only when the unit is cool. Follow all of the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Consider storing sufficient heating fuel. Regular fuel sources may be cut off. Be cautious of fire hazards when storing any type of fuel.
  • If you have a fireplace, consider keeping a supply of firewood or coal. Be sure the fireplace is properly vented and in good working order and that you dispose of ashes safely.
  • Consider purchasing a portable generator in case of power outages.
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance, if you live in a flood-prone area, to cover possible flood damage that may occur during the spring thaw. Homeowners' policies do not cover damage from floods. Ask your insurance agent about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) if you are at risk.