Steps to Take After Your Home is Hit with a Severe Storm or Tornado

Posted on August 22, 2019.

The Midwest brings its fair share of severe weather. Severe thunderstorms with hail and strong winds, flash floods, and the dreaded tornado.

When disaster strikes, what do you do next? You’ve been thrown for a loop and there’s damage to your home or your neighbor’s home and you need to act fast. So, what first?

What to do After a Tornado Strikes

  1. Turn on the radio or television before stepping outside of a safe area. Ensure the worst has passed.
  2. Help any injured or trapped persons if it is safe to do so
  3. Give first aid when appropriate, do not move any seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger. Call 911.
  4. If you’ve been evacuated to a school or safe structure, only return home when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  5. Try to use your phone only for emergency phone calls.
  6. Clean up any spilled medicine, bleach, gasoline, or flammable liquids
  7. If you smell natural gas, get out of the building
  8. Take photos of any damage to your house and any belongings – for your insurance claim
  9. Help your neighbors when you can, especially those requiring special assistance i.e. infants, elderly, people with disabilities.


Inspect Your Utilities

If you smell natural gas or hear any hissing sounds, you may have a gas leak. You should open a window and leave the premises immediately. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.

If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.

Filing an Insurance Claim

Make sure to take pictures of before, during, and after clean-up. Document any damaged valuables you find, and take pictures of all damage to the interior or exterior of the home before any repairs are done. These will all bode well for you during an insurance claim.

You should immediately call an agent and report that a storm came through the area and your house is one that is damaged. In instances of tornados or severe weather, they may already be prepared for the influx of calls for insurance claims. You should find out how long it will take to get an inspection and file a claim. In order to be safe, you need to make some proper repairs that would cause immediate danger to you or your family. Clear these with your insurance company as you should be able to include these into your filed claim.

Post-Disaster Clean-up

Remove Any Water – If your basement or house has flooded, the first thing to do is extract the water. Your sump pump should be able to do its job, make sure if you lost power that it has a backup power source or backup battery. Make sure any drains are clear of debris then call your local Service Master for professional clean up of the water damage to prevent mold growth.

Keep air circulating –  Open vents and windows and set up a fan to keep fresh air circulating. Run a dehumidifier in the basement and any room that had water damage.  Mold and mildew can start growing within 48 hours, so the faster water is cleaned up and everything dries, the better.

Remove Wet Drywall – If your drywall gets wet, there is no chance to dry it out, that portion has to be removed and replaced. It holds too high of a potential for mold if left untouched.  The same goes for insulation behind the drywall.

Broken Glass – If windows have blown out or shattered, carefully lean up all the pieces of glass, and wear shoes whenever you are cleaning up inside your house to protect yourself. You will have to board them up until repairs can be made. Contact your local glass store or contractor for help.

Yard cleanup – Your yard may be filled with branches, debris, or downed trees. Collect large items first and put them to the curb. Use a saw or chainsaw to cut up larger pieces of wood, and rake everything else into piles.

Roofing Damage – Inspect your roof for shingles that might have come loose, blown, or have divets from hail and debris damage. Any exposed roof can cause future leaks and damage to your roof, so a consultation should be done as soon as possible for repairs. If damage if very bad, lay tarps on the roof to prevent any leaks in the meantime.


Most importantly, once you and your family are safe and secure, and you’ve assessed any major threats give Service Master a call for all your post-storm clean-up needs. Service Master can help with immediate emergency clean-up as well as mold removal and repair if that occurs. We offer carpet cleaning, water mitigation, drywall repair, everything you need. Our phones are open 24/7 so call us anytime at 612-263-7053.


6 Simple Ways to Fireproof Your Office

Posted on August 20, 2019.


The National Fire Protection Association put out some statistics about business office fires stating that between 2007 and 2011 U.S. fire departments responded to an average 3,340 fires at office properties per year for those five years. Peak times for the fires were between 12:00-2:00 PM – that’s peak lunchtime. Coincidence? Perhaps!

It may seem obvious to try and prevent fires in your home and office by not putting tin foil in the microwave, or not putting things on fire in the garbage, but those numbers don’t lie! It’s still very important to follow some basic steps and practices to prevent office fires and keep everyone safe.


Ensure Proper Fire Detectors are Installed

Chances are, if you work in an office building, the building had fire detection systems put in place that meet OSHA requirements. If your workplace uses a fire detection system that was designed and installed to meet the fire protection requirements of a specific OSHA standard, it must also comply with the “Fire Detection Systems” standard. [29 CFR 1910.164]

If you own smaller office space, you may have usual fire detectors which should be placed one every 30 feet or one detector per 500 sq. feet. Test them regularly to make sure they work and have plenty of battery life.

Follow Breakroom Rules & Etiquette

The breakroom has one of the biggest chances of having a fire in your office. You probably have a microwave, and if you’re lucky a toaster oven, and failing to use best practices for using those appliances can lead to sparks, electrical outages, and fire. Most of us might know the basics, like no metal or aluminum foil in the microwave. It’s also a safe bet to keep out paper bags which can catch fire, Chinese to-go containers that are held together with a handle or staples, and travel mugs or containers that are not marked microwave safe. When in doubt, don’t try putting something in there that you think could melt, explode, or start on fire.

Never Overload Power Outlets

At your desk, you’ve probably got your computer, your monitor, maybe a second monitor, a phone charger, a desk fan all plugged into a power strip. This might seem okay, the strip can probably handle it, but the more people around sharing a block of outlets or strips can not only dim lights, fry chargers and appliances, and lower power – they can short out and potentially spark a fire! It’s important to spread out high powered devices in different outlets, and maybe don’t run everything from one spot. When you all leave for the day, shut down computers, and unplug unnecessary appliances or chargers from the outlets.

Keep Windows & Walkways Clear

Every office should have a route employees know to take if and when a fire occurs. Many of these routes probably include taking the stairs before the window, but you need to prepare for every situation. Don’t put desks, chairs, tables, junk blocking walkways or windows. When setting up your office or tidying up, imagine if a fire were to happen right now – would everyone be able to get through the isles and walkways quickly and easily? If there are boxes on the floor, or in front of windows, probably not. In the extreme case, where the windows are the only exit – it’s essential to keep those areas clear at all times. Those minutes it may take to move a desk out of the way is the crucial time needed during an evacuation.

Learn How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

You probably walk by a fire extinguisher in the hallway at work every morning. But, do you know how to use it in an emergency?

It’s never recommended to fight the fire first, you always want to evacuate and get everyone out safely. But, the moment where you need to, it’s important for you and your team to know how to properly use a fire extinguisher. The acronym P.A.S.S. is used universally to know how to use the extinguisher.

P – Pull the pin

A – Aim the nozzle

S – Squeeze the handle

S – Sweep from side to side

Post this graphic in your office and make sure everyone knows the PASS method.

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Run Regular Drills

National Fire Prevention Week is coming up on October 6-12, 2019. This week it’s generally recommended that businesses hold their annual fire drill. Now, one drill a year is the minimum requirement, but some agencies say two a year might be better. This allows for new employees to participate, and it’s a good refresher for everyone. Depending on the company’s risk assessment more may be needed. Being prepared in an emergency, and knowing exactly where to go, and what to do is the first line of defense against everyone being safe and unharmed.


Sump Pumps in the Summer | How to Deal With Heavy Rains

Posted on August 16, 2019.

This is an updated blog.  Click here to visit the latest version.

Summer brings barbecues, baseball, swimming, warm weather, and RAIN. Lots of rain can flood basements if you don’t take proper measures. Now, not ALL basements have a sump pump, but if yours does, it’s important to know what you can do to make sure when you need it, it works properly. Nobody wants to wake up after an overnight storm to a flooded basement, and a failed sump pump.

As of August 19th, 2019, the total precipitation at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport reached 29.64 inches. This is the second wettest year, right after a whopping 31.75 inches that fell in 1892. What exactly can a sump pump do to save you the pain of a flooded basement during these rainy months?

What Does a Sump Pump Do?

Down in the lowest part of your basement, is a sump basin that manages and collects water levels as they rise and fall during rainfall, flooding, the dreaded winter melt, etc. Inside that basin is a sump pump that prevents your basement from flooding by pumping out any accumulated water. Its main purpose is to keep your basement dry and prevent standing water and mold growth. Sump pumps should last up to 10 years, with regular maintenance and upkeep. To maintain its quality, and prevent failure, there are some steps you can take to test your sump pump throughout the year, before a chance of flood.

Preventative Maintenance Tips

Back-Up Battery – Sump pumps run off battery power and if during a heavy storm you lose power, that pump will continue to run on reserve battery power temporarily. However, for a prolonged electric outage, you want to make sure you have a backup battery or power source to run the pump to avoid flooding and standing water. A heavy storm + power outage = lots of water building up, with nothing but mops and buckets to stop it. Don’t let that happen to you!

Water Sensor  – Purchase a water sensor! There are water sensor alarm systems you can set up in or near your sump basin or on the basement floor that will sound an alarm when it detects water. There are now sensors that are app capable and will text right to your phone that your basement floor is wet. This can help prevent flooded basements and failed sump pumps before you walk down there and discover it yourself. Which at that point can be too late.

Annual Test – By testing your sump pump every year, you can work at preventing any mishaps during a time when it needs to work. Make this your opportunity to do any preventative maintenance, and repairs on it before it’s an emergent situation. For those living in areas with high flood risk, you may want to consider bi-annual checkups on your sump pump. Make sure all drain hoses are connected correctly, tightly, and are fully intact. Check for leaks, and make sure it’s working properly. Check your battery life and give it a run through – turn off your power and make sure that back-up power kicks in. Pour water into your sump basin and let it fill up to do the full test and ensure everything is in working order.

If Your Pump Fails – If your pump does fail on you, don’t panic, just keep in mind some tips for fast-acting flood control. You want to dry out your basement as quickly as you can, immediately removing all items that may have gotten wet. Mold can begin growing within 48 hours, so it’s important to get valuables, cardboard boxes, rugs, and furniture out and dried as soon as you can. Put fans and a dehumidifier in the basement to ensure the basement gets completely dry, and no dampness remains. In fact, if you have a moist basement to begin with, running a dehumidifier often can help alleviate dampness and prolong items stored down there. Lastly, contact your local ServiceMaster for a clean-up and/or damage assessment. They have some more tips on how to make sure your sump pump is working as it should here.

If you do find yourself with a failed sump pump and a mess in your basement, give us a call for all your clean-up needs!

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