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Top 10 Common Types of House Fires

firedamage

A house fire can be both deadly and devastating. According to the National Fire Protection Association an estimated 374,000 U.S. homes catch fire, costing over $8 billion and 2,600 lives each year. The sad part is that most house fires can be prevented when precautions are taken.

Below are some of the most common causes of house fires, and some tips to take precautions.

 

  1. Kitchen/Cooking Fires

Pots and pans left unattended on the stove pose a huge fire threat. Many fires start in the kitchen. Always stay in the room, or ask someone to watch your food, when cooking on hotplates. Always have a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen to keep a small fire from burning your whole house down.

 

  1. Heating

With the cost of heating fuel skyrocketing, portable heaters are becoming more popular. While many modern space heaters come with safety features like automatic shut off, you should keep all heat sources away from furniture, curtains, laundry, and even yourself. If you use a fireplace or wood burning stove make sure your chimneys are cleaned regularly to avoid fires.

 

  1. Smoking Indoors

While smoking is bad for you in general, up to 75% of household fires are caused by smoking indoors. A cigarette that is not put out properly can cause a flame because the butt may stay lit for a few hours. It could burst into flames if it comes into contact with flammable materials, such as furniture.

 

  1. Electrical Equipment

Electrical fires are also common. Electrical appliances, such as a toaster, can start a fire if they’re faulty or have a frayed cord. A power source that is overloaded with double adapter plugs can cause a fire from an overuse of electricity. Make sure you don’t over load outlets with too many electronics or appliances. Don’t use appliances or electronics with worn or frayed cords.

 

  1. Candles

Candles look and smell pretty, but can fuel disaster if left unattended. Keep candles away from any obviously flammable items such as books and tissue boxes. Make sure you blow candles out before leaving a room and keep them away from children. Opt for LED or battery powered candles that give the same look, without the risk.

 

  1. Curious Children

Fire is fascinating to kids. Often that interest can lead to an out of control situation very quickly. Keep any matches or lighters out of reach of children. Install a smoke alarm in your child’s room and practice a home escape plan with your family in case there is a fire.

 

  1. Faulty Wiring

Homes with inadequate wiring can cause fires from electrical hazards. Some signs of bad wiring are: Lights dimming if you use another appliance; having to disconnect one appliance to use another because fuses blow or trip the circuit frequently. Have a licensed electrician come and inspect you house if you think you might have a wiring issue in your home.

 

  1. BBQ

Barbeques are great for an outdoor meal, but should always be used away from the home, tablecloths, or any plants and tree branches. Keep BBQs regularly maintained and cleaned with soapy water and clean any removable parts. Check the gas bottle for any leaks before you use it each time.

 

  1. Flammable Liquids

If you have any flammable liquids in the home or garage such as petrol, kerosene, or methylated spirits, keep them away from heat sources and check the label before storing. Store them in proper containers and make sure they are in a ventilated room. Fumes that build up can create a literal powder keg if exposed to the smallest of sparks. Properly dispose of flammable liquid you do not intend to use in a timely manner.

 

  1. Lighting

Lamps and other lighting can pose a fire risk. Lampshades and curtains can overheat and catch fire when placed too close to conventional light sources. Try to use LED bulbs or bulbs that do not emit so much heat. They will also save you on electricity costs!

Even when we do take precautions house fires can still happen. If your home is damaged by fire or smoke contact the experts at Branch Services, we can help you clean up and rebuild after a fire, flood, or natural disaster.

Be Prepared for a Hurricane

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With three hurricanes barreling up the Atlantic right now, one can’t help being reminded of the devastation a hurricane can bring. Sandy was just a few short years ago and many parts of Long Island are still recovering. While still not as common for New York than lets say Florida, major storms like hurricanes pose a dangerous threat to Islanders. It is important we know how to keep ourselves safe during a storm. Preparedness is the key to surviving during a storm.

Here is can help you plan ahead so you never have to face a storm unprepared.

 

Check your insurance coverage

Regular homeowners insurance does not cover floods. Flood insurance mandates have changed since Sandy.  Make sure your policy reflects the current state of your home and is up to date with payments. Also check your deductible so you know how much you will be on the hook for after flood and storm damage. Remember it goes off the price of your home, someone with a $400k home with a 5% deductible could be responsible for $20,000 of damage before their insurance will kick in.

 

Do a home inventory

Document the contents of your home with a video camera or through itemized lists to help with filing insurance claims later. Keep receipts for valuable items and consider separate coverage for these things. A tip to keep irreplaceable items like photographs or important paperwork that you can’t take with you is to put them in your dishwasher during the storm. Dishwashers are usually water tight and are less likely to get damaged in flood waters. It’s not 100% fool proof, but it is worth the effort to try. (Just don’t forget to take those items out before you start your dishwasher!)

 

Protect Your Property :

  • While some of the devastating effects of nature can’t be avoided, there are some things you can do to your home to mitigate the damage caused by the heavy winds and rains of a hurricane.
  • Install hurricane shutters or keep ¾ inch outdoor plywood boards for each window. If using boards, be sure to install anchors and pre-drill holes so you can put them up quickly.
  • Install head and foot bolts on doors for extra protection.
  • Hurricane straps or clips to help hold the roof to the walls of your home.
  • Also, be sure to keep up with your landscaping; diseased and damaged tree limbs can become serious hazards in high-speed storm winds.

Create a Disaster Supply Kit

A 2-week supply of water and ready-to-eat, non-perishable food for every family member and pet. The rule of thumb for water is 1 gallon per day, per person. With water shortages common before a storm, filling up freezer bags with filtered tap water and putting them in the freezer before the storm hits will benefit you in two ways 1) it will help keep frozen food cold if there is a power outage 2) it will provide safe drinking water after the storm. Fill the bathtub up with water to keep your toilet in working order.

Other things to include in your disaster kit are:

  • Manual can opener
  • Essential medicines including eyeglasses and contact lenses
  • Personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Change of clothing
  • Paper towels, hand sanitizer, and eating utensils
  • First-aid kit
  • Battery-powered flashlight and radio with extra batteries
  • Blankets, pillows and sleeping bags
  • Mosquito repellant and citronella candles
  • Plastic tarp for roof/window repairs and tools
  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members

 

Have an established evacuation plan

Every family should have an evacuation plan and a backup. If you don’t have transportation of your own, make arrangements now with friends or family members and don’t forget about the pets! If you are planning to evacuate with your pets remember pet friendly shelters and hotels fill up quickly, better to be safe than sorry and book early.

 

Keep your disaster kit and personal documents at the ready to leave at a moments notice.

Some important documents to keep on you during a disaster are.

  • Driver’s license or personal ID
  • Social security card
  • Proof of residence (deed, lease or utility bills)
  • Insurance policies (home, auto, flood, wind)
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Stocks, bond and other negotiable certificates
  • Wills, deeds, and copies of recent tax returns
  • Personal checkbook and any unpaid bills

Don’t take silly risks like running back into a home that’s been destroyed or refuse to evacuate when you’ve been ordered to, just to salvage material possessions. Things can be replaced, but people cannot.

What To Do If You Find Asbestos In Your Home

asbestosremoval

If you live in a home that was constructed before 1990, you may be living with asbestos. Asbestos was used in many building materials over the last 100 years.

Once hailed as a “miracle material” due to its durability and fire resistance, asbestos was found to cause mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer and is now banned.

To pose a threat asbestos fibers must be loose in the air, so having asbestos in your home in the form of tiles, insulation, or other parts of your home doesn’t pose an immediate threat to your family if it is intact and not worn.

If you need to remodel an area of your house that you suspect contains asbestos, contact a licensed professional contractor. An asbestos abatement contractor can identify if a material contains asbestos and safely remove and dispose of the material. Also, in most parts of the country, disposal of asbestos materials into the normal trash collection is illegal.

You do NOT want to remove the asbestos yourself, even if you are careful, there is too much of a risk of the dangerous asbestos fibers getting into the air. If you are unsure if you have asbestos contact a contractor to have your home tested.

The EPA recommends that if you need to have asbestos removed from your house, you should contact a licensed and trained asbestos removal specialist. They will be able to properly remove and dispose of the asbestos in a safe and legal way.

 

Prevent Flooding During A Hurricane

flooding

While flooding can occur at any time of year, hurricane season on Long Island poses a particular threat of flooding around the coast.

Flooding and flash flooding are leading causes of weather-related fatalities in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. Floods are also the most common weather-related cause of property damage in the nation.  Understanding your flood risk and taking proper mitigating steps can help prevent a disaster in your home.

 

Look For Your Home on the Flood Map

A flood map (sometimes referred to as a floodplain map or FEMA flood map) can be used to identify floodplain locations and flood zones. The best place to start is by finding out what flood zone, from high to low risk, your property is in. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) works with each municipality to create and update flood maps that show the flood zone for each part of the community.

 

Check Your Flood Insurance

Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not protect against flooding. If you are in an area with increased flood risk make sure you have extra protection against floods.

 

Flood-Proof Your Home

Here are some steps to keep flood damage at a minimum if water ends up getting into your home.

Raise Electrical System Components—Raising electrical system components above the anticipated flood level will help prevent damage to the electrical system and avoid the potential for fire from short circuits in flooded systems. Electric switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring should be raised to at least 12 inches above the base flood elevation (BFE) for your area. You can find out your property’s BFE by contacting your local building department.

Raise or Floodproof HVAC Equipment—Protect your HVAC equipment by moving it to an upper floor or build a flood-proof wall around the equipment.

Direct Water Away From Building—Make sure your yard slopes away from your home directing water away from the building.

Anchor Fuel Tanks—Unanchored fuel tanks can cause damage in a flood. The supply line to an unanchored tank in your basement can tear free and fuel can contaminate your basement. Make sure fuel tanks are properly secured.

Sump Pumps—Make sure your sump pump is working properly and battery is fully charged.

How To Prevent Mold Around Your Air Conditioner

ac

Mold appears as a result of a damp environment, so any place that’s subjected to excessive moisture is at risk. One of the most popular places for mold to form is around your air conditioner. Here are some tips to keeping mold away from your AC.

  1. Keep Moisture Away

Mold cannot grow without moisture. An air conditioner with humidity control will control the moisture level in the air, automatically discouraging the formation of mold. This goes double for the hot, humid months of mid-summer where you won’t only prevent mold around your AC, but in your home as well.

 

  1. Keep It Running

The most common mistake people make is that when leaving for the day, or even for a week, they shut down the air conditioner unit, letting the air heat and stagnate. Especially in the warmer months, moisture will build in the air without circulation, and temperatures will obviously rise in the absence of a cooling system. Warm, moist, air is a perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. The best and most cost- effective way to keep costs down, and mold out, is to run your air conditioner on “Auto Mode”.

 

  1. Keep It Running…Well

Preventing mold from forming inside or outside of the air conditioner unit requires careful maintenance. The insides of your air conditioning unit may be the perfect place for mold to appear. It’s dark, warm, and—if not properly maintained—may have water present; increasing the chances of mold developing. Clean it regularly and remove any signs of water, or already formed mold, you can find.

 

  1. Keep Dust At Bay

Dust also helps mold form in and around your air conditioner, so getting rid of any dust is highly advisable. The most comfortable way of doing this is to use a vacuum cleaner to draw the dust from the air conditioner. It’s an easy job, but it is very important in mold prevention.

Spring Cleaning

hand in orange glove cleaning window with green rag

Winter has finally left and it is starting to get warm. Now is the time for spring cleaning. Unfortunately once we start getting into all the cracks and crevasses in our home we can spot damage the winter months brought about that we didn’t notice.

Leaks and damage

The elements mixed with an aging house can wear down even the sturdiest of homes, small cracks can turn into leaks which can turn into mold. Water damage is one of the most common types of damage to a home.

Insurance claims

Most insurance policies don’t cover flood damage, but many policies allow claims for water damage caused by rain, snow, or ice or accidental leaking or discharge from plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or a refrigeration system. If you notice water damage caused by any of these things, check with your insurer, you may be covered! Make sure you call your agent as soon as you discover the damage as many policies have time limits on how late you can file a claim. To make a claim, you need to contact your insurance provider and speak with an adjuster. Be prepared to provide:

Photos of the damage. If you are claiming damage to contents and have that coverage, provide photo evidence of that, too. The description should include the make/model, size, material, and replacement cost.

 

  • A written estimate, from a contractor, for the repairs needed. Estimates should include a description of the work and a breakdown of the costs by materials and labor. The replacement materials should be those of the same kind and quality of those being repaired.

 

  • Be sure to check your homeowner’s insurance to see if it will cover mold. If you find evidence of mold, your insurer will want to be contacted immediately and most likely will assign an adjuster to inspect the site. Be careful, a mold claim might affect your ability to get insurance later.

 

Once you notice a leak the first thing you need to do is to fix it! Seal up the crack or call the plumber to fix the pipe or a handy man to fix that leaky appliance.

The second thing you should do, AS SOON AS YOU FIX YOUR LEAK is to call an environmental services company like Branch Services to dry out the area. The faster you catch water damage the less likely you will deal with a mold problem in the future. Don’t be fooled if something feels dry to the touch doesn’t mean moisture isn’t lurking underneath the surface.

Mold concerns

Mold will start to grow in the first 24 to 48 hours after a leak, under ideal conditions. Carpets get moldy very quickly. Older carpets that have dirt as a food source start smelling moldy after being wet just a short time. It may be a week or two before it grows to the extent that it is visible to the naked eye as spots on drywall or carpet pads.

Mold spores need three things to grow and thrive:

  1. Food (cotton, leather, drywall, wood, and paper products, among other things)
  2. Water (good circulation throughout the home is important to eliminate dampness or potential moisture, especially in attics, basements, crawl spaces, and laundry rooms)
  3. Optimal temperatures

The single best method for eliminating these spores in your home is through the use of a certified mold remediation professional.

Avoid Basement Flooding This Spring

basementflood

It seems old man winter was not about to leave without a fight. Now, as spring approaches and the snow melts, basements are at risk for flooding.

Flooded basements can be avoided if proper attention is paid.

  • Fix leaky or blocked pipes and spigots. Cracked pipes and spigots can cause a leak that can cause water to backup into your basement. Clogged pipes can also pose a risk for flood damage. Clear blockages and fix leaks as soon as you spot them.

 

  • Invest in a sump pump. Even if you live in a home in an area with very little chance of floods, it’s still important to have the protection of a sump pump. You don’t want the time you start considering purchasing one installed to be after your basement has flooded.

 

 

  • Redirect or extend your downspouts. If your downspouts are directing water toward your home, they aren’t doing their job. Reposition them so the bottom faces away from your foundation. Extenders are a good way to put more distance from the water and your house.

 

  • Make sure your land slopes down and away from your home. If you find that water pools around your house during a storm, you might need to regrade your yard. If your yard cannot be properly regraded, a French drain may work just as well.

 

  • Install basement window covers. These transparent covers can be attached to your foundation and still permit light to enter your basement.

 

 

  • Check for cracks. Cracks in the foundation can lead to infiltration flooding of your basement through its walls. So seal any small cracks with heavy-duty caulk; for large cracks, call a foundation repair company.

 

  • Keep your gutters clean. Make sure that your gutter system is in good working order. Clogged or damaged gutters can cause rainwater or snowmelt to spill over your gutters and onto the ground near your basement.

 

Even if you take all the necessary precautions, a basement flood can still happen. If you are experiencing flooding in your home or basement call Branch Services (631) 467-6600

Preventing Space Heater Fires

spaceheaterfire

During the winter heaters help us escape from the cold, home heating fires are the second leading cause of house fires behind only kitchen fires.  Space heaters rank as the most deadly of home heating devices and while only 32 percent of home heating fires involve space heaters, they are involved in 79 percent of home heating fire deaths, according to the new report Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment released today by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

The leading factor contributing to space heater fires in general was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding. Failure to properly clean and maintain space heaters can pose a fire risk as well.

 

NFPA offers the following safety tips.

 

Heating

  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never leave children and pets unattended around afireplace, fire pit, or other space heater is being used. Use a sturdy, metal screen to prevent contact burns, which are even more common than flame burns.
  • All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
  • Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Never use your oven for heating.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning vented equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is created when fuels burn incompletely. CO poisoning can cause illness and even death. Make sure the venting for exhaust is kept clear and unobstructed. This includes removal of snow and ice around the outlet to the outside.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.

Portable electric space heaters

  • Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Use and purchase portable space heaters with an automatic shut off so if they’re tipped over they will shut off.
  • Place space heater on solid, flat surface.
  • Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
  • Replace if cords, plugs or any equipment seems to be worn, frayed or broken.

Fuel burning space heaters

  • Always use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Allow the appliance to cool and refuel outside or in a well-ventilated area when refueling.
  • When in use, open a window to ensure proper ventilation.
  • If the pilot light of your gas heater goes out, allow 5 minutes or more for the gas to go away before trying again, do not allow gas to accumulate, and light the match before you turn on the gas to the pilot to avoid risk of flashback.
  • If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not attempt to light the appliance. Turn off all the controls and open doors and window. Call a gas service person.

Wood burning stoves

  • Chimneys and vents need to be cleaned and inspected at least once a year.
  • Wood stoves should bear the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • In wood stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
  • Start the fire with newspaper or kindling, never with a flammable liquid, such as lighter fluid, kerosene or gasoline.
  • Keep the doors of your wood stove closed unless loading or stoking the live fire.
  • Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose of ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from the home and any other nearby buildings. Douse and saturate with water.

Ice Dams

ice-dam-prevention-and-removal-tips

When the cold weather hits our homes often take the brunt of the damage. From freezing pipes to winter storm damage, there are lots of things a homeowner needs to worry about when it comes to preventing damage in the winter and ice dams are one of them.

Ice dams happen after a heavy snow. The warm air from the top of the house heats the outside roof surface to the point that snow melts. When roof snow is melted by a warm attic space, it runs down and freezes again when it gets past the exterior wall and hits a cold unheated roof edge or gutter. The ice dam grows as the process repeats itself and the ice dam becomes larger.

Ice dams can create damage to not only your roof and gutters, they can cause interior damage as well. Water from the melting snow and ice can find their way under shingles and behind exterior walls. In some cases, if the right temperature and humidity exist, mold may begin to grow in the attic or top floor of your house. Often paint will peel or blister weeks or months after the ice dam had melted as moisture from the leak in the wall or ceiling cavities tries to leave and pushes outward.

 

How do you battle an ice damming situation?

  • Use A Roof Rake

This took allows you to remove at least the first 4 feet of snow from the roofs edge to help prevent damage

 

  • Apply calcium chloride or an ice melt to the ice dam

Be careful if you choose this method as you will most likely need to utilize a ladder which is not recommended in cold and icy conditions.

 

  • Professional Ice Dam Removal

There are professional companies available that are insured and will remove your ice dam using professional equipment such as high pressure steam. This approach may cost a few hundred dollars but the prevention of damage to your home may be significant.

If you are experiencing water damage due to an ice damming situation, give us a call. We offer expert services in water damage remediation and provide free estimates. Feel free to learn more about us and the services we provide by logging onto 631-467-6600

Avoid a Residential House Fire This Christmas

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During the holiday season residential house fires are at their peak in both frequency and deadliness. We tend to do a lot of cooking and literally drag in a bunch of kindling and have it strewn festively around our homes alongside hot strings of lights and open flames.  With all the mirth and merriment happening we can lose focus on safety, a foresight that could lead to disaster.

 

  • In the Kitchen

The kitchen is where most house fires start. With all of the hullabaloo of the holidays it is easy to get distracted. Make sure you keep your cooking area free of debris like printed recipes and dishcloths. Don’t leave unattended pots and pans on a burning stove and keep a fire extinguisher handy in case of emergency.

If you’re planning to deep-fry your holiday turkey, do it outside, on a flat, level surface at least 10 feet from the house.

 

  • Outdoor Lights

If you’re the Clark Griswold type when it comes to exterior illumination you should take care to check a few things before flipping the on switch. Make sure you only use lighted strands that are meant for outdoor use. Double check old strands to make sure there are no frayed or exposed wires and busted bulbs. Don’t plug too many strands together and don’t stuff to many strands into one outlet.

 

  • A Roaring Fire

Candles are beautiful during the darkest time of the year but make sure to maintain about a foot of space between the candle and anything that can burn. Set candles on sturdy bases or cover with hurricane globes. Never leave flames unattended. Before bed, walk through each room to make sure candles are blown out. For a safer way to get the romantic effect of candles use LED candle lights.

During these cold months there is nothing better than curling up in front of a roaring fire. Don’t light your fire place without having it cleaned first. Screen the fireplace to prevent embers from igniting your carpet or drapes. Only use seasoned wood.

 

  • Oh Christmas Tree

A Christmas tree fire can destroy a room in less than a minute. If you are going to use a real tree make sure it is fresh. Do not buy it too early or you risk drying it out. Make sure to keep your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces and space heaters. Turn off the lights on your tree during the day and before you go to bed to make sure they don’t heat up too much. LED lights are less likely to heat up.

 

Even if you take all of these precautions it is still possible for a fire to rip through your home. If the worst happens call Branch Services to bring your house back to its original glory.