How to Keep Your Home and Family Safe During Summer Heat Waves

Over 9,000 Americans have lost their lives as a result of heat waves.

And while this number might not seem especially high, if it’s a member of your family or a loved one, those low numbers won’t matter at all.

Especially if you’re caring for elders or those with a lowered immune system, you need to know how to prepare for a heatwave.

That’s what this post is here to teach you.

In it, we’re covering all sorts of different heat wave safety tips.

From ensuring that your home is prepared before a heatwave hits to staying cool while you’re in the throes of one, read on to learn how to stay safe when it gets unbearably hot.

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Rising temperatures can cause a range of problems, making it important for you to stay cool during heat waves.

Check Your Home’s Walls and Insulation

Before heat waves even hit — preferably in the cooler months — you need to do an inspection of your home, its walls, and its overall insulation.

You want to be certain that cracks, water damage, and other issues won’t prevent your air conditioner from working properly. You also want to be certain that cool air isn’t filtering out through any cracks or holes.

This is especially key if you’ve dealt with flooding, water damage, or even smoke/fire damage within the past few months.

We strongly recommend making an appointment with one of our specialists. This way, you can identify all the possible issues, and ensure that your home’s insulation remains intact.

Finally, if you don’t yet have an air conditioning unit installed — or if it’s been a while since you’ve had yours serviced — now is the time to do so.

If you don’t have or cannot install air conditioning in your home, make sure that you study up on public spaces with AC. This way, you’ll always have a place to escape to when your home or apartment unit becomes too hot to handle.

Preparing for a Heat Wave

There are several heat wave precautions that you can take before the temperature starts to climb.

First of all, assemble a heat wave survival kit. You’ll need to make sure that your survival kit can help you to make it through a minimum of 48 hours of heat.

The first thing to stock up on?

Water.

During a heat wave, it’s recommended that people drink at least a gallon of water each day. If you’re pregnant, have a lowered immune system, or are older than 65, you’ll likely need to drink more.

Make sure you also buy a first aid kit, some moist towelettes, and as many bags of ice as your freezer can fit. We also suggest having some non-perishable food on hand.

This might sound bizarre at first, but believe it or not, heat waves can sometimes cause power outages. So, make sure that you grab a flashlight and fully charge your electronics, too.

Also, it’s a smart idea to check on elderly neighbors that live alone, and others that may need assistance during a heat wave.

Finally, always turn on the local news and the radio, so that you can stay informed about the heat index in your area.

Staying Cool During a Heat Wave

Now, let’s talk about how you can handle heat wave safety once the heat wave actually hits.

Make sure that you’re keeping your meals small and frequent, instead of three larger meals throughout the day.

Don’t participate in any outdoor sports activities, and skip your daily jog. Make sure that you wear clothing that’s light in color and as breathable as possible.

Above all, don’t go from one extreme temperature to another.

If you need to go outside for any reason during a heatwave (like to give a pet a bathroom break?), make sure that you spend a few minutes turning down the air conditioning in your home. This will help your body safely adjust to any changes in temperature.

We also suggest frequently texting your friends and family members, so that you can better ensure that everyone is staying safe and hydrated.

Big Cities and Heat Waves

A final aspect of heat wave safety that you need to be aware of?

Where you live — and the population density of your city — can impact the overall temperature and conditions you’ll experience.

Take a look outside.

Is your street covered in asphalt, and are you fairly close to the street? What about concrete, which stores heat and then slowly releases it for hours on end?

If so, you can expect to have to deal with higher temperatures.

The same goes if you live in a bigger city with higher pollution levels. Thanks to the poor air quality, the temperatures will also climb.

And if you live on the top floor of an apartment building? You should also prepare for extreme heat.

Evaluate your risk of heatstroke and more by knowing exactly where you stand ahead of time.

Need Help Preparing for Heat Waves?

We hope that this post has helped you to better understand that heat waves are absolutely something that should be taken seriously.

Make sure that you have enough water to last you for a few days, and that you’ve assembled an emergency supply kit in case of a power loss.

Of course, you’ll also need to make sure that you’ve chosen a home restoration company that you can rely on to repair anything in your home before a heat wave hits.

That’s where we come in.

Spend some time on our website to learn more about our services. Our professionals at SVMPS can do a general inspection of your home to make sure it is prepared for heat waves. We also provide air duct cleaning services which will help improve the efficiency of your central air conditioning system.

You can reach us by calling (800) 245-4622 for restoration and cleaning services in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN area.

 


How to Protect Your Home from the Flash Flooding Occurring Throughout Minnesota

The northeastern region of Minnesota recently experienced more than 6 inches of rain in some areas, flooding highways and raising concerns of the possibility of flash flooding.  The heavy rain that fell in the area earlier this month raised the level of the Nemadji River which washed out sections of Highway 23 in Carlton County.  Parts of surrounding states Wisconsin and Michigan have also dealt with flash flooding issues from the heavy rain, with one fatality in Wisconsin and a state of disaster declared in Michigan.

Flash flooding is a very serious problem because it can quickly cause widespread damage and put those in the area at serious risk.  It only takes 6 inches of moving flood water for someone to drown and 2 feet of moving water to move vehicles.  Significant stretches of Highway 2, Highway 23, and Highway 63 were washed out and experienced serious damage as a result, making it very dangerous to try and drive on these highways.  Flash flood warnings were in effect for parts of Carlton and Pine counties in Minnesota after the storms.

Residents of Minnesota should be aware of the possibility of a flash flood occurring in their area.  If you live near a lake or river, you should be especially cautious as the heavy rain earlier this month showed how fast a river can rise and overtake highways.  Flash floods are damaging and deadly as they cause more weather-related fatalities in the U.S. than any other type of severe weather.  The following tips will help you understand the causes and risks of flash floods, as well as what to do if flash flooding is expected in your area.

Main Causes of Flash Floods

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Knowing the main causes of flash flooding can help you get prepared for the possibility before a flood takes over your property

Knowing the main causes of flash flooding can help you get prepared for the possibility before a flood takes over your property.  Never underestimate the power of flash floods, they can occur very quickly even without heavy rain fall.  The following are the most common causes of flash floods:

  • Heavy rain: This is one of the biggest causes of flash floods as a heavy downpour can build up quickly, especially in areas with poor drainage, and it can cause rivers and lakes to rise and overflow.
  • Rain over a long period: When rain falls steadily over a long period of time, it can eventually build up to cause flooding.
  • Dam/ levee failure: A dam or levee that holds in large amounts of water can fail at any time and cause a fast, serious flood.
  • Built up rainfall or snowmelt: The moisture from rain or snowmelt can overflow drainage and sewage systems beyond their capacity.
  • Wildfires: Wildfires harden the ground which makes it unable to absorb water.
  • Urbanization: Urban areas with few spots of grass and soil are more likely to experience flash flooding due to increased runoff and lack of absorption.

Areas at Risk of Flash Flooding

It is important to understand which areas at most at risk for flash flooding so you can avoid these areas during a storm, or brace for the possibility of a flood if you live in a high risk area.  Flash flooding is typically a high risk in these areas:

  • Areas with low elevation
  • Areas around lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water
  • Areas near levees and dams
  • Areas around canyons
  • Anywhere with low ground including creeks, stream beds, and ditches are vulnerable to flash flooding.

Flood Watch vs Flood Warning

When flash flooding is a possibility in your area, the National Weather Service gives alerts that are categorized as a flash flood watch or warning.  While both alerts are cause for alarm, it helps to know the difference between the two:

  • Watch: If a flash flood watch has been issued, this means that one can occur given the conditions, but it hasn’t happened yet.
  • Warning: If a flash flood warning is issued, then the flooding has either already started or is expected to start within the next hour or sooner.

Steps to Take if a Flash Flood is Imminent

Flash floods are especially dangerous because they result in massive flooding in a very short period of time, and the water likely contains debris including rocks and building materials that can cause extensive damage.  If your area has a flash flood warning, make sure you follow these steps to stay safe:

  • Evacuate: if a flash flood is occurring, it is best to evacuate immediately. Leave your belongings behind and get yourself and your family to higher ground.
  • Secure the home: You can take measures to secure your home if there is time to do it safely. Start by shutting off your utilities and unplugging major appliances.  Avoid touching any electrical equipment if you are wet or if water has already flooded your home.  You should also move valuable items to the highest levels of your home and bring in outdoor furniture if you can.
  • Avoid walking in moving water: As mentioned above, it only takes 6 inches of moving water to knock a person over and cause a drowning. You should never walk through moving water and be very cautious when walking through non-moving water.
  • Avoid driving through flood water: Driving in flood water is extremely dangerous. Remember, it only takes 2 feet of moving water to move a vehicle.  If your vehicle is moved by the flood water, stay in your vehicle, but move to the roof of the vehicle if is starts filling with water.

Flood Damage Cleanup from SVMPS

The flash flooding that affected northeast Minnesota a couple of weeks ago shows just how quickly flash flooding can occur and how dangerous it is.  We urge all residents throughout the state of Minnesota to review these safety tips and take the necessary action to protect your property and yourselves from harm.  If you do experience damage from a flash flood on your property, SVMPS is ready to provide emergency flood damage restoration services, 24 hours a day.  Our professionals will arrive on your property quickly to help contain the flooding and start the water damage restoration process to prevent serious complications including structural damage and mold growth.

You can reach SVMPS for emergency response by calling (800) 245-4622 in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN areas.


Protecting the Indoor Air Quality in your Home

Air pollution is a major issue that affects everyone in the world.  As a result, governments, businesses, and institutions around the globe have put forth efforts to reduce air pollution and create a healthier environment.  While it is important to fight outdoor air pollution, the issue of indoor air is often overlooked.  The air inside a home becomes polluted too, and indoor air pollution may pose a bigger threat to your health than outdoor air pollution.

Studies have shown that it is possible for indoor air pollution to be more harmful than outdoor air pollution, especially if a home or apartment has poor or limited ventilation.  There are several sources of indoor air pollution including cooking, smoking, paint or varnish residue, VOCs from cleaning products, radon, and mold spores.  What makes indoor air pollution so dangerous is that these harmful pollutants are much more highly concentrated in confined indoor spaces as opposed to the vast outdoor air.  People also spend more time indoors than outdoors on average, increasing their exposure to these indoor air pollutants.  It is very important for homeowners to understand the dangers of indoor air pollution, the various sources of it, and how to improve the indoor air quality of the home.

Risks of Radon

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One common source of indoor air pollution that should concern homeowners across the U.S. is radon.

One common source of indoor air pollution that should concern homeowners across the U.S. is radon.  Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced naturally when soil breaks down uranium.  It can seep into homes through foundational cracks and other openings, and it has no color, taste, or odor, making it very difficult to detect.  Radon can quickly build up to dangerous levels in a home and exposure to radon damages lung cells which can lead to lung cancer.  About 21,000 people die annually due to complications from radon exposure.

The only way to tell if your home is affected by radon is to have it tested.  It is extremely important for homeowners to test for radon because of the serious health complications that can result from extended exposure.  Home radon testing kits are very affordable and will give you an idea of the level of radon in your home.  If you do not trust a home testing kit, you can also hire a qualified professional for radon testing and mitigation if you do have elevated levels.

Protecting your Home from Radon

You can help prevent radon buildup in your home with the following tips:

  • Do not smoke or let others smoke in your home. The presence of smoke can make health complications from radon more likely to occur.
  • Promote good air circulation and ventilation in your home by opening vents and windows and running fans.
  • Look for and seal any cracks or openings in the foundation of your home.
  • Test your home for radon if you think there may be a problem. Radon testing is affordable, and it can save you and your family from serious health complications.

Smoke and Odors from Fires

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A home may be affected by the smoke from cooking, cigarettes, and of course, house fires.

Smoke, in all of its forms, is one of the leading causes of indoor air pollution.  A home may be affected by the smoke from cooking, cigarettes, and of course, house fires.  Where there is smoke, there are also harmful contaminants in the air and unpleasant odors.  When smoke damage occurs, regardless of whether it is from a house fire or a cooking accident, the focus of the smoke damage restoration is usually on cleaning the damaged materials and removing the odors.  However, it is also important for the contaminants in the air to be removed with an air cleaning or purifying process.

Gaseous Air Purifiers

When a disaster occurs that involves smoke and odors, air cleanup must be done to bring the indoor air quality back to normal.  One common method that restoration professionals use to do this is oxidation.  There are a couple of different oxidation techniques used for air purification that work by converting the dangerous contaminants to a less harmful form through chemical reactions.  The contaminants will eventually be decomposed into water and carbon dioxide.  The problem with oxidation methods is that they can create potentially harmful chemicals.

The following are common types of oxidation techniques used to improve indoor air quality:

  • Ozone: Ozone has been used for years to help eliminate odors and VOCs from homes, but it also has hazardous side effects. Ozone quickly attacks chemical compounds which makes it effective for eliminating odors and airborne contaminants, but it can also cause damage to paint, rubber, and other common building materials.  This oxidation process can also produce formaldehyde which is a dangerous chemical, and inhaling ozone can also be harmful.  It is very important that this process is done by highly trained professionals.
  • Hydroxyl Ions: Hydroxyl oxidation is a mild oxidation process that works the same way as ozone oxidation, but with less intense side effects. Hydroxyl ions do not create as many harmful chemicals as ozone and is less of a risk to your health.  It also disappears from the air within a few seconds as opposed to ozone which takes 24 to 48 hours to dissipate, so it will not build up to unsafe levels in your home.  Even though hydroxyl ions can produce some of the same hazards as ozone, the harmful chemicals it creates are at much lower concentrations, making hydroxyl oxidation a safe alternative.

Other Indoor Air Pollutants

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There are other factors that threaten your indoor air quality that are much less serious but have a much more immediate impact. These factors include smoking, pet hair or dander, certain cleaning products, and dust buildup.

Smoke and strong odors are extreme examples of indoor air pollution that typically occur as a result of a disaster, and radon is a serious problem that gradually builds over time.  There are other factors that threaten your indoor air quality that are much less serious but have a much more immediate impact.  These factors include smoking, pet hair or dander, certain cleaning products, and dust buildup.  There are simple ways to reduce the effects of indoor air pollution from these factors, such as using VOC free cleaning products and implementing a no smoking rule in the home, but it is a little tougher to keep your home free of dust or pet hair.  Even if you clean regularly, these materials will still end up in your HVAC system only to get blown back into the breathing air each time the system turns on.

The most effective way to reduce the impact of these factors on your indoor air is to call a professional like ServiceMaster Professional Services for air duct cleaning services.  Our technicians use the right equipment to remove dust, hair, and other airborne debris from the air duct walls and internal parts.  This will result in much cleaner breathing air in your home and significantly reduce the risk of allergies and other breathing issues.

Protect your Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air pollution is a problem that can affect any home and lead to health complications such as allergic reactions and more serious respiratory issues.  As a homeowner, you should always be aware of the potential for indoor air pollution and take action to help preserve your indoor air quality.  Smoking outside, using eco-friendly cleaning products, cleaning dust and hair, and ventilating your home when painting are all effective steps to reduce indoor air pollution.  You should also have your home tested for radon and be ready to call our professionals at SVMPS if your property is affected by fire, smoke, odors, or mold to remove dangerous contaminants from the air with our advanced equipment and methods.  Keeping your indoor air clean will contribute to a healthier, happier home.

SVMPS provides professional air duct cleaning services as well as air purification and odor removal to help improve the indoor air quality of your home or business in the St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN area.  Give us a call at (800) 245-4622 for emergency services.


How to Prevent Basement Flooding from Snow Melt

When there are heavy rains, it’s not uncommon to have water in your basement, but melting snow can also turn your lower levels into an indoor swimming pool. There’s no way to prevent snow from melting as temperatures rise, so the best course of action is to keep water from entering your home and damaging the contents.

Water in your basement does more than leave items soggy; it can be dangerous to your health and the safety of your home. Mold starts to grow within 48 hours because the spores are everywhere in the air and feed off common household items like paper and drywall. A foundation wall that stays wet will weaken over time and eventually collapse. The structural integrity of your home relies on a sturdy foundation, so a collapse of any size can be a disaster for the rest of the building. These tips will help you keep snow melt out of your basement and avoid water damage.

Clear the area when it snows.

How to Prevent Basement Flooding from Snow MeltThe most effective way to keep snow melt out of your basement is to keep it away from the foundation of your building. You may not realize that one cubic foot of snow equals ¾ of a gallon of water, so a snow accumulation of a couple of feet around the perimeter of your home adds up to a great deal of water that can end up flooding your basement. When you’re clearing sidewalks and driveways after snowstorms, be sure to clear a path around your home to keep snow away so it won’t find its way inside when it eventually melts. A five-foot perimeter around the building should be enough to keep the water out when the temperatures rise.

Invest in a sump pump and make sure it works.

A sump pump is a smart investment, especially if your basement is furnished. It turns on automatically when water in the sump pit reaches a certain level and pumps the water through a pipe outside and away from your home. Pumps vary in price and are available in home improvement and hardware stores, as well as online sources. It’s a good idea to test the pump on a regular basis to ensure it will work when you need it. Pour a small amount of water into the pit, just enough to go over the level that triggers the pump. If it doesn’t turn on immediately, make sure the pump is plugged in and installed correctly before you consider replacing it. Be sure one of the times you check your sump pump is in late winter, before snow starts to melt.

Repair any cracks in your foundation’s walls.

Cracks in the walls are an easy way for water to enter your basement. It’s possible to seal small cracks yourself using epoxy or a specially made sealing kit from the hardware or home improvement store, but leave major crack repairs to the professionals. It’s important to repair cracks as soon as possible because they will only get worse over time, and the foundation supports the rest of your home. If the foundation gives way, you will have major property damage that is expensive to repair. Keep in mind that concrete is porous, so you may still get some snow melt in your basement even if you don’t have any cracks, if there’s enough moisture outside the foundation walls.

No matter the cause of home flooding in Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Hutchinson, Marshall, or Willmar, MN and the surrounding areas, ServiceMaster Professional Services is available 7 days a week, 365 days a year to remove all traces of excess water from homes and businesses. We use only the most advanced cleaning products and equipment to extract water and clean, dry, and restore your building and its contents before they’re permanently damaged. Our experienced professionals will stop mold before it can start growing using anti-microbial products, and repair damaged items like furniture, books, and heirlooms you may have thought were lost forever. It’s vital to contact us quickly after a flood because the damage only becomes worse over time.

Water damage restoration costs vary, depending on the extent of the damage and the presence of mold. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the national average cost for flood damage cleanup is $2,573.

 


How to Identify, Prevent, and Remove Ice Dams in St. Cloud, MN

A row of icicles along your roofline may make your home in St. Cloud, MN look festive, but they’re often a sign that there’s a problem on the roof. Poorly insulated attics that allow heat to escape or sudden warm spells cause the snow on the top of your home to melt. When the water from melting snow runs into ice buildups, clogged gutters or other debris, it backs up into a puddle on the roof. This phenomenon is known as an ice dam. Flat places on roofs are also prime places for ice dams, because the water collects but has nowhere to go. Over time, that water can work its way under shingles and roofing materials and into buildings, where it can damage ceilings, walls, and other areas and cause mold growth. The weight of the ice dam can pull gutters and downspouts away from the exterior of your home, so it’s important to check your home for signs of ice dams on a regular basis throughout the winter to avoid costly repairs.

How to Tell If You Have an Ice Dam

How to Identify, Prevent, and Remove Ice Dams in St. Cloud, MNMost ice dams build up on the edges of rooftops, but depending on the style of yours, they can develop in other locations. There are usually a few mild days every winter that are warm enough to pull out the ladder and check any spots that are flat or don’t slope very much.

Check for icicles around the exterior of your home. If they’re only along the gutter and there’s no water buildup behind them, there probably isn’t an ice dam but they can contribute to the formation of one in the future. Large icicles can hurt people and animals if they break off unexpectedly. Remove them before they get too large, but don’t stand directly underneath them.

Look for water stains or moisture on ceilings, walls, and in the attic. As the water pools up on the roof, it works its way under shingles and the roof membrane and leaves discolorations on painted surfaces.

Ice Dam Removal

If you find an ice dam on your home in St. Cloud, MN, it’s important to remove it as soon as possible, before it can cause more damage to your home. Waiting until spring is usually not a viable option. One way is to use calcium chloride ice melt.

  1. Use a roof rake to remove 3-4 feet of snow from the edge of the roof. Be sure not to damage any shingles or block any sidewalks under the roof.
  2. Fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt and place it along the ice dam, using a ladder. This is available in hardware and big box stores. DO NOT use rock salt or sodium chloride, both of which can damage your roof.
  3. Cover any plants and shrubs under the affected gutters and nearby downspouts as long as the calcium chloride is in place and until the dripping has stopped. The melting water will be hazardous to plants because of the sodium levels.

Another method to remove ice dams is to hire a roofing company to steam the ice away and remove large chunks. This method is safer for multi-story buildings and doesn’t have the potential environmental impact of using calcium chloride.

Preventing Ice Dams

Preventing Ice DamsThere isn’t a way to control weather fluctuations, but when temperatures are warm after a storm, have someone steady a ladder and check the roof for excess snow or a potential dam in progress. Use a roof rake to remove excess snow while you’re up there. If you needed one more reason to add insulation to the attic, it has been shown to help prevent ice dams. Proper insulation in the attic helps keep it near the same temperature as the outside, so snow won’t melt on the roof. Usually this means insulating the attic floor and installing soffit, gable, and ridge vents to allow excess heat to escape.

When you experience water damage for any reason in the St. Cloud, MN area, you need it cleaned up quickly, before the damage spreads and mold begins to grow. ServiceMaster Professional Services is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to all types of disasters. We use only the most effective products and equipment available to the industry, so our clients receive the highest levels of quality cleaning and restoration.

Water damage restoration costs vary, depending on the extent of the damage, the presence of mold, and the amount of restoration needed. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the national average to remove standing water is $2,808. The national average to repair water damage is $2,564 and the national average to remove mold is $2,149.

 


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