Gas Safety - Part 1
Blue flame from a gas burner
This month marks the anniversary of the 1994 Durham Woods gas pipeline explosion in Edison, NJ. This sudden explosion of a 36-inch gas pipeline was caused by minor damage from a backhoe years earlier that slowly deteriorated the pipe until it ruptured causing a ball of flame and mushroom cloud so large that one pilot flying into Newark Airport reported it as a nuclear blast.
Fortunately, these incidents are very rare. However, more mundane gas (propane or Natural gas) incidents are very common and are easily managed if you know what to do. First, call 911. This article is not intended to teach you what to do as an alternative to calling for professional assistance. The fire department and gas companies are very willing to come and help. Beyond their level of training, they have specialized tools that you won’t find in your toolbox.
Tips to prevent a gas fire/incident:
- Make sure all appliances that use Gas including furnaces, ovens, dryers, fireplaces, grills, etc. each have shut off valves that are easily accessible and functional.
- Download the SERVPRO Emergency Response Plan App and document the location of valves so you can easily share the info with friends/neighbors/first responders if you are not home.
- Have gas appliances serviced annually. Consider a service plan from PSE&G or NJNG which are a great value.
Gas Safety - Part 2
Gas meter showing shut off valve and regulator
Natural Gas is non-toxic. It is also naturally odorless but a chemical called mercaptan is added to give it the distinct rotten eggs smell. If you smell gas in your home, call 911. You should leave the house and wait for first responders at this point. But, if you are like me and feel the leak is minor and want to address it here are some tips.
- Don’t turn on any lights or create any ignition sources.
- If the leak is coming from an appliance such as a stove or clothes dryer, see if there is a shut off valve to the unit and turn the valve handle so it is perpendicular to the pipe.
- If the leak is stopped and you want to ventilate the structure remember that natural gas is lighter than air and will float to upper floors while propane is heavier than air and will flow downstairs.
- If the leak is significant and not able to be stopped at a remote valve, the main gas line can be turned off where it enters the house. Typically a pipe comes out of the ground and runs through a regulator and meter before entering the house. There is usually a valve on the pipe before it reaches the regulator (the disk-like piece). This will turn off all of the gas to your home but will require a plumber to resume service.
- Use caution when digging. You can call 811 and have the utility companies mark their connections for free. Gas lines are plastic and can be punctured with a good shot from a spade shovel. These lines are only required to be a foot below ground and usually go straight from the gas connection to the street.
If the possible source is not obvious wait for the first responders. They have meters to test the overall gas levels in the building as well as “sniffers” that can pinpoint the exact location of the leak. They will attempt to isolate the leak and minimize the impact on your home/business until your plumber can make the repair.
ERP for Business
John Explains ERP use in businesses
Are you prepared for a disaster?
As many of 50% of businesses may never recover following a disaster. Of the businesses that survive, the overwhelming majority of them had a preparedness plan in place. By developing a SERVPRO Emergency Ready Profile for your business, you minimize business interruption by having an immediate plan of action. Knowing what to do and what to expect in advance is the key to timely mitigation and can help minimize how water and fire damage can affect your business.
The SERVPRO Emergency Ready Plan is a proactive approach that provides the critical information needed to begin mitigation and recovery services. It is designed to serve as a quick reference of important building and contact information.
The SERVPRO Emergency Ready Profile is:
- No cost assessment of your facility
- An app on your phone that contains critical information needed in the event of an emergency
- A guide to help you get back into your building following a disaster
- Critical facility details such as shut-off valve locations, priority areas and priority contact information
Learn more by watching THIS 1-minute clip by John Majeski, owner of SERVPRO of Eatontown/Long Branch and SERVPRO of Hackensack/Little Ferry.
Contact us today for a free consultation on steps to safeguard your business.
High Tech Documentation of Commercial Losses
Sample Matterport Image
Documenting a loss is critical in order to facilitate quick remediation, assure a smooth claims process with the insurance provider, and create a comprehensive plan. One of the ways SERVPRO provides superior service is through the use of a specialized 3D mapping system called Matterport. Think of it as a 3D home tour on steroids.
With this system there is no need for hundreds of photos, written statements, measurements, and repeat visits. This system also assists insurance adjusters who want to limit field time due to COVID-19 exposure. In fact, the system provides the ability to do a virtual walk-through which includes the ability to measure and tag areas of interest. This drastically improves the assessment time and the claim processing time.
However, the best way to prepare for a loss is with accurate documentation of the property’s current contents and condition. SERVPRO can complete a scan of your property to document your assets which will reduce potential discrepancies and disputes with insurance carriers.
To learn more and get a free estimate, call us today!
SERVPRO Storm Teams
SERVPRO of Eatontown/Long Branch van operating in Texas.
SERVPRO Storm Response Teams coordinate large scale responses, such as the recent deep freeze in Texas. This is a scalable organization similar to first responder’s modular Incident Command System. For the current disaster in Texas and other states, there are two storm response teams coordinating 1,000+ SERVPRO teams. Both SERVPRO of Eatontown/Long Branch and SERVPRO of Hackensack/Little Ferry are proud to have teams currently operating in Texas.
This requires specialized training for leaders in large scale incident management, logistics, planning, and communications. Responding teams need to understand how they will be asked to integrate into the larger organization and what protocols will be required.
Franchises who participate in Storm Response Teams are proactively trained in many areas including travel requirements and equipment needs, operating in storm damaged areas safely, FEMA expectations, budgeting, and regulatory considerations between states.
Participation in these teams is voluntary and represents a high level of commitment to technical expertise and constant preparedness. It is not only the commitment of the organization but the personal commitment of each team member who volunteers. They answer the call knowing this means leaving home for several weeks in a row to help someone in need. We are thankful to all of our team members who have answered the call!
Is Your Smoke Detector Working?
A typical smoke detector
Are your smoke detectors working correctly? In many homes and businesses the answer is no. Often the problem is that they are perceived as a hassle and there are too many false alarms. The information below will help you troubleshoot your system because the simple fact is that smoke detectors save lives and prevent property damage.
All too often the answer for property owners is to disable the system to avoid the nuisance alarms. The batteries are removed, the system is disabled, or the devices are removed entirely. This is usually undetected, especially in private homes where fire officials do not perform regular inspections and have limited enforcement powers.
There are 3 basic types of systems but the tips below are largely the same for each. Single station units are the ones you buy at the hardware store and screw to the ceiling.
Hardwired/interconnected may look the same but they activate as a group ensuring that all areas of the home get the message. These first 2 types only notify the occupants. Monitored systems may be wired or wireless but they notify the fire department when activated.
The smoke detectors themselves are typically one of 2 types: Ionization or photoelectric. Ionization units use a small amount of radioactive material that detects invisible particles created by the fire using electrical currents. They are more expense so most people have photoelectric units. Photoelectric units use a beam of light which is deflected by smoke particles to activate.
The main problem is that other “stuff” can enter the chamber, block the light, and set off an alarm. This includes dust and bugs. The most common unwanted cause of activation is a contractor sanding near the unit. This is easily identifiable but a little spider passing through often makes the owner think the device malfunctioned.
To prevent issues follow these tips:
- Cover the detector when working nearby, especially sanding
- Put a monitored alarm system on test if you are doing something that may activate the system
- Change your batteries each time you change the clocks
- Use a vacuum to clean the unit periodically
- Units have a manufacture date on the back of them and they expire after 7-10 years depending on the brand. Replace them when needed.
Whatever you do, don’t disable these important systems. The fire department would much rather respond and find a minor issue than fight a significant fire because your system was disabled. Your local fire department is most likely offering a complementary home safety survey which can answer any questions you have along with other helpful advice.
Loading equipment in preparation for the next job
At SERVPRO of Eatontown/Long Branch we are constantly reinvesting in our people and equipment. Like the Boy Scout motto says, "Be Prepared."
Unlike most companies, we do not have the luxury of reviewing plans, determining the scope of work, and investing in the right tools and equipment in preparation for a job. It is normal for most builders, contractors, and tradesman to have several days or weeks to prepare for a job. Our turnaround time from receiving the call to beginning a job is measured in minutes, not weeks.
To be prepared we need the proper tools for all types of jobs on hand, well maintained, organized, and ready to load. Our team does an amazing job or pre-planning and preparation. Our dedicated warehouse team performs preventative maintenance, monitors inventory of equipment and chemicals, and orders additional supplies.
Grab the Fire Extinguisher
Several Types of Fire Extinguishers
One of the most obvious things you can do to limit fire damage is to extinguish the fire quickly. However, some of the most common causes of residential fires are Cooking (48%), Heating appliances (14%), and Electrical malfunctions (14%), and these are not safely or effectively extinguished with water.
I am a firefighter and last night we had a call at 4AM caused by an electrical outlet which was sparking and catching the wall on fire. These calls are very routine. As a homeowner, you do not want to spray water on an electrical outlet due to the risk of electrical shock. YOU NEED TO HAVE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER IN YOUR HOME!
Fire extinguishers come in a variety of types based on the classification of fire they are designed to extinguish. For home use you should have a class ABC extinguisher which means is can extinguish class A fires (solid materials like wood), class B fires (liquids like gasoline or oil), and class C fires (electrical equipment).
Most towns require at least 1 extinguisher under the kitchen sink in order to obtain a certificate of occupancy to sell a home but these tend to disappear over time. Personally, I keep one under the sink, one on the wall in the laundry room, and one in the garage. At least maintain the class ABC extinguisher under your kitchen sink at a minimum.
If you do experience a fire, call the professionals at SERVPRO to help restore your home, “Like it never even happened.”
Have You Had Water Damage in Your Home?
Water Spraying from a Hose
Have you had water damage in your home? On average, homes experience water damage once every 11 years. This damage is caused by a variety of sources, most of which can be mitigated through periodic monitoring and maintenance. Here are some tips to help you find some of the routine causes.
- Make sure the gutters are not clogged by leaves and debris. This will cause standing water that can freeze and cause ice dams. For more information on ice dams click on this related blog Ice Dams
- Downspouts need to be extended far enough away from the house to prevent water from entering the basement
- Look for leaks under your refrigerator. Not only does removing dirt help improve the unit’s efficiency but the water supply line to the ice maker can come loose and cause a leak that is hidden due to its location. As a side note, I experienced a leak here about a year ago due to a mouse chewing on the supply line.
- Washing machines often have very old and degrading supply lines. Is yours appear worn you should consider a new set which are easy to install. Look for the ones that have a metal mesh around them for added reinforcement
- Dishwashers also have water supply lines and can have issues similar to ones noted in the refrigerator section.
- As above, check the supply lines for leaks.
- Check the drain, especially the S-trap under the sink to make sure it hasn’t wiggled loose after being bumped by items stored in this space
- One last time, check the supply lines. These units should be turned on in the fall and off in the spring at the closest valve to limit the risk of leaking during the warm weather.
If you experience water damage, call the experts at SERVPRO of Eatontown/Long Branch at 732-578-9888.
Hidden Dangers of Power Outages
Candles on a Night Stand
When the power goes out it can be very annoying, especially if you have no internet. But, there are more serious concerns that you should be considering to protect your home. Without power several critical systems in your home are going to be offline. Here are some items to consider:
Sump Pumps: these pumps are located in the basement and prevent water from entering from the ground. Without power the pump will not operate and water could enter from the sump pump pit.
Heating units: even gas powered heating units need electricity to run the blowers/fans that push the air through ducts and around the home. Without heat the pipes are susceptible to freezing and rupturing. If the temperature outside is below freezing consider turning the faucets on just a little bit to keep water moving in the pipes. This not only introduces warmer water from underground pipes but the movement of the water helps prevent freezing.
Freezers: If you haven’t thawed your freezer in a while you may have significant ice buildup that will begin to melt and cause water to puddle at the freezer door. You are better off putting a baking tray under the door rather than opening the door and trying to manually remove the ice. Opening the door will cause the cold air to escape and will lead to more rapid thawing/spoiling of food if power is not restored quickly.
Of course a back-up generator is your best bet for restoring power quickly but these can be costly, especially built in units. If you do have a generator (portable or built-in) make sure it is wired to provide power to the critical systems above.
If you do experience storm damage, call the experts at SERVPRO!