Employee of the Quarter (Q4 2019)
John Dell himself.
The following is the official write up from SERVPRO Metro Pittsburgh East regarding Jon Dell's exceptional work as part of the team:
John Dell has worked for SERVPRO for about 5 years. With the new ownership this past October, he has embraced the change as a Production Crew Chief. He is always willing to help his team wherever he is needed, showing is devoted teamwork. When a loss comes in he is the first to jump at the chance of going, showing his hustle. He takes his time with jobs to ensure the quality and consistency of workmanship. He communicates with customers and addresses their concerns as they come to light, showing accountability.
In The Know: Ice Dams
Always be wary of possible build-up on ice on your roof.
Many local areas have recently seen their first significant snowfall, indicating that we’re in store for more winter weather in the coming months. Alongside significant snowfall comes the possibility for winter weather to wreak havoc on your home or business. One of the most dangerous types of winter storm damage is ice dams. Ice dams are ridges of ice that form on below-freezing sections of a roof that prevent melted snow from draining off of the roof. When the melted snow cannot escape the roof, it will pile up behind the block of ice. This liquid can then leak down into attics, insulation, ceilings, and other walls within the building through cracks, risking serious damage.
Causes, Effects, and Prevention
After a significant snowfall, ice dams form due to roof temperatures that are not uniform. One factor that contributes to uneven roof temperatures is heat loss from the building. Without proper insulation, warm air from inside of the building can heat areas of the roof, causing snow to melt and contribute to ice dams. When the melted snow that sits behind the block of ice leaks down into the building, mold and mildew can grow on ceilings, walls, and other structures of the building, risking structural damage.
In this video, the formation of ice dams is demonstrated on a model roof, providing a visual explanation of the information above. The video also explains various techniques, both short-term and long-term, that homeowners or business owners can use in order to treat an ice dam. One short-term solution shown in the video is filling a sock with rock salt and throwing it up onto the roof in hopes of breaking up the ice. A long-term solution shown in the video is adding additional insulation in your attic or having a professional spray foam underneath of the roof in order to keep warm air inside of the building.
To avoid the risk of mold growth, it is important to prevent any formation of ice dams on your roof this winter. Should an ice dam form on your roof, call SERVPRO in order to take care of the problem as quickly as possible and spare your home or business from any further damage.
Winter Mold Growth Prevention
Understanding Mold itself is the best way to understand how to prevent it.
Since mold is usually a problem we tend to think about during the warm, humid months, it may be a surprise to many to learn that mold can still be prevalent during the winter months. A humid atmosphere can be created when cold air outside clashes with warm temperatures inside, creating the perfect conditions for mold growth. Mold can have a number of detrimental effects on your home and those who live in it. These can range from allergies to damage to your home’s foundational structure. In order to keep your home safe from mold during the winter months, it is important to understand the most effective methods of preventing mold growth.
What Can You Do?
Mold growth prevention during the winter follows many of the same guidelines as preventing mold growth during the summer, such the use of fans and dehumidifiers. During the winter, however, the need to keep an eye on doors, windows, and their surrounding areas, is more important. Moisture can compile in these areas when water leaks or cold air creates condensation, which facilitates mold growth when met with indoor heat. Clean these wet surfaces immediately in order to prevent mold from growing. It is also beneficial to monitor flooring near doors, as moist surfaces can also be created when wet shoes enter your home, after walking through rain or snow. Finally, during the winter, ice and snow tend to pile up on roofs, which can sometimes leak through. In order to prevent mold from growing in attics in the event that water or snow leaks through the roof, keep air circulating, which can be achieved by utilizing a fan.
Proper Fire Evacuation Routes
Always keep in mind all possible exits and openings when devising an evacuation route.
It's the holiday season, which means we're making more frequent visits to stores and shopping malls. The resulting influx of customers visiting commercial businesses emphasizes
the need for businesses to review the specifications of proper fire evacuation routes in order to keep
customers safe in the event of a fire.
The proper, general evacuation route should be continuous and remain unobstructed at all times.
Evacuation routes contain three different components. The first, exit access, is a path that leads to an
exit. The second is the exit itself, through which people can pass in order to escape. The final component
is the exit discharge, which is the section of the evacuation route that leads directly outside. Every
business should have at least two evacuation routes, but more may be required if the business contains
too many people to safely exit through two exits. Evacuation routes must be permanent parts of the
workplace or business area and should lead directly outside. Finally, exit doors must always be unlocked
from the inside and open in the direction of travel.
Evacuation routes specifically pertaining to fire must follow the same guidelines but should also be
protected from fire. Therefore, the exits, such as staircases, of fire evacuation routes must be protected
by fire-resistant materials. The material must have a one-hour fire-resistance rating if the exit connects
three or fewer floors within the building. However, if the number of floors exceeds three, the material
must have a two-hour fire-resistance rating. The fire evacuation route must have an approved fire door.
The route should also be free of flammable or explosive materials, such as curtains or paper
decorations, as, if they were to catch fire, they would pose a threat to the safety of the fire evacuation
route as well as customers.
Water Stain on Your Ceiling? Here’s What You Should Know
Don't hesitate. If you see something, say something.
An unwanted yellow ring or streak of discolored substance is undoubtedly one of the worst
discoveries to make when glancing up at the ceiling in passing. The visible markings of a water
leak, these stains indicate water damage in your ceiling, which can not be expunged with a new
coat of paint or averting your eyes from the stain. Ignorance will only cause the problem to grow,
facilitating the growth of mold and mildew. Therefore, it is crucial that the damaged area of the
ceiling is quickly remedied. However, before taking action, it may be beneficial to understand
the common causes of ceiling water stains.
With a solid understanding of the common causes of these stains, the root of your ceiling’s stain
can be determined, which can help identify the best course of action to take. Ceiling water stains
are primarily formed from three scenarios: clogged gutters, caulking issues, and leaky pipes. If a
heavy rainstorm has recently occurred, clogged gutters may be the cause of your ceiling’s water
stain. When gutters overflow, rain water can seep into your home and stain ceilings. If the ceiling
stain appears soon after a shower or bath was taken in your home, the stain may be due to a
caulking issue. Old caulking is prone to cracking and deteriorating, which can lead to leaks when
water escapes a shower or bathtub. Finally, water can leak from pipes that run throughout your
home. If a dishwasher, bathtub, refrigerator, or even an air conditioner are situated directly above
the stain on the next floor up, your ceiling stain may have been caused by leaky pipes. Take a
moment to recall the last time someone took a shower or bath, last week’s heavy rainstorm, and
the last time you ran the dishwasher. Your leak may have been connected to one of those
situations. Taking Action vs Calling a Professional
Drilling into your ceiling in order to verify the source of the leak can be a daunting task for many
homeowners. If you have any hesitation, calling a professional may be the right call. With the
tools, knowledge, and experience, a professional can remediate the water stain quickly and
Owners Corner: 1st Quarter 2020
The top of Mt. Mansfield
The following is an excerpt from our quarterly newsletter. It is an anecdotal tale from our own Trish Wall, simply recounting her vacation, but leaves us all with a lesson about understanding and triumphing over our human nature. Fear and the unknown.
Without further ado, a journal entry by Trish:
It's 2 PM New Year's Eve, 10 hours left in 2019. In the last few days, my mind has been reflecting on what defined us in 2009 and what defines us now as we look forward into the next decade. After much thought, I'd love to share my "ah-ha" moment that set the tone for our second decade as entrepreneurs, leaders, and, most importantly, parents.
The word of the day today, Rumination.
"If you don’t step out of your comfort zone and face your fears, the number of situations that make you uncomfortable will keep growing."
When we begin to think back through the defining moments, heartbreaks, and pinnacles that we've lived through in the last ten years, it all can seem a bit dense. Ten years can seem like such a vast expanse of time, yet, at the same time, feel so short at the same time. It's ingrained in us to look back through our minds to see how far each of us as individuals has come. It's ingrained in the fabric of existence as a creature, the need to look back on our history and evolve from it. Constantly becoming a better version of ourselves. But, are we? How can 10 years; 3652.5 days (including leap year); and countless moments pass right by us, without any feeling of growth, or change sometimes. Maybe you've made strides towards it, but what's the secret to getting to the finish line? I'm not saying I have "THE SECRET", but my family vacation this week sure got me thinking.
Every year, like most families, we spend our Christmases the same way. Wrapping, presents, driving to see family, hosting family gatherings, cooking for so long that by the time you get to breathe the dishes left in the sink begin to resemble that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But this year we skipped all that. We decided to make a change in plans and instead drove 10 hours north into the heart of Vermont to try our hand at skiing. Are we expert skiers? No. Are we avid skiers? Again, no. Jim had taken our 3 boys for an afternoon YEARS ago, and me, I took a ski class in college. Yes, that's a real thing, and yes it WAS an easy A. However, it WAS new to me and it WAS 18 years ago. The mountain was a 500 ft. vertical drop, which was REALLY high thinking back on it. As we rolled closer into Stowe, VT I looked up at Mt. Mansfield, a monument to the ice that years ago, swept through and carved out all the mountains in view.
Day One: we dropped the kids off at ski school, awkwardly locked our skis into our boots and trudged up to the lift and took it to the peak of Mt Mansfield (which I later learned was the highest mountain in Vermont). We were above the clouds. THE CLOUDS. As I sat there, standing above the whispy heads of the clouds below, something crosses my mind, Tussey Mountain was DEFINITELY not above the clouds. Ol' Tussey was a 500-foot Vertical drop, I now stood two decades later, at the top of Mt. Mansfield, at a 2,360-foot vertical drop, with only one way down. I was...afraid...but what was going through my mind wasn't my sweaty palms or shaky legs, it was "Jim did it to me again" (along with a few other choice words).
It's what drew me to him at the start of our relationship. In fact, it's what brought me to be in that position in the first place. I had grown up very "stay in your lane"; adventure was something I saw in the movies; my risks were always HEAVILY calculated, and the most dangerous thing I'd ever done was riding my bike to Dairy Queen without my mom knowing. Which trust me, My mom could make Dirty Harry shake in his boots, it was a risky move.
Jim was the complete opposite. He was 27 when we met and he had already had more adventures than I could hope to have in a lifetime. And his visions for his future were filled with challenges and opportunities that would never have crossed my mind in a million years. “Stay in your lane”, remember? He’s pushed me past my comfort zone more times than I can count. I truly give him credit for giving me the drive and confidence to jump into uncomfortable situations and find my way out. And I have grown exponentially because of it.
So let me bring you back to the top of Mt. Mansfield. Jim had done it to me again. He put me somewhere I was completely uncomfortable, forced me to jump in, figure it out, and hopefully have some fun along the way. And I did it. Twice. It wasn’t pretty and I won’t be considered for the Olympic Ski Team anytime soon, but I conquered my sweaty palms, frayed nerves, and Mt. Mansfield on skis.
I wouldn’t say this “being comfortable being uncomfortable” is a personality trait Jim learned. It’s ingrained in his DNA. It’s who he is without thinking twice about it. But, I’d say for most of us out there, that is an anomaly. Who would want to live in a constant state of discomfort? Sounds like a prescription for Xanax to me.
All kidding aside though, my “ah-ha” moment was looking over the crest of that daunting mountain, the 3,578th time Jim had pushed me to sink or swim. If we are looking for a life of comfort, we might very well miss the opportunities to become who we want to be. We will wake up on New Year’s Eve 2029… another decade passing us by… and have nothing to show for it. Don’t get caught in the trap of “staying in your lane”. Do what scares you. Find someone that pushes you. Move the things that make you uncomfortable to the top of your to-do list. I promise you, one day they will become second nature and you will probably wonder why on Earth you found them so scary in the first place? And then, most importantly, make sure to fill that list back up with more things that scare you. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Ready or not… ski down that mountain!
Team Wall is running into 2020 with this mentality and I hope you all will too. There are big things to conquer out there. Godspeed and go forth and conquer, my friends!
Trish and Jim Wall
P.S. We are challenging our team members to submit 3 things that make them uncomfortable. In 4th quarter 2020, we will pass them out again to our team and see how far they’ve come in conquering their fears. Please feel free to participate! I’ll keep it confidential, but hopefully be someone to keep you accountable.
Flooded city after a severe hurricane.
Urban flooding has become increasingly more prevalent as cities continue to sprout in areas around the world. With virtually no soil into which water can be absorbed, cities flood easily. This absence of soil requires excess water to be eliminated through a limited number of sewage and draining systems that are interspersed throughout cities.
Urban flooding, in particular, can flood city streets, blocking roadways in its path, and have other negative effects on day-to-day life. When water builds up in drainage systems, drain covers can lift off of the ground in an occurrence called “dancing drain covers”. In addition to dancing, the covers can shift or travel a distance from the drain itself, leaving massive holes in streets that could prove to be dangerous for cars or pedestrians traveling on the road.
Though the reputation of urban flooding isn’t quite as serious as that of the flooding caused by hurricanes, the damage may be comparable if the storm produces a large amount of rain. It is therefore important to recognize how likely flooding may be in your city based on its geography. The risk of urban flooding is increased in cities that are located by rivers due to their tendency to overflow or those situated by major bodies of water due to high tide and the potential for storm surge. If you live in a city that is of greater risk, it may be helpful to prepare an emergency flood kit, containing necessities such as snacks, water, flashlights, and batteries in case your city suffers from a severe flood.
Damage Caused by Lightning
Lightning can cause both physical and electrical damage to homes and businesses if the building is directly hit by lightning during a thunderstorm. Lightning can burn through roofs, rip shingles or gutters from the building, and even tear into attics. In terms of electrical damage, lightning can increase the risk of an electrical fire igniting. Electronic appliances inside of your home, such as computers and refrigerators, can be harmed or destroyed if left plugged into an outlet during a thunderstorm.
Damage Caused by Flash Flooding
When a flood strikes your home or business, especially one like that which dumped excessive amounts of rain on Frederick, Maryland, and Washington, D.C this past weekend, water levels can rise quickly and inflict a significant amount of damage. The floodwater can carry mud and sediment, therefore contaminating the water and whatever it touches in your home or business. From this water damage, mold can grow and spread if the affected area is not remediated quickly. Flood water commonly affects drywall, flooring, and electrical systems such as cooling and heating systems, so it will be crucial to assess these areas for damage after a flood. On a larger scale, flood water can move houses or buildings off of their foundation, so be sure to watch for signs of that as well.
What to Do After the Storm
Immediately following the storm, survey your home or building for any visible indicators of lightning or water damage. This includes making sure that electrical breakers, outlets, and light switches are still functioning, checking plumbing systems for any leakage, and looking for any visible signs of water damage to items within the house or building. While cleaning up any damage, be sure to turn off all water and electrical systems so that when the electricity is restored, the water and electricity do not react with one another, which would result in further damage.
Protecting Your Business From Summer Storms
Storms can happen at any time, don't get "caught out in the rain".
Forming as a result of moisture and rising warm air in the atmosphere, severe storms are a common threat to property throughout the summer months. Along with rain, thunder, and lightning, summer storms can also produce large hail and gusty winds. As a business owner, you may be worried about the danger that these storms can pose to your property, and rightfully so. Major structural damage can be done by severe storms, with wind and hail shattering windows and pounding upon roofs. In order to avoid the hefty cost required to fix structural damage, it would be beneficial to develop a plan to utilize during emergencies that will limit the amount of damage imposed upon your business.
Before you begin to formulate that plan, however, make sure that your business has invested in business insurance. Covering the expenses of any property damage caused directly by the storm, business insurance can lift much of the financial burden. Taking matters into your own hands, a regular examination of the condition of your business’ roof as well as removing debris left by past storms in your gutters can prevent the damage from worsening. Impact-resistant glass can also be installed in an effort to prevent windows from shattering and sending glass flying across the inside of your business, potentially in the path of valuables. If you do have any valuables located near windows, be sure to move them to safer areas during storms just in case windows shatter. Safer areas can include any place that is elevated above the floor and distant from windows. Finally, keep outdoor equipment safe by fastening it to something stable.
Monitoring weather forecasts is a beneficial practice, especially if your business is located in an area that regularly experiences severe weather, as you will know when to expect storms and be able to prepare for them. With these guidelines in mind, you can protect your business as best you can from severe storms throughout the summer.
Icicles on a House
The Metro Pittsburgh East area has begun to see its first glimpses of snow and endure its first freezes of the season due to the recent colder temperatures. Along with colder temperatures in the air, ground temperatures are beginning to reach the freezing mark as well. When ground temperatures are cold but the atmosphere is still slightly too warm to produce snow, precipitation can fall as rain and instantly freeze upon impact with freezing ground temperatures on sidewalks, roads, or bridges. Freezing rain that creates ice on roadways can pose threats to the safety of drivers and pedestrians. The freezing rain can also form ice on trees and power lines, potentially damaging them in the process. Learning about the dangers of freezing rain and what to do in preparation for it can place you one step ahead when the forecast predicts freezing rain in your neighborhood.
Unlike snow, which can be shoveled, the ice formed by freezing rain cannot be eliminated quite as easily. Ice requires significantly more time and effort for removal. In addition, the ice resulting from freezing rain often deceives drivers and pedestrians, as ice often looks like water on a roadway or sidewalk. This can pose serious threats to drivers and pedestrians, as they may not be able to see the ice or receive adequate warning before driving in it. Aside from roadways and sidewalks, freezing rain can also impact surfaces such as tree branches and power lines. Ice can form on these surfaces. Enough ice can weigh down upon branches and power lines, potentially causing them to fall or break. Fallen branches and power lines can deprive local homes and businesses of power and heat for unpredictable amounts of time. Homes and businesses can also be at an increased risk of damage if heavy, icy branches fall nearby.
Taking precautions prior to a storm that is forecasted to produce freezing rain is a key step in ensuring your safety. The first of these precautions is purchasing salt, which can be sprinkled on outdoor surfaces such as sidewalks or driveways that will work to melt the ice faster. Another helpful practice may be to anticipate that branches may fall, damaged power lines may result in the loss of electricity, and the ice may deprive you of the ability to leave your home safely. Making sure that you purchase necessities, such as bottled water, toilet paper, batteries, flashlights, and blankets, before the storm will decrease the chances that you would need to leave your home while conditions are dangerous.
Space Heater Safety
Dangers of plugged in Space Heaters
The ability to return to a cozy, heated home after spending time outside will become increasingly important as temperatures rapidly drop during November in Metro Pittsburgh East. While many homeowners utilize central heating systems to maintain warmth in their homes, many seek additional heat through space heaters. Creating a warm environment, space heaters can be helpful in heating a specific room, but space heaters do not come without safety risks. Space heaters caused an estimated 25,000 residential fires and 300 deaths each year, according to a 2013 study by The Consumer Product Safety Commission. While this statistic is alarming, your home’s individual risk can be decreased and your family can be kept safe with a thorough understanding of space heater safety.
Combustible objects, such as curtains, rugs, clothes, or paper can ignite if they come into contact with a space heater. To prevent a fire from starting, remember to always keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from combustible items while in use. Additionally, you should also be conscious of keeping your space heater situated on flat, level surfaces and away from major walkways in your home, as a fire could ignite if someone were to trip over the heater, knocking it over onto an object. Always be sure to check your space heater, including its cords and plug, for damage prior to usage. Damage increases the space heater’s risk of malfunctioning and creating a dangerous situation. Therefore, if you discover that the space heater has sustained any damage, do not use the unit. Finally, space heaters should never be left unattended during use. A nearby person could most likely detect a fire early on from the smoke smell and initial flames, which would decrease the chances of the fire spiraling out of control and protect the home from potential destruction. Therefore, it is imperative that you power down the space heater and unplug the unit before leaving the room.
Despite your best efforts to use space heaters safely, accidents can still happen. Taking precautions such as installing smoke detectors on every floor of your home can therefore serve as beneficial backup plans and help to protect your home from destruction. Lastly, if you have children or pets in your home, be sure to keep a watchful eye while a space heater is in use, as they could burn or injure themselves if they get too close. If your home sustains fire damage as a result of space heater usage this fall, you can count on SERVPRO for all of your restorative needs.