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FirstOnSite Restoration est. 2007

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Canada, Ontario, London

 

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  • 2104 Jetstream Rd, London N5V 3P6

  • 1-519-451-6789
  • Dave Demos
  • November 08, 2019 08:19:34 PM
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A Little About Us

FirstOnSite Restoration is the leading Canadian disaster restoration company, providing remediation, restoration and reconstruction services nationwide, and for the US large loss and commercial market. Our corporate structure distinguishes us within our industry, providing unequaled degrees of speed, scope and scale. It also provides unmatched abilities to embrace innovations and technologies that help us meet the unique needs of our customers. FirstOnSite Restoration is an approved vendor for many leading insurance companies.

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  • 2007

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Residential Winter Storm Blackouts and Power Outages

During the wintertime, homeowners can find themselves in the dark not just because of earlier sunsets, but also because of blackouts and power outages. With unpredictable winter weather on its way, homeowners need to understand what causes these losses of power and how to prepare for and respond to them. The How & Why of … Continued The post Residential Winter Storm Blackouts and Power Outages appeared first on FIRST ONSITE...

During the wintertime, homeowners can find themselves in the dark not just because of earlier sunsets, but also because of blackouts and power outages. With unpredictable winter weather on its way, homeowners need to understand what causes these losses of power and how to prepare for and respond to them.

The How & Why of Blackouts and Power Outages

Power outages can have a variety of causes, and depending on the reason, can last from a few minutes to more than a week. There are also differences between a standard “power outage” and what is known as “rolling blackouts.” A good understanding of the situation is important in order for a homeowner to respond appropriately.

A power outage is usually caused by damage to some part of the power grid.

What’s included in a power grid?

  • Power generation (eg: the power plants).
  • High voltage transmission lines.
  • Substations.
  • Lines that deliver power to end-users.

Damage to any part of this system can cause a loss of power for businesses and residences that rely on the grid for service. For instance, damage to a power plant or a substation could cause a significantly long outage, whereas damage to a residential power line may be easier to repair and cause only a few hours or days of outage.

As opposed to power outages, which can be caused by damage, short circuits, or other unexpected events, a “rolling blackout” is an outage that is intentionally caused and managed by the power company. Sections of the power grid are cut off from service periodically to reduce demand on the grid and prevent it from being completely overloaded. If demand on the power grid overloads the system’s capacity, it could lead to serious damage to equipment and power lines, leading to longer and more significant losses of power.

The duration of rolling blackouts depends on the severity of the situation that necessitated them. A long period of extreme cold may require longer rolling blackouts to protect the power grid. In rolling blackouts, electric service is often prioritized for key locations such as hospitals.

Example: The 2003 Northeast Blackout

In August of 2003, a combination of transmission line failures and a massive power surge led to a significant blackout, leaving large areas of the northeast United States and Ontario without power. In all, 10 million customers in Ontario lost electric service during the blackout. The chain of events that caused the blackout led to an overall decrease in available power through the grid as power plants were brought back online and transmission lines were repaired. During this time, provincial officials warned that rolling blackouts may be necessary to reduce demand while repairs were conducted. Ultimately, power was restored without rolling blackouts becoming necessary.

Dangers of Power Outages

If a home relies on an electric HVAC and/or water heater system, a loss of power means a loss of heat. Low temperatures can cause the water in pipes to freeze and expand, putting stress on the plumbing joints and the pipes themselves. These areas include the following.

  • Sinks.
  • Showers.
  • Toilets.
  • Sprinklers.
  • Radiant heating systems.
  • Other systems containing water.

Freezing can cause them to burst, leading to water flowing into kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and walls. If not addressed quickly, this water can cause mould issues down the line.

Sump Pumps

Water damage can also occur because of the loss of power to systems like sump pumps. In houses with basements, a sump pump works to collect and divert water away from the foundation of the house. Without power, this usually diverted water can infiltrate basements and cause damage.

Dangerous Alternative Heat Sources

Desperate homeowners who would usually rely on electric HVAC systems will sometimes turn to alternative heat sources, such as propane or charcoal grills, or use generators to provide emergency electricity. These items are designed for outdoor use only and can lead to fires or carbon monoxide poisoning because of improper use.

Power Outages and Home Appliance Care

Other electronic devices and appliances in the home may be damaged as a result of a power outage. When power is restored, it can cause a surge of electricity, which can damage things like tools, appliances, and electronic equipment. To protect these electronics, GetPrepared.ca recommends they be turned on/off or unplugged during a power outage. The surge of electricity can also trip circuit breakers within the home, so it is smart to check the electrical panel once power is restored.

Without power, refrigerators and freezers cannot keep food cold indefinitely. Not only can this cause food to spoil and lead to expenses to replace the contents of these appliances, but it could also put families at risk of illness from consuming spoiled food.

How to Prepare for Power Outages

If the forecast calls for severe winter weather, or if the power company says that rolling blackouts may be imminent, there are important steps to take to prepare for potential power outages.

Turn Up The Thermostat

A couple of days before the arrival of cold weather, turn the home’s thermostat up a couple of degrees. This will help keep the home warmer longer, putting off the need for alternative heating sources and reducing the risk of frozen pipes.

Freeze Water Jugs in The Freezer

If possible, fill milk jugs or other containers with water and freeze them. The fuller a freezer is, the better it will be able to maintain its temperature without power.

Charge Electronic Devices

Charge cell phones and other electronic devices needed for communication. During a power outage, homes without functioning landlines may be cut off from communication without charged cell phones. Consider purchasing and charging a portable charger power bank as well, in case of a prolonged outage.

Test Detectors and Alarms

Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. The use of generators and alternative heating methods can increase the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Functioning smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor can provide an early alert to these potential dangers.

Identify and Address All Potential Medical Needs

Identify medical needs and have a plan for addressing them. Some individuals may rely on electricity for assistive devices such as supplemental oxygen delivery systems and CPAP machines. Others may require medications that must remain refrigerated, such as insulin. These individuals can contact their power company to let them know of their medical need, which can be noted on their accounts. In power outage situations, these customers may receive regular updates from the power company or be designated as a priority customer for the restoration of power.

Backup Power

Have battery backups or a generator to provide power for essential items like sump pumps, refrigerators, and medical devices. A battery backup on a home’s sump pump system can mean the difference between a wet or dry basement in the event of a power outage.

Build an Emergency Kit

Have an emergency kit. An emergency kit can help keep a family safe in severe weather. Among other things, GetPrepared.ca suggests the following items be included in a home emergency kit – water, food, a wind-up or battery-operated radio, flashlights, and a first aid kit.

Have an Emergency Contact List

Keep a list of phone numbers and resources handy in case of an outage. This should include the power company, emergency services, local contractors (electricians, plumbers, arborists, etc.), and a restoration company to assist in case of damage.

When the Lights Go Out

So what is a homeowner to do when the power goes out? Responding quickly can make a big difference.

If possible, report the outage to the power company. This provides the power company with essential information about where service needs to be restored. Power companies will often provide an option to opt-in for updates about the outage and projected times for the restoration of service.

Keep Freezers and Refrigerators Closed

According to Ready.gov, a refrigerator without power will keep food cold for approximately 4 hours, and a full freezer will maintain its temperature for approximately 48 hours. In any case, the best approach to avoid foodborne illness after a power outage is “when in doubt, throw it out.”

Keep a Close Eye on Pipes

Open cabinet doors below kitchen and bathroom sinks to let warmer air reach pipes and help prevent them from freezing. Opening cold water faucets to allow a small trickle of water will keep water moving in pipes and help reduce freezing risk. Be aware that if temperatures drop too low and pipes freeze and burst, it may not be evident until they warm and water begins flowing again.

Unplug Electronic Devices and Appliances

Protect electronics from power surge damage by unplugging them once the power goes out and waiting to plug them back in until after power has been restored.

Learn About Warming Centers

Check local government sites to determine if “warming centers” are available. These are temporary shelters for individuals without access to heat, providing an escape from the bitter cold that can come with a winter power outage.

Worst Case Scenario

If a home sustains damage due to a power outage, whether from frozen pipes, electrical issues, smoke, or fire, the best approach is to call a trusted disaster recovery partner like First Onsite to navigate the recovery process.

Sources:

Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness Canada – Ontario–U.S. Power Outage—Impacts on Critical Infrastructure: http://cip.management.dal.ca/publications/Ontario%20-%20US%20Power%20Outage%20-%20Impacts%20on%20Critical%20Infrastructure.pdf

GetPrepared.ca – During a power outage: https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/pwrtgs-drng-en.aspx

GetPrepared.ca – Get an emergency kit!: https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/kts/bsc-kt-en.aspx

The post Residential Winter Storm Blackouts and Power Outages appeared first on FIRST ONSITE (CA).


Winter Storm Preparedness: Protecting Commercial Properties From the Cold

Winter Storm Preparedness: Protecting Commercial Properties From the Cold A company’s ability to operate within a commercial property makes it one of the most valuable assets to that business. The lockdown’s in 2021 sent a number of these businesses home, leaving commercial buildings vacant for over a year. With this change came a dip in … Continued The post Winter Storm Preparedness: Protecting Commercial Properties From the Cold appeared first on FIRST ONSITE...

Winter Storm Preparedness: Protecting Commercial Properties From the Cold

A company’s ability to operate within a commercial property makes it one of the most valuable assets to that business. The lockdown’s in 2021 sent a number of these businesses home, leaving commercial buildings vacant for over a year. With this change came a dip in building operations and property preparedness, and by spring, businesses that neglected preparation for winter weather were met with costly seasonal hazards that could have been prevented.

As another winter season approaches, occupants have returned to commercial properties, and the need for systems to keep people and property safe is paramount. The following information is meant to help property owners and managers think proactively to get ahead of disaster.

Winter Storm Preparedness Tips

Winter storms, blizzards, and ice storms bring conditions that can create a wide range of immediate and long-term property damage. Every property is different, and developing a winter storm preparedness plan that scales to meet the needs of a specific property will help operations teams better understand what needs to be done in a high-pressure situation.

Get to Know the Property

Every property is a little bit different from their neighbor. Understanding what makes a particular property unique will help property owners, managers, and facilities teams determine how exactly to prepare.

How old is the property? Knowing just how long the building has been standing will help to determine the age and durability of building materials. And what are those building materials? Wood frames are more easily penetrated by water, but metal and concrete can suffer from erosion and rust.

Does the property have any deferred maintenance? Areas of the property that have seen trauma already are often at higher risk for seeing them again. Making sure that these areas are known and highlighted in a plan will help with monitoring in a crisis and eventual repair over time.

What’s the grading like outside of the property? If given the opportunity, water will find its way into your property. An assessment of the exterior of the building should include a grading inspection. Areas where water can pool near the building can potentially lead to bigger issues. Know where they are and do what you can to prevent a problem from originating in these locations.

Know the roof and inspect the ceiling indoors. During the winter months, ice damming has the potential to occur on roofs and it’s effects are far reaching. Keep a close eye on ceiling moisture, and if spotted, have a restoration team address the issue immediately.

Know The Regional Threats

While property damage issues are different for each building, properties in certain geographic regions suffer from additional issues related to the type of winter weather. Properties that reside in ice storm regions are more susceptible to ice-damming because of the freeze/thaw cycles that cause them. Understanding the type of weather a property will encounter will help property owners and managers know how to prepare for specific events that could be difficult and costly to overcome.

Pay Attention to Changing Weather

The climate is always evolving, and it’s forcing everyone to change the way we prepare for catastrophe. In most cases we have to learn through experience. For example, the 2021 Texas freeze caused property damage and power outages that lasted for days. The December 6th kona low cyclone caused record-breaking rainfall that resulted in flash floods and mudslides. Staying cognizant of the changing weather can present can help properties be prepared for unexpected events like these.

Cold Weather Protection Tips

Here are a few fast and easy ways to mitigate property damage this season.

Use protective coverings like pipe foam to wrap around exposed water-carrying pipes that don’t get radiant heat. These can often be found in basements and other rooms where temperatures are colder.

Identify and repair any cracks in surrounding walls. In some cases, leaks can penetrate these cracks and bring water damage into the property. In other cases, these cracks offer a way for heat to escape, cooling rooms that need to be warm.

Check the temperature wherever it may drop below freezing. These rooms are at higher risk for incident.

Locate the water shut off valves. Knowing their location of this valve is such a simple way to mitigate any future damage caused by a pipe burst or sprinkler system malfunction. Once this location has been determined, all teams should be notified so all operations teams can react quickly should an incident occur.

Inspect your sprinkler system and other basement pipes. A frozen pipe in a sprinkler system can put your entire business at risk. These systems are designed to help put out fires, so the water release is fast. Some systems release up to 24 gallons of water per minute. A sprinkler system pipe burst or malfunction will quickly cause large scale water damage in minutes.

Inspect all heat sources and repair any that need maintenance. The last thing a property needs is a failing heater in the middle of winter. Replacing a faulty heater with unorthodox heating methods can be hazardous and even cause a fire damage event.

Have a plan to protect sensitive equipment and keep employees safe in the event of a power loss. This means putting together emergency supplies like water, food, and flashlights so occupants aren’t left in the dark and facilities teams can attend to any of the equipment that needs eyes on it.

Have a communication plan to keep employees and other occupants in the building in the know. Unexpected incidents occur without warning. Knowing how to communicate with on-site people in all scenarios is an absolute need. Great communication allows teams to work together more effectively.

Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist

First Onsite puts together a winter storm checklist to assist properties in building one of their own. Here are some of the details shared.

Winter Storm Checklist for Property Owners

Use this checklist to keep buildings safe season after season.

  • Inspect building exteriors in the spring and fall, at a minimum
  • Routine checks at least once a week (or more during storm conditions)
  • Check HVAC systems, window condition, and insulation
  • Install smart home or cloud-based technology to manage heating and cooling systems externally

First Onsite is The Complete Solution to Overcome Property Damage

First Onsite is your trusted, full-service disaster restoration and reconstruction company, serving North America and beyond. We partner with you to prepare for the threat of catastrophe and to be the first team on-site after disaster strikes.

Our team in your area is backed by national resources, and we scale to meet the needs of your property regardless of size. We have the experience to respond to your property needs, and we stay a step ahead of disaster so you can too.

We are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and you can request our services at any time.

 

The post Winter Storm Preparedness: Protecting Commercial Properties From the Cold appeared first on FIRST ONSITE (CA).


Commercial Winter Storm Restoration

The Complete Guide to Commercial Winter Storm Restoration Winter weather is here, and colder temperatures bring a greater need for awareness surrounding potential property damage and the challenges it can present. Depending on the type of damage, property owners and managers are faced with potentially endangering the lives of their building’s occupants and a period … Continued The post Commercial Winter Storm Restoration appeared first on FIRST ONSITE...

The Complete Guide to Commercial Winter Storm Restoration

Winter weather is here, and colder temperatures bring a greater need for awareness surrounding potential property damage and the challenges it can present. Depending on the type of damage, property owners and managers are faced with potentially endangering the lives of their building’s occupants and a period of downtime that puts business at risk.

Seasonal property damage affects everyone, regardless of geographic region. Areas typically hit with snow run into a myriad of issues, but these properties were built with material that keeps the changing seasons in mind. Places with warmer temperatures that don’t historically get hit by snowfall are now faced with unpredictable weather and building materials that cannot withstand the events that occur.

To many, restoration is seen as the reaction to the disaster, but this is far from the truth. Here, we’ll provide a complete overview of commercial winter storm catastrophic event restoration, with professional tips on how you can prepare, react, and come back from a major winter weather event.

What to Know About Winter Weather Storms

Snowstorms, blizzards, and ice storms are often the primary winter weather events that have an impact on properties and people. Winter weather advisories slow travel and affect supply lines possibly causing a slower response time of a restoration partner on its way to a property. Making sure facilities teams always have emergency supplies like water, food, and flashlights on hand is a smart first step.

Understanding The Commercial Property

It’s important to have a baseline of knowledge about a property so it can properly be prepared for seasonal weather.

How old is your property?

The age of a property can give property owners and managers an idea of how old building materials are. If items need replacing, it might be good to tackle it before winter weather sets in.

Is there any deferred maintenance?

What jobs has the property needed to repair that they’ve put off? Will any of this weaken the structure’s ability to survive the winter season? Taking care of deferred maintenance can reduce the chance of a repeat event.

What is the grading like on the property?

Given the chance, water will make its way through the foundation and into the lower levels of the property. Get ahead of an inevitable problem and you can shore up the facility with relatively simple fixes.

What kind of building materials are used in the property?

Wood frames are more easily penetrated by water, and metal and concrete can suffer from erosion and rust.

Is the roof sloped or flat?

Sloped roofs are at risk for ice damming, and if too much snow builds up on an older structure with a flat roof, there is potential for a cave-in.

Regional Awareness

How winter affects a property is determined in part by region. Commercial properties in Canada will see buckets of snow while the western United States will see slightly colder temperatures and occasional precipitation. Northeastern communities in the US will see subzero temperatures and the potential for freezing rain. Understanding the type of weather a property will encounter determines the types of risks that are to be expected. However, In recent years there have been exceptions.

Some scenarios aren’t as cut and dry.  When freezing temperatures hit Texas in 2021, the state suffered from widespread power outages. This led to a variety of issues that ranged from burst pipes to unorthodox heating methods that caused some to suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning, and in some cases even death. The state’s freeze incident wasn’t expected or prepared for.

Winter weather events can differ from year to year, but the hazards faced are similar.

Common Winter Hazards and How to Prepare for Them

Preparing for winter weather begins long before temperatures drop. Onsite assessments in warmer months reduce occupant exposure to risk of colder temperatures and can aid in identifying issues before snowfall.  Unfortunately, some problems aren’t noticeable until winter sets in, so it’s important to remain vigilant before and during winter months.

Here are some of the issues a property can prepare for…

Frozen and Burst Pipes

One of the most common issues all properties face in the winter is the threat of burst pipes. The phenomenon occurs when standing water inside the pipes freezes, expands and forces its way out. Realistically, any system with running water has the potential to freeze. These incidents are most often seen in vacant properties and basements but still tend to occur in properties that don’t take the right precautions.

Freezing and bursting water pipes are a familiar and expensive headache for many. For businesses in an area like Dallas, where freezing temperatures have been known to occur during otherwise mild winters, here’s an important fact: Nearly 90% of calls First Onsite receives are related to frozen and broken pipes. A minor leak can easily grow into a catastrophic mess if left unattended. Additionally, broken or leaking pipes can go undetected for weeks or even months, causing major flooding and water damage along with serious mold issues down the line.

Drain backups are another real problem. Snow and ice that develop by the eaves can melt quickly, and if outflow becomes impeded by debris or the sheer volume of meltwater, it is possible for the water to back up through drains, sinks, and toilets.

How to Identify and Prevent Frozen Pipes

Routine maintenance costs next to nothing compared to the price to repair a burst pipe. Having assessment teams inspect before the winter season is a great place to start.

Our specialists also recommend:

  • Keep the property slightly warmer than is typical. While this may carry with it the short-term annoyance of an increased heating bill, it’s just a small fraction of the cost of restoring the damage a frozen pipe can cause.
  • Opening all interior doors in the property, allowing for better airflow and temperature regulation to all areas.
  • Consider adding insulation around water lines in vulnerable areas (perimeter walls, basements, etc).
  • Leave faucets running at a slow stream (to keep water moving and avoid freezing).
  • Open cabinets that house water supply pipes, allowing warm air from the property to enter and minimize the risk of bursting.

Properties without running water should assume that pipes have frozen.

  • Inspect exposed pipes for leaks/damage after they thaw.
  • At signs of damage, contact a maintenance crew.
  • If damage is extensive, contact a disaster restoration team.

Learn more about how to prevent frozen pipes this winter and minimize frozen water pipe damage.

Ice Damming

Ice damming happens when snow accumulated on a rooftop begins to melt. Water that melts starts to puddle to the edges of the roof, and it re-freezes as temperatures shift. As more snow melts, more water collects to form a dam, causing the ice to expand. If it expands too far, it can gradually freeze under roofing materials and lead to a thaw that causes interior water damage. During an ice storm’s temperatures change between freeze and thaw multiple times in a 24-hour period, making this incident fast-acting.

Properties hit with regular snowfall are also at risk, with internal heating warming the roof and melting the snow on top. Eaves at the edge of the roof are colder, allowing water to build up and turn to ice. As ice collects and temperatures change, there is still a chance that it could find its way under roofing materials and into your home.

Ice damming is most common in properties with sloped roofs, wood-framed structures, shingle roofs.

Ice Damming Prevention

  • Outside assessors should check gutters for debris like leaves and sticks that may have built up over the fall. Any potential clogs will speed up the ice damming process.
  • Watch for large icicles hanging from the eaves of the roof. This is a sign that ice damming may be occurring.
  • Check that roof insulation is in good shape to handle a potential event. Add more insulation if necessary.
  • Check roof ventilation. Proper ventilation can help with better air circulation under the roof.
  • Pay attention to any moisture or dampness developing on the ceiling of the property.

Power Outages

Properties have power outages year-round, but winter outages tend to be among the most severe. Winter storms have been known to damage power lines and other equipment that provide power to commercial properties. And as stated above, winter storms also bring supply chain delays that leave businesses without the power they need to operate for extended periods of time.

Buildings without power can’t keep the heat on, and therefore can’t safely hold occupants that rely on that heat. If occupants are stranded, this is a time for teams to break out the emergency supplies. Pipes will also have to be closely monitored since they are no longer relying on the warmth provided by the heating systems. For facilities that encounter this situation, it’s important to remember that using a generator indoors can lead to an increased risk of fire damage and even severe illness or death.

Fire Prevention

It seems odd to think that fire is also a concern in the winter season, but when cold and desperate, people will do what they have to in order to stay warm. From placing heaters in the attic to warm the roof to propane barbeques in the house. Unorthodox methods for internal heating are a fire hazard, and can also be toxic to the health and wellbeing of all on the property. Don’t use outdoor heating equipment inside.

Preparing For a Power Outage

When preparing for a potential power outage, building owners and managers need to be aware of the risks certain measures may present. Properties that elect to use a generator for heat and emergency power should keep the generator stationed outdoors. The unit should be far from doors and windows, and the building should be fully equipped with carbon monoxide detectors covering all internal areas of the property. Make sure each detector is equipped with backup battery power to ensure that it works while running the generator.

Other items that can assist occupants when dealing with an outage include…

  • Flashlights.
  • Flameless lanterns.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Portable chargers.
  • Emergency radios and rechargeable batteries.

Preparing Commercial Buildings for a Winter Storm

Tips for Protecting Commercial Buildings During Winter

Whether it’s in Texas or Ontario, winter weather can strike without warning. Which is why it’s important to identify and resolve issues before they become a problem. Early detection always results in dollars saved. Our winter preparation checklist can act as a guide for property owners and managers to kickstart seasonal thinking before it’s too late.

Winter Prep Checklist for Property Owners

Use this checklist to keep buildings safe season after season.

  • Inspect building exteriors in the spring and fall, at a minimum
  • Routine checks at least once a week (or more during storm conditions)
  • Check HVAC systems
  • Check window condition and insulation
  • Install smart-home or cloud-based technology to manage heating and cooling systems externally

Want to learn more about winter storm preparation? Check out our Emergency Response Planning services.

How A Restoration Team Can Help

Preparing for winter can be an overwhelming experience for anyone, and that’s why it’s encouraged for property owners and managers to get in touch with a disaster restoration company. The process of developing a partnership is meant to take the weight off of the property owner, and owner and allow for a collaborative plan that mitigates potential damage.

Find a company that will send people to your worksite for an assessment. A strong restoration team will walk your property like a fine-toothed comb, identifying hotspots, expensive artwork to protect, and points of interest like your water and gas shutoff valves. This will develop into the property’s emergency response plan. Property owners and managers will have the procedures they need in place during times of crisis. And there’s comfort in knowing that help is just a phone call away.

Most importantly, the restoration team will know how to handle all winter weather events. Experienced restoration teams have been around for a while, and the threats properties face have been seen time and time again by those who are sent to restore a property after a disaster.

Even with all the right precautions in place, winter weather damage is inevitable. But we’re here to help!

First Onsite is The Complete Solution to Overcome Property Damage

First Onsite is your trusted, full-service disaster restoration and reconstruction company, serving the United States, Canada, and beyond. We partner with you to prepare for the threat of catastrophe and to be the first team on-site immediately after disaster strikes.

Our team in your area is backed by national resources, and we scale to meet the needs of your property regardless of size. We have the experience to respond to your property needs while keeping a close eye on environmental changes that could affect you in the future. We stay a step ahead of disaster so you can too.

We are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and you can request our services at any time.

The post Commercial Winter Storm Restoration appeared first on FIRST ONSITE (CA).


Residential Winter Storm Restoration

The Complete Guide to Residential Winter Storm Restoration Winter weather can be the cause of a whole host of issues for homeowners, but fear not! There is that one tried and true way to avoid weather-related catastrophe: prepare. Here we’ll highlight some of the most effective moves a homeowner can make when it comes to … Continued The post Residential Winter Storm Restoration appeared first on FIRST ONSITE...

The Complete Guide to Residential Winter Storm Restoration

Winter weather can be the cause of a whole host of issues for homeowners, but fear not! There is that one tried and true way to avoid weather-related catastrophe: prepare.

Here we’ll highlight some of the most effective moves a homeowner can make when it comes to preparing your house for winter.

It Starts with Winter Weather Awareness

For the most part, location dictates the likely, and most able to prepare for, weather events you’ll encounter. It’s always going to snow buckets in Toronto, and Buffalo is always going to see at least a few subzero temps in January. You know the drill.

But then, there are the outlier events. As disasters migrate away from their historically typical paths, you may have a harder time knowing how best to prepare your house for winter. Events like Texas’ 2021 deep freeze, the “atmospheric river” that dumped more than double the average max daily rainfall on southern BC, and Tennessee witnessing the most snow it has seen in five years in the space of a day, are the types of events that can be the most unexpected and most costly to our clients. But with a little bit of forethought, you can avoid being caught off-guard by events to which you are unaccustomed.

Know Your Property

Knowledge is power. This checklist of highlights some of the more important questions to ask when starting to inspect your property.

  • Is your home a mature property or new construction? Neither is necessarily more immune to weather-related damage.
  • What condition is your property in? Is there a bit of deferred maintenance? Over time, this is your main concern.
  • Where are you regionally? Cities are at highest risk for drain backups, while rural areas often struggle longer through power outages.
  • What is the grading like on the property? Do you have a basement? Given the chance, water will make its way through the foundation and into the basement or lower levels of the house. Get ahead of an inevitable problem and you can shore up your home with relatively simple fixes.
  • What is the primary type of building material used in the home? Wood-framed buildings are penetrated more easily by water and lack of maintenance, but with concrete and metal, you need to keep an eye out for erosion and rust.
  • Do you have a sloped roof or a flat roof? Metal or shingled?

This type of checklist may seem simplistic, but being aware of the common pitfalls to which your property is predisposed gives you a much more focused approach to your semi-annual self-inspections.

Disaster Preparation: The Single Most Valuable Tool

When it comes to fortifying the exterior of your home – or what in our business is called the ‘building envelope’ – there is no substitute for semi-annual inspections. A perimeter walk is a great place to start. As you walk, take notice of all components of the building envelope. Examine anything that is keeping air and water out of the structure: roofing, siding, shingles, brick, windows, and doors. Look for changes to the ground adjacent to the home – do you notice any new massing or erosion? Get picky. Do gutters need clearing? Can you find any deteriorating caulking? Any significant wear and tear on doors and windows?

Next, move to the interior of your home and work your way from top to bottom. The attic is a common place for issues stemming from Winter weather to collect. Check for any holes – however small – in the ceiling and junctions. Take note of any exposed insulation, drafty windows, and any signs of trapped moisture from poor ventilation.

In your living spaces, seek out spots you might normally miss. Think beyond eye level! Look closely at ceilings, where the wall meets the ceiling, and where the wall and floor join. Poke around window jambs. Are you noticing anything new? Drafty windows, subtle water stains on ceilings, condensation buildup on the insides of windows or walls… any of these can be early warning signs of more serious or persistent water damage. Left unchecked, this damage could lead to mold, structural compromise, and costly repairs. The earlier you spot the warning signs of an issue, the better.

How frequently should these self-inspections be done? We like to use the changing of the clocks as our reminder. Every time we ‘fall back’ or ‘spring ahead’, we know it’s time to give things a solid once-over. As the homeowner, you are the closest to your property. You know its quirks and its common pain points, and you’re your own greatest asset when it comes to property defense.

Three Major Contributors to Winter Weather Property Damage

Water Damage

Frozen or Burst Pipes

Freezing pipes are the biggest contributor to water damage in the home during winter months. Most often seen in vacant properties (think vacation homes, houses for sale, or primary residences whose occupants are away) and basements, water supply pipes burst when the standing water inside of them freezes, expands, and must force its way out. Any system that has water running through it can freeze – it’s not uncommon for us to see cracked toilet tanks due to frozen tank water!

Should you return to a property and find yourself without running water, assume your pipes have frozen. Visually inspect any exposed pipes for damage, paying special attention to the joints and elbows. And especially keep an eye out for signs of water damage after they thaw. When the water starts flowing again is when most leaks appear. At the first sign of damage, contact your disaster mitigation and restoration company immediately.

In some regions, we find that even more common than water supply damage is the issue of drain backups. Drain backups occur most often in areas that experience freeze-thaw cycles. If the phrase “Don’t like the weather? Just wait fifteen minutes!” is something you find yourself saying every spring and fall, this one’s for you. Minus 10 degrees Celsius one day, +2-3 degrees the next, then a plunge back down to the minus teens for the next week? Keep an eye on those drains. When snow and ice form and then melt quickly, outflow can become impeded (by debris or sheer volume of meltwater) and back up through drains, sinks and toilets – making this outdoors problem your indoors headache.

Tips on How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

If you plan to be away from your home for any period of time during the winter months, take action. When it comes to preventing frozen pipes, you’ve got options. If you’re more comfortable with technological solutions, a wide variety of cameras and sensors are available to help keep an eye on things remotely. Perhaps you might consider a programmable thermostat, or a cloud-based model that allows for remote control and can monitor for temperature drops. Be sure to check with your insurance company for any discounts that may be available with the use of any of these added security measures.

If these solutions feel impractical given your situation, there’s always the traditional route: get a house sitter. Just someone to check on things every so often. Nothing beats having a pair of trusted eyes on your space.

Our specialists also recommend:

  • Keeping your house slightly warmer than you typically would if you were home. While this may carry with it the short-term annoyance of an increased heating bill, it’s just a small fraction of the cost of restoring the damage a frozen pipe can cause.
  • Opening all interior doors in the home, allowing for better air flow and temperature regulation to all areas of the house.
  • Consider adding insulation around water lines in vulnerable areas (perimeter walls, basements, cabinets).
  • Leave faucets running at a slow stream (to keep water moving and avoid freezing).
  • Open cabinets that house water supply pipes, allowing warm air from the house to enter and minimize the risk of bursting.

For drain backup prevention, be sure to quickly clear all catch basins and gutters (both at the street level, and on your property) of any leaves, debris, or other buildup. Don’t be caught off guard by a winter that barges right into your lovely autumn. You may also consider investing in drain sensors for early detection. Or, better yet, install a backflow preventer in your sewer system, allowing water to flow out, but not back in. For residential properties, these aren’t incredibly expensive upgrades. And be sure to check with your insurer for available discounts!

In the event of a water damage incident, it is imperative that any damage be completely and expeditiously handled. Remember, if a temperature can be tolerated by humans, it is habitable by mold.

Ice damage

Ice Damming

Snow and ice damage to a roof typically comes in the form of ice damming.  Very common in our Canadian and US Northeast and upper Midwestern territories – where we see a lot of the freeze/thaw cycles mentioned earlier – this winter nuisance is really just water damage by a different name. Ice damming is commonly caused by heat escaping through a poorly insulated attic, melting snow that has accumulated on the roof, which then runs to the eaves where it re-freezes. The forming ice forces its way under shingles and then melts once again when it encounters radiant heat from the attic. Unchecked over time, water damage from snow and ice on the roof can cause a whole host of problems for the homeowner – structural damage, wood rot, water damage, and mold.

Tips on How to Prevent Ice Damming

Ah, that old favorite Canadian pastime: asking, “How much snow do you have at your house?”. After a large snowfall, ask yourself, “How much snow do I have ON my house?!”. Keep your eyes peeled for large icicles forming on the eaves and roofline. If you see either of these, and if it’s possible to do safely, clear them off. Don’t forget the garage! And the garden shed! Make sure all gutters are clear of debris. Then take your flashlight to the attic. Poke around for signs of wet wood. Check any exposed insulation you might have. If you’re looking for a long-term solution to a problem you already have, a restoration specialist can help ensure that your attic is properly insulated and ventilated.

Power Outages

Power outages following catastrophic weather events have become some of the most common and most damaging events that we see. The length of the outage is the most critical factor in measuring the severity of its impact. The longer the outage, the more dominoes fall. When the power goes out, typically a home’s primary heat source is disabled. When the house cools, the risk of frozen water supply pipes rises steeply. A burst pipe in a basement with a disabled sump pump could lead to flooding. Unorthodox methods of heating a house can carry increased risk of fire damage and even severe illness or death.

Tips on How to Prevent Power Outages

To fully prepare for power outages in winter, you may elect to use a generator for heat and emergency power. But please, only use it outdoors and away from windows. Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of your home (including the basement!) and that they have backup battery power. Be sure to have flashlights, flameless lanterns, and plenty of their necessary batteries readily available. Portable chargers are a great option for powering cell phones, emergency radios and rechargeable batteries. Above all, employ safe home heating practices when using an open fire indoors – keep your fire in the fireplace, check the flue, and always have a fire screen present. Compounding one property damage crisis with another is a fate everyone should want to avoid.

Know Who to Call in a Winter Weather Emergency

When the unexpected strikes, who is going to help you solve your problem fast? Circumstance will dictate which specialist to call, but having a physical copy of your emergency contact list already compiled and readily accessible will put you miles ahead of the pack. Don’t call 911. It’s a common mistake. They’ll be busy enough as it is.

Emergency call list:

  • Plumber, electrician, HVAC technician
  • Nearby home improvement retailers – Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace, etc. (You don’t want to be the last in the line to rent a dehumidifier when the entire neighborhood has a flooded basement!)
  • Your chosen restoration company – for immediate disaster mitigation and to get a plan in place
  • Insurance provider

Our goal is to minimize your risk before you find yourself in a catastrophic situation.

We’re always here for you if something does occur. But we’d rather it not happen to you at all.

 

First Onsite is The Complete Solution to Overcome Property Damage

First Onsite is your trusted, full-service disaster restoration and reconstruction company, serving the United States, Canada, and beyond. We partner with you to prepare for the threat of catastrophe and to be the first team on-site immediately after disaster strikes.

Our team in your area is backed by national resources, and we scale to meet the needs of your property regardless of size. We have the experience to respond to your property needs while keeping a close eye on environmental changes that could affect you in the future. We stay a step ahead of disaster so you can too.

We are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and you can request our services at any time.

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Hurricane Laura

THE CHALLENGE On August 27th, 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall along the coast of Louisiana, battering the shores with a ten-foot-high storm surge and leaving heavy damage in its wake. One of the locations in its path was a hotel and casino. THE CLIENT The Hotel and Casino is a premier destination that provides a … Continued The post Hurricane Laura appeared first on FIRST ONSITE...

THE CHALLENGE

On August 27th, 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall along the coast of Louisiana, battering the shores with a ten-foot-high storm surge and leaving heavy damage in its wake. One of the locations in its path was a hotel and casino.

THE CLIENT

The Hotel and Casino is a premier destination that provides a total entertainment experience with a broad reach: lodging, gaming, live shows, a resort-style pool, the beachfront, and a five-star golf course. They’re one of the top-performing properties in their portfolio.

THE PRE-PLANNED ADVANTAGE

Prior to landfall, the hotel and casino had become aware of the incoming storm. Through an already established National agreement, they took advantage of their partnership with First Onsite. An early call to their account manager put our project directors in touch with risk managers at the resort.

A thorough walk around the facilities and communication with personnel positioned First Onsite to handle disaster before it struck. The property’s size also meant having an emphasis on clear communication and coordination across the resort: landscaping, golf, the pool, casino, hotel tower, and back of house. With generators, water tankers, and manpower on standby, we waited for landfall.

RESPONSE

Our teams moved in immediately, setting up the generators and water tankers to quickly establish temporary water and power. Crews worked to extract water and stabilize damaged areas to limit further destruction and eliminate the potential for mold. We provided food and laundry for staff members, emergency responders, and the Louisiana State Police, who had taken residence in the hotel as our restoration teams worked to rebuild the resort around them.

In early October, First Onsite and the hotel and casino were warned of yet another incoming storm: Hurricane Delta. The advanced notice gave First Onsite crews the time to secure all emergency operations put in place over a ten-mile radius, lessening the damage Delta would claim. Once the storm dissipated, our teams restored their equipment and got back to work.

THE RESULT

The casino floor was back up and running within seven days, making it available for authorization by the gaming commission. This was an incredible turnaround and had guests back on the floor quickly, reducing business downtime. Millions of dollars were saved in extended lost revenues, and the hotel and casino were back at full capacity within a few months.

The post Hurricane Laura appeared first on FIRST ONSITE (CA).


Five Tips to Protect Your Property During Winter Months

One of the smartest things you can do as a business owner or property manager is to implement a winter disaster preparedness plan which will allow for you to be prepared for issues that might arise. With the winter months around the corner, it is a great time to ensure your commercial spaces are well … Continued The post Five Tips to Protect Your Property During Winter Months appeared first on FIRST ONSITE...

One of the smartest things you can do as a business owner or property manager is to implement a winter disaster preparedness plan which will allow for you to be prepared for issues that might arise. With the winter months around the corner, it is a great time to ensure your commercial spaces are well protected. The colder months not only bring plummeting temperatures but also ice, heavy winds, freezing rain, blizzards and snow that can wreak havoc on your business and your bottom line if you aren’t prepared.

According to the National Weather Service, winter storms create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and can knock out heat, power, and communication services. They suggest you should know your area’s risk for winter storms and pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. And they suggest signing up for your community’s warning system or visiting The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio that also provide emergency alerts, so you can stay on top of any potential threats related to winter weather conditions.

With the potential threats that the colder months can bring, businesses need to take every step possible to winterize commercial facilities including:

  1. Avoiding Frozen Pipes and Plumbing Issues: Take steps to avoid frozen pipes by checking exposed exterior pipes for signs of cracks and openings that can lead to water leakage and freezing. Seal any cracks that are identified. Keep interior temperatures at a minimum of 55 degrees at all times during the colder months.
  2. Checking and Inspecting Building Insulation: Have an expert come in to check your HVAC systems to see if interior or exterior insulation needs to be replaced. Routinely replace all building air filters. Old or inadequate insulation and filters can lead to higher energy costs.
  3. Inspecting Roof Space and Clearing Debris: Clear your building’s roof space of leaves and debris that can cause blockage of gutters. Doing this will allow melting snow to properly drain away from the building. Clearing debris can prevent ice dams and heavy snow from buildup on your roof which will prevent excessive loads on the roof and can cause unwanted structural damage.
  4. Routinely Checking Property During Cold Periods: Check your commercial spaces regularly, at least once per week during the coldest months and winter storms, to identify a potential issue before it becomes a problem.
  5. Partnering with a Restoration Professional: Develop a partnership with a professional restoration company that offers emergency planning services, so you are prepared if the worst happens despite all of the preparation. A trusted restoration company can help you create an emergency response plan in the event of winter weather related emergencies.

If you are a business owner or property manager looking for more information on how to effectively prepare for a winter disaster, we can help with our Emergency Response Planning services.

The post Five Tips to Protect Your Property During Winter Months appeared first on FIRST ONSITE (CA).


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