Preparing Your Pets for a Home Emergency

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Whether it’s a flood or a fire when disaster strikes a home the pets that live there are affected every bit as much as the humans. The smart advice we give to everyone is that while no one wants to ever think that disaster could strike their home, it pays to be prepared by drawing up a formal plan to follow in the event that the worst does happen. And as for most of us our pets really are a part of our families then including them in your emergency plans is a must.

Your Pet’s Emergency Plan:

Just like you should have an emergency/disaster kit for humans you should also have one for the animals. Here are some tips for creating one:

Food and water for at least five days with bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food. Usually humans need at least one gallon of water per person per day. Your pet probably won’t need that much, but keep an extra gallon on hand to use if your pet has been exposed to chemicals or flood waters and needs to be rinsed as soon as possible.

Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a pet first-aid kit. A pet first-aid book is a good idea too.

Cat litter box, litter, litter scoop and garbage bags for dog waste

Sturdy leashes, harnesses and carriers to transport your pets safely and to ensure that they can’t escape. Make sure that your cat or dog is wearing a collar and identification that is up to date and if they are not already, considered having them microchipped. the pet carriers you choose should be large enough to allow your pet to stand comfortably, turn around and lie down, especially as they might have to be confined for quite a while.

Current photos of you with your pets and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated—and to help prove that they are yours once you’re reunited.

Notes about your pets’ feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues along with the name and number of your vet in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.

Pet Safety During an Emergency

Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid. Bringing them inside early can stop them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm.

Separate dogs and cats. Even if your dogs and cats are usually best friends , the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally.

If you evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND! Pets rarely survive on their own and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.

Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbours, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for your pets if you are unable to do so.

After the Emergency

In the first few days after the disaster, always leash your pets when they go outside. Always maintain close contact, don’t leave them feeling like they are alone. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet may become confused and lost if you don’t stick close by.

Be aware that the general behavior of your pets may change after an emergency too. Normally quiet and friendly pets may become skittish, aggressive or defensive. Watch animals closely and call your vet for help and advice if they really do seem to have been adversely affected.

Are Your Exhaust Fans Really Doing Their Job?

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Did you know the occupants of a typical home can generate over half a gallon of air-borne moisture per day – close to 200 gallons a year! Where does this moisture come from? There are lots of sources but the most common include:

Showers and baths
Washing and drying laundry
Food preparation and cooking
Cleaning

Even breathing generates airborne moisture in a home. Unless this moisture is controlled, it can lead to the growth of household mould, damaged finishes and compromised walls and floors, and those nasty, lingering odors in your home.

The Importance of Exhaust Fans

The first line of defense against a great deal of that excess moisture should be the regular use of your home’s kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans. Properly installed exhaust fans remove a lot of air-borne moisture especially the kind generated by showering or cooking. Much of the moisture you don’t even really notice, but mould does and thrives on it very quickly.

There is little point in running these fans if they are not working properly though Existing kitchen/bathroom exhaust fans must be properly connected and in good working order to ensure the efficient removal of moist air from the inside to the outside. That means that once in a while, inspect your exterior exhaust vents to make sure that they are in proper working order and that there are no air leaks around the vent that could easily lead to moisture seeping back into the walls and causing even more damage.

The other problem in some homes is that existing exhaust fans are just too small and underpowered to cope with their workload. How can you tell? If you are running your fans when showering, bathing and cooking and still see condensation then it may be time to shop for a newer, bigger model.

If you decide that is indeed the way to go then there are some important things to consider as you shop:

Air moving capacity (measured in cubic feet per minute)
Noise generated while operating (measured in sones – the lower the better)
Energy efficiency of the fan itself and any light fixture included in the fan.

The basic design of fans can vary – fans that use a propeller-type fan blade generally don’t perform quite as well as blower fans that utilize a ‘squirrel cage’ type of blade assembly.

Consider exhaust duct styles. Smooth-walled, rigid ducting works best, offering the least resistance to the air moved by the fan. Flexible ducting types are less effective because they are collapse-prone, choking off the fan. Their irregular surfaces can inhibit smooth air flow.

If, once you have that new exhaust fan you aren’t comfortable cutting holes in walls and ceilings and running ductwork yourself hire a contractor rather than risk leaving the job improperly done.

Simple Safe Cooking Tips to Avoid Christmas House Fires

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The big Christmas holiday is almost here so there is more than a chance you’ll be spending a lot more time in the kitchen over the next few days (weeks?) than you usually do. However, if you are not careful your holiday feast could become a recipe for disaster.

A number of insurance company studies show that Christmas is the single day of the year when the most home fires are reported and cooking is the second leading cause of home fire deaths in North America as a whole. And that may be because in one of those studies 83% of those polled admitted to engaging in dangerous cooking practices, such as watching TV or disabling their smoke alarm.

So with all of this in mind, and in the interest of the season of cheer remaining that way, here are our top tips for holiday cooking safety:

Work Ahead

We know that everything is go, go, go and you really are busy but avoid multi-tasking in the kitchen as much as possible. One way you can do that is to prepare some of the side dishes ahead of time or to opt for quick microwaveable versions of certain vegetable dishes (steamed veggies in the microwave are faster, easier and actually contain more nutrients too.)

Do One Thing at a Time

In one of the studies we referred to, this one conducted by Nationwide Insurance, revealed that more than half of the respondents admitting to leaving the kitchen with holiday food on the stove or in the oven to watch television, greet guests, talk on the phone, or to finalize other preparations elsewhere in the house. The problem is that not only is this behavior likely to result in some overcooked food but it’s a serious fire hazard as well. We know being stuck in the kitchen all morning long sucks so if at all possible create a rota and make sure that not just one person is responsible for doing it all.

Clear the Clutter

If half of your workspace is being taken up by pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, hand towels and other ‘kitchen essentials’ that are also flammable objects, or you have too many appliances plugged in at once your kitchen is already a disaster waiting to happen. Limit how many appliances you use at once and keep those flammable cloths away from the stove at all times when not in active use.

Don’t Disable the Smoke Alarm

Another study, a Liberty Mutual Insurance survey, found that over 60% of the people polled disabled their smoke alarms while cooking over the holidays so that they were not interrupted by false alarms if the kitchen got too hot. And if that fact isn’t alarming enough, consider this: Almost two-thirds of house-fire deaths are the result of homes without working smoke alarms.

Yes, it is annoying when the smoke alarm starts screeching simply because you are cooking a lot of food at once and things are getting steamy but resist the urge to remove those batteries. Open a window or keep the ventilator fans running and that is less likely to happen and even if it does the few minutes it will take for the noise to stop if it really is a false alarm are a very small price to pay for your home – and your family’s – Christmas safety.

Avoiding Winter Home Woes: When is Roof Snow Removal a Must?

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At some point this winter the chances are good – very good – that we are going to have at least one or two big snowfalls in our area. And obviously, a lot of that white stuff is going to settle itself right on top of your home’s roof. But if there has been a big snowfall how do you know when it’s OK to leave that snow to melt on its own and when the load is just getting to be too much for your roof to handle?

When is Roof Snow Removal Necessary?

The big factor in determining what amounts to an excessive snow load on your roof isn’t the depth of the snow, it’s the weight. We all know that there are two basic types of snow. That dry, fluffy stuff that whips in the wind and the nastier wet stuff that simply plops to the ground with something of a thud.

Obviously, there is a weight difference between accumulations of the two types of snow and it’s a pretty big one. In fact, just 15 cm (6 in) of wet snow weighs the same as a whopping 96cm (38 in) of the dry stuff! So as you can see, depth really doesn’t mean a thing.

Determining what kind of snow is falling,/has fallen is basically a matter of eyeballing it.
Pick up a shovel of fallen snow from the ground and its usually pretty easy to figure out. Weather forecasts can help as well, of course, and the more detailed ones often do actually warn when snow loads might be getting too much.

Signs of a Problem: What to Watch For

An early sign that accumulated snow on the roof is becoming excessive is when doors on interior walls begin to stick. This is a signal that there’s enough weight on the center structure of the house to have begun distorting the door frame. And this damage can begin within hours, not days.

When checking doors you can ignore doors on exterior walls but make sure to check the interior doors leading to second-floor bedrooms, closets, and attics in the center of your home. Also, have a close look at the drywall or plaster around the frames of these doors for visible cracks.

Technically, in Ontario, all building codes require that new roofs meet very stringent snow load guidelines so those with a newer roof probably have little to worry about however much it snows. Homes that are most susceptible to roof cave-ins are those that have older roofs (10+ years) and those that underwent un-permitted renovations, and not just roof related ones either. The improper removal of interior load-bearing walls – from a DIY ‘knock through’ for example – is often responsible for catastrophic roof collapses even if the roof itself is pretty new.

I Think the Snow Load Is Excessive, Now What?

The simple fact is that most home roofs aren’t readily accessible, making the job dangerous for do-it-yourselfers. People really do die every year trying to clear snow off their roof. After all, let’s face it; household ladder + slightly anxious homeowner + snow + ice + height = probable disaster. Unless you have a low, one story home, it’s just not worth the risk. Call a pro.

If you do have a smaller, one-story home, one where the roof is just off the ground, the DIY route may be safe, but only provided you work entirely from the ground and have the right tools.

Those long-handled snow rakes work pretty well on snow, and at around $50 they are relatively affordable. When shopping for one though look for an option with a nice sturdy telescoping handle and, if possible, built-in rollers, which keep the sharp blade safely above the shingles.

And finally, the goal is not to clear your roof completely, like you might the driveway. A bit of snow isn’t going to do your roof any harm, you only need to remove the excess weight that is threatening to damage it. Even if you call in the pros that’s all they’ll do. Just get rid of the weight and leave the rest to melt away. One word of advice, though, do check your gutters, to make sure that they are clean and in the right place to handle the excess water.

More than Clean Up – What Restoration 1 Kitchener’s Water Restoration Service Really Offers

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Water damage often affects far more than just the structure of a home, all too often it involves many of your belongings as well. And it is the damage to these that many people we are called by find most distressing. But what they discover – and many don’t actually realise about us – is that helping save as many of them as possible is actually a standard part of Restoration 1’s water damage restoration service. Here’s a brief overview of just what we commit to do for all of our customers.

General Content Restoration

The worst happened. You had a flood. Your sofa is soaked. The bottom and sides of your china cabinet is soaked. Your cat’s bed floated away a while ago. And you don’t even want to think about the state your once lovely carpet is going to be left in once the bulk of the water has been removed. It’s not a situation you ever imagined you’d be in and you really don’t know where to start.

The fact is that we’ll do all the hard work. And yes we know, many of your possessions have some serious sentimental value and while your insurance may replace some of them things just won’t be the same. That is why we maintain a ‘restore vs. replace’ mentality and employ a number of different methods to get the job done and ensure as far as possible that everything is not only dry but clean – and where appropriate sanitized – as well.

The Delicate Stuff

OK, so that’s all well and good for the big stuff, the furniture, the carpets etc, but what about all the little things? The family photos, your baseball card collection, your kids smartphone that they left on the floor. Can we help there? We will certainly try. Many issues – especially document restoration and electronics servicing – can be dealt with by our trained in house techs and we will also help find someone who can help if we can’t.
In some cases the most efficient way to get things cleaned up within the home is to move everything out. if that’s the case then we’ll help with that process too.

The Paperwork

All of the insurance paperwork that comes along with a water damage incident can seem pretty darn overwhelming and you are already hardly feeling at the top of your game after all that has gone on. Doing what we do we have had to develop a strong knowledge of just how all that paperwork should be filled out and just what the insurance adjusters need to know. We’ll help you with all of it and even intervene on your behalf when and if needed.

In the end our job at Restoration 1 Kitchener is a lot more than just cleaning up the mess left behind after a flood or fire. It’s about bringing people peace of mind when they most need it and although we can’t change what happened we can make it as bearable as possible!

Winter Home Maintenance Tips: What Causes Frozen Pipes to Burst?

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In the past we have discussed, at length, the steps you should take to prevent the pipes in your home bursting in the winter. However, if you have been lucky enough that you have never had to deal with such a situation then you may be a little confused as to exactly what a burst pipe really is and why it occurs:

How Do Pipes Burst in the First Place?

The actual reason why a pipe bursts is actually often misunderstood. Contrary to popularly held belief, pipes do not usually burst at the point where an ice blockage is located and it is not the expansion of ice against the wall of a pipe that leads to a break. Instead it is because after a complete ice blockage in a pipe occurs, the continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase ‘downstream’, in the area between the blockage and a closed faucet at the end. This increase is what causes the pipe to burst. In fact when a pipe bursts it is most often at a point where no ice has formed at all. ‘Upstream’ from the ice blockage water can still always flow back towards its source, so there is no pressure build-up to cause a break. Water has to freeze for ice blockages to occur. This means that pipes that are really well insulated along their entire length are usually pretty safe from freezing during the average winter cold snap.

What Makes a Pipe More Likely to Freeze?

Obviously the simple fact that a home is located in a colder clime is already something of a disadvantage but it is usually the ‘lesser seen’ pipes – the ones in attics, crawl spaces and the piping for outside faucets that are the real problems. They tend to be easy to overlook when it comes to insulation and are far more likely to be exposed to extreme cold thanks to structural cracks etc.

Which Pipes are Susceptible to Freezing?

Generally, homes and structures in northern climates are built with the water pipes located inside the building insulation, which protects the pipes from subfreezing weather. However, extremely cold weather and holes in the building that allow a flow of cold air to come into contact with pipes can lead to freezing and bursting. One big culprit of ‘air leakage that people often overlook? Holes drilled in outside walls where television, cable, or phone lines enter, which can allow more cold air than you might imagine to reach pipes.

The size of pipes and what they are made from – copper, steel or PVC are actually pretty minor factors, busting another myth (as in that PVC piping is less likely to freeze than metal)

How Cold Does it Have to Get for Pipes to Freeze?

So when should you really start to be concerned about the possibility of a pipe freeze, along with the potential water damage and general chaos a broken pipe can lead to?
According to the North American Building Research Council, who commissioned an extensive study on the issue, “temperature alert threshold” is 6.5 degrees C/20 degrees F.

This does not mean that pipes are safe if the temperature does not drop quite that low. The study showed that a week of 10-12 degree C days had a cumulative effect and freezing might still occur. It should also be noted that wind chills can have an effect as well.

Mould and Rental Properties – What Should Tenants Do?

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As mould testing and remediation experts we receive calls all the time from people who are concerned about mould in their home. Some of these people are renters and, as they know, when you rent a property that may have a mould problem you are often facing a unique set of issues that a homeowner does not have to deal with.

Obviously for the renter their biggest concern is the affect that mould may have on their health and that of their family, even including their pets. and that is perfectly understandable, as no one wants to live in a place that is affected by potentially damaging and harmful mould.

The best course of action is obviously to call a company like Restoration 1 Kitchener and begin the process of proper testing and remediation to get a mould problem solved as quickly and completely as possible. But, who should pay for these services? As the tenant, the person actually living in the property every day and dealing with mould issues the renter wants to hire a reputable, professional company so that their concerns and needs are addressed. However, they don’t own the property and it is not their responsibility to pay for structural defects or other water related problems outside their control. So, any renter is quite reasonably going to be reluctant to pay for a mould inspection for property they don’t own.

Being honest and realistic landlords will differ drastically in how they respond to their tenant’s concerns about mould. Some are truly concerned about their tenants health and the overall condition of their property and will not balk at hiring the best professionals to investigate the property, especially as in many cases their homeowner’s or rental property insurance will cover many of the costs.

Others though, often those with less experience of maintaining property in general, tend to be rather scared and confused and don’t know how to react. Some even don’t believe that mould is a real problem and they don’t take it seriously, dismissing the issue with offhand suggestions about bleaching and cleaning (which don’t work very well at all of course)

After experience in working with both tenants and landlords, we therefore have the following advice for renters:

If you think your residence has a mould problem, begin by discussing the concern with your landlord. How they react will dictate your next step. If they are concerned and want to do the right thing, just let them. However do keep a couple of things in mind; make sure the company the landlord hires is certified or licensed and has a good reputation and also inform the landlord that you would like copies of all reports issued.

If your landlord is anything but cooperative the temptation, especially if the problem seems like a big one, might be to throw up your hands and pay for the mould testing yourself and then claim the expense back later against future rent. And this is an option but if the the landlord was less than helpful in the first place don’t be surprised if that leads to a battle.

It’s our experience that very few landlords really want to upset their tenants or put them – or indeed their investment in property – at risk by ignoring or downplaying a mould issue. It’s simply that they don’t understand it, or have little time to deal with the business of finding a good company or making the right appointment arrangements. By doing this ‘legwork’ for them – finding the right firm, getting an idea of what testing involves – you will probably really be helping. So approach that in initial conversation calmly, without accusations and offer to help find a solution and hopefully everything will go well for all parties involved!

Tips to Prevent Holiday Fires and Enjoy a Safer Christmas Season

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If you haven’t put your Christmas decorations up already no doubt you are thinking about it. And we’re sure they’ll look absolutely fantastic. But you do need to take care, both when choosing and putting up your Christmas decor – including your Christmas tree – and when ‘using’ them as the holiday season progresses. As fire damage restoration is one of the things we are called upon to do here at Restoration 1 Kitchener we know all too well that Christmas decorations – primarily trees and lights – can unfortunately lead to disaster. That’s why we wanted to alert you, our neighbours and customers, to some of the dangers of Christmas decorating and offer a little advice about what you can do to prevent home fires and more.

Christmas Fire Prevention 101: Your Christmas Tree 

Do you make sure that your live Christmas tree is well watered? Or does it tend to become rather dry and brittle even before Santa sets off on his sleigh? No matter though, as long as it manages to look okay until the New Year right? Not quite. A well watered tree is a must, but not just for aesthetic purposes. A moist tree can resist the dangers posed electrical shorts in Christmas lights or a stray spark from a candle flame. A dry tree? Not so much, as the rather scary video from the National Institute of Standards and Technology below demonstrates:

 

 

So how can you enjoy the beauty of a real Christmas tree – and that lovely scent – without putting your home, and your family, at a risk of a fire, other than making sure you keep things damp? Here are some basic tips:

When choosing a tree opt for one with plenty of fresh green needles that are not falling off everywhere. The best way to ensure you get a really ‘fresh’ tree is to go cut your own of course and you can actually make a rather nice family bonding event from such a trip.

  • Don’t put your live Christmas tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
  • Place trees away from heat sources, including fireplaces or heat vents. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
  • Keep the live tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Use only nonflammable decorations.
  • Don’t link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it’s safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
  • Avoid using lit candles; consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles
  • Ensure that Christmas trees and other holiday decorations don’t block an exit way.

Christmas Fire Prevention 101: Your Christmas Lights 

All too often seasonal fires are caused by faulty electrical products, primarily Christmas lights. In order to make sure you are ‘lighting up’ safely this season keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always buy seasonal electrical products – lights, Christmas animatronics etc – that display a label indicating it has undergone independent testing by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
  • ™Only make purchases from trusted retailers to avoid the risk of purchasing counterfeit otr badly made products.
  • ™Be sure to buy decorations according to your intended use; outdoors or indoors.
    ™Send warranty and product registration forms to manufacturers in order to be notified
    promptly in the event of a product recall.
  • This year opt for LED lights over the traditional ones, as:
  • LED lights last up to 20 times longer than traditional incandescent lights.
  • ™LEDs generate less heat—which translates into greater energy-efficiency and fire safety.
  • ™LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass and are much more durable.