Recent Posts

Water Damage Help Day or Night

12/9/2020 (Permalink)

Exterior of a house at night with a single window lit When you have a water emergency, SERVPRO of North Central Austin is here to clean it up. (Photo by Yan Berthemy)

Water emergencies happen at any time and when they do, immediate action is crucial. That’s why SERVPRO of North Central Austin is on-call 24 hours a day.

We’re here for all kinds of restoration projects, but we know that with water events, especially, a delay of just a few hours can greatly increase the severity of the water damage.

Home emergencies can leave you feeling confused, stressed, and vulnerable. Most of us, thankfully, don’t get a lot of experience with crises like flooding. An expert restoration team like SERVPRO of North Central Austin has the water damage training and experience to help you through this tough time. 

What to Expect

When you first call us, we’ll ask a lot of questions about your water damage emergency. This helps us determine what equipment and resources to bring, and how many trained SERVPRO Professionals may be needed.

Questions include

  • Your insurance information (if applicable)
  • When the flooding or water damage occurred
  • What caused the water damage (if known)
  • If there is electricity available onsite

If you’ve experienced flooding, leaking, sewer backups, or any other kind of water damage, call SERVPRO of North Central Austin. We’ll make it “Like it never even happened.”

A Guide to Our Certifications

12/7/2020 (Permalink)

Young adults sitting in a classroom For SERVPRO technicians, learning never stops (Photo by Sam Balye)

We always want to work with the best, but when you’re choosing a contractor to partner with your business, you know that the company you choose will be reflect on you. 

At SERVPRO of North Central Austin, we understand that. We know how important it is to partner with capable and reliable companies because as an independently owned and operated franchise, we’re right there with you. That’s why we make sure our technicians receive continuing education throughout their employment—not just at hiring—and we make sure we qualify for all the certification programs that are important in the restoration industry.

So that you can see at a glance that we’re serious about quality, here’s a quick guide to our certifications:

IICRC

  • ASD—Applied Structural Drying Technician: Teaches the process and techniques for drying water-damaged structures and contents.
  • CDS—Commercial Drying Specialist: Focuses on repairing water-damage in a commercial or industrial environment
  • FSRT—Fire & Smoke Damage Restoration Technician: Teaches the technical procedures for dealing with fire and smoke damage
  • WRT—Water Damage Restoration Technician: Covers water damage, sewer backups, and mold contamination

OSHA
10-hour General and/or Construction Industry Training Program: Course teaches general safety and health practices that everyone in the construction industry needs to know.

EPA
RRRP - Lead-Based Paint Activities and Renovation: Covers how to inspect the risk of lead-based paint and how to safely deal with it.

In addition to all these certifications, SERVPRO provides its employees at every level with continuing education so that we can be the most effective restoration team around.

You can trust our training. No matter what the disaster, SERVPRO of North Central Austin will make your business "Like it never even happened."

Fire Drill Tips for Management

11/27/2020 (Permalink)

White wall with exit sign over door. Are your office's fire drills as effective as they need to be? (Photo by Michael Jasmund)

Most businesses are required by OSHA and fire department codes to conduct regular fire safety drills. And most employees have grown to hate these interruptions on a personal level. A team that would never mind gathering in the parking lot to discuss the latest bingeable series will despise the opportunity as soon as it’s mandated by a ringing alarm.

Maybe it’s because we all practiced them in school or maybe it’s because of the inferred condescension, but employees really hate fire drills. They’ve developed a reputation as a sort of juvenile exercises. Regardless, these are not just a pointless requirement but are genuinely important to the safety of your office.

We spoke to Peter Butler, a General Manager for a local Austin customer contact center, to find out how he helps keep fire drills effective.

  1. Take them seriously. “Your team won’t take it seriously if you don’t,” Peter told us, “Don’t warn your employees that a drill is coming, and don’t blow it off when it happens.”

  2. Prepare your team ahead of time. While Peter advises against giving your team advance notice of the drill, he does recommend occasionally reviewing the fire safety plan with your team.

    “You can do it in a team meeting. Make a little field trip out of it and walk everyone through the process. Physically walking everyone to the meeting spot is more memorable than pointing to a map.”

  3. Create a script for customer-facing roles. Many of the employees at the contact center Peter works for spend their days on the phone with customers. He provides his teams with a couple bullet points to explain that 1) due to a local emergency the call must be disconnected and 2) the customer should call back at their convenience for continued assistance.

    “Usually the customers can hear the fire alarm going off in the background, so they generally seem to understand the situation.”

The most important part of a fire drill is remembering why you’re doing it and whom you’re doing it for. You’re not just exiting a building to check off a box, but to ensure the safety of the people you’re responsible for. Keep that in mind and make each fire drill matter.

Stay Safe This Thanksgiving and Every Day

11/23/2020 (Permalink)

Man and woman cooking Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving this week (Photo by Becca Tapert).

This week, families around the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving with a delicious feast, but we have to remember that if we don’t practice safe cooking habits, our happy holiday could quickly become hazardous in the blink of an eye.

According to the NFPA, cooking is the main cause of home fires and injuries, with the Thanksgiving holiday being the peak day for cooking-related fire emergencies. Review the following safety tips to help ensure you can enjoy a safe holiday. 

  • Never leave cooking food unattended. Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling, or broiling food. This is a great excuse to recruit a family member to help in the kitchen. If you need to leave the room for any reason, have someone with you to take over.
  • Check food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while kitchen equipment is in use. Use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on. 
  • Keep small children away from the cooking area. Enforce a “kid-free zone” and make them stay at least three feet away from the stove and oven. If you want to get your kids involved in cooking, focus their attention with meal prep at the dining table.
  • Keep anything flammable away from the stove, oven, or other appliances in the kitchen that generates heat. 
  • Don’t wear loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking. 
  • Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease build-up. 
  • Purchase a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen year round. Contact the local fire department for training on the proper use of fire extinguishers if you are unsure. 
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all kitchen appliances like stoves, ovens, and toasters are turned off. 
  • Install a smoke alarm near the kitchen, on each level of the home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside of bedrooms. Use the test button to check it is working properly every month. Replace the batteries at least once a year. 

Your local SERVPRO® franchise professionals wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving and holiday season. 

How to Help Home Fire Survivors

11/18/2020 (Permalink)

Fire department caution tape with blurry firetrucks in the background How can you help when someone in your community loses everything to a fire? (Photo by Malachi Brooks)

As restoration professionals, we at SERVPRO of North Central Austin frequently work with homeowners going through the worst disasters of their lives. We’re proud to be able to help and to fix what’s been damaged. We know the joy of making homes “Like it never even happened.” But what do you do when someone’s home is actually destroyed by fire?

How can we as a community step up when a family loses everything in a fire? If you know the family, the simplest way to help is to give your neighbors the items that survivors of house fires need the most:

  1. Immediate necessities. Imagine walking into a hotel room with no bags. What do you change into after your shower? How do you brush your teeth? Gently used clothes from your own closet are generally considered appropriate since they’re immediately available and don’t require the time and effort of wardrobe shopping. But on your way to deliver them, stop by Walmart or Target and grab some new socks and underwear.
  2. Short-term basics. Now imagine moving into a new apartment with no boxes—no towels to put in the linen closet, no dishes to put in the cabinet. As you’re preparing to help a neighbor in need, mentally walk through your day and think about all the things you use daily. 

    According to Danielle Fox of ElleDecor.com actual possessions are more useful than cash or gift cards because "if you have insurance policy you ultimately get the cash, but you need time and work and help.”

  3. Long-term help. Now if you really know the family, work with them to provide assistance as they go through the process of recovery. Are you good with organizing? Maybe you can help them work with the insurance companies? Do you know their kids? Suggest a playdate while the parents work their to-do lists? Create a meal calendar for their friends or just take them out and let them talk.

If you don’t know the family affected by fire damage (or if it’s a community-wide disaster you’ve seen on the news) the best way to help is to donate money. You can give through gofundme.com or local charities, but the Red Cross is a consistently reliable organization with years of experience helping in exactly this sort of situation.

No one can know exactly what it's like to survive a house fire, but we know enough to know that we're needed and that's where we need to start. 

If you've experienced fire damage and would like to find out what our restoration professionals can do for you, call SERVPRO of North Central Austin at 512-579-0189.

What's an ERP?

11/12/2020 (Permalink)

shallow focus picture of raindrops on window with brick buildings in the background Facility managers must always be prepared for unknown. A SERVPRO ERP can help. (Photo by Max Sandelin)

Are you familiar with the SERVPRO Emergency READY Profile (ERP)? This tool can make one very important part of your facility management responsibilities easier.

Every facility manager knows they should have a detailed disaster plan, but coming up with one from scratch can be a time-consuming task. It’s tempting to put this job to the side and deal with the many metaphorical fires you have to deal with every day than prepare for a real, but hypothetical fire in the future.

That’s what’s great about the ERP. One of SERVPRO of North Central Austin’s representatives can come to you and walk you through creating a reference document that details the important building and contact information for your property. 

The ERP can be used as a standalone document or as a supplement to any existing preparedness plan. Thinking through what to do and who to call in advance is the key to timely mitigation, which minimizes the effects of any weather-related disaster, water, or fire damage to your business.

No matter where you live, it is important to be informed and prepared for any disaster that may occur. Though Mother Nature's is often unpredictable, the ERP is one thing we can do to help you take control before disaster strikes.

Contact SERVPRO of North Central Austin to establish an Emergency READY Profile (ERP) for your property. SERVPRO's ERP serves as a quick reference document, In any emergency, make sure you have experienced professionals on the line. No matter how big or small, SERVPRO of North Central Austin will be ready to help make your property damage "Like it never even happened."

New Flood Tracking Tool from USGS

11/9/2020 (Permalink)

Screen shot of the National Water Dashboard showing a map of Austin with colored symbols scattered around The USGS released its new mobile flood-tracking tool last month.

There’s been a lot of news coming out of the federal government lately, but one little press release snuck out at the end of October without garnering a lot of attention. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a mobile flooding dashboard.

This new tool, located at https://dashboard.waterdata.usgs.gov/, allows users to view a map of their area with flood and weather information layered on top. You can view the flood rate detected at USGS stations, the weather conditions around the United States, or a map of all the United States’ hydrological features. When combined, this tool can give you a potentially invaluable way to prepare for (or even avoid) flooding scenarios.

Some floods you can see coming. When a hurricane comes your way, you know what to prepare for. But for most Americans, the weather-related floods that damage the most are unexpected—that river that never flooded before, that watershed you didn’t realize you were living in. If it proves effective, the National Water Dashboard could give Americans (in the lower 48 at this time) a view of where flooding danger could come from.

The USGS takes great pains to let you know that the National Water Dashboard is experimental —in fact, the word “EXPERIMENTAL” is plastered on the screen in red letters—but why not put the tool to the test. Play around with it and see what you learn about the hydrology or weather in the Austin area. 

If you do experience water damage, from a natural flood or a home accident, SERVPRO of North Central Austin is here to help. Call us to find out how we can make your home “Like it never even happened.”

Fire Extinguisher Readiness

11/6/2020 (Permalink)

Fire extinguisher on teal wall Do you know how to use your fire extinguisher? (Photo by Piotr Chrobot)

It’s November—time for Thanksgiving dinners and cozy fires in the hearth. It’s also a great time to review your fire extinguisher knowledge. 

  1. Do you have a fire extinguisher? Do you know where it is?
  2. Do you know when your fire extinguisher expires? “You can tell the difference between the two by the head; a rechargeable extinguisher has a metalhead with a gauge that reads Charge/Recharge, and a disposable extinguisher has a plastic head with a gauge that reads Full/Empty.” (Keystonefire.com
  3. Do you know how to use your fire extinguisher? The time to read the instructions is not when you reach for it in an emergency.

You should always familiarize yourself with the instructions for your specific extinguisher, but there are four basic steps to follow with a standard foam model. You can remember them with the acronym PASS:

  • P—Pull the pin on the fire extinguisher. 
  • A—Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire. Keep a safe distance away. 
  • S—Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing materials.
  • S—Sweep the nozzle from side to side.

Continue directing the foam at the base of the fire until it is completely extinguished.

If you have experienced fire damage, call SERVPRO of North Central Austin to find out how we can help you make it “Like it never even happened.”

Can I Clean Smoke Damage Myself?

10/28/2020 (Permalink)

A singed magazine with a picture of a horse on the page laying on a charred wood floor. Smoke damage is far more complicated than you probably imagine.

When we talk about fire damage to our homes or offices, we usually think about about flames eating up our most beloved objects. Combustion is dangerous and is easily the scariest part of a fire, but when rebuilding after a disaster, the most complicated restoration and cleanup comes from the damage done by smoke and soot.

Smoke is the incomplete combustion of material in a fire. It’s actually made of tiny pieces of the burning thing floating around in the air. This means the chemicals that make up the burning objects are also being carried around your building, making it toxic to people and possessions.

Smoke damage can occur in buildings that aren’t even directly affected by fire. Homes or offices near a burning building or a wildfire, can be contaminated by smoke and soot. If your building was never even touched by the fire, it’s tempting to think of smoke cleanup as a simple DIY, but these are complicated and technical restoration jobs, so take the following elements into consideration before you try to clean the problem area yourself: 

  • What type of smoke are you working with. There are several different types of smoke: wet smoke, dry smoke, plastic or rubber smoke, protein smoke, furnace soot, and candle smoke. Has organic material been burned? What about plastics? Different materials will produce different types of smoke with different effects
  • What are you trying to clean? How valuable is it to you? Electronics are uniquely vulnerable to smoke damage—in addition to causing corrosion, smoke can also be electrically conductive, causing short circuits. Because of this, electronics should always be cleaned and refurbished by technical professionals

  • What sort of metal fixtures are in the room that experienced damage? Brass and copper can be etched by smoke within 24 hours of depositing.

Because of the complex nature of smoke, cleaning up after a fire is not a DIY project. Fortunately, the IICRC certified technicians at SERVPRO of North Central Austin have the experience and training to handle this type of restoration and make it “Like it never even happened.” Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

What’s a Flash Flood Warning?

9/18/2020 (Permalink)

A couple walking under an umbrella next to a river in the rain Flash flood warnings are nothing to ignore.

When rain begins falling in Austin, we’re all prepared for two things—bad drivers and the inevitable flash flood warning on our phones. In an area of the state that is so prone to drought, we know that when it rains, it pours. Some of us have gotten so used to these alerts that we really don’t even notice them any more. 

So what is a flash flood warning anyway? When I was growing up, I always imagined a wall of water bearing down on our neighborhood when I heard the term “flash flood.” The reality is less dramatic, but more insidious

According to the National Weather Service, flash floods are those that begin within six hours of heavy rainfall. The Texas Hill Country has been nicknamed “Flash Flood Alley.”

"Leading the United States in the number of flash and river flooding-related deaths annually (an ominous honor), Texas, specifically the Hill Country, is the most flash flood-prone region found in North America." (Sault, Spring. “Why the Hill Country is A.K.A. ‘Flash Flood Alley,’” Texas Hill Country, June 3, 2016)

To determine when a flash flood warning should be issued, the City of Austin has uses the Flood Early Warning System—a network of 130 rain and creek gauges that are constantly monitored. (You can read about the history of this system in a great Government Technology article.)

We love living in the Texas Hill Country and a little flooding now and then isn’t going to scare us away from the best city in the country, but we know that makes sense to pay attention to those inevitable flash flood warnings when they come through. (Also, drive safely when it rains. No one wants to get stuck on the side of MoPac in a  fender bender on their way to work.)

If you’ve experienced any water damage due to a recent storm, give SERVPRO of North Central Austin a call and we’ll come out to make it “Like it never even happened.”