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Prepare for a storm with ServiceMaster Restore clean-up expert Peter Duncanson

If you’re working with a company like ServiceMaster Restore, lean on them for their advice and guidance.
If you’re working with a company like ServiceMaster Restore, lean on them for their advice and guidance.
ServiceMaster Restore, used with permission

They say the best way to insure that a hurricane will not come your way is to be prepared for it. As the hurricane shutters sit gathering dust in the garage, the West Palm Beach HOA Examiner had the chance to interview Peter Duncanson, ServiceMaster Restore’s Director of Disaster Restoration Training, about the upcoming hurricane season and what to do to best prepare for a storm.

What would you recommend to make your home more secure for hurricane season?

  • Ensure that your subpump is working/in order.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts and make sure they are dispersing water away from the house’s foundation.
  • Check your foundation to see if there are any leaks. Applying a sealant or a coating to these areas will help reduce the amount of water that enters the home.
  • If a hurricane is headed your way, cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.
  • Note: Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant and less likely to break and fly onto your roof or into your windows.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage, it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Install an emergency generator in case there is a power outage after a storm.

If you have water leaks during a storm, what can you do to minimize damage?

  • If you experience a water damage emergency, time is of the essence (mold and bacteria can form and spread quickly, which can be dangerous to your health). Don't wait to call professionals like ServiceMaster Restore for help.
  • Elevate things on raised surfaces (especially electronics, important documents and furniture); do not use electrical appliances while they are on a wet carpet.
  • Remove as much water as possible using a wet/dry vacuum.
  • Remove wet area rugs or other floor coverings.
  • Wipe furniture dry and prop up cushions to help them dry.
  • Discard non-valuable wet items.
  • Use fans or dehumidifiers if the outside temperature is above 60 degrees.

What are the most common misconceptions about your business?

  • Some losses are too small to call a professional. This is not true, working with a professional is the only way you can assess how extreme the damage is and how best to salvage the situation. When water losses occur a professional should be called to mitigate the damages and lessen the risk of mold growth.
  • All losses are excessive. Even a small water loss can cause extensive damage and cost.
  • That a set number of days can be specified to dry a loss. All water related damages dry at different rates based on exposure and atmospheric conditions. Daily monitoring and professional judgment is the only way to accurately dry a loss in a timely manner.

What is the best way to deal with insurance companies after a storm?

  • If you’re working with a company like ServiceMaster Restore, lean on them for their advice and guidance. ServiceMaster Restore works with insurance companies all the time and helps many of our customers with insurance claims. Often times we become the point people for claims adjusters.
  • Make a list of your possessions and take pictures of everything inside and outside of your home. Keep electronic copies of important insurance policies and financial documents so you have a record in case the original is destroyed.
  • Read the fine print. Many policies state that you have an obligation to prevent damage from getting worse (i.e. making things unsalvageable or being a total loss).

How long has ServiceMaster been in business?

  • ServiceMaster has been serving customers for more than 70 years.

What is the worst natural disaster that you have been involved in?

  • Every event is unique and we learn how to better serve our customers and how to be more efficient in our damage mitigation and recovery.
  • Hurricane Sandy was one of the most unique disasters because of where it hit and the impact it had on a major metropolitan area. We learned more about logistics from this loss.

When should you start to prepare for hurricane season?

  • The best time to start preparing for hurricane season is in the spring. In fact, there’s a week in May devoted to Hurricane Preparedness (May 25-May31), which is a great time to start. One word of caution: this year, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predicted a “quiet” hurricane season. Despite this prediction, homeowners and residents should remain diligent when it comes to hurricane preparedness, as even just one storm can cause a significant amount of damage.

Be sure to subscribe to this column, and stay abreast of issues involving you, the homeowners of Palm Beach County, and join in on the discussion on twitter. If you've had any issues with your HOA that you'd like me to try and delve into, and possibly write about later, please let me know. While you’re at it, please read my articles about local getaways,motorsports, elections, and restaurants.

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