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Blog 4: Clean up Procedures Related to COVID-19

6/4/2020 (Permalink)

A SERVPRO employee wearing PPE, Tyvec suit, half face respirator, and gloves sanitizes a warehouse. SERVPRO of St. Augustine follows CDC guidelines to disinfect your commercial facility.

Clean up Procedures

These procedures focus on the critical role cleaning plays in preventing the transmission of viruses, such as Coronavirus. Cleanup procedures may vary depending on the environment, but the general guideline includes [1] disinfectant selection, [2] cleaning and sanitizing of porous and non-porous surfaces, [3] disinfecting of non-porous surfaces, [4] cleaning and disinfecting of equipment, tools, and/or supplies used for cleanup process, [5] post clean up evaluation, and [6] disposal of waste.

1. Disinfectant Selection

The CDC recommends usage of a disinfectant with the EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claim. As of the date of this publication, there are no disinfectants that have been tested specifically for use against novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the Cause of COVID-19. However, disinfectant manufacturers (including SERVPRO) are working with the EPA to have the emerging viral pathogen claim added to existing products that are designed to kill viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. 

2. Cleaning and Sanitizing of Porous and Non-porous Surfaces

The CDC describes cleaning as removing germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using a detergent and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.xx
Some materials cannot be cleaned with detergent and water without being damaged. For this reason, paper and paper products are not able to be cleaned and/or disinfected. Cleaning methods typically used on water sensitive materials such as vacuuming or dry sponging would not be capable of removing enough soil and residue to be effective.
For soft (porous) surfaces such as carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes, remove visible contamination if present and clean with appropriate cleaners indicated for use on these surfaces.xxi Surfaces that are not water sensitive, can be wet cleaned using a Hot Water Extraction or Deluxe Pre-conditioner and Rinse method. Upholstered items and carpets can be sanitized with certain disinfectants.
Affected laundry/linen items should be minimally handled. If the items can be laundered, SERVPRO of St. Augustine will launder items in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and then dry items completely. Otherwise, SERVPRO will use products with the EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims that are suitable for porous surfaces.xxii

• SERVPRO of St. Augustine will wash items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and if possible, will launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry that has been in contact with an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.xxiv

• SERVPRO of St. Augustine will clean and disinfect hampers or other carts for transporting laundry according to the guidance above for hard or soft surfaces.xxv

Non-porous materials like hard surface floors, cabinets, countertops, doorknobs, and plumbing fixtures can be wet cleaned using a variety of SERVPRO hard surface cleaners (general-purpose cleaners) and cleaning methods. All cleaning procedures will be performed in such a manner as to minimize the splashing, spraying, spattering, falling, aerosolization, cross-contamination, migration, and generation of infectious material. We will avoid cleaning techniques such as pressurized air or water sprays, which may generate droplets or bio-aerosols.

3. Disinfecting of Non-porous Surfaces

The CDC describes disinfecting as killing germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.xxvi
The application method should be selected based on surface type, location of surface, amount of surface area, and manufacturer recommended application method. Disinfectants can be applied using a saturated towel, spray bottle, pump-up sprayer, electric sprayer, ULV Mister, or electrostatic sprayer. SERVPRO of St. Augustine follows label directions for application and maintaining wet contact or dwell time as indicated by the manufacturer, which is critical.
Our technicians will be careful to prevent the over-wetting of electronic items, such as phones and computers to prevent potential damage.

4. Cleaning and Disinfecting of Equipment, Tools, and/or Supplies Used for Cleanup Process

Any equipment, tools, and/or supplies used by SERVPRO of St. Augustine for the cleanup process will be cleaned and disinfected using the cleaning methods described in steps 1 and 2. This is to ensure that potential contamination is not moved to other parts of the structure.

5. Post Clean Up Evaluation

At the time of this publication, there is no available surface test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There is currently no way to measure the effectiveness of the disinfection of SARS-CoV-2.

6. Disposal of Waste

SERVPRO of St. Augustine will follow all applicable federal, state, provincial, and municipal laws regarding the packaging, transportation, and disposal of medical waste. All disposable PPE (i.e. gloves, disposable respirators, coveralls), cleaning towels, and other waste will be bagged and sealed within the work area.

xx https://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/cleaning.htm 

xxi https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html

xxii https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html

xxiv https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html

xxv https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html

Blog 3: Ventilation and Isolation Related to Viral Decontamination

5/30/2020 (Permalink)

Image shows a Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned shield sign displayed on the front window of a business. Call SERVPRO of St. Augustine to find out more about our SERVPRO: Certified Cleaned program and how your business can participate, 904-829-0665.

Isolation and Ventilation

Feasible engineering and work practice controls will be utilized by SERVPRO of St. Augustine during viral decontamination services to minimize employee exposures to airborne infectious disease. Examples of engineering controls include airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIR), exhaust ventilation, air filtration, and air disinfection.xii 

We will close off areas used by the ill persons and wait as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection to minimize the potential for exposure to respiratory droplets.xiii This is normally accomplished by closing doors or erecting critical barriers with 6 mil polyethylene sheeting to facilitate source containment. The work area shall be locked when unattended. A Biohazard sign can be provided by SERVPRO of St. Augustine and be posted at any potential entry point to the work area. 

The CDC recommends opening outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area. If possible, we will wait up to 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfection.xiv Based on existing bioremediation standards, there is value in controlling airflow from affected to unaffected areas. To control the spread of aerosolized contamination, workers can put the contaminated area under HEPA-filtered negative air pressure. This air should be exhausted outside the structure when practical. If possible we will engineer an air change rate of ≥6 mechanical air changes per hour (ACH).xvi

If utilizing negative pressure, pressure differentials will be monitored to ensure that air is always flowing from the surrounding area into the work area. Negative pressure can be monitored either continuously or periodically. Monitoring methods include chemical aerosols (e.g., smoke tube), differential pressure-sensing devices (e.g., manometer), and physical indicators (e.g., flutter strips).xvii If using a manometer, it is recommended to achieve a pressure differential of ≥0.01 inch of water gauge.xviiixix

xii https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/

xiii https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html

xiv https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html

xvi https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5417a1.htm

xvii https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5417a1.htm

xviii https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5417a1.htm

xix https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/environmental/background/air.html

Hazardous Fire Threats and Ways They Can be Prevented

5/28/2020 (Permalink)

There are so many factors that can contribute to a fire in your home or business. According to U.S. News, “Each year, roughly 3,400 people are killed in home fires or burn injuries, making them the third-most-common cause of accidental deaths at home." They have provided five tips that can help to prevent home fires.

Fire Threat: Cooking

Don’t walk away while the stove or cooktop is on. This can lead to a fire very quickly, and grease fires are especially hard to put out.

Fire Threat: Heating

Space heaters need 3 feet of clear space in all directions, keeping it away from draperies, furniture, bedspreads, people, and pets. 

Chimneys should be inspected and cleaned before each heating season begins.

Fire Threat: Smoking

Take it outside. There are usually less combustible items outside than there are inside.

Fire Threat: Electrical

Check all of your electrical cords to ensure that they are in good shape, and  replace any that are worn out. In addition, make sure you are not overloading circuits and that one receptacle has one plug.

Fire Threat: Candles

Consider going to battery-operated candles. They are fake but they are so much safer! It’s easy to forget to put out a candle when leaving a room.

SERVPRO St. Augustine can help if a fire affects your life. We are just a phone call away, 904-829-0665.

After the Fire, SERVPRO of St. Augustine Cleaning Procedures

5/27/2020 (Permalink)

Photo shows a ceiling that has been affected by soot damage in a bedroom. The chandelier is also affected. SERVPRO of St. Augustine is trained in fire restoration techniques. Give us a call today for a free estimate, 904-829-0665.

Fire Damage

After a house fire, you are anxious to re-enter your home. If it is safe, and you choose to do so, do not touch the carpets, draperies, upholstered furniture or clothing. These items are likely covered with soot, which is oily, and stains easily. Soot includes fine black particles, consisting mainly of carbon, as well as acids, chemicals, metals, soils and dust. Its removal should be handled by SERVPRO of St. Augustine, professional fire remediation experts.

A common residential fire results in the burning of a variety of materials, from wood, paper, plastics, foams, fabrics, wool, wood products, synthetics and asbestos containing materials. Fire damage to St. Augustine and St. John's County residential and/or commercial buildings will result in soot contamination. Exposure to soot may occur via the eyes, skin, inhalation and ingestion.

Airborne soot particulates are invisible, thus after a fire you may unknowingly be affected. Soot particles can enter the bloodstream and cause a variety of health effects. Firefighters today are very well-trained in safety, plus they were protective gear, yet they still experience a higher incidence of respiratory problems than the public.

After a fire and after its flames are extinguished, there still exists some safety risks. Soot is just one of the secondary fire residue risks, which cause damages. Not all soot residues are the same. There are different types of soot which are easier to clean than other types. SERVPRO of St. Augustine professionals will clean any of the four different types of soot: dry smoke, wet smoke, protein smoke, and fuel oil smoke residues.

Industry issued safety equipment are essential in reducing possible exposure to dangerous soot conditions, including water related health problems from firefighting efforts. The fire restoration professionals at SERVPRO of St. Augustine use IICRC professional tools and industry approved remediation methods. Our knowledge and expertise are at the heart of a thorough and safe fire restoration. Call us at 904-246-6618 and let us help restore your property back to normal.

Do You Have a Fire Safety Checklist?

5/27/2020 (Permalink)

Text of a fire safety checklist for families. Fire Safety Checklist provided by SafeKids.org, part of Children's National Hospital.

A fire ready checklist can make all the difference in the world when faced with disaster. SERVPRO of St. Augustine would like to advise you to take personal responsibility and prepare long before a fire threatens your home and your family’s safety.

Sit down with your family and review this fire safety checklist:

  • Install and maintain a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector in every bedroom, outside of every sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement, and remember to change the battery at least once a year.
  • Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. This way, when one sounds, they all do.
  • Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old or sooner if they don’t respond properly.
  • Make sure everyone in the home knows the sound of the smoke alarm and understands what to do when they hear it.
  • Know where your fire extinguisher is mounted, and make sure everyone in the family knows how to use it.
  • Designate two escape routes from each bedroom and practice them regularly.
  • Teach everyone the "Stop, Drop, and Roll" technique in case clothing catches on fire.
  • Avoid storing old mattresses in the home or garage.
  • Teach kids that matches, lighters and candles are tools, not toys. If you suspect that a child is playing with fire, check under beds and in closets for telltale signs like burned matches. Matches and lighters should be stored in a secure drawer or cabinet.

While it is crucial to be cautious of fire hazards year-round, taking the time to walk through these steps at least once a year could save you and your family’s life. When a fire happens, there is no more time for planning. Act today, be prepared!

Be Prepared With an Evacuation and Contingency Plan for Your Business

5/27/2020 (Permalink)

Even if an emergency escape plan is not required for all businesses under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it recommends your building have an emergency action plan to protect yourself, your employees, and your business during an emergency situation. OSHA suggests the following steps when developing such a plan.

Organize emergency preparedness procedures and share them with your employees.

Once a plan is developed, post evacuation procedures, including routes and exits, where they are easily accessible to all employees, include ADA accessibility. Ensure that all exits are marked and well lit, wide enough to accommodate the number of evacuating personnel, and unobstructed and clear of debris at all times. 

Conduct office evacuation exercises and drills. Designate a safe spot outside of the facility where employees can regroup, recover and conduct a head count. Once completed evaluate how well the plan worked. You may need to make improvements.

If you'd like assistance developing an emergency plan, SERVPRO of St. Augustine can help. We also offer an Emergency Ready Profile which is a great companion to any emergency or contingency plan.

Mold and Mildew in the Workplace

5/26/2020 (Permalink)

Mold growth shown on a ceiling surrounding an air handler in a closet. Mold is present on this air handler in an office supply closet. Make sure all of your systems are working efficiently to prevent microbial growth.

Mold and Mildew... how to know the difference.

The term “mold” is a colloquial term for a group of filamentous fungi that are common on food or wet materials. This includes the green Penicillium species that produces penicillin, and fungi that spoil our bread, fruit, cheese and crops. Most of these are Ascomycetes that produce a lot of spores.

The majority of the molds that grow on damp building materials are found in the soil and are adapted to grow on a wide variety of materials. Outdoors, molds live in the soil, on plants, and on dead or decaying matter. There are thousands of species of mold and they can be any color. Different mold species are adapted to different moisture conditions ranging from very wet to just damp. Many times, mold can be detected by a musty odor. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) under the right conditions. All of us are exposed to a variety of fungal spores daily in the air we breathe, both outdoors and indoors.

How mold gets into a building:

Mold and fungal spores occur naturally outdoors, where fungi are the earth’s most important recyclers. Indoors, mold needs moisture to grow; it becomes a problem only where there is water damage, elevated and prolonged humidity, or dampness. Common sources of excessive indoor moisture that can lead to mold problems include:

  • flooding from surface waters (i.e., overflowing rivers) or from severe storms;
  • roof leaks from damaged or missing roofing materials, ice dams or blocked gutters;
  • storm-driven rain through window frames, exterior walls or door assemblies;
  • leaking pipes, sewer back-ups or overflows;
  • damp basements or crawl spaces due to a high water table or poorly managed rainwater drainage; and
  • condensation on cold surfaces.

How to prevent mold growth

The key to preventing and stopping indoor mold growth is to control excessive moisture and condensation. Keeping susceptible areas in your business clean and dry is critical. In general, mold will not grow indoors without water, dampness or excessive moisture.

Three main factors contribute to condensation of water on building surfaces:

  • Relative Humidity: Condensation occurs when the air is saturated with water and it cannot hold any more moisture. For example, steam generated from hot water can fill up the air with moisture, which will then condense into drops of water on cooler surfaces. Where possible, localized sources of humidity, should be directly vented to the outdoors. To lower indoor humidity during warm, humid weather, air conditioners and/or dehumidifiers should be used. In chronically damp areas such as basements or crawlspaces, it is often recommended that dehumidifiers be used to maintain humidity levels below 60 percent.
  • Temperature: Warm air holds more moisture than cold air. Condensation occurs when warm humid air comes into contact with a cold surface and the moisture condenses into water. This can often be seen on single-pane windows, where water condenses and then runs down, causing the wood frames and sills to rot and the wall under the windows to blister. Condensation can occur on exterior walls, particularly north-facing walls, if they are not properly insulated. Other chronically cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, should be covered with insulation to help prevent condensation.
  • Poor Ventilation: Indoor humidity can build up if there is not enough ventilation and exchange of indoor and outdoor air. Where there is little or no air movement, such as behind filing cabinets, surfaces can remain cooler than surrounding areas, which can lead to increased condensation and mold growth. It is recommended that the area be ventilated and the occupants use exhaust fans (vented to the outdoors) to remove moisture from high-humidity areas. Furniture like desks and book shelves should be moved slightly away from walls so that air can freely pass behind it. Air should be allowed to circulate between rooms and regularly and ventilated to remove humid air. Fans should be used as needed.

Other things that can be done are to clean and repair gutters regularly, make sure the ground or parking lot slopes down and away from the building’s foundation and keep air conditioner drip pans and drain lines clean. In addition, in air conditioned buildings in hot and humid climates, vinyl wall coverings/ wallpaper on the interior sides of exterior walls should not be used, as these materials can trap moisture, resulting in mold growth underneath.

In the case of floods or leaking pipes, any standing water should be promptly removed and water-damaged materials should either be dried out and cleaned, or removed and replaced. Porous materials that are wet for more than 48 hours are likely to produce mold growth and should be discarded. In instances where the water damage is extensive, it is recommended that professional help, such as a commercial restoration company, be consulted. That is where SERVPRO of St. Augustine can help. Call us if your building has mold concerns.

Removing Odors from Your Office

5/26/2020 (Permalink)

Image shows a technician in full PPE ventilating a room. Our technicians can deep clean, ventilate, and remove odor from any biohazard or hazardous situation. Call SERVPRO of St. Augustine, 904-829-0665.

SERVPRO of St. Augustine knows how to remove odors from your home and your business. Businesses may be totally unaware that their office has an unpleasant odor. It can be unrecognizable to them but immediately apparent to visitors upon entering.

Candles, aerosol cans or cooking baked goods cannot get rid of the smell, only masking it for a short time. To eliminate the odor, the source of the smell must be first found and then removed. Once this is done the affected area can be treated to rid the home of the unpleasant odor.

One of the most offensive odors is cigarette smoke. This odor will penetrate all porous materials; such as carpets, furniture, window treatments, clothing, drywall, cabinets, and doors. Make sure you require your employees to smoke far away from all entrances to your building.

Some businesses allow employees to bring their pets to work, or have employees with service animal(s). No matter how “trained” an animal is there are always accidents, and as animals age these accidents tend to be more common. Urine is a bio-hazard and has to be treated as such. It doesn't only absorb into the carpet, but also the padding and subfloor. Sometimes, the walls and floors have to be cleaned, sealed, and treated before new paint or floor covering can be installed.  Remember!

SERVPRO of St. Augustine has professionally trained technicians that are committed to help you rid your home of offensive odors. Our technicians are IICRC, OSHA, EPA and State Certified in bio-hazard clean-up. Call us at 904-829-0665 for assistance in helping with all of your cleaning and deodorization needs.

Hurricane Season is Here, 5 Preparedness Tips to Do Today

5/26/2020 (Permalink)

Photo shows flooding damage in a neighborhood, with belongings and debris piled on the sides of the road. SERVPRO of St. Augustine helped neighborhoods in Louisiana recover from flooding.

Hurricane season has arrived and SERVPRO of St. Augustine has preparedness steps that families and individuals can do today, before the next storm approaches.

No matter the predictions, it is important to remember that it only takes one hurricane to devastate our historic community. Even though caution cannot be limited to coastal states, Florida is at a greater risk than most.

5 Hurricane Preparedness Tips to Tackle Today 

1. Download the Red Cross Emergency App.

This app provides expert advice on what to do before, during, and after hurricanes and other disasters. It also gives instant access to 35 customizable weather alerts, safety tips and preparedness information for 14 different emergencies; all in one free and easy to use application.

2. Learn the difference between a Hurricane Watch and a Hurricane Warning.

As hurricane season approaches, it is also important to know the difference between the threat levels.

Hurricane Watch is when conditions are a threat within 48 hours. It’s then time to review and update your hurricane plan. Get ready to act if a warning is issued, and stay informed.

Hurricane Warning is when conditions are expected within 36 hours. It’s then time to complete your storm preparations and leave the area if directed to do so by local authorities.

3. Create an evacuation plan for your family.

Planning and practicing your evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event. Find out about your community’s hurricane response plan. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs and make plans for your pets to be cared for. Obey evacuation orders. Avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges "Turn Around, Don't Drown."

4. Build an emergency kit.

The Red Cross advises that you should include a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.

5. Pay attention to the weather forecast and stay informed.

Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS)

6. Download the SERVPRO Ready Plan App.

This is an invaluable tool if you own a home or commercial building. The SERVPRO Ready Plan App is a part of the SERVPRO Emergency Ready Profile which is a tool that provides critical information needed to begin mitigation and recovery services.

SERVPRO of St. Augustine provides emergency service 24/7/365. Our team of professionals are committed to providing firewater and bio-hazard cleanup and restoration services for all St. Augustine and St. Johns County communities and businesses. SERVPRO of St. Augustine also offers top-quality professional cleaning services. Call us anytime and speak to a member of our team, NOT a recording, 904-829-0665.

Storm Season, Do You Have a Plan?

5/25/2020 (Permalink)

Photo on the highway shows National Guard vehicles on the side of the road, lined up ready to help in North Carolina. SERVPRO of St. Augustine assisted franchises in North Carolina when Hurricane Florence affected their coast. National Guard vehicles lined the roads.

With Storm Season right around the corner, SERVPRO of St. Augustine wants to make sure you have a plan!

"What would your family do if a hurricane, tornado, or severe flooding incident happened in St. Augustine? Would you know where to meet?" Talk to your family about these important issues! You never know when a disaster could strike. 

It is important at least once a year to get together with your family and those closest to you, and come up with a plan. The following is a list of some important things to consider when getting you family's plan in place.

-"Where will we meet if our neighborhood is evacuated, or you are not allowed to go home by law enforcement?"

-"Is there a trusted neighbor, friend, or relative that can pick up your kids if parents can not get to them? Are they already on the pre-approved pick-up list for that child's school?"

-"Do you have a list of medications handy, and are they up to date which prescriptions filled regularly? This includes pets and elderly parents you assist as well."

-"Make a list of shelters that allow pets ahead of time, and have a plan in place for pets if you cannot get them to a shelter. If you are staying with a relative, make sure your pet can come to, and purchase supplies ahead of time so your pet will be comfortable on a spare of the moment road trip."

-"If you have an elderly family member/friend, or a special needs family member/friend in an assisted living facility, learn that facility's evacuation plan and ask questions. Will they provide transportation for that family member, or will you need to get them? What would you do if you couldn't get to them, or got separated?"

-"Make a disaster kit! If you are riding out a disaster or are in a voluntary evacuation zone, you could be without water or power for days. Include water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, medications, pet supplies and pet food, flashlights, batteries, crank radio, wet wipes, and cleaning supplies you don't need water to use. Ever toilet paper and paper towels are also a good idea. Fill up your bath tub with water before disaster strikes so you can use that water to flush your toilets."