Property Damage & Disaster Restoration Blog: Long Island & New York City

Changing Climate = More Disasters, Property Damage, Insurance Claims

Posted on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 @ 12:56 PM

disaster,disasters,property damage,disaster restoration,insurance,insurance claims,property loss,long island,new york,hurricane,climate change,weather,advanced restorationLast year's extreme weather across the U.S. — 2011 was the most expensive year ever for natural disasters — is raising concern among scientists and policymakers about the nation's ability to withstand a shifting climate.

Damage from tornadoes, floods, droughts, hurricanes and wildfires caused more than $200 billion in losses and 1,000 deaths across the nation last year. Florida escaped major damage, but saw record high temperatures over the summer, after a much colder than normal winter.

The conversation about climate change has to move beyond debates about greenhouse gases to discussions about making homes and infrastructure more resilient to weather, said Margaret Davidson, director of the Coastal Services Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Communities must reduce their vulnerabilty, she said during a forum on adapting to climate change at the American Meteorological Society meeting here.

Recent trends show the cost of natural disasters escalating while the government's financial ability to deal with those losses shrinks. Climate scientists anticipate an uptick in extreme weather as the global climate warms.

"You can see there's a train wreck coming and it has to do with Mother Nature," Davidson said.

In communities where disasters, such as floods and storm surge, occur frequently, the knee-jerk reaction is to rebuild the same roads and bridges that existed before and bigger, more expensive homes. Those "stupid" decisions cost the nation, Davidson said, adding that 70 percent of repetitive losses covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are in coastal counties.

Floods this year caused some of the most dramatic and costly damage. Hurricane Irene, which brought devastating and record-breaking floods to Vermont, hit the East Coast three times. The storm killed 45 people and inflicted $7.3 billion in damage. The cost of recovery caused tension in Congress when some leaders balked at sending relief to affected communities.

The Midwest and Northern Plains saw record floods from snowmelt and torrential rainfall that swelled the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers.

Seven states in the Northeast and the Ohio Valley had their wettest year on record, with some seeing rainfall of up to 8 inches above normal, said Jake Crouch, a physical scientist with the National Climactic Data Center, a federal agency that publishes and annual State of the Climate report.

Meanwhile, the southern tier of the nation baked in drought. Texas experienced its greatest drought on record and saw raging wildfires that destroyed 1,500 homes. Nearly 60 percent of the nation plunged into drought last year, also breaking a record.

In 2011, 58 percent of the nation was either extremely wet or extremely dry, the highest percentage ever, according the report.

It was also a year of devastating tornadoes across the Midwest and the Southeast. The spring storm season sent waves of cold fronts colliding with the warm, moist atmosphere over the Southeast. The severe storms triggered 1,155 tornadoes, killing more than 300 people and causing $20 billion in damage.

The nation saw a total of 14 natural disasters that cost more than $1 billion each, breaking another new record, and underscoring the effect of climate extremes on people, Crouch said.

While scientists cannot blame any single disaster on climate change, they can point to trends and make comparisons between what they see and what changes are predicted in a warmer world. Last year fit with expectations that a warmer Earth would bring much more rain to the Northeast, drought to the Southern Plains, warmer than normal temperatures in the high latitudes, such as those of Norway and Siberia, and shrinking sea ice.

For the U.S., extreme drought and rainfall were likely a combination of climate change and regular climate variation related to sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, Crouch said. Last year was dominated by La Niña, a weather pattern triggered by cooler than normal Pacific seas.

An interesting obversation that Crouch noted, however, was that La Niña years tend to be cooler globally. Last year was the 11th warmest year on record and the warmest La Niña year on record.

 

Tags: property damage, insurance claims, insurance, new york, disasters, long idland, damages, extreme weather

Best Revises Chartis, Lexington & Members Outlooks to Stable

Posted on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 @ 08:54 AM

 

insurance,insurance journal, insurance news,insurance long island,insurance new york,chartis insurance,lexington insurance,advanced restoration,

 

In connection with its revision of its outlook on AIG, A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength ratings of ‘A’ (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a” of Chartis US Insurance Group and its members and the Lexington Insurance Pool and its members, headquartered in Boston, Mass. The outlook for these ratings has also been revised to stable from negative.

Best also affirmed the FSR of ‘A’ (Excellent) and ICR of “a” of AIU Insurance Company (AIU); however, its outlook on these ratings remains negative.

In addition Best has affirmed the FSR of’ ‘B+’ (Good) and ICR of “bbb-” of American General Property Insurance Company (AGPIC) (headquartered in Houston, Texas). The outlook for these ratings has been revised to stable from negative.

In a related action Best withdrew the FSRs of ‘A’ (Excellent) and ICRs of “a” of Chartis Select Insurance Company and Landmark Insurance Company, due to the merger of these companies with and into their immediate parents, Lexington Insurance Company and National Union Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa., respectively.

All of these companies are subsidiaries of American International Group, and are headquartered in New York, NY, unless otherwise noted.

The ratings of Chartis US reflect its “supportive level of risk-adjusted capitalization, the group’s leadership position in the global property/casualty market, the successful implementation of Chartis’ rebranding, the effect of new leadership on management’s approach to the business, and its favorable earnings prospects in light of the financial, cultural and operational initiatives put in place since 2010,” Best explained.

As an offsetting factor Best cited the “effect of soft market conditions on underwriting results, adding that it expects the “continued emergence of adverse development of prior years’ loss reserves and the group’s exposure to natural and man-made catastrophe events which, although diminished by recent underwriting actions, remains a significant contributor to underwriting variability.”

Best explained that the stable outlook “reflects Chartis US’ market position; its ability to lead, attract and retain clients by leveraging its significant global capacity, extensive product offerings and innovation; and greater emphasis on technical pricing and predictive modeling. While reserve development remains a concern, the stable outlook suggests that any future reserve development will be within a level,” which Best said was “acceptable.”

Best also noted that it “expects that the group will continue to maintain a supportive level of risk-adjusted capitalization through favorable net earnings while providing shareholder dividends to its parent in accordance with historical norms.

“The change in outlook to stable from negative also considers the continued improvements at AIG including the January 2011 implementation of the company’s recapitalization plan, AIG’s recent issuance of debt and equity in the public capital markets, enhanced holding company liquidity and the orderly wind down of its financial products division.”

In addition Best pointed out that “Chartis US’ risk-adjusted capital position remained stable in 2011 and is well-supportive of the ratings at its current level. A decline in affiliated investments in recent years has served to improve both the level and quality of risk-adjusted capital, as have actions to reduce the group’s exposure to natural catastrophes. Surplus declined in 2011, primarily due to underwriting losses driven by catastrophes and by payment by the group members of shareholder dividends in line with historical levels.”

Best said it “anticipates that future dividends will be taken in accordance with AIG’s strategy of maintaining more capital at the holding company level, which affords a greater level of flexibility to deploy resources throughout the enterprise.” At the same time Best expects that “capital will be maintained at a sufficient level to support the ratings at the operating entities. AIG has issued Capital Maintenance Agreements to its key operating subsidiaries as part of its capital management plan in support of this expectation.”

An apparently major factor in Best’s actions is Chartis improved underwriting performance through the first nine months of 2011, compared with 2010, but, Best added, it “is expected to be slightly worse than the industry average for the year. Chartis US’ 2011 results for that period were impacted by the unusually high level of global catastrophe activity in the year, which added approximately nine points to the combined ratio. Results as of September 30, 2011 also were modestly impacted by adverse development of prior years’ loss reserves.”

Best explained that the “favorable comparison of 2011 results to 2010 is substantially affected by the impact of increases in reserves for prior years’ losses in 2010, which totaled $5.2 billion and added over 26 points to the reported statutory combined ratio in that year. The reserve increase in 2010 was, as indicated previously, within Best’s estimate of the group’s reserve deficiency and, as such, did not drive a change in the group’s ratings. Favorable rate changes accelerated through 2011 and Chartis US expects to continue achieving rate increases through 2012.”

The future development of loss reserves “will be favorably impacted by the 2011 loss portfolio transfer of Chartis US’ asbestos reserves to National Indemnity Company, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.,” Best said. However offsetting this favorable effect is Best’s expectation that “the group’s reserves—even after consideration of the benefit of this agreement—remain deficient, although at a lower level than prior to these actions.”

Best’s assessment of the group’s risk-adjusted level “reflects this expectation,” as well as Best’s expectation that “Chartis US’ reported underwriting results will continue to reflect increases in prior years’ loss reserves in the near to midterm.

“The group continues to enjoy its position as a leading provider of commercial insurance in the U.S. market and benefits from Chartis’ global leadership position. The group’s ability to provide global insurance services to multinational companies, as well as to meet the needs of local markets, remains a key differentiator of its business profile.”

As far as the ratings on Lexington are concerned, Best explained that they “reflect its supportive level of risk-adjusted capitalization, historically favorable development of prior years’ loss reserves, consistent generation of favorable pre-tax operating and net income and its position as the leader in the U.S. excess and surplus lines market.”

As partial offsetting factors Best cited the “effects of soft market conditions on the group’s underwriting results; its exposure to natural catastrophes, which drives variability in underwriting performance; and the long-tailed nature of its excess casualty writings.”

Best said the stable outlook reflects its expectation that the group will maintain a supportive level of risk-adjusted capital driven by continued favorable net earnings. The change in outlook to stable from negative also reflects Best’s perspective on the reduced risk to Lexington from negative events at its ultimate parent, AIG.”

However, Best noted that “Lexington’s underwriting and operating results deteriorated through the first three quarters of 2011 from their 2010 level, driven by the significant level of catastrophe and weather-related events in the year.”

The adverse effect of these events, however, “was partially offset by favorable development of the pool’s reserves for prior years’ losses. Despite the decline in underwriting performance driven by a near-historic level of global catastrophe activity, the group’s underwriting losses through September 30, 2011 were relatively modest in the context of its surplus and asset bases. Underwriting results continue to benefit from a better than average expense ratio,” but, as Best also observed, “Lexington’s expense ratio has grown closer to its peer group average in recent years, driven in part by lower levels of net written premium (particularly in 2009).

“Following the sharp decline in net written premium in 2009, Lexington’s premiums rebounded in 2010 and 2011. The decline reflected both reduced demand for traditional excess and surplus (E&S) coverages (as admitted carriers sought to boost business by writing coverages traditionally offered on an E&S basis on their admitted paper) and the effects of AIG’s 2008 crisis.

“The pool maintained its E&S leadership position, however, and as the aftermath of AIG’s issues faded, customer and premium retentions have returned to near-normal levels. As with Chartis US, Lexington expects the positive rate actions that began in 2011 to continue through 2012.”

Best said its ratings on AIU “reflect its supportive level of risk-adjusted capitalization, the historically favorable performance of its core book of Japanese A&H and auto insurance and its restored focus on that business.”

As offsetting factors, Best cited “the variability in surplus and results in recent years (related in part to the quota share reinsurance it provided to an affiliate in 2008 and 2009), the effects of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on 2011 results and the potential for continued changes in the company’s legal entity structure as the previously announced restructuring of Chartis’ business continues. The negative outlook on the ratings is reflective of these offsetting factors.”

 Best’s ratings on AGPIC “reflect the company’s sufficient level of risk adjusted capital to run off its remaining liabilities and the orderly progress of that run-off, offset by its limited business profile,” the report said. The stable outlook reflects Best’s expectation that “the company will continue to maintain sufficient capital to facilitate the wind down of its business, and that there will be no negative impact on the company resulting from issues related to AIG.”

In conclusion Best indicated that it doesn’t “expect positive movement on any of these ratings in the near to midterm. Potential drivers of downward movement in the ratings include deterioration in risk-adjusted capitalization below the level required to support the ratings; underwriting or operating performance that is not in line with Best’s expectations; recognition of adverse development of prior years’ loss reserves in excess of Best’s expectations; recognition of a failure of management to disclose information that is relevant to the rating process; reduction in or withdrawal of lines of credit available to AIG or Chartis Inc.; and deterioration in the financial condition of AIG, whether driven by its insurance or non-insurance operations.”

Best summarized the companies affected by the ratings announcements as follows:

The FSR of ‘A’ (Excellent) and the ICR of “a” have been affirmed and the outlook revised to stable from negative for Chartis US Insurance Group and its following members:
       National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa.
       American Home Assurance Company
       Commerce and Industry Insurance Company
       Chartis Property and Casualty Company
       The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania
       New Hampshire Insurance Company
       Chartis Insurance Company – Puerto Rico
       Chartis Insurance Company of Canada
       Chartis Casualty Company
       Granite State Insurance Company
       Illinois National Insurance Company

The FSR of ‘A’ (Excellent) and the ICR of “a” have been affirmed and the outlook revised to stable from negative for Lexington Insurance Pool and its following members:
       Lexington Insurance Company
       Chartis Specialty Insurance Company
       Chartis Excess Limited

Source: A.M. Best

Article First Published in The Insurance Journal

 

Tags: insurance journal, chartis insurance, a.m. best, long island, insurance, new york

Winter Is Here, And So Are Your Frozen Pipes!

Posted on Mon, Dec 12, 2011 @ 11:29 AM

Everyone in New York knows that the winter season in the Northeast can be treacherous and cause major damage to property structures.  Whether you are a homeowner or business professional, it is important to become educated on preventing frozen pipes.

Why Do Pipes Freeze?

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the "strength" of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Also, pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located and are in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated. A hot water supply line can freeze just as a cold water supply line can freeze if the water is not running through the pipe and the water temperature in the pipe is cold.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Many products are available at your local building supplies retailer. Pipes should be carefully wrapped, with ends butted tightly and joints wrapped with tape. Follow manufacturer's recommendations for installing and using these products.

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

If you have an issue related to frozen pipes, contact us immediately to alleviate the potential of further property damage to your home or business.

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Tags: cold weather, freezing cold, winter, long island, water damage, new york, frozen pipes

Hot Stat: Today's Homes Burn Faster Than Ever

Posted on Mon, Nov 14, 2011 @ 08:34 AM
It may sound like a cliche to trot out fire safety tips before the holiday season, but if there's one statistic that bears repeating, it's this: Even with adequate smoke alarms, a house fire today can become uncontrollable in less than three minutes.

That's down from an average 17 minutes in 1975 -- a whopping 82 percent difference.

And the reason for the drastic change, according to a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, isn't just the type of house you live in, but what you put inside.

"It's not how old the home is, it's the furnishings," Jack Watts, Director of the Fire Safety Institute, told AOL Real Estate.



A spokesperson for the National Association of State Fire Marshals told AOL Real Estate that the worst culprit in home fires is upholstered furniture, because it often contains highly flammable polyurethane foam. These all-too-common materials provide the fuel for what fire experts call the flashover -- the point at which everything in the room simultaneously bursts into flames. It doesn't help that many of today's homes are built with more open floor plans and modern building materials like wallboard that can lead to faster fires, according to the Wichita Eagle.

The numbers show an alarming trend. In 1977, the first year when data was available, there were 750,000 residential fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In 2010, there were roughly half that many, thanks in large part to widespread use of smoke detectors. But the incredible speed with which home fires can spread in today's homes represents a major step backward in fire safety.

The Hot Topic of Sprinklers

The next step in home fire safety, a spokesperson for the NASFM said, is to require fire sprinklers in new residential properties. Homebuilders bristle at the idea due to the high cost of installation. The national average cost to install sprinklers is $1.60 per square foot, according to the Wichita Eagle. In a 2,000-square-foot home, that comes out to about $3,200.

Another barrier is public opinion. As we reported last year, when given the choice between granite countertops and fire sprinklers, respondents overwhelmingly chose the countertops, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

(To find out if your state requires fire sprinklers in new construction, check out the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website.)

Worse still, there are only voluntary flammability regulations for upholstered furniture. Implementing a nationwide standard would go a long way in protecting consumers from purchasing dangerously flammable furnishings, the NASFM spokesperson said.

Regardless of what state legislators decide, though, it all comes down to vigilance, says Fire Safety Institute Director Watts.

If you'll be using a live Christmas tree this holiday season, make sure to water it regularly and keep an eye on any decorative lighting and candles. And, as always, make sure your house is equipped with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. For a terrifying glimpse at a Christmas tree "flashover," watch the video above. 

Tags: long island, fire, burn, fire safety, new york, building materials, holiday season, safety

Got Mold? What Every New York Homeowner Needs to Know

Posted on Thu, Jun 02, 2011 @ 05:19 PM
mold,mold removal,mold abatement,mold remediation,long island,new york,indoor air quality,mold contaminationLong Island and the rest of New York and the Northeast was devastated from the recent flooding caused by torrential rain, wind, and storm damage. A majority of flooded basements across Long Island were caused by ground water due to over-saturation of the earth.  Insurance companies do not cover ground water under their policies. 

You have to have a separate Flood Insurance if you fall into the Flood Coverage Area.  And that only covers ground water damage to structures that are above grade.  Basements are not above grade so they would be excluded from those policies if they were flooded. 

That means there were many Long Island homeowners that had flooded basements that were not covered by their insurance policy.   

For some people this is too much.  There are a lot of people in hardship right now across Long Island due to the economic times we live in.  If they did not hire a professional restoration company or water damage cleanup company like Advanced Restoration Corporation, they had to extract / remove the water themselves or rely on friends and/or family to help them out.

Just because the water is removed, does not mean your job is over.  The wet porous building materials need to be removed, or dried along with the structural wood members so their moisture content levels are reduced to regional acceptable standards.  
And some people will just ignore the water in the basement or the leaky roof, thinking it will dry out on its own.  And technically, everything that gets wet will eventually dry, if it can.  And not every water intrusion causes severe mold contamination.  It all depends on the size of the area and the lenght of time the area has been wet without any attention.  

At this  point you should ask yourself this:
  • How long will it take?
  • Can the wet building materials dry out before mold contamination can occur (usually 48-72 hours in optimum conditions)?

If wet building materials are not addressed in a timely fashion then the problem magnifies exponentially over time until it becomes a much bigger and more expensive issue.

The issue of mold has always been an extremely hot topic in both the insurance and restoration industries. Over the past few years there has also been a great deal of media attention on the subject of mold remediation. Articles have appeared in major publications such as The Wall Street Journal as well as televised on popular shows such as 48 Hours, Primetime and even Oprah. In some cases, a homeowner is shown speaking to a reporter explaining how the mold has completely ruined their home and belongings to the point that the home had to be burned down by the local fire department because there was no other way of solving the contamination issues.

This type of media attention may help with ratings and sales of newspapers and magazines but it is certainly not realistic. It is important to understand that mold is ubiquitous and the goal of remediation is to bring the indoor air quality to an acceptable level.  Should moisture be introduced into the indoor environment, mold growth will likely occur.  In nearly every case of fungal contamination, a home and many of its contents can be cleaned of mold growth. What is never mentioned is how this can be achieved. We can recommend and apply several proven techniques such as "HEPA sandwich" cleaning or baking soda blasting. Because the media is not educated in the field nor do they fully understand, the public is often misled and does not understand the very real dangers of fungal contamination.

Another way to look at the current mold situation is to compare it to the asbestos issues we encountered in the 1970's and 1980's. The media was undoubtedly responsible for magnifying the fears of the public. As the demand for abatement quickly increased many companies rushed to capitalize on the situation without being experienced or formally educated. This in turn leads to bad advice and overreaction. If mold remediation contractors are able to accurately educate and communicate with homeowners and insurance companies these issues could be resolved without unnecessary expense and anguish.

Mold contamination and mold remediation may not be as bad as the sensationalized media makes it out to be. Although there is definitely some health risks associated with mold exposure, in particular Stachybotrys or black mold, it is important that it is dealt with appropriately. Regardless of the level of contamination to your residential, commercial, or industrial building on Long Island and New York City, you can rest assured that we posses the technology, education and ability to successfully complete your project in the most efficient and cost-effective way. Please do not hesitate in calling us for information or guidance on any of your mold related projects. We are here to help in any way possible. We are members of the Indoor Air Quality Association and hold our certifications through the IICRC and RIA.

Please do not hesitate to Contact Us for any assistance or guidance if you have or even think you have a mold issue in the Long Island and New York City areas.  We would be more than happy to speak with you.


Tags: mold abatement, long island, mold, new york, mold remediation, new york city, mold removal, indoor air quality, flooded basements, wet building material, mold contamination

President Declares Major Disaster For New York

Posted on Mon, Feb 21, 2011 @ 10:57 AM

snow storm, fema disaster declaration,

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to New York to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by a severe winter storm and snowstorm during the period of December 26-27, 2010.

Federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storm and snowstorm in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

In addition, assistance is available to the state and eligible local governments in Nassau, Rensselaer, and Richmond counties on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures, including snow assistance, for a continuous 48-hour period during or proximate to the incident period.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

John Long has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.  Long said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

 

Assistance for State and Eligible Local Governments Can Include as Required:

  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as roads, bridges, utilities, buildings, schools, recreational areas and similar publicly owned property, as well as certain private non-profit organizations engaged in community service activities. (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)
  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for removing debris from public areas and for emergency measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health.  Emergency protective measures assistance is available to the state and eligible local governments on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures, including snow assistance, for a continuous 48-hour period during or proximate to the incident period.  (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.). 
  • Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by state and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.  (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)

For more information, visit FEMA.

Tags: disaster, cold winter, FEMA, snow storm, new york, catastrophe, long island after the storms, nor'easter

New York Homeowners Beware: After Snow, the Ice Dam Cometh

Posted on Fri, Feb 04, 2011 @ 01:52 PM

Written by 

Gwendolyn Bounds

for The Wall Street Journal

new york,long island,ice dam,water damage,freezing,water,leak damage,leak,roof,collapseThe latest winter storm, coupled with heavy snow accumulation and long cold snaps across the U.S., have left homeowners, pedestrians and buildings themselves unusually vulnerable to the dangers of ice and snow buildup.

Well beyond slipping, there's a growing risk of injury from falling material. Recently, a chunk of ice plunged from a pine tree and landed on Mark D'Ambrosio as he cleared the driveway of his of Abington, Mass., home. His son called 911, and Mr. D'Ambrosio was hospitalized briefly with a head wound that required three staples.

"I've been in this house 13 years and never seen anything like what's happening this winter," says the 39-year-old Mr. D'Ambrosio.

Other times, the danger comes from homeowners trying to clear roofs of winter's mess before it causes structural damage.

While roof collapses get the most attention, a more common worry for the average homeowner is ice dams. These often form when an under-insulated home's heat escapes through the attic, warms the roof and melts snow. As water runs down the roof it can refreeze into an icy dam along the overhang, which is cooler—much like a bridge.

If the dam gets big enough, it can then block water from running off the roof and force it to back up under shingles, triggering leaks and other damage. Icicles are one symptom of dams forming.

As snow and ice storms pummel the Northeast, Midwest and South this week, consumers are trying to remove snow however they can. Sales of roof rakes—long-handled tools used from the safety of ground level—are up 30% at Garelick Manufacturing Co., which went back into production this month to meet demand. Northern Tool + Equipment Co. cites unusually strong demand for its hockey puck-sized RoofMelt tablets made of calcium chloride, which can be tossed atop roofs to fuel melting.

Businesses specializing in ice-cutting with pressurized steam or hot water and other solutions report a surge of interest. Bylin Heating Systems Inc. has logged a 200% rise in inquiries this winter for its electrical ice-melting roof systems, which are best installed after existing dams are cleared. Similar demand is brewing for installers of attic insulation and other products that prevent heat loss and slow ice dam formation.

Tom Mahoney's 8,000 square foot house in Edina, Minn., was damaged after a thick ice dam formed along his roofline and triggered water leaks in his master bedroom. His solution: pay $1,000 to have chunks of the ice removed professionally.

Mr. Mahoney's contractor, Philip Grave of Dale Services Inc., says he and his brother are on track to earn $100,000 this winter as roof ice-cutters. The duo, who operate a carpet and window-cleaning business in warmer weather, charge $250 to $300 an hour to climb on roofs and slice away at ice dams with 180-200 degree water using a pressure washer-type system. Says Mr. Grave: "We cut ice every day in December and had a wait list."

But with so much snow, residents often are taking drastic short-term actions themselves. In Minnesota, where some areas have received more than 55 inches so far, a Shoreview man died Christmas Day after falling from his roof clearing snow. Meantime, Immanuel St. Joseph's hospital in Mankato has logged a surge of emergency room visits from people injured toppling off their rooftops while shoveling, says hospital spokesman Kevin Burns.

"It's directly attributable to the increased snow," says Mr. Burns who reports everything from scrapes and bruises to broken bones and serious internal injuries. "People are very well-intentioned but aren't prepared for the slippery conditions and steep pitch of the surface."

Last week in New York City, which had its snowiest January in history, the Department of Buildings issued a warning reminding property owners they are legally obligated to remove ice and snow from roofs, overhangs and awnings—and singled out icicles as "a threat to public safety."

A growing number of new homes are built with thicker insulation that can help prevent ice dams, including more than a million new homes that have earned the federal government's Energy Star label, and there are tax credits and subsidies available for retrofits.

"Most of the time, the ice is there and you are rolling the dice and may or may not have a big chunk hit someone's car or head, or a leak, but the risk is always there," says Mike Rogers, vice president of GreenHomes America Inc., a national home energy retrofit company.

When 51-year-old April Butler of Syracuse, N.Y., moved into her home in December, she wasn't aware that her house was at risk. But soon, dams and icicles hung like a cave around her front door, threatening to pull down her gutters and possibly harming a passer-by, including her 17-year-old daughter.

Ms. Butler hired GreenHomes America last week to blow insulation into her attic crawl space, seal air-leaks with foam and replace recessed ceiling light fixtures where the home's heat was escaping.

All these measures are designed to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place; much of what she has now is beginning to thaw.

The total cost: $7,062, for which she received a $2,500 subsidy based on her income as a teaching assistant from the Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star program.

"As of yet, we've had no leak damage," Ms. Butler says. "Hopefully this will eliminate the fear."

Write to Gwendolyn Bounds at [email protected]

Tags: homeowner, water damage, new york, water, ice dam, leak damage, roof

New York DKI Member Companies Create NewYorkDKIMembers.org

Posted on Fri, Dec 03, 2010 @ 10:25 AM

describe the image

NewYorkDKIMembers.org consists of New York Member Companies of Disaster Kleenup International, Inc. (DKI)DKI is a network of the leading, independent property damage restoration contractors across North America. New York DKI Member Companies provide full service to their customers: Emergency response, water damage mitigation, mold remediation, complete reconstruction and much more 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, returning damaged property to pre-loss condition fast and efficiently, delivering complete satisfaction to their consumer, insurance, and corporate customers.

Disaster Kleenup International was founded in 1974 by a small group of restoration contractors seeking the benefits of a collaborative business and personal network. Led by the late Ed York in the 70's, Martin Berry in the 80's, and Derry Strong on the 90's, the DKI network established a reputation in the market for high quality property restoration services throughout the United States and Canada.

Led today by Dale Sailer, President and CEO of Disaster Kleenup International and its parent company DKI Services Corporation since 2002, DKI is proud to be North America's largest disaster restoration contracting organization.

New York DKI Member Companies are dedicated to ensuring a smooth and comprehensive recovery of your property throughout the entire mitigation and restoration process. Our years of experience have given us the ability to complete the most extensive large loss recovery projects.

As North America’s largest disaster restoration contracting organization in North America, DKI is committed to providing exceptional customer service, disaster response planning and emergency response services across the United States and Canada.

DKI returns damaged risk to its pre-loss condition quickly and efficiently, delivering complete satisfaction to all of our customers.

DKI Loss Services is available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year to assist with full-service emergency planning, emergency response and restoration services. These include emergency response, water damage mitigation, fire and contents cleaning, mold remediation, complete reconstruction and much more. 

DKI holds itself to the highest standards in the industry

- Response time of 2 hours or less for emergency services
- Comprehensive claims management processing platform
- Over $1.5 billion in restoration work annually
- Largest inventory of equipment in North America
- Unparalleled coverage with over 350 services locations
- One in six Certified Restorers® is a DKI Member

 

Tags: emergency response, dki, new york dki member company, new york, insurance claim, disaster kleenup international, disaster restoration, new york dki member companies, commercial property damage

Long Island: Protect Yourself from West Nile

Posted on Mon, Sep 06, 2010 @ 10:43 AM

At the halfway point in the August and September season for mosquito-borne diseases, state health officials remind Hoosiers to stay vigilant in protecting themselves from the West Nile virus.

Two human cases of West Nile virus were reported this week -- one each in Allen and Marion counties. In addition, mosquito groups in 31 counties have tested positive for the virus.

"These two cases, along with the recent increase in positive West Nile virus mosquitoes, do cause some concern," said Jennifer House, veterinary epidemiologist at the Indiana State Department of Health.

Mosquito-transmitted diseases commonly occur when mosquitoes are more active because of hot weather, House said.

Northwest Indiana has reported only two batches of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile Virus in Lake County and one each in Porter, LaPorte and Jasper Counties.

"Mosquitoes in Indiana can spread several different diseases, including West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis (one of the deadliest forms), St. Louis encephalitis and La Crosse encephalitis. All have the potential to cause serious illnesses," House said.

According to www.statehealth .in.gov , West Nile virus is transmitted to a human by a mosquito that has first bitten an infected bird. A person who is bitten by an infected mosquito may show symptoms from three to 15 days after the bite.

Culex mosquitoes, which can carry the West Nile virus, breed in places like ditches, open septic systems, discarded tires, unused wading pools and other containers, particularly if they are in the shade.

No bird or equine West Nile infections have been confirmed in Indiana, but two batches of mosquitoes have tested positive for deadly Eastern equine encephalitis in Elkhart County.

Tags: west nile, suffolk county, prevent, long island, new york, nassau county, moaquito, disease

TRP Kitchen & Bath Deconstruction Program a Win-Win For Long Island

Posted on Wed, May 12, 2010 @ 03:41 PM

 

In January, 2010, The ReuSe People of America (TRP) rolled out their new new TRP Kitchen & Bath Deconstruction and Removal Program.

For the same cost as traditional smash-and-discard demolition, Advanced Restoration Corporation, a DKI Member Company, and The ReUse People will remove your kitchen cabinets and appliances, leave the project in a clean dust free condition and provide a tax-deductible receipt for the donated reusable items.

Here is how it works:

  1. You call Eric Martin at (631) 831-2005 and request a Kitchen Removal Order Form
  2. The form is immediately e-mailed or faxed to you.
  3. You complete the form, computing the easy cost formula to calculate total removal costs.
  4. You send the completed form back to TRP by email or fax.
  5. TRP calls to arrange a site visit to finalize agreement and schedule work. (Removal can usually be completed in one day.)
  6. A specially-trained TRP crew shows up on the agreed upon day, completes the work, leaves the kitchen ready for cabinet and appliance installation, and presents you with the donation receipt.
  7. The donation will generally cover the entire cost of removal!  How much better can it get? With its nonprofit status and 16-plus years of deconstruction and kitchen-removal experience, TRP is the only company that can offer this sweet a deal.

If the project involves a very large kitchen with expensive cabinets and appliances, an appraisal may be required (appraisals are mandatory for donations of $5,000 or more). TRP will provide you with a list of independent appraisers.

The TRP-Certified Deconstruction Contractor for Long Island, Advanced Restoration Corporation, building deconstruction crews cover finished floors and openings to other rooms with plastic or other appropriate protective materials to minimize dust. If you want additional work done while our crew is there (for example, removal of wall coverings, windows, finished floors or recessed lighting), TRP will provide you with a separate quotation for the work.

Tags: used building materials, the reuse people, kitchen, kitchen renovation, bathroom renovation, kitchen demo, donate matyerials, new york, advanced restoration corporation, building deconstruction, trp, longisland, kitchen remodel, bathroom remodel, demo kitchen, bathroom demo, demo bathroom

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