ServiceMaster by Rice Gives Insurance Agents and Adjusters Helpful Tips to Help Their Clients Who Have Suffered Fire Damage

By Scott Schwiesow | Regional Manager

Every year fire, smoke and odor damage causes over three billion dollars of damage to homes. There are many different accidental causes of fire including kitchen fires, electrical fires, gas fires, cigarette fires; yes, sometimes fires are even set intentionally. ServiceMaster by Rice tries to combat these accidental fires and offers a three hour continuing education class. This class focuses on the types of fires, how the materials that burn affect the damage that is done, why mitigating smoke damage is important, and proper steps to successful smoke and odor mitigation. We want our insurance partners to learn and understand these principles so they are better educated to help their clients who have the unfortunate experience of suffering a loss from fire, smoke, and odor damage.

Over the last five weeks we have educated over 150 insurance agents and adjusters on the principles of fire, smoke, and odor damage mitigation. We have held classes in Clive, Carroll, Storm Lake, Atlantic, Milford, and Sioux Center to try and reach as many people as possible, and the feedback we have received from our class has all been positive. These tips are not just for insurance agents; everyone can benefit from knowledge about fire safety and smoke and fire damage repair. As a recap, here are the four main topics we cover during the class.

Fire Power and Fire Safety

It takes just five minutes for a two-story, three bedroom house to fill up with deadly smoke. Most house fires are complex fires that contain synthetic materials that burn. PVC pipe that is found in most homes contains over 100 chemical elements. When synthetic materials burn in a fire they create a hydrochloric acid vapor. Looking throughout your home, it’s easy to see many different items that you use every day that could burn in a fire and cause these deadly gases to spread in a short period of time. When I look around my kitchen I see a coffee pot, cooking utensils, mixing bowls, light switches, and multiple plastic containers that contain food items that would fall under the category of being a synthetic material.

A few safety tips that one can follow to prevent fire damage from occurring and save lives is to have furnaces checked and serviced, get dryer vents cleaned, change the batteries in smoke detectors on an annual basis and, most importantly, have an exit strategy for your home or business that you share with your family. Always remember, when you are experiencing a fire get out of the home or business as quickly as possible and dial 911 from outside of the building. Most possessions and homes can be replaced, but human life cannot!

Time is Crucial in Mitigating Smoke Damage

After a fire, the only thing you can do is clean up and start over. Time is critical after a fire loss takes place. Corrosive byproducts can cause irreversible etching and damage to your home in as few as 72 hours. There are a lot of items that can be saved if cleaned within the first 3 days after the fire loss. Call a professional fire clean up team like ServiceMaster by Rice. Timeliness will help to keep the costs of the fire loss down and will also help with the amount of time that it may take to get you back to pre-fire conditions. Surfaces at risk are metal and glass surfaces, faucets, towel bars, aluminum window frames, chrome trim, porcelain, tile/grout, china, crystal, tools, and granite and natural stones. Have you looked at the cost of windows, granite countertops and faucets recently? They are not cheap. If you get a professional there right away these at-risk items can be cleaned and saved instead of being replaced. Our goal is to save you a lot of time and money after your fire loss.

What Not to Do with Smoke Damage Clean-Up

You might think you can save money by cleaning up after a fire yourself. Below are some things that you do not want to do when cleaning up smoke damage. By attempting to do some of these steps yourself you can actually set the soot in the surface that you are trying to clean and cause permanent damage.

  • Do not touch anything with your bare hands.
  • Do not wash walls and ceilings. Incorrect cleaning could compound the soot residue.
  • Do not attempt to clean carpets or upholstered furniture.
  • Do not use electrical appliances until you’ve had them checked.

Proper Steps to Mitigating Smoke Odor

Smoke odor from a fire can be the greatest obstacle to eliminate during the mitigation process after suffering from a fire loss. Time plays a huge part as well as humidity. The longer the odor is allowed is permeate into materials, the harder it will be to eliminate the odor damage from your home and possessions. Also, if humidity levels are high it will be harder to remove the odor in the structure and contents.

  • Remove the source of the odor. This means removing the items that are causing the odor to prevent any further odor saturation in your home.
  • Have everything professionally cleaned. There are a lot of variables that go into what can be cleaned and restored. Professionals, like ServiceMaster by Rice, who are IICRC certified can make these determinations and then use the proper techniques, materials, and cleaning agents necessary to restore both the structure and the contents inside the structure.
  • Eliminate the odor. Use chemical deodorizers and masking agents to mask it while professionals get rid of it.
  • Clean the air with air filtration devices.
  • Neutralize the odor. Use ozone or the latest odor elimination technology, known as a hydroxyl generator.
  • Seal and paint exposed areas. In some extreme cases, when there is damage from a really hot fire, the walls, ceilings and open structure areas will have to be sealed and repainted.

The topics that were discussed above are just a small sample of the topics discussed during our continuing education class that focuses on smoke and odor damage mitigation. According to the National Fire Protection Association, your household has a one in four chance of having a fire large enough to be reported to a fire department during an average lifetime. The odds are pretty high that you or someone you know will experience fire and smoke damage during your lifetime. ServiceMaster by Rice would love the opportunity to educate you on this subject to offer advice on how to prevent fires from happening and then educating you on important steps on proper smoke and damage mitigation. By attending our class we want to help you and your clients reduce the costs associated with fire damage. Along with professional help from a smoke mitigation team like ServiceMaster, these reduced costs will help to decrease your fire loss ratio.

ServiceMaster by Rice also is approved to teach water mitigation and mold remediation classes. All three of our classes offer three credit hours. I am the instructor for these three classes and would love the opportunity to educate you on these topics. Please get in contact with us for future continuing education class dates.
ServiceMaster by Rice also wants to give you improved customer satisfaction on all of our services, including fire, smoke and odor mitigation. ServiceMaster by Rice has been operating in Iowa for over 59 years and we enjoy educating you as well as servicing your customers in their time of need.


Have a happy and safe holiday season!