If you find yourself with a tree in your living room this weekend, Christmas has not come early.
Fall’s fury has just blown in.
Before you call your insurance agent, here are some ways to mitigate damage.
Shane Slater, the co-owner of Olympia-based roofing company, The Roof Doctor, is ready to get on some roofs — but only when the storm passes.
“I won’t be getting on the roofs during it,” he said Thursday afternoon.
Neither should homeowners.
“What’s more important? A little bit of water damage to your house or you getting hurt or dying,” Slater said.
If homeowners do find a section of roof missing, they shouldn’t panic, Slater said. Often, a previous roof or tar paper will still protect the home.
“If you can see plywood sheathing, you have a problem,” Slater said.
If water is entering the house, keep electricity to that part of the home off, he said.
Though roofing companies like his won’t have time to fix roofs immediately following a massive storm, they will make every effort to put a temporary fix on damaged homes.
Slater said a two-man team can visit and patch two homes per hour with tarps or plastic sheeting.
“I’m not looking forward to another storm,” Dick Canzler said Thursday. “But then we don’t have much say in it.”
Canzler, the owner of Canzler Tree Service, estimates that he’s taken 200 trees off homes during his 51 years in the business. He operates the Tacoma-based company with his two sons.
“I take the money and spend the money. They do the work,” he said.
Canzler is not short of opinions on trees. And storms.
“People need to take care of their trees before the storm arrives,” he said. “I hate working in storms.”
But he will.
Before calling him, Canzler urges homeowners to evaluate the situation.
A fallen branch or even a whole tree might not be an emergency, especially if it hasn’t punched a hole in the roof or siding.
“If it’s lying on the roof, it’s not going to do any more damage,” Canzler said.
Still, he gets calls from people during storms who have noticed that one of their trees is swaying like a drunk stumbling from a bar. If it’s safe to do so Canzler can anchor it.
But not always.
“If I walk up to a Douglas fir tree and I see the ground moving I’m not going to ask my sons to go up in that tree no matter what the customer is willing to pay,” Canzler said.
If the neighbor’s tree falls on your house? It’s an act of God, Canzler said. Which means you, not the neighbor or God, are going to pay for it.
When water starts pouring into homes from punctured roofs, torn siding or an overwhelmed sump pump, there’s at least one company that will be ready for calls.
“We’re gearing up crews already for this weekend,” said Nathan Trodahl, sales and marketing manager for Servpro of Puyallup.
He promises someone from his company will be on-site within one hour of calling.
“We can save a majority of the stuff in your house,” Trodahl said.
He acknowledged not all homeowners may be able to call for immediate help.
“Mitigation is the key,” Trodahl said. “You want to stop that water, patch that hole.”
Just don’t climb on the roof.
“We want you to do what you can but not where you’re putting yourself or family members in jeopardy,” he said.
After the storm is over, don’t assume your home is safe just because you don’t have a waterfall in your living room.
After the storm, walk around the outside. Inspect the roof and siding. Inside, look at ceilings and walls for water marks or blistering. Take a look inside the attic.
“You’ve got a 48-hour window before mold starts growing out,” Trodahl said. “In a couple of weeks you’ll notice black stuff on walls. Then it’s inside the walls and it becomes a much bigger deal.”
Water-soaked carpeting can damage furniture. If you can’t move your furniture put tin foil under the legs, Trodahl said.
And, he said, you should have a working knowledge of your home’s utilities should an emergency arise.
“You should know how to cut off the electricity, water and gas,” he said.
CALL YOUR AGENT
State Farm spokesman Sevag Sarkissian said the company is ready to respond to the storm, which he said could affect areas from the Canadian border to as far south as Northern California.
“In a large storm with high winds and heavy rain, you are going to see downed trees, downed fences and more accidents on the road,” Sarkissian said.
People should gather important paperwork in a safe place. Think birth certificates, medical papers, passports, insurance papers, mortgage documents and banking information. Consider downloading an app from your insurance company. Many have them, including State Farm and Allstate.
Should damage occur on your property, Sarkissian said, call your insurance agent.
“The sooner people get hold of us, the sooner we can help,” he said. “Please contact us right away, as soon as it’s safe and you’re able to do so.”
And if a tree falls on your house, take basic measures to limit damage — but only if it’s safe.
“If there’s a leaking roof … if it’s safe to do so, limit the damage that’s being caused,” Sarkissian said. “… Of course, safety is the No. 1 priority,” he said. “If there’s a raging storm, raging winds, heavy rain, we remind people that safety has to come first.”
What else can you do to prepare for this weekend’s weather onslaught, if you haven’t already?
Plenty, said Erik Larson, an Allstate insurance agent in the Tacoma area for nearly 27 years.
Now is a good time to secure outdoor furniture, barbecues and other outdoor items.
“Make sure there’s nothing dangerous in proximity to the house, other structures or vehicles,” he said. “Sadly, it’s a little too late to do much pruning.”
Clearing storm drains can prevent localized flooding, he said. And buying a few sheets of plywood might not be a bad idea.
“You never know if you have to do some emergency repairs,” he said. “Something could easily come through a window. You want to be able to board it up pretty quickly and safely.”
5 tips for last-minute storm prep
▪ Check if your insurance company has an app. Several apps allow customers to access insurance information and report damage.
▪ Secure important paperwork in a safe place. Such documents include insurance documents, birth certificates, passports, mortgage papers and medical information.
▪ Keep a home emergency kit with a flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, medicines, and food and water for each person and pet to last three days.
▪ Walk through your home and take note of valuables. Take photos and videos and note model numbers.
▪ Review or create an evacuation plan for family members.
Sources: Allstate, State Farm