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Where there's smoke, there is fire ... tips for fire prevention

9/17/2019 (Permalink)

In 2011, there were 1.3 million house fires in the United States.

1.3 million families temporarily displaced.

We attach our memories to things. We often scoff at materialism and we even poke fun at those who tend to accumulate lots of “things” … but the truth is, sometimes, things have meaning.

Your grandmother’s quilt, photos of your children, artwork, the shoes you wore on your first date with your husband, a movie ticket from a special day with a good friend … these are all seemingly meaningless things. Some of us are more sentimental than others.

Out of 1.3 million, it’s a safe bet that some important “things” were lost. We helped approximately 240 customers last year and though we restored a lot of belongings, some items were too far gone. Some of those things were not replaceable. Worse than things are people injured or killed. Nearly 25 thousand people each year are injured or killed by fire and that’s why prevention is so important.  Here are some less common tips from, a website dedicated to disaster prevention.


·         Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.

·         Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

·         If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.

·         Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.

·         Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.


·         Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.

·         Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.

·         Do not cook if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.

·         Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of 3 feet around the stove.

·         Position barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

Fires can spread from nearly harmless to engulfing in less than 30 seconds. reports many people do not realize how incredibly fast fire is. Fire is not bright and glowing as it would seem. Especially in a house it quickly produces thick black smoke making everything dark. Additionally, it’s smoke and toxic fumes from the various materials in a home that usually kills people. These hard facts should be enough to help you create a fire escape plan for your family.

As for those belongings, put precious mementos in fireproof safe or box. Have your photos scanned so you have digital copies of all family photos, old and new. Terry and Tonya, two of our team members who help inventory belongings and restore items have thoroughly enjoyed breathing new life into “Grandmother’s China” and even finding lost treasures in the process of moving furniture and cleaning up after a disaster.

Here at SERVPRO, we are used to working with insurance companies to help restore or rebuild homes. In the Blue Ridge area, one of the agents we are blessed to work with is Kevin Panter, who offers the following advice “Insureds need to take their annual review with their insurance agent seriously.  It is often determined during a time of loss that the insured’s building limits and personal property contents limits are not adequate.  Having proper documentation and adequate limits will help make the claim process much easier.   Having cell phone videos and storing proper documentation off the premises will help greatly should a claim arise.” You can reach Kevin through his company .

“Our whole reason for existing as a business is to help our customers feel confident and comfortable as we restore their homes or businesses to preloss conditions. When disaster, small or large, strikes, you feel like you’ve lost control. We want to help you get it back. Our crews are often praised for their compassion. It is truly heartfelt,” explains Carnie Wall, co-owner.

Grilling Safety

9/16/2019 (Permalink)

Summer time is grilling time. We all love to either cook on a grill or eat what has been cooked. Just thinking of all the mouthwatering goodies that can come off a grill makes me hungry, but before eating, comes safety! When grilling weather finally gets here after a long, cold winter, a lot of us will go drag the grill out of the garage and fire it up. If we don’t take time to check things out and clean everything properly (which ideally was done before putting it away last year), we are asking for trouble. Safety tips and procedures are given to us for a reason- our personal safety and the safety of our surroundings. In 2014 alone, over 16,000 people ended up in emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills. A failure to properly clean the grill was the leading factor contributing to the fire and a close second was having the grill too close to a flammable object, such as the house or porch railing. It can seem like a waste of precious grilling time to clean everything before firing up the grill, especially if you have done so before storage for the winter. You must remember that dust and insects can get into places that could cause a problem while your grill is in storage. Here is a comprehensive list of sensible rules to follow so that your grilling season will be a safe and happy experience:

1.Read the owner’s manual. I know, who reads those things. We all should so that we understand the proper way to use our equipment. Even if you have been grilling for years, when you buy a new grill, it is extremely important to read the manual. All grills are not the same.

2.Grills are for outside use ONLY. Both charcoal and gas grills should never be used indoors, never inside a tent and garage or any other enclosed space. Grills produce carbon monoxide, which may accumulate and kill you.

3.Use only in a well-ventilated area. Always set up your grill in an open area away from structures. Avoid dry leaves or brush and high traffic areas. No one wants little Bobby to come running around the corner and knock the grill over, that would spoil your whole day.

4.Follow electric codes. If you use an electrical apparatus, such as a rotisserie, with your grill, make sure it is up to code and the cord is place so that it is not a trip hazard.

5.Use long handled utensils. Barbecuing tools are made with extra-long handles for a reason, to avoid burns on your hands and arms. Use them.

6.Wear safe clothing. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to wear a fancy shirt or dress while barbecuing. Even if you are hosting a big party. Close fitting garments are best as they are less likely to come into contact with hot coals or gas burners. Those cumbersome oven mitts can be your best friends while grilling; scorched fingers from hot items are no fun.

7. Keep the fire under control. Keeping a close watch on the temperature of your fire can lessen flare-ups. If you must douse a flare-up with a mist of water, remove the food first. A fire extinguisher, a bucket of sand or even a water hose should be close by in case of a problem. Use baking soda to put out a grease fire; using water in this instance will just spread the fire.

8. Never leave a hot grill unattended. Just because the cooking is done and the fire is out doesn’t make a grill safe. It can stay hot enough to cause problems for up to an hour after being extinguished. Wait until it has cooled off before trying move it. And don't let people play around the grill while it is still hot. Grilling out is one of the best things about summer time. Hot dogs, hamburgers, even chicken all seem to taste better when cooked on the grill. This year you may want to try your hand at more exotic dishes such as Ginger-soy glazed Mahi-Mahi or Grilled Shrimp in a Banana-leaf Pouch. Whatever you decide to cook on your grill this summer, be sure to follow the safety rules so that you and your loved ones will have a fabulous summer with no trips to the emergency room.

For more tips and tricks to help you prevent leaks, fires and more sign up for occasional email newsletters OR please visit the SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties website!

Play that funky music, but get rid of that funky smell

9/16/2019 (Permalink)

Most of us have walked into a business or even a home that didn’t smell … well, good. Sometimes the odor is identifiable and superficial cleaning will fix it or maybe it can just be stemming from some unpleasant thing that’s out of sight and no longer alive thus creating a big ol “eeewww” in the olfactory department.

More often, weird odors are not clearly seen or understood. Like musty basements … what is “musty” any way? That’s just a weird word. Restaurants often start to have an odd and not altogether pleasant smell from fryer oils, grease traps, garbage and other unsightly and unappetizing things we really don’t love to talk about. Maybe you are now thinking back to when your very own nose was offended by such an odor and how you really wish you hadn’t picked that particular place to try a salmon burger.

At SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin and Gilmer Counties (yeah, we know that is a crazy long name) we are challenged with helping businesses and homeowners get rid of funky things. We can suggest a new musical playlist that’s less 1970s too, but we don’t specialize and can’t promise your satisfaction in that!

One of the ways we help to get rid of “funk” is through Air Duct Cleaning. Sometimes, you can change the carpet, paint the walls, bleach the tile and there is STILL an odor. Often times, that odor is coming from your Heat Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. So, along with a smell, the air you are breathing isn’t so great either. Even the EPA suggests Air Duct and Ventilation system cleaning can be beneficial in situations where mold has been present or if any type of contaminant could have breached your system. Breaches happen in the case of older systems and just like your coffee table gets covered in dust, so does your duct work. We’ve talked about a lot of yucky things in this article and sadly, even the tidiest of Sally (or Sam) Homemakers can’t stop dust.

Inspecting the ventilation system is also a great way to reveal efficiency issues and potential hazards or problems. There could be lack of insulation along with a multitude of possible scenarios our technicians encounter when they go crawling around in attics and under floors. We have stories …

We pride ourselves on integrity, responsibility and commitment in our business. Our jobs often include doing our full level best to turn someone’s disaster into a happy ending, so in performing routine cleaning and inspections we are thrilled when we can be the ones to point out an issue and prevent disaster. That’s what we call a very good day.

To learn more about our Air Duct and HVAC Cleaning services visit

Continuing Education

9/13/2019 (Permalink)

Everyone loves the opportunity to go back to school, right?  Of course we do, especially when it’s “Continuing Education” sponsored by SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties!

On November 15, we will be hosting our much requested Continuing Education Sessions in our Blue Ridge office.  This year, we are offering 2 different courses that will provide 2 hours of credit for each session for a total of 4 credit hours.  This year’s courses are “Restorative Drying for Water Damage”,            Course # 51896 (2 insurance credit hours) with registration at 9:00 a.m. and teaching time at 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon and also “Understanding Mold in the Restoration Industry”, Course # 52382 (2 insurance credit hours) with registration beginning at 12:15 pm and course time from 12:30 p.m. until 2:30 p.m.  Refreshments will be served during course times and lunch will be provided between courses. The courses will be held at our Blue Ridge office at 5800 Appalachian Highway (just across the highway from T J Maxx).

You can make your reservation by calling SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties at 706-898-1880 or by emailing.

Remember that you must attend 100% of the session to receive course credit.  It is also extremely important that you be on time for each course as course regulations require a point that doors are locked and no one else will be admitted. 

Hope to see you then!

Understanding The Fire Restoration Process

9/11/2019 (Permalink)

It is imperative that IICRC-approved fire restoration should be implemented as soon as possible after a house fire is out. The longer the delay in contacting a restoration company, the more opportunity there is for damage from water and smoke to intensify. A homeowner’s insurance company should be able to refer an approved and experienced restoration firm. It is surprising just how well restoration works in light of how destructive a fire can be. Depending on the damage, a home can often be restored to its before-fire state. A restoration team has a difficult task to perform, and a great deal of responsibility, but IICRC-approved technicians are well-equipped to return a home to its original condition.

The fire restoration process involves the repair of any structures damaged by smoke, fire, or water. Carpets undergo a chemical process to remove smoke odor. Sub-floor materials undergo inspection for damage and may need to be replaced. Upholstery and curtains are subject to a similar process. Furnishings are taken to a separate location and restored to pre-fire condition. The home is aired out for as long as needed to diminish the effects of odor and mildew, and deodorization efforts continue throughout the process. Through the cooperation of the insurance company, the restoration team, and the homeowner, a home can be restored and made safe to live in once again.

Don't take a chance on getting the Heebee Jeebees!

9/11/2019 (Permalink)

Household mold is fungi and is commonly referred to as mildew. You know the stuff, mostly ... you know the smell. Childhood visits to lakeside cabins, 1970s ranch home basements and even your grandma's house might bring back the memory of your mom saying "shew, it smells musty in here." Musty, is, in all actuality a word. Your mom didn't make it up. See, fungi used to be classified as plants, for years, until some scientist discovered that it acts more like an animal. So, fungi got their very own kingdom. Ah, a kingdom … "my kingdom for a horse" said Shakespeare. Seemingly simple (like the illustration from the Bard), fungi actually appears in many forms, the quickest to come to mind is usually, a mushroom. Additionally, fungi can appear as a plant parasite and damage crops. The type of fungi we are talking about today is the type which produces household, “mildewly” and musty ol mold. That culprit, though common, is actually a diverse group of organisms.   

All fungi are made up of tiny filaments called hyphae. Isn't that interes … zzzzzz …. 

The hard walls of fungus (mold) are built out of chitin, the same material that insects and arthropods have as a hard outer shell. Ok, so that's kinda cool. That totally makes the "like animals" part make more sense. Mold reproduces via microscopic particles called spores. It's largely understood that spores are irritants and can cause health effects. The fungi in the outdoors is part of the highly complex process of decomposition, you know … how fallen trees rot and stuff. Organisms such as ants will actually transport bits of fungus to their food supply (usually leaves or plants) to aid in the breakdown. Ants cannot digest cellulose. So, they use fungi kinda like we use meat tenderizer.  

Mold lives by breaking down organic material and it spreads in a largely invisible web. The type of fungi that produces household mold and woodland mushrooms do differ, however; in the way that mushrooms emerge as visible evidence of fungi, so does dusty, fuzzy looking household mold.   

The common denominator in the growth of all mold, is moisture. All this talk of fungi, mold, mildewy smells, invisible webs … it's creepy, huh? That's why, here at SERVPRO, we recommend you never try to take care of mold issues in your house by yourself. If you can see it, there is usually so much you can't see … we don't want you to even think about it.  

We offer complete mold remediation services so you don't even have to! See, now that you understand how mold works … you'll also understand that a spray bottle of bleach and some rubber gloves are only going to worsen the bigger issue. If there is mold showing on the wall, the carpet … that invisible web we talked about ... is strewn far and wide. You can't be thinking about that! You'll get the heebee jeebees! No one wants the heebee jeebees! Not to mention, if you start trying to eradicate the visible stuff and you manage to get a little of the not so visible stuff, you'll stir up the spores! So, please if you see or suspect mold in your home, or Grandma's home … give us a call! 

Smoke Alarm Campaign

9/11/2019 (Permalink)

The Red Cross DAT team and the Towns County Fire Dept. finished up their third SMOKE ALARM CAMPAIGN in Towns County and welcomed their new community partner SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties. SERVPRO was a great addition to the team that provided much needed additional manpower, as well as, additional smoke alarms. 
Red Cross is in its forth year of working with Fire Chief Harold Copeland and his fire fighters on the Smoke Alarms Saves Lives Campaign. This campaign was a program started by the Red Cross nationwide 3 years ago in an effort to reduce injuries and deaths in house fires by 25% within 5 years. On Wednesday, June 8th, we installed 150 new 10 ­year lithium battery smoke alarms in 51 homes in Towns County that couldn't afford them, didn't have working smoke alarms, or had old ones that needed replacing. We also proudly expanded this program to include Veterans in need of these alarms.
The Red Cross and Fire Dept. would like to especially thank Mr. Keith Wall, Owner, of SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties and his team who are now a permanent member of this campaign going forward for all their time and efforts supporting this life saving campaign and for the purchase of the additional alarms needed. We'd like to thank Home Depot of Blairsville for their discounts on those smoke alarms.

We'd also would like to thank additional businesses in Hiawassee that supported us in this campaign. They are Hiawassee Hardware who provided batteries to be used in some current existing alarms, as well as, Hardee's, McDonalds and Zaxby's for
providing food for all the volunteers who came out to work this event. And last but not least thank you to all the workers, SERVPRO employees, Fire Fighters and Red Cross volunteers, this couldn't have been accomplished without you.

Christine Osborn : Operations Manager

9/3/2019 (Permalink)

Meet Christine Osborn, the Operations Manager of SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties!

Christine wears many, many hats for SERVPRO. She manages all of the functions that happen within the franchise. She will even suit up and help out production to assist our customers to get their homes back to normal again.

Her background is in management, marketing and graphic design. She grew up on a farm in a small town in Iowa. She was in the Iowa Army National Guard and studied Music Education at a private university in Storm Lake, IA. She has a very wide variety of talents and interests. 

Christine is the mother of two very intelligent and loving sons, Braxton & Walter Lane, who are her entire world. In her free time she enjoys motivating others to set goals because her goal in life is to "Make A Difference". She says nothing is impossible as long as you tell yourself you can do it. Her and her sons are also huge supporters of the Armed Services...past, present and future.

SERVPRO of  Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties specializes in the cleanup and restoration of residential and commercial property after a fire, smoke or water damage event. Our staff is highly trained in property damage restoration. From initial and ongoing training at SERVPRO’s corporate training facility to regular IICRC-industry certification, rest assured our staff is equipped with the knowledge to restore your property. If we can assist you with any restoration needs, do not hesitate to contact our office.

Home and Garden Show 2019

9/3/2019 (Permalink)

SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties had so much fun at the Home & Garden Show in Hiawassee hosted at the Towns County Recreational Center! We were able to meet customers and give them information they never knew regarding what was lurking in their HVAC duct systems and information regarding mold due to flooding among so much more! Thank you to everyone who came out to see us! If you didn't get a chance to come out or have questions for us, feel free to contact SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties and our office will be happy to answer any questions you may have any kinds of issues you are experiencing. SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties is always here to help!

Relay for Life

9/3/2019 (Permalink)

SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin and Gilmer Counties had so much fun last Friday at the Relay for Life event in Blue Ridge, GA! Thank you to everyone who came out to support the cause!

What Is Relay?

  • Organized, overnight community fundraising walk
  • Teams of people camp out around a track
  • Members of each team take turns walking around the track
  • Food, games and activities provide entertainment and build camaraderie
  • Family-friendly environment for the entire community

Because it's a team event, individual participants are not required to be there the entire time. But it's so much fun, you'll find it hard to leave!

SERVPRO of Union, Towns, Fannin & Gilmer Counties specializes in the cleanup and restoration of residential and commercial property after a fire, smoke or water damage event. Our staff is highly trained in property damage restoration and we are an IICRC Certified Firm. We believe in continuous training: from initial and ongoing training at SERVPRO’s corporate training facility to regular IICRC-industry certification, rest assured our staff is equipped with the knowledge to restore your property.