Recent Biohazard Posts

At Thanksgiving, Sometimes More Than Your CUP Runneth Over!

11/24/2021 (Permalink)

The bathroom gets a major workout during Thanksgiving weekend, and sometimes it’s NOT up to the task! Aside from the kitchen, the room the probably gets the MOST traffic over Thanksgiving weekend is the bathroom…which often cannot handle the “load!”

With the impending Thanksgiving weekend activities, a LOT of places will be brimming with activity over the next several days. Probably the first few that come to mind are retail outlets – for both groceries AND the upcoming Black Friday sales. And let’s not forget our hometown entrepreneurs on Shop Small Business Saturday. Fortunately, we get a bit of a break on Sunday to just watch TV, worship…and EAT. Then the internet will be abuzz transferring exabytes of data on both Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.

Now, imagine the staffing each of these Thanksgiving extended weekend activities requires. Kind of mind boggling! However, while you would think retailers, dining and entertainment industry workers, along with law enforcement and medical personnel, will probably be preparing for a noticeably uptick, guess who ELSE will be experiencing their historically BUSIEST weekend of the year? PLUMBERS!

Aside from your kitchen (and possibly the TV/family room), what is the room likely to see the MOST use over the next 6 days? The humble (or, not-so-humble) “throne room!” Between the Thanksgiving meal – along with all of the subsequent snacking – and the football binge watching, just on Thursday and Friday alone, imagine how many visitors the bathroom will have. Now, add in any out-of-town overnight guests to that equation. Right?!? And for those who will be burning up the internet at home, possibly stretching their vacation days, that’s even MORE use for the “powder room.” Of course, we haven’t even discussed the kitchen sink or garbage disposal. Suddenly, that whole plumber thing makes a LOT of sense.

To be quite honest, an “overload” of neither is good – and both fall into that dreaded “black water” category. Each teems with all sorts of nasty bacteria and contaminants, which a good ol’ fashioned cleaning with soap-and-water just cannot mitigate. Now is the time to call in the professionals, because the health of you, your family and your loved ones is certainly nothing you want to leave to chance…or “good enough!” It’s time to call in the certified biohazard experts of SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio.

Yes, we said biohazard. Those bacteria are living, breathing, MULTIPYING organisms and any one (or, more likely more) can cause health effects! And our team has seen – and trained – for it all. One of our team members actually lived the bathroom “explosion” nightmare, and saw the entire process first-hand. It was quite the educational experience, and gave her an elevated opinion of the thoroughness and efficiency of the biohazard remediation.

The attention paid to even the most minute details, and the extraordinary lengths employed to protect the well-being of not only the human residents, but that of the pets as well, genuinely impressed our team member…just as it consistently does for each of our clients who face a particularly “nasty” situation. No matter how much something other than your cup “runneth over” this weekend, you can always count on our industry-leading biohazard techniques and experts to join plumbers this weekend on standby and ready to respond to WHATEVER “overfloweth!”

Does “Clean” = “Sanitized” In The “New Normal”?

10/21/2021 (Permalink)

Just because you’ve “cleaned” it doesn’t necessarily mean your home or office is actually sanitized! Every good host or hostess knows cleaning is a major step in preparing for guests…but as we adjust to the “new normal” is “clean” REALLY enough?!?

Can you be counted among the people who read the credits at the end of movies or shows? Some of us do it out of curiosity, a few count themselves as true connoisseurs, and others may just be along for the ride with a credit-reader. But, those who DO stick around for those recognitions may notice a unique addition to recent broadcasts or theatrical releases. Alongside those obscure notations – like “bee wrangler” or “garden topiary sculptor” or “location accountant” – more frequently you will see credits for “health supervisor” or “pandemic consultant” or “COVID compliance.” Just check out a few of your favorite programs, and chances are you will see it!

It makes sense, considering the close contact frequently involved in this industry. However, a “sanitized” environment isn’t just for TV or movie stars. Things like hand sanitizer on counters everywhere, varying forms of social distancing and other precautions have become common sights…something many are calling the “new normal.” And it’s not just for retail and entertainment venues. You see it in many commercial spaces both large and small, community and religious facilities, and even in our homes.

Basically, anywhere people may tend to gather. And we’re on the cusp of the biggest “gathering” time of year…for some, the first time in two years! Which means, as we approach the upcoming holiday season – with long-anticipated gatherings in both homes and workplaces – you can count on adding another item to your “to-do” event checklist this year.

For those who will be hosting any sort of social event this season, “clean” has become a top-of-mind preparation. Now, every good host or hostess knows that cleaning is job one when you’re expecting company (especially those of us who grew up in the South, where we got a “hands-on” education in cleaning under careful adult tutelage and oversight…LOTS of “oversight”). But, in today’s social climate, is “clean” REALLY enough?!?

Whether treasured family and friends, or valued business associates and clients, you want them to feel both comfortable and SAFE at your gathering. So the last thing you want is the looming threat of a biohazard putting a damper on your holiday fun! As we explained in a previous post:

“YES, the COVID virus IS a biohazard! Normally, we think in terms of toxic chemicals or weapons; we’ve all seen those movie scientists in specialized biohazard suits who arrive in those state-of-the-art mobile units ready to deal whatever mutant organism may be threatening the population. But, if you think about it, this could also describe a lot of what we’ve seen on the news over the past 18 months. So let’s break down this whole ‘biohazard’ thing as it relates to our current COVID circumstances. ‘Bio’ signifies any living organism, which definitely includes viruses. And, well...’Hazard’ is pretty self-explanatory.”

Fortunately, our trained specialists in sanitizing and disinfecting on the SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio team, have the solution – so to speak – with our new defensive pathogen cleaning program, Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned. Going way beyond standard janitorial cleaning practices, this is proactive viral pathogen cleaning defining a higher standard of clean to the places we gather.

Our program is grounded in our unique “3 Cs” approach:

  • Consult: Not all businesses or spaces are the same, so we’ll tailor a bespoke cleaning program based on the unique needs of each facility or environment.
  • Clean: Based on the agreed plan, an expert deep clean is initiated using our proprietary EPA-Approved Hospital-Grade cleaning solutions and always adhering to the leading level of cleaning and decontamination standards set by the CDC.
  • Certify: You’ll know a business is Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned by the shield posted on their front window. Along with digital emblems and other collateral, this beacon represents their commitment to the comfort and security of their employees, customers and community. And, you can also reassure any vulnerable family members or friends planning a visit, that you want them to be safe.

So whether a neighborhood gathering or a corporate affair, call in the professionals when you want more than just “clean” – you want to protect every visitor with a space that’s been thoroughly sanitized by the NUMBER ONE choice in clean up and restoration!

Can “An Ounce Of Prevention” Be Your COVID Cure?

12/1/2020 (Permalink)

An investment in a precautionary COVID cleaning can forestall possible future litigation - image of gavel Everyone KNOWS "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"...that $40 oil change is certainly more affordable than a $4000 new engine!

We all face unique business circumstances during this COVID-19 period, finding new ways to cope, and the public has been made acutely aware of the adverse effects across the full professional spectrum. From healthcare workers to public servants to educators to essential personnel in virtually every industry, our society has extended a level of goodwill and charity not seen in recent history. But, how long will this quality of “understanding” last? Unfortunately, this era of tolerance may already be coming to an end.

While local, regional and national agencies meticulously track both the rise and fall of diagnoses, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19, another barometer may be a more accurate reflection of BUSINESS health. Legal firm Hunton Andrews Kurth has compiled and regularly updates their COVID-19 Lawsuit Tracker. And the numbers just may be more depressing than the actual infection rates in your area.

As of this week (11/30/2020), almost 6500 legal liability complaints have already been filed nationwide – with Texas ranking the fourth-highest (behind New York, California and Florida sequentially) at 478 open cases to date. And unlike the medical stats, these lawsuit numbers only promise to skyrocket. Aside from those “circumstance-specific” complaints (probably not applicable to a broader base of employees or contractors), one HAS emerged which could have wide-reaching ramifications:

“(an increasing number of)…Texas cases have to do with conditions of employment, including lack of PPE, exposure to COVID-19 at work, wrongful death or personal injury”

At this point, many business owners and employers could be dismissing this litigation, as they comfortably rely on the protections provided by the SAFE TO WORK Act, introduced July 27th in the U.S. Senate. The stated purpose of this legislation is to:

“To lessen the burdens on interstate commerce by discouraging insubstantial lawsuits relating to COVID–19 while preserving the ability of individuals and businesses that have suffered real injury to obtain complete relief.”

The bill even includes an added layer of insulation for entrepreneurs, wherein the protections would be applied retroactively for cases dating back to December 2019…and currently written to remain in effect until October 2024. So while many may see this as a positive indicator, others may see this as a major – negative – harbinger for spiking litigation over the next four years.

However, coupled with the announcement of Texas reaching the 1,000,000 case mark a couple of weeks ago – a dubious distinction as the first state to hit this milestone – we can only expect an attendant uptick in associated lawsuits. And according to FindLaw we will see this litigation focus on six different areas:

  1. Workplace/Employment Lawsuits
  2. Class-Action Lawsuits
  3. Lawsuits Against Educational Institutions
  4. Insurance Lawsuits
  5. Voting Rights Lawsuits
  6. Lawsuits Against Health Care Companies 

Which raises the question of liability waivers – for the public AND internal team members – and exactly how much protection they may offer business owners. According to an examination done by the American Bar Association Journal:

The COVID-19 waivers do not provide complete blanket immunity to businesses from lawsuits. The waivers may limit or prevent certain liability—like common negligence suits—and highlight safety risks to customers, but they don’t apply to intentional or wanton conduct or gross negligence claims."

Like any contract, there are different ways for a business to obtain a COVID-19 waiver. Some are hiring lawyers to craft them. Others use free or inexpensive templates downloaded from the internet.

So exactly what recourse DO businesses have in these unprecedented times?!? First, put the proper protocols in place to dovetail with the CDC recommendations. Among other measures, companies should consider:

  • Performing temperature screenings on any persons entering the premises and denying access to those running a fever;
  • Sending home any employees who have symptoms, reside with a person showing symptoms, or have recently traveled to areas with outbreaks;
  • Requiring all persons entering the premises to wear face coverings;
  • Requiring and facilitating social distancing by all persons present on the premises;
  • Promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices; and
  • Posting displays emphasizing the risk of contracting COVID-19 and stating the required and recommended safety measures.

Companies should also adopt a compliance policy that will allow them to verify and document they are complying with those regulations and guidelines. Those ordinances and rules are periodically updated, so companies should designate a point person(s) to monitor any revisions and ensure they are promptly implemented.

Additionally, companies should consider having all visitors (if feasible) sign a release in exchange for permission to access the premises. So long as certain criteria are satisfied, releases that relieve a party in advance of liability for its own negligence are enforceable under Texas law, and an effective release is "an absolute bar to any right of action on the released matter." Consult with an attorney to ensure the release for your business complies with Texas law.

Of course, as remediation and mitigation specialists, SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio believes in the old adage, “An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.” And considering the “pound of flesh” this wave of litigation may exact from entrepreneurs and business owners, the best investment could be a round of precautionary COVID-19 sanitation in spaces open to both the public, and those “non-public” areas frequented by employees, contractors and vendors.

Although announcements of daily advancements in the development and approval of effective vaccines and rapid testing capabilities may offer hope, without the proper prophylactic measures after an employee or customer tests positive for the virus, the impact on the health of your business bottom line could be affected for YEARS after the pandemic subsides.

What Happens AFTER The CSI Team Leaves?

10/21/2020 (Permalink)

Just as skilled crime scene techs are needed at the scene, you need equally-skilled techs to CLEAN UP the aftermath! TV rarely shows what you may face AFTER the investigation is over…and that’s where SERVPRO comes into the picture!

Frequently, we get our impressions of certain experiences almost exclusively from watching television. Think about it, we may not hike the Rockies, race a powerful piece of machinery around a track at 200+ MPH, experience the G-force pull of a jet airplane on takeoff, or sail a sleek vessel in an epic regatta race. Yet, we still have a “sense” of what these adventures may “feel” like.

Similarly, the people and events as portrayed on TV or in a movie usually do NOT follow realistic parallels with our “normal” everyday lives. Honestly, do you think ALL firefighters look like they do on television?!? And, the need to move storylines along, and build the proper dramatic arc, allows these shows to usually just skip past the more “mundane” or “boring” aspects of any event. C’mon…that’s why they invented mini-series!

So, what DOES happen during those parts of the story we never see? For instance, after an accident or other tragedy, and the investigators and their teams have now left, we usually see a quick cut to a lab, or office. And all that’s left at the ACTUAL scene is the aftermath! What happens in the lives of those left behind when they return to their home or office?!? Bet you never gave THAT a second thought during those “meanwhile-back-at-the-station” scenes. But it suddenly becomes VERY “dramatic” when it happens to you!

Although we readily acknowledge this may not be a pleasant subject to consider, should you ever be faced with the remnants of a crime scene, this suddenly becomes a MAJOR concern. So let’s circle back around to that question we asked earlier…”What happens NOW?!?”

Don’t worry, MOST people never even think about this. But, it IS good to have information if you or someone you know ever does find yourself in this position. This not only applies to those “worst-case” scenarios you’re probably already imagining, but also to the scene of burglaries, fires and other sites of legal “misadventures.” And if you’ve ever had to clean up fire extinguisher residue or fingerprint dust, you know it takes a LOT more than a few household wipes to put things back to “normal.”

However, in the case of more “dramatic” scenes, many choose to just move into a different home or business space. Yet, even if you never want to set foot in that space again, SOMEBODY has to clean it up before listing the property. And that’s where the specially-trained SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio crime scene techs enter the scene.

While Realtors in Texas are required to disclose if a major crime has occurred at the property, they do have the opportunity to showcase the home or building to prospective buyers prior to making the revelation. So it’s DEFINITELY in your best interest to have the site professionally cleaned to remove ALL traces of the “incident.” It’s much easier for buyers to pictures themselves in the space, if the “evidence” of previous occupants – and their activities – has been COMPLETELY erased!

So even though you may continue to enjoy the majority of your experience vicariously through your favorite TV shows and characters, and not see what happens AFTER those crime scene investigators have left, you now have the knowledge to fill-in-the-blanks in the story for yourself!