Backyard Safety Tips

Summer is finally here and we know that you’re eager to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and spend some time in your backyard. Sadly, sometimes accidents can occur outside and spoil your fun. Here is a list of some common backyard dangers to keep an eye out for:

Swimming Pools

An essential part of enjoying the hot weather, swimming pools can also be a source of danger. Pool safety is vitally important to ensure your enjoyment does not get ruined. 

Over-treating your pool with too much chlorine can lead to chemical poisoning, and anywhere water is present you have to mind any nearby electrical appliances. You should also ensure that if you have kids they know the dangers that can be present in a pool and wait for adult supervision before taking a plunge. The buddy system should always be employed, particularly for kids.


Grills and fire pits can frequently be found in backyards and are often part of summer fun. Each device—if left unattended—can cause serious fire damage to your home, so it is important to make sure you always have an eye on them and keep children a safe distance away. 

Fire Pit Safety Tips

  • Flammable material and fluids must be kept away from fire pits
  • Don’t overload your fire pit
  • Place your fire pit on a level surface
  • Be sure to not place your fire pit under tree branches, or telephone or electrical wires
  • Keep a garden hose, bucket of water, or fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency

Grill Safety Tips

  • Only use your propane or charcoal barbecue grill outside
  • Keep your pets and children a few feet away from the grilling area
  • Clean the grease and fat buildup from your grill because both grease and fat burn very quickly and could cause burns or fires


Long Island is seeing an increase in the number of ticks populating the island. The increase in the tick population also means an increase in Lyme and other disease diagnoses. If you’re entering tall grass or deep forests be sure to check your skin regularly for ticks.


Strong pesticides can help protect you from ticks, but they also present their own dangers. Powerful chemicals can contaminate the area for days and even rub off on children or pets. Children tend to have weaker immune systems, meaning they could be more susceptible to illness. Certain pesticides are meant for application to clothing rather than skin, so be sure to read labels carefully. 

Large Patio Umbrellas

Patio umbrellas can be blown off balance by wind and could wreak havoc; breaking windows, breaking structures, or even flying into a neighbor’s yard. To avoid danger, reinforce the umbrella with a weight, brace, or even a sandbag.

Branch Services wants to ensure you have a safe and happy summer. Watch out for the dangers that can be present in your own backyard! If fire, storm, water, or mold damage your home we want you to know that Branch Services is only a phone call away. Give us a call at (631)467-6600 to see what we can do for you!

Keeping Houseplants Free of Mold

If you’re a regular reader of our blog then you surely know the dangers of mold and how difficult the process to remove it from your home can be. So it is important to consider all potential sources of mold, even those that may be more inconspicuous than others. 

While houseplants are renowned for their decorative appeal, they can also help fight indoor pollutants like formaldehyde or benzene. Sadly, if improperly maintained, a houseplant can actually become a source of unwanted pollutants and mold. However, there are steps you can take to ensure your plants do more than just improve your home’s aesthetic. These steps will help to keep both you and your houseplants healthy!

Dont Overwater

The internet is a great resource for learning how frequently a houseplant should be watered. There are also wonderful apps that can keep track of your plant’s watering schedule for you.

Mold needs 3 things to grow: food, moisture, and oxygen. A houseplant can house all three of these elements in abundance. Moisture is the easiest of the three to manage. Better Homes & Garden suggests adding water until it begins to escape through the container’s drainage hole. After the plant has drained the excess water the tray needs to be dumped. It can take only a day or two before the excess water starts to rot your roots!

Keep the Air Moving

Plants need to be kept in a well-ventilated area. Plants emit water vapor which increases relative humidity levels. If the humidity levels around your plant are constantly high, mold can begin to form. Opening a window or turning on a fan can help to circulate the air around your plant. If you are not near a window or fan, you could use a dehumidifier daily to remove the excess moisture.

A Pinch of Cinnamon

Cinnamon can be used as a natural fungicide. Including a little bit of cinnamon in the soil when first planting seedlings can help fight damping off. Studies also suggest that it works with older plants to stave off slime mold!

Removing the Mold

There is a chance that the plants you have in your house are already exhibiting mold growth. If you see mold developing on plant leaves you should dampen a towel with warm water, ring out the towel of excess water, and gently wipe the mold from the leaves. You should replace the towels frequently for the best results. If you see mold growth in the soil you can use a spoon or trowel to remove the contaminated soil. The soil should be placed in a sealable bag and disposed of. After removing all the visible mold you can fill the pot with fresh soil.

The only way to ensure your home is free from mold is to bring in an expert here at Branch Services so that we make check your walls and vents. It should bring you some relief though, to know there are some things you can do to prevent or remove mold in your home!

Beware of Spring Flooding!

The weather is warming up, but before you get ready to head outside and enjoy it, it is important to make sure your home or office is safe from torrential rains and flooding. Water damage can result in real harm to your property’s value and structural integrity. Floods are becoming more and more frequent across Long Island, so one must prepare for the dangers associated with a flood. The following tips will tell you how to best restore both your property and lifestyle after a flood.

Safety First

Wires, power lines, and electronic devices may still be live during a flood. The water will act as a conductor increasing the chances of electrocution or fire. Contact your local power company if you suspect you might be in danger. Floodwaters can wreak havoc on your gas lines as well. If you smell gas it is important you leave immediately and call your gas company. Be sure to remove yourself from a dangerous environment as soon as possible.

What to Do Next

After flooding occurs call us here at Branch Services as soon as possible because mold can grow within only 12 hours. We offer 24-hour emergency service because we know the importance of moving quickly to mitigate the damage. Our flood removal process will ensure the water is disposed of swiftly, enabling us to start water damage restoration.

After calling us, your second call should be to your insurance company to ensure you are covered. The experts here at Branch Services have years of experience working with insurers; our knowledge of insurance policies will ensure you get everything you’re entitled to.

Insurance Claims

There are things you can do to better prepare yourself for submitting a claim for restoration services. Creating a home inventory of your valuables is a great way to expedite the claim. Keep receipts of your newly purchased valuables to remove the guesswork in estimating the cost of replacement.

Create a list of every product that would need to be replaced. Organize them by room and type of item: clothing, electronics, jewelry, etc. Take photos of the rooms that contain items of great value. They can be used as a reference after experiencing a devastating flood. Be sure to update your photos and inventory yearly.

Guard Yourself Against Infections

Contaminated water can bring Salmonella, E. coli, and a litany of other bacteria that will cause real health problems. You should dispose of any food that came in contact with the water because eating or drinking a contaminated product significantly increases your chance of infection. The threat of infection isn’t just an issue with food and drink; any materials exposed to the water—medication, children’s toys, or even cosmetics—could become contaminated and have significant effects on your health.

If you have lost electricity, or the flood reaches your kitchen, you should dispose of any perishable items you may have in your fridge; chicken can start to spoil after only 2 hours of being removed from refrigeration.

Keep your family away from the floodwater. If anyone has come in contact with the floodwater it is important they clean themselves thoroughly. Kids may be tempted to splash and play in the water, be sure they are aware of the severity of the situation.

Avoiding Breathing Hazards

Even after the water is gone mold growth can begin in under 24 hours. It is unsafe to be around water damage. Porous materials like drywall and carpet need to be handled by experts with advanced knowledge of the drying process. You may be tempted to bring out the hair dryer or dehumidifier in the hopes of solving the problem yourself, but it is important to contact a professional. Even minor water damage can have significant effects on your health. Water removal is a specialty of ours and we know how to best control moisture ensuring the best results.

Our industrial-grade dehumidifiers and air scrubbers will stop every type of mold and mold spores from infecting your property. Branch Services wants to get you back in the swing of things as quickly as possible.

After thoroughly drying your home Branch Services applies an E.P.A.-approved antimicrobial agent to help prevent mold growth, making the air you breathe safe once again.

Being a victim of a flood can make it tough to compose yourself. There is a lot to do. Branch Services is going to help return your life to normal as quickly as possible.

Breathing Easier: Mold Remediation

We’ve all seen mold. Mold is a woolly growth produced by a fungus, especially on moist or decaying surfaces. It can usually be found in dark or steamy areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, and spaces with poor ventilation. Damp basements, leaks in pipes or roofs, and any standing water can create a haven for mold. When mold spores are present in large quantities they can lead to property damage and a variety of health issues, including allergic reactions and respiratory problems for people and pets. Mold can form quickly and, once established, is almost impossible for homeowners to fully remove on their own.

If you have mold, then you need Branch Services.

Eliminating Mold At The Source

Branch Services knows that eliminating the moisture source is the first step in fungal remediation. After the moisture is controlled, then comes the removal of affected contents and the decontamination of replaceable materials. We’ll remove any moldy carpets and seal off the damaged area. We’ll then open up directly affected walls and bag any additional moldy materials. Debris is vacuumed and affected surfaces are scrubbed with a mold cleaner.

Drying of concealed wall cavities and enclosed spaces may also be required for full remediation. Branch Services begins the rigorous process of eliminating present and potential mold by using H.E.P.A. Vacs. High-Efficiency Particulate Air vacuums differ from conventional vacuums in that they are capable of trapping extremely small, micron-sized airborne particles. We also perform biocide cleaning of interior surfaces. Biocide kills disease-causing mold, fungus, bacteria, and viruses.

Next, we apply a mold/mildew-resistant encapsulant.

Unlike regular paint that will just cover up unseen mold—making it even more difficult to see and treat—encapsulant paint product contains antimicrobial ingredients that help fight mold. It also seals in any mold remaining on a material, like wood, so that it cannot continue to grow and spread.

Occasionally, it is extremely difficult or impossible to remove a material that is contaminated by mold. For instance, drywall and insulation can usually be easily removed and replaced, but the wooden studs inside a wall cannot. In such cases, as much mold as possible is removed from the surface of the wood. Then the wood is cleaned and treated with an encapsulant. Lastly, we perform air purification through ozone treatments, which kills and denatures mold on surfaces.

Mold can ruin your home and your health. Removing only some of the mold in your home is pointless. It will simply grow and spread, and you’ll eventually have a full-blown mold issue once again. Our pros will test your home for mold and tell you what kind of mold is growing there, the severity of your mold problem, and the location of mold you may not have spotted.

Devising an immediate and thorough remediation plan is essential for getting rid of the mold. Here at Branch Services, we break the mold! 

Our knowledgeable technicians will promptly find and stop mold, even when it hides in the most hard-to-reach places. Our competitors can’t match our level of expertise or customer service. When it comes to mold remediation, the highly skilled professionals at Branch Services are a breath of fresh air.

How Is Mold Graded?

Mold spores are everywhere. You can’t get away from them; and when they take hold and begin to grow, they can pollute the air and cause issues for both people and pets. In addition to the damage, mold can do to your body, mold can also damage your home, gradually wearing away at the home’s structural integrity, and attacking walls, floors, or ceilings. 

If you see mold it is important to act quickly, but not knowing how bad a situation is can make it difficult to do so. Knowing the mold levels in your home helps bring clarity to the situation and lets you know how best to tackle it. 

Most industry experts divide the different stages of mold growth or damage into five distinct levels. Level one is the lowest degree of contamination, and four is the highest. The fifth level refers to a specific location for mold growth that can be especially complicated. Branch Services wants to share with you the standards for mold levels in the house.

Level 1:

This level is reserved for mold growth that has been contained to 10 square feet or less. Typically it can be found on ceiling tiles or wall panels that are exposed to high humidity or fluctuations in temperature. Fortunately, if caught quickly, the mold can be removed with relative ease. This is the type of mold you may find on bathroom tiles or walls. 

Level 2:

Contaminated areas of 10–30 square feet. If the mold has spread to cover a space over 10 square feet, it may hint at a more significant issue with plumbing or air conditioning systems—but not always. Typically there will be a source for all the moisture that may be difficult to find.

Level 3:

Covering a space between 30 to 100 square feet, the 3rd level is the stage where you should start to worry. With such a large portion of the building being covered in mold, the house would now need to be tested. Contacting a professional cleaning service (like us here at Branch Services) should be your first step.

Level 4:

Any contamination that extends to over 100 square feet will require professional remediation. Also, at this level, any person with repository issues would need to evacuate, so cleaning professionals can get to work using materials to remove the excessive contamination.

Level 5:

Level 5 is specifically for HVAC systems. All remediation procedures for air conditioning units and HVAC systems also require a professional cleaning service. As a result of the level of contamination, the entire system will necessitate a shutdown as the professionals clean the area thoroughly.

Regardless of the level, if your home has issues with mold you should contact a professional cleaning service as soon as possible. Branch Services is here 24/7 at 1.631.467.6600. You can also email us at

Space Heater Safety Tips

We’ve had good luck with temperatures in the late fall, but now that winter is officially here temperatures are plummeting. That, combined with the cost of home heating fuel, means more people will be trying to save money by using space heaters. While this can work to save money, space heaters can still pose a threat of fire.

Here are some safety tips to ensure the safety of your family and pets during the colder weather and help to prevent a space heater fire. 

Safety Certification: When purchasing a space heater, look for a safety certification from a well-known source, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

Make Sure It Has Auto Shut Off: Auto shut-off features are beneficial to prevent overheating and hazards if the space heater tips over. Many fires occur when a space heater is knocked over.

Make Room: Make sure there is at least 3 feet of space around the space heater and anything that could set fire. Take care to remove flammable materials such as curtains, bedding, and clothing. Aside from cooking fires, space heater fires that start because they are placed too close to a combustible surface are the second most common type of house fire.

Keep Them Out of the Bathroom and Kitchen: Space heaters do not typically come with GFCI plugs. To prevent electrocution keep the heating unit away from water. Bathrooms and kitchens are a bad idea for electric space heaters.

No Extension Cords: Plug only the space heater into the wall outlet so as not to overload the circuit. Never use an extension cord with space heaters because the amount of power drawn from these units is too much for a low-amp extension cord to handle. It can cause the cord to overheat and spark a fire.

Keep It on the Floor: Keep the space heater on the floor, preferably wood or tile. Low-pile carpet is acceptable but stay away from high-pile and shag carpeting because it can easily catch fire. Heaters kept on shelves or tables can knock over and spark a fire.

Keep Away From Children and Pets: Kids and pets can be burned, electrocuted, or can start a fire by knocking it over or putting things like blankets and toys too close to the heater.

Turn Them off When Not in the Room: Make sure to turn off the heating unit when leaving the room or going to bed.

Check the Wires: Check for worn or frayed wires before using the space heater. Don’t use it if wires are worn or broken.

Even when we take precautions, accidents can happen. If you experience a fire in your home you can always rely on Branch Services to be there to clean it up.

Lead Abatement

Lead has proven to be a dangerous substance and as such, it is vital, particularly during renovations, that it be removed carefully and completely. 

Lead abatement is the process of removing or reducing the level of lead in a home or business. When lead abatement is done in a home, the process is designed to permanently eliminate lead paint-based hazards. These work practices are important to prevent children and adults alike from developing lead poisoning. Even pets may be in danger from the presence of lead. The only way to prevent lead poisoning is to remove lead from the environment. Once the lead is abated, the lead risk is gone and a home can be considered “lead safe”.

Renovation and Lead

In houses built prior to 1978, lead abatement activities are very important when any kind of renovation is taking place. Paint chips or even the lead dust from sanding lead paint can create an extreme hazard leading to elevated blood lead levels. During the renovation, repair, and painting of these homes, it is important to have a lead abatement contractor work on the job. An experienced lead risk assessor should be present to determine if lead paint stabilization, paint abatement, or a full lead abatement project needs to occur. 

Lead is not only dangerous when swallowed. It is also dangerous when it is inhaled. That means that even if the paint is not peeling it can be a problem. Lead paint is very dangerous when it is being stripped or sanded and lead particles fill the air.

The work performed during lead paint removal can be extremely dangerous and difficult. The EPA requires individuals and firms who perform abatement projects in pre-1978 target housing and child-occupied facilities to be certified and follow specific work practices.

If you decide to attempt to tackle this dangerous project on your own you can look to our previous blog posts for tips on the best way to contain and remove lead-based paint. However, it is highly recommended that you consider hiring a Certified RRP (Renovation, Repair, and Painting), Contractor. Remember, ANY dust leftover from your renovation can be a risk to your family and pets, so take this risk seriously and give us a call if you have questions about your work or need lead abatement completed on your property. 

Musty Smells in Your Vents?

You may have noticed that over time, musty smells may begin coming from your vents and filling your home. This can be a sign of mildew and mold in the system. Read on for tips on how to get that musty smell out of your house, for good!

Allergies, sinus infections, asthma, and other respiratory problems may be caused by dirt, debris, or mold spores caught in your ductwork, so it’s important to keep up with regular system maintenance. 

Replace Your Air Filter

When your air filter gets clogged, it can cause smells to back up into your home. Remember, your filter is there to trap mold, dust, and allergens, so when it’s completely clogged they have nowhere to go but back into your house. If you have a smart thermostat, it may remind you when to change your air filter. If not, it is recommended to change them every 30 to 90 days. If you smoke or have more than one pet, you may need to change it every 30 to 60 days instead. 

The MERV rating on your filters will show how effective your filter is at trapping debris, mold spores, and bacteria in the air. The higher the MERV rating, the smaller the particles it can capture. 

If after changing out your air filter you still have musty smells, you may need a professional to intervene.

Check for Infestation

It’s sometimes hard to tell if there are animals in your ductwork without cameras, but use the senses you have at your disposal and they’ll give you a good hint. If you have unusual smells or hear something in your ducts, those are good clues. If you are unsure if you have an infestation, we recommend you call us immediately. 

Visible Mold

The most obvious sign of mold growth in your home is a black growth near the vents. While you are most likely unable to check out the entirety of your system, if there is mold at the vents, it’s blowing all throughout your home. If you see mold such as this, call us immediately. The CDC reports that recent studies suggest a potential link between early mold exposure and asthma in children, so for the health and safety of your family check all of your vents at least twice a year. 

If you haven’t had your ducts or HVAC system checked in over a year, or if you believe your home may be contaminated, call Branch Services at 631.467.6600. We are open 24 hours a day and will do our best to resolve your HVAC issue before the really cold weather gets here!

National Fire Prevention Month

October is National Fire Prevention Month, (and the week of October 9–15 is National Fire Prevention week) in memory of the Great Chicago Fire which broke out on Oct. 8, 1871. In 1925, United States President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed fire prevention week a national observance. The first National Fire Prevention Week to occur was from October 4th through October 10th, 1925. 

Some Facts You Should Know!

3 of every 5 home fire deaths resulted from fires with no working smoke alarms.

  • Make sure your home has a working smoke alarm on every floor and in every bedroom and that the smoke alarm sound is loud enough to wake everyone in your home. 

Less than 50% of homeowners have an escape plan*

  • Having a fire escape plan is important. Your family members should know at least two routes of escape and you should have a meeting place outside that is a good distance away from the home. Fire drills are a good way to practice fire safety as well, especially when you have small children in the house. 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is the #1 cause of accidental poisoning in the US

  • Working CO2 detectors save lives. Make sure you have them installed on every floor and in every bedroom. 
  • Only 47% of people report having CO alarms in their homes.
  • CO2 detectors aren’t optional! Every home should have them. Many fire departments offer how-to fire safety classes this month and some even give away CO2 detectors. 

Unattended cooking is the #1 cause of home fires

  • Don’t let family meals become the cause of fire deaths. Keep fire extinguishers in an easily accessible place and learn how to use them. Prevent fires whenever possible by practicing common sense while cooking. Never leave a hot stove unattended.

In the home, the causes of fire include fireplaces, space heaters, your kitchen, candles, smoking, and more. Be vigilant, be smart, and keep your family safe. 

Lightning Safety

Each year in the United States, about 20 people are killed by being struck by lightning. There are about 25 million lightning strikes each year in the United States, hitting about 3,000 people. Lightning victims who survive can experience chronic pain, neurological disabilities, and depression because lightning damages the body’s central nervous system. 

Recently outside of the U.S. Capitol, three people were killed after being struck by lightning. While no one can see the future, it’s possible that a few precautionary measures could have prevented this tragedy. Read on to see how you can reduce your risk when outdoors. 

Before any outing, be sure to check the weather forecast. If there are thunderstorms predicted, you may be in danger, so avoid visiting elevated areas, and avoid open fields. 

The National Weather Service likes to use the phrase “when thunder roars, go indoors” as a way to remind people to take shelter from the potential danger of lightning deaths. 

When retreating indoors, be sure it is a fully enclosed area, open structures, such as a porch aren’t enough. You want to be inside a building or hard-top vehicles. 

In the DC tragedy, the victims huddled under a tree which led to them being struck. During storms, lighting tends to strike the tallest object around, so trees, and utility poles, etc. should be avoided at all costs as they will draw in lighting. If you should find yourself in a field and lightning is around, lie flat. Lying flat on the ground will offer you some protection, however, the best practice is if you hear thunder, seek shelter and avoid elevated areas when storms are in the forecast. 

Remember, lighting can travel, so even if you are indoors, don’t use corded phones as lightning can travel through the lines in your home. 

Following these tips will help to protect you from lighting strikes and keep you safe, however, to keep your home safe, you’ll want a lighting rod. Properly installed, lightning rods intercept strikes, providing a safe path for lightning current into the ground. They do not decrease the likelihood your home may be struck, but provide a direct path to the ground, preventing damage to your home from fire, explosion, and electrical surges that can result from lightning strikes.