Part 2- Homeowners Insurance Policy: Living Expenses aka Additional Living Expenses or ALE.


If your bedroom looks like this after a Fire, there’s a good chance you will need to talk to your insurance adjuster about ALE.

Have you ever thought were your family would stay if your home was no longer livable? After a Fire or large flood in your home, chances are you might not be able to stay there while the damage is being cleaned up. If you don’t have family nearby, where will you stay? What will you eat? How do you pay for a place to live and food when you just bought groceries that are now unusable and have to continue paying your mortgage?

Standard Homeowners insurance provides coverage for Additional Living Expenses or ALE. Those expenses can include hotel stays, rent, meals, and storage fees.

However, most insurance companies do not provide this coverage if your home is flooded. Flood insurance policies through the National Flood Insurance Program also don’t pay out ALE. Check with your agent if you are able to add ALE to your homeowner’s policy in the event of a flood. FEMA can help with displaced homeowners, but as with anything government, don’t rely on it.

A few things to consider when reviewing your ALE coverage is:

Most insurance companies cap living expenses to 20% of the dwelling coverage.

Insurance companies can also set a time limit on how long you can receive ALE—some it is 12 months, which seems adequate, but when cleaning out, gutting, and rebuilding a home, it can sometimes go longer. Make sure when you choose a Restoration Contractor, you give them a deadline so you are not paying out of pocket to live out of your home.

Don’t overlook your extra expenses.

Eating out when you have no kitchen, pet boarding, or laundry are expenses you can deduct from your ALE. You can also look into extra mileage if you are having to drive further to work or school. You can also request reimbursement for any additional storage fees if you have items your Restoration Contractor is not storing for you.

Keep all of  your receipts.

Insurance companies will not pay out your ALE if they have no proof of the expenditures.  Remember this is additional coverage. It will not pay for your mortgage payment or utilities at your house.

When choosing a housing option, get something comparable to what you lived in.

Keep in mind, hotels get old really fast when you have to live there compared to when you are on vacation. A family of four may be comfortable in a 4000 square-foot home will probably struggle to stay in a 1500 square-foot apartment for any extended period of time. Pick a reasonable location where your family can be happy for an extended period of time.

Pick a Restoration team that oversees the job from start to finish.

ARS Cleanup is a Complete Restoration company that can help you remediate and restore your home after a disaster in a timely manner! ARS Cleanup also works directly with your insurance company to help get you the most bang for your insurance buck.

ARS Cleanup Homeowners Insurance Policy

Part 1-Homeowners Insurance Policy: Structure and Possessions

Restoration Contractors often hear customer’s frustrations regarding their Homeowners Insurance Policy. More specifically, Estimators and Repair Managers at ARS Cleanup report customer confusion regarding what their policy does and doesn’t cover.

Unfortunately, Restoration Contractors cannot change the Insurance Industry to cover all the costs associated with a disaster. However, the experts at ARS Cleanup have compiled a few tidbits to help homeowners better understand their Homeowners Insurance Policy.

  • Review your Insurance Policy yearly. Meet with your Insurance Agent yearly to guarantee you have adequate coverage to in regards to the structure of your home. Remember, what you paid for your home 20 years ago is vastly different than what it would cost to rebuild your home today.  Examine the materials used to build your home. Ensure you have adequate amounts of coverage to replace like quality with the same materials.
  • Homeowners should ask their Agent whether or not they can add to a Backup of Sewer and Drain endorsement. A sewer flood is rarely covered by Homeowners Insurance Policies. 
  • When significant damage occurs in a home, systems including HVAC, plumbing, and/or electrical may need to be entirely replaced. City Building Inspectors require homes with extensive construction to be brought up to code following a disaster. Consider adding an Ordinance or Law Endorsement which pays a specified amount for the additional cost of Code Updates.
  • Most Insurance Policies provide coverage for personal possessions. When reviewing your coverage, examine your policy to learn if you have Replacement or Actual Cash Value. Replacement covers the cost of replacing a damaged item with a new item of similar quality without depreciation or deduction. Actual Cash Value gives you what the item would cost if you were to sell it today.
  • For more expensive items like firearms, jewelry, silverware, or furs, consider an endorsement or floater policy to your homeowners insurance. A standard policy typically has a $1k-2K limit for jewelry. Regardless of what coverage you have, it’s important to take inventory of your home on a yearly basis. ARS Cleanup recommends documenting each item worth over $500 in your home. In addition to documentation, take detailed pictures of each room and closet with their contents. By doing this, it will save a lot of frustration during the event of a disater. 

Standard Homeowners Policies typically cover damages caused by fires, hail, lightning, explosions, and theft. Most DO NOT cover flooding, earthquakes, backup of sewer and drains, or damage caused by negligence.

In the next blog post, experts from ARS Cleanup will go over addition living expenses following a disaster, liability to others, and Umbrella Policies.

Any type of disaster in the home usually leaves a profound negative impact on whomever was subject to the event. As an adult, disasters are stressful, but oftentimes adults are familiar with basic coping methods to help us through difficult times. Children, however, often suffer even more than adults because they’re unaware of how to cope with the aftermath of destruction.ARS Cleanup Children Fire

Gender also plays a role in how children cope. Girls tend to be more verbally expressive and ask questions about the disaster. Girls thoughts also dwell more on the event. Boys are more prone to being angry or violent and usually take longer to recover.

All children often display signs and symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Symptoms could include flashbacks of the event, nightmares, increased irritability, poor concentration, regression in younger children, depression, anxiety, or lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities.

No matter how your child is expressing themselves after a traumatic event, it is important to talk to children before and after disasters.

Talk to you child about disasters. Talk to them about what their worries and fears are. Teach children coping mechanisms such as taking a deep breath or discuss making a family emergency plan. Keep lines of communication open and praise your child for how brave or courageous they have been.

Telling your child disasters will never happen or that they won’t happen to your family could lead to trust issues and lack of confidence in parents if tragedy does strike.  Pretending there is no danger does not help children.

If you child has been victim to a disaster or traumatic event, consider seeking professional help if their behavior is not improving or to minimize the symptoms of PTSD. Talk to your child’s pediatrician and ask for a referral to a counselor or child psychiatrist or psychologist.

Be sure to tend to your own wellbeing as children tend to identify with how parents deal with trauma.

For your child’s comfort, seek to restore what you can from your normal routine. Even though it might not ever be what it was before, it will provide stability to children. remember to eat meals at regular times and enforce bedtime to help bring some amount of normalcy to your family.

ARS Cleanup strives to get each family back into their home as soon as possible. As you tend to your family, we will take care of your home.

Fall weather is upon us. It’s starting to get cooler outside, kiddos are heading back to school, and life is falling back into a routine, husbands are gearing upi for Hunting Season, sweaters buried in the back of your closet are looking seemingly inviting, but what about your house? It doesn’t get to throw on a parka when it gets chilly. What can you do to help your home avoid disaster and stay warm and dry this coming Fall?

ARS Cleanup Fall

Don’t be a Scarecrow this fall and just sit around hoping you can “scare” away disaster! Be proactive and tackle the cleanup up now to avoid a mess later!

  • Check your gutters

    • At ARS Cleanup, we see several home disasters caused by clogged or damaged gutters. Ice dams can quickly form after Rainy Fall Weather and allow water to seep into your home and wreak havoc. Remove all debris from gutters and check downspouts. If needed, extend your downspouts to the middle of your yard to get water away from your home.

ARS Cleanup Clogged Gutters

Just because you cleaned them in the Spring, doesn’t mean gutters aren’t already full again! Best to just double check them.

  • Check for Air Leaks

    • Inspect windows and doors for gaps and faulty weather stripping. Caulk and seal air leaks around windows, plumbing, ducting, or any other openings from the outside to inside of your home. For large gaps, use expanding foam. Click to learn more about air leaks in your home.
  • Inspect Your Furnace and ducts

    • Show your furnace a little love by replacing the filters, look into having your ducts cleaned, and vacuum inside and outside the furnace to remove dust and debris, turn on the heat to make sure it is running properly. Some of the worst home floods we have mitigated, are in homes when the inside temperature is too cold and pipes start to freeze and burst flooding the entire house.
  • Get to the bottom of any roof leaks

    • Small leaks can cause big damage!!! Fall is an excellent time to inspect and fix leaky rook problems because the temperatures are more agreeable to look in your attic and be on or near your roof. Check for faulty or loose singles, make sure all metal flashing is installed properly around all vents and/or chimneys. Be safe while you are on your roof!
  • Store or cover all Air Conditioners

    • Clean and store all removable air conditioners and inspect you’re A/C unit to see that it is clean from debris or critters. Cover it in the winter to keep it clean and ready for use the following year.
  • Clean Fireplaces, stoves, and chimneys

    • Clear out ash and other debris or call stove company to maintain your stove or fireplace if you are unable to do it yourself. We reccommend calling a professional chimney sweep to inspect your chimney rather than do it yourself. ARS Cleanup has cleaned countless homes effected by smoke damage from their own fireplace.
  • Drain Sprinklers and/or outside faucets

    • In some areas, it’s necessary to have your sprinklers blown out to avoid broken pipes. In almost all North Western States, draining outside faucets is essential to keep pipes from breaking due to frost.

Frozen Burst Pipe ARS Cleanup

Above is a pipe that had water left in it and Froze and caused a major flood! Keep in mind, this is a “Frost Free” Pipe! Whoops! Look closely at the bottom and you’ll see the crack.


In conclusion, if you miss some of these things before Hunting Season starts, we’ll see you this winter 🙂 For all other questions, call your local ARS Cleanup!

Last year, several wild fires raged all over Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. Our Casper, Wyoming General Manager and his family had a fire so close to their home, they were placed under evacuation notice. Consequently, it got us thinking, what should one do to prepare to evacuate if that were to happen close to their home?

A great place to start is with making or purchasing a 72 Hour Kit for each memeber of your famlily. 72 Hour Kits are meant to be a grab and go item in case you need to evacuate. Commercially, 72 Hour Kits are available to buy, but if you are packing the recommended one kit per person in your family, it may be more economical to pu together each kit yourself. Keep your children and family members involved to, they can help remind you of what they would. In addition, don’t forget about your pets! Below is a list of reccommended items for each person.

ARS CLEANUP Prepare to Evacuate

Click on the image to purchase a 72 Hour Kit.

Food and Water

You’ll need a three day supply of food and water for each person. Some suggestions for food include:
-Protein or Granola Bars
-Trail Mix or Dried Fruit
-Crackers or Cereals
-Canned Meat (avoid pop-top cans as they might leak)
-Jerky (keep it separate from other foods),
-Canned Juice or Powdered Drink Mixes
-Candy or Gum (mint tends to flavor everything around it and gummy candy tends to melt), and one gallon of water per person per day.

It is especially relevant to pack for  young children or anyone with a special diet, make sure you have appropriate food packed for their individual needs.

Fuel & Lights

-Battery Lighting
-Extra Batteries
-Lighter and Water-Proof Matches

 Personal Documents and Money

Keep all these items in a waterproof, safe place! We recommend keeping a thumb drive and copies of very important information. Information should include:

-Passports, Drivers Licenses, Birth and Marriage Certificates, Wills, and Contracts
-Vaccination Records
-Insurance Policies
-Cash, Credit Cards, and Banking Information


These are handy items to keep separate from your camping gear. Remember, you need to be able to grab and go.

-Can opener
-Dishes/ Utensils
-Pen and Paper
-Pocket Knife
-Duct Tape

Bedding and Clothing

Clean clothes make all the difference in a state of emergency. Items to pack include:

-Change of Clothing (Warm and Cool Weather Options)
-Jacket and/or Coat
-Blankets and Emergency Blankets
-Cloth Sheet
-Plastic Sheet

Personal Supplies and Medication

-Travel Sizes in each bag are easier to pack away.
-First Aid Kit
-Travel Sizes in each bag are easier to pack away.
-Toilet Paper, Feminine Hygiene Items, Baby Wipes
-Hand Sanitizer, Soap, Dish Soap, Bleach
-Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Children’s medication, and allergy medication.
-Enough Prescription Medication to last at least three days.

Furthermore, check your 72 Hour Kits every six months or so to rotate out food and add to it if needed. Consider keeping a few games and toys handy as well; a deck of cards goes a long way when you need to kill time or stay occupied!

For more information, visit to learn what else you could include in yout 72 hour kit to better prepare you if you have to evacuate!

Short and simple answer: Don’t. Don’t try and Cleanup Mold in your home without consulting a Restoration Expert from ARS Cleanup.

ARS Cleanup Mold

It seems like every couple of weeks, we get a phone call from a person who has tried to Cleanup Mold in their home with instructions they found on the Internet. Don’t get us wrong; we love a good DIY project from Pinterest and the occasion Life Hack from Facebook, but Mold Remediation is something you shouldn’t try to tackle without help.  Here’s why:

You could make the situation worse.

By trying to Cleanup Mold yourself, you could inadvertently be causing further damage. Almost every household cleaner contains a certain amount of water in the ingredients and water is a food source for mold. Don’t feed the mold.

You could be using the wrong chemicals or solutions.

Using improper chemicals or cleaning solutions can cause mold to react and send more spores all over your home. If you use a chemical improperly, you could be subjecting everyone in your household to harmful fumes.

You could cause further damage to your home.

The chemicals or solutions you use could also cause damage to your paint, drywall, and other surfaces you might be applying it to.

You could get sick.

As a result of disturbing the mold, spores are sent into the air where they can be breathed in and can cause respiratory illness or distress. Proper resperatory protection while cleaning mold is a must. A dust mask is not adequate protection against mold spores.

You might miss something.

Certified Mold Remediation Technicians at ARS are trained to look for Mold in the most unsuspecting locations. Even though you might have cleaned up all the visible Mold growth, it’s extremely easy to miss mold hiding behind baseboard or underneath an appliance.

ARS Cleanup Mold

Look closely, you’ll see Mold hiding behind where the baseboard was attached!

Keep in mind, most of the articles or tips on the Internet are not given by Mold Remediation Experts. Also, janitorial companies, cleaning services, or a handyman might not be certified to remediate mold. Consequently, they could also make mold growth in your home worse.

Before attempting to Cleanup Mold on your own, give ARS a call to see if you qualify for a free consultation!


The Hantavirus is virus carried among certain types of rodents and can cause you to become very ill and can even be deadly if you come in contact with it.

In the Northwestern part of the United States, the Hantavirus is typically carried by Deer Mice. Certain strains of the virus can lead to a deadly condition known as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome or HPS. HPS is very rare, but better safe than sorry! Keep in mind, pet mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, and hamsters are not associated with the Virus or HPS.

ARS Cleanup Hantavirus

Click on the image to learn more about the Deer Mouse.

Typically, the Hantavirus is passed when a person comes in contact with mice droppings and/or is bit by a mouse already carrying the pathogen. The virus is spread through the air and can be contracted by breathing it in. It’s important to note, that everyone is susceptible to the virus, not just those who have a weak immune system.

Now that you are totally freaked out . . . calm down, take a deep breath (in a mice free area), and keep reading.

To avoid coming in contact with the virus, keep your house and other outbuildings free of mice. Take special precaution around mice droppings, urine, and salvia.  If you have found a small amount of mouse droppings, clean them up properly and disinfect the area. Avoid vacuuming or sweeping up any droppings if possible.  Make sure you wear heavy duty gloves, a mask, and allow the area to vent for at least 30 minutes before working in an affected area to ensure good air circulation.  For large messes or for fuss free cleanup, call ARS to safely cleanup, disinfect, and restore any areas effected by mice.

For more information on the Hantavirus and HPS, visit the Center for Disease Control’s Website or view their web brochure on the virus located in the link below.

Family always comes first, right? Make sure in the event of a disaster all members of your family are accounted for, that means your furry family members too! Keeping your Pets Safe in an emergency situation makes all the difference for your human and furry family!

It’s no secret, at ARS, we love our furry critters. One of our ARS locations even has an office dog. She is affectionately known as “the Disaster Dog.” She guards the office from all delivery men, bunnies, and other scary things. In honor of the Disaster Dog, we are bringing you a few tips on how to keep your Pets Safe during a disaster.

ARS Flood & Fire Cleanup Disaster Dog

“My mom and dad have an emergency plan just for me! I also hate it when they put me in a shirt.”

  • Make sure your pet has an ID tag they wear and are chipped if possible. Most pets tend to run in the event of a traumatic situation. This will aid in finding your pet if they get lost and for keeping Pets Safe in general.
  • Keep a pet carrier, a small amount of pet food, maybe a small toy or blanket, a bottle of water, and a leash accessible in the event you need to evacuate your home. Also, if your pet has any medications—be sure to grab those too. If you don’t have your Veterinarian programmed in your phone, keep it handy with Emergency numbers in case your pet sustains any injuries.
  • In your emergency pack, create a tag or sticker for your home letting Emergency Crews know your home has been evacuated and all Pets are accounted for.
  • Pet Safety also means knowing where your pet can stay if you are evacuated from your home. Relief Shelters are unable to take pets that are not service animals. Call and ask local hotels if they are pet friendly or make arrangements with friends or family in the event of an emergency.
  • Have a friend or neighbor be “on-call” per say if your home or neighborhood needs to be evacuated and you are not able to pick up your pet yourself. Make sure they know where your pet is located and have access to your home.
  • If you have livestock, create an emergency plan especially for them in the event of flooding, fire, or other disasters.

ARS Flood & Fire Cleanup Disaster Dog Pets Safe

“Thanks for making a plan for me and my friends! Also, thanks for the absurd amount of Peanut Butter you gave me while I sat here posing for this picture.”

When Disaster Strikes, who do you call?

ARS Cleanup Flood Damage

Some of the most common answers are: a handyman, friends or family, a company that can help with only part of the cleanup, or a Disaster Restoration Company.

Here is what you could expect from each one:

Handymen are great for a repairs for normal home wear and tear or upgrading small fixtures around your home. However, most handymen are not equipped with the proper equipment and training to inspect and identify all affected materials. It is very easy to miss a small wet spot in your home to the untrained eye. That spot could grow and start to develop mold—causing even more damage to your home. A Disaster Restoration Company will have all the necessary tools and training to detect any potential or ongoing threats to your home.

Friends and family are great for asking to help because often times, they will help you at no cost. However, if you have a friend in your home, and he or she is helping you take out wet carpet and pad and doesn’t disengage it properly, they could ruin your carpeting making it unsalvageable. If your insurance company does cover your loss, they might not be willing to replace materials that were disposed of improperly. Also, friends and family do not come with insurance policies to protect your interest, proper training, or safety equipment putting you and them in danger and responsible for further damage. Are you willing to ask your friend or family member to replace all the materials they damaged or put them in danger? If so, are you willing to risk your relationship with that person asking them to cover the cost of the damages?

Other companies might be willing to help extract water or set fans after a flood. However, these companies also run the risk of not having the adequate training to dry out your home effectively and mitigate any chance of microbial growth. Without proper knowledge of how to dry an area out correctly, equipment charges are going to add up because it will take double or triple the time to dry out. Along with an improper dryout, materials like drywall, baseboard, and carpeting may all be tossed because the company didn’t have the proper training to restore those materials.

With all the rain we have received lately, we have had numerous calls for Flood Cleanup. A number of those calls came from clients who used a Janitorial Company or Cleaning Company to extract the water and dry the affected area instead of a Disaster Restoration Company. The main complaints we received from clients regarding the other companies’ services was the bill they received from them was very high and/or they wondered why their home still wasn’t dry after several days after the equipment had been placed. After inspecting one client’s home in this situation, ARS Representatives found outdated equipment set in rooms that were already dry, faulty equipment that could have electrocuted anyone moving it or caused a fire due to the exposed wiring, and no equipment set in rooms that were still wet. All of the equipment was improperly placed as well– preventing proper circulation needed for optimal drying condtions.

Often times, when a homeowner tries to save a buck or two by calling in a friend or a handyman to help after a disaster, it ends up costing the homeowner more in the long run. Had the homeowner called a Disaster Restoration Company intially, they could have saved more money because the job was efficiantly completed to industry standards.

With that being said, not all Disaster Restoration Companies are created equally. When you need a Restoration Specialist, here is what you should look for:

They should be well established in your community with reputable reviews from local customers and are willing to provide references.

The Disaster Restoration Company will be certified through the IICRC or another recognized Disaster Certification Firm and be able to provide proof of each of their certifications. All of their certifications should be current as well.

ARS Cleanup is a Disaster Restoration Company and an IICRC-Certified-Firm

ARS Cleanup is a Certified Firm through the IICRC.

The company should have adequate Liability Insurance to protect your interests and your home.

Disaster Companies often times work hand in hand with your insurance company to provide you with the most accurate estimate of the work that needs to be done. They should have extensive knowledge on how to process claims and provide any needed paperwork to your insurance company upon request.

Depending on your situation, ARS may be able to send a Representative to your home at little or to no-cost in a timely manner. When they arrive, the Representative will be able to give you an idea of what needs to be done, a rough estimate of the cost, and a timeline of what will happen and when. Before you call the handyman, give us a call. It could save you a bundle in the long run!

It’s easy to get going and set aside a pile of things to take care of later. With busy lifestyles, those piles start to add up. Eventually, you might have a whole bunch of piles and you might need to declutter. . .

ARS Cleanup Cluttered Room

Click on the photo to learn how clutter impacts your mental health.

Depending on the amount of decluttering needed, consider tackling the project in portions. Start with one room, area, or closet. By doing this, it will help reduce your stress, make the loads more manageable, and help you keep in the habit of routinely going through piles of clutter rather than letting them get out of hand.

Once you have decided on an area to declutter, establish four bins you can use to help keep everything organized. The separate bins should include: a Trash Bin, a Donation Bin, a Put Away Bin, and a Storage Bin.

How to Declutter ARS Cleanup

For the Trash Bin, toss items in it that you no longer need or want. The items in the trash bin should not include items that could be donated to a charity, but should include items that are damaged and broken and cannot be feasibly repaired. It could also be separated down to items that can be recycled in your area and items that cannot be and need to just be thrown out.

The Donation Bin is anything that is no longer needed or wanted that could better another person’s life. When cleaning out a closet or considering clothes or shoes to donate, ask yourself, “Have I worn this item in the last year? Would I purchase this item again if I needed to? Is this item too much upkeep or needs more repairs than it’s worth?” For more expensive items, if you no longer want them, consider selling them at a consignment store. Of course, some items may be exceptions to the one year rule, like expensive boots or a timeless formal outfit, which can be stored.

Take caution with the Storage Bin; only place items in the bin you know you will use again, just not in the immediate future. Catalog or record what goes where, so you do not end up replacing the item because you cannot find where you stored it originally. Seasonal items are excellent for storage bins.

The fourth bin is the infamous Put Away bin. The items that need to be put away in their “home” or in their correct spot go in this category. Items should be in working order, regularly used on a daily or weekly basis, and do not take up excess space. If this pile gets overwhelming, reassess what you have in it. Maybe you don’t need 58 pairs of white socks after all.

As you declutter, remember to not give in too much to items with sentimental value. The item in question is not equivalent to the love of the person who gave it to you. Keeping a few mementos is okay, but allowing numerous mementos to take over your home, is never what the person(s) who gave them to you intended. Make sure any items you decide to keep, have a spot either displayed decoratively or in a “home” just for that item.

Do not keep items because you might use them someday. At that point, the only thing they are doing for you is competing for space in your home.

Lastly, any time one of the four bins fills up or you have completed a decluttering project, empty the bins and take them to their appropriate spots. For example, bag up the trash and take it to your garbage can or dumpster, label items for donation and send them to the appropriate charities, place storage bins in an out-of-the-way but accessible area, and put away all items you use on a regular basis.

I bet you’re asking yourself, what does decluttering have to do with Disaster Cleanup? Here’s the answer: A clutter free home is much easier to restore after a disaster. It’s because the cleanup is about 30% faster than a cluttered home of similar size cleanup. This helps you and your family get back to normal, faster following a disaster.  It also allows you to more accurately report losses and damages when necessary to your insurance adjuster.

Keep in mind, clutter is very different from hoarding. Hoarders suffer from a mental disorder making it very difficult to remove anything from their home or living area without causing incredible distress to them. Special care is given to those who have hoarding tendencies along with very specific cleanup guidelines.