DSNews Article Preserve and Protect

Alan Jaffa, CEO of Safeguard Properties, contributed an article to DSNews titled, Preserve and Protect.

Preserve and Protect
By: Alan Jaffa, CEO of Safeguard Properties 11/01/2010

Instituting Proper Winterization Procedures Will Help Prevent Water and Ice Damage from Flooding the Budget and Leaving Your Company in the Cold

Ask any field services expert, and he or she will tell you: When the mercury dips, winterization issues rise in unoccupied homes. One of the most costly problems to fix?and the least expensive to prevent?is water damage that results from frozen pipes in vacant properties. Yet every winter season, millions of dollars are spent to repair and replace walls, ceilings, foundations, floors, pipes, water tanks, heating systems, and plumbing fixtures that have been broken or ruined by water and ice.

Even the most carefully performed winterization can miss a minor plumbing defect that deteriorates under freezing temperatures and causes major water damage. However, the vast majority of winterization damage results from carelessness or improper procedures.

For these reasons, investing in recruitment, training, and certification of qualified winterization contractors, as well as ongoing quality control procedures and communications, is critical to prevent serious water and freeze damage and minimize costly repairs to properties.


Homes have vastly different plumbing and heating systems depending on age, type, and climate in which they are located. Identifying the proper system and following the correct procedure for each kind of system is the most important first step, because it will prevent the vast majority of winterization errors.

The most common heating systems include dry, steam, and radiant heat. While freeze damage can occur with all three types, typically the most expensive problems occur with radiant systems. Radiant systems utilize loops through which hot water passes. A qualified contractor should drain all loops as well as the boiler used to heat the water. If any of these loops contains moisture, freeze damage will occur.

Additionally, radiant systems are becoming more common in higher-end homes to heat floors; thus, if freeze damage occurs, repairing the system may require tearing up floors to reach the pipes.

To address complex issues and the multitude of situations that can occur with each system, it is critical that winterization contractors be experienced and licensed and that they have licensed plumbers on call to effectively address any issues that may arise in the field.


Ensuring that a water source is turned off and will remain off is critical in vacant properties, where weeks may pass between inspections and undetected water damage could be significant. In addition to flooding basements, frozen and burst water pipes can turn a home into a virtual ?ice castle? that can cost tens of thousands of dollars to remediate and repair.

Whether a property?s water source is a city line, private well system, shared well system, or any other type, the water must be turned off at its source. Contractors then will take additional steps to prevent water from entering the house even if the water source is turned back on in error or if a shut-off malfunctions.

One precaution is to install a ?zip tie? fastener to the main shut-off valve to prevent it from being turned on. For additional reinforcement, a contractor may install a cast-iron ?nipple? that threads into the water meter connection. Zip ties cost pennies, and a nipple costs only a dollar. They take only a few minutes to install and are critical to preventing water from entering a property and causing damage.

It is important to note that some cities prohibit contractors from touching a home?s water meter. Therefore, property preservation companies must maintain a database of those municipalities and advise contractors accordingly. Property preservation companies also must communicate with those cities to discuss alternative steps that may be taken to ensure water is effectively cut off from a property.


Condominiums pose a particular winterization challenge because they share walls, floors, and ceilings with other units. Failure to winterize a unit properly not only can damage the targeted unit but also adjoining units that may be occupied. The cost of inconvenience and damages to occupied and furnished adjoining units can be significant.

For this reason, the preferred alternative to protect a condominium in winter months is to leave the utilities on and maintain sufficient heat to prevent pipes from freezing. Because utilities may be shared or utility charges built into condominium fees, it is often necessary to coordinate this process with the management of a condominium association.


After the water has been turned off, it is still present in the traps and bends of plumbing as well as in boilers. Any standing water, even a trace amount, can expand and crack fixtures in freezing temperatures, causing serious and expensive repairs. To ensure a winterization is performed completely and accurately, contractors must follow a step-by-step process (see sidebar on Page 52), utilizing a winterization checklist, and must verify each step with photo documentation.

After a winterization, the plumbing must be dewinterized carefully, so systems can be inspected and restored for a prospective buyer. In many cases, a property will be dewinterized and rewinterized numerous times before it eventually transfers to a new owner. Preferably, the contractor that performed the winterization also will perform the dewinterization to check for tampering, age-related problems, and other issues.

In a dewinterization, contractors follow a similar systematic procedure to a winterization. The process begins with air-pressure testing; then the water is slowly restored. The contractor waits about 45 minutes and continuously inspects the property to check for any water leaks.

Systems can become compromised and seriously damaged when someone without proper knowledge or training enters the property and attempts to restore the plumbing system. This can happen, for example, in REO properties with a prospective purchaser and an agent who may not be experienced in winterization procedures.

Effective communications between property preservation companies and real estate brokers are critical to make sure that dewinterization and rewinterization procedures are followed carefully and the integrity of the plumbing system is maintained.


Property preservation companies should take great care in recruiting and training qualified contractors to perform winterizations and providing ongoing support and tools to maintain the highest quality standards.

Winterization contractors must demonstrate that they have sufficient experience with plumbing and heating systems and have quality control procedures in place for the work they perform. To become certified, they must undergo a series of training modules through their property preservation companies, often taken online.

Contractors also are taken into the field to perform practicals with a quality control field representative. Even after a contractor is certified, quality control representatives continue to conduct random checks of their work to be sure that winterizations are performed consistently at the highest quality.

It is important that contractors have tools and resources available to them to ensure that they perform winterizations consistently and accurately. In many circumstances, contractors are working in cold weather, unheated homes, and often wet or damp surroundings. Tools such as an automated checklist help contractors perform more effectively. Contractors utilize laptops in the field to access the checklist, which opens tasks automatically and requires the contractor to verify completion of each step in succession before continuing to the next step.

Contractors also must have access to call-in resources to address unusual circumstances that occur in the field. They also should have ready access to manufacturers? information to address any unique characteristics of a particular system.

In a housing market where vacant properties sit for longer periods of time in cold climates, proper winterization measures are the best investment to protect the value and integrity of a property. Remediating and repairing a home damaged by ice and water can cost a bundle, which means undertaking the proper steps to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place is a sure way to put the freeze on surplus fees.


While specific tasks may vary depending on the type of system, in general, the winterization process follows these standard steps.

1. Disconnecting the Water Supply ? Water is turned off at the curb or other source. A zip tie is installed on the main shut-off valve, the water meter is disconnected, and the main water line plugged.

2. Draining the System ? Gas or electric to the water heater is turned off. The water heater is drained. If present, wells and holding tanks are drained, and electric to the well pump is disconnected. All toilet tanks and bowls are drained.

3. Blowing the Lines ? Faucets and valves are closed. A compressor is attached, and pressure is built to 35 PSI. One faucet valve at a time is opened?first hot, then cold. The contractor must verify whether water or air came out of valves and faucets and report whether all water has been removed from the system.

4. Pressure Testing the System ? All water must be drained from the system. Faucets and valves are closed and pressure is built to 35 PSI. The contractor must report whether pressure held for 30 minutes. If the system fails to hold pressure, the contractor must document the reason for the failure.

5. Adding Anti-Freeze ? Anti-freeze is added to all toilets, both the bowl and the tank. It is added to all sink traps, shower and tub traps, floor drains, and dishwasher drains.

6. Posting Stickers and Notices ? Winterization notification stickers are applied to toilets, showers, tubs, water heater, water meter, dishwasher, and all sinks. Additionally, toilet wrap is installed on all toilets to further ensure they are not used. Notices are posted at the entryways of the home advising anyone entering that the property has been winterized and warning against the use of any plumbing fixtures.

7. Addressing Radiant or Steam Heat Systems ? If a property has radiant or steam heat, in addition to the steps above, the contractor must drain the boiler, loosen bleeder pins to allow draining, drain the expansion tank, blow heating loops, pressure test the heating system, and apply a winterization sticker to the boiler.

8. Making On-Site Notifications ? Contractors must call from the site if the property has a fire-suppression system, a lawn sprinkler system, or the presence of unusual circumstances. In these cases, contractors will follow additional procedures.

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About Safeguard
Safeguard Properties is the largest privately held field services company in the country. Located in Cleveland, Ohio and founded in 1990 by Robert Klein, Safeguard has grown from a regional preservation company with a few employees and a handful of contractors performing services in the Midwest, to a national company with over 800 employees. Safeguard is supported by a nationwide network of subcontractors able to perform any requested superintendence, preservation, and maintenance functions, as well as numerous ancillary services in the U.S., the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.




Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


AVP, Business Development

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the AVP of business development for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.