A lot happens in the aftermath of a home disaster

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published July 8, 2015

 The crash resulted in a natural gas leak, and first responders evacuated nearby homes until utility crews could repair the line. BELFOR, a disaster recovery and property restoration company, is in the process of rebuilding the home.

The crash resulted in a natural gas leak, and first responders evacuated nearby homes until utility crews could repair the line. BELFOR, a disaster recovery and property restoration company, is in the process of rebuilding the home.

Photo provided by Scott Trumbo


METRO DETROIT — When disaster strikes a home in the form of a fire, storm damage, flooding or unforeseen reconstruction needs, the damage needs to be addressed immediately.

Lt. Scott Trumbo, of the Shelby Township Police Department, said that if the emergency situation requires immediate utility shutoffs, first responders contact the appropriate utility company to mitigate the hazardous conditions.

Such an incident took place June 5 in the area of 23 Mile and Ryan roads in Shelby Township, in which a driver lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a home. The crash caused extensive damage and resulted in a natural gas leak.

“Depending on the nature of the scene, the next process may involve a safety assessment by the Fire Department, and a follow-up by the township building director,” Trumbo said.

Shelby Township Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski said his department relies on a list of certified restoration companies to board up and secure areas while the Fire Department conducts its investigation into the emergency’s origin.

Tim Wood, director of the Shelby Township Building Department, said that if the extent of the damage warrants substantial construction activity, the responding contractor likely would need to get a permit.

“Once they secure the permit, we do periodic inspections to make sure the work is code-conforming,” Wood said.

Trumbo said that police cordon off a scene with perimeter tape to ward off passers-by from entering unsafe areas, and police ask the homeowners or person in charge of a structure if they would like to contact a contractor.

If they don’t have a contractor in mind, Trumbo said, the Police Department would then offer to call one of the restoration contractors on its list or do so automatically if the property owner cannot be contacted to make the decision.

“Once a scene is stabilized, and the structure is protected from the elements and unlawful trespassers, the next step is for the property owner to make a claim with their insurance company, who will then actively work with the homeowner to resolve the problem,” Trumbo said. “Depending on which insurance company you have, your agent will either refer you to a contractor or allow you to arrange for one.”

The next step after that, Trumbo said, is a claims adjustment. A claims adjuster, he said, would review the construction company’s itemized estimate for repairs. Homeowners have a voice in the process.

“(Homeowners) must resolve claim disputes with their insurance company over the areas to be repaired and the quality of the restoration,” he said.

Craig Geatches, owner of Flood & Fire Solutions Inc., which has locations in Macomb Township and Saginaw, said his company provides full restoration services from start to finish and has a 33,000-square-foot warehouse for restoring salvageable furniture and personal items.

“We’re a one-stop shop. Homeowners don’t even have to leave. We take them samples of replacement products and things of that nature to make it easy on the customer,” Geatches said.

BELFOR, a worldwide disaster recovery and property restoration company, specializes in cleaning up homes quickly when disasters strike.

Jim Doran, the general manager of the BELFOR branch in Macomb Township, said his company is the contractor for the home at 23 Mile and Ryan roads. It also secured the Crystal Lake apartment building near 23 Mile and Dequindre roads in Shelby Township that suffered a large fire in January.

“When we receive a phone call, we contact the potential client, get an assessment of the situation, and then, based on that situation, dispatch the appropriate people to go out there and perform the emergency or temporary services to get the situation under control,” Doran said.

Once that is completed, he said, BELFOR works with the insurance company to get an estimate and then begins performing repairs.

In the case of a fire, he said, BELFOR removes all the personal belongings and creates a list of what is salvageable and unsalvageable. If salvageable, he said, BELFOR cleans and stores the belongings until the property is put back together.


“Once all the contents are removed from the property, then, through skilled demolition, we remove any affected materials the fire damaged or are wet from the fire (hoses),” Doran said. “We chemically treat the framing to prevent the smoke odor, and then do insulation, drywall, painting, trim, flooring, kitchen cabinets … to get the property ready for the return of the homeowner.”

Homeowners have a choice in what types of material the company uses in its restoration efforts, he said.

“Insurance companies handle additional living expenses to set them up, depending on the length of time of the restoration,” Doran said. “Depending on the extent of damage, the time frame could be anywhere from a week to a few months.”

Swinkowski said the most common type of home disaster is water damage.

He recommended that homeowners periodically check their gutters and downspouts to make sure they are free of debris to prevent water from getting inside shingles or causing ice damage in the winter.

“You also want to make sure the ground around your house slopes away from the walls of your house, and make sure your basement windows are sealed and not cracked or broken,” Swinkowski said.

One of the biggest problems, he said, is related to sump pumps. He recommended investing in a backup sump pump that is either battery-powered or uses city water, as well as cleaning out any dirt, rocks or pebbles that collect in the pump and water basin.

Swinkowski also recommended looking into licensed and insured restoration companies that are capable of being a one-stop shop, that don’t subcontract various services and that perform background checks on all employees.