No matter how prepared you think you are to face the devastation caused by a natural or man-made disaster, it’s probably never enough.

No matter how prepared you think you are to face the devastation caused by a natural or man-made disaster, it’s probably never enough.

Nashville. Who would have thought Nashville would be hit with the kind of damage that would displace thousands of residents?

Anyone working in restoration has many, many stories in his or her back pocket. Stories of real people, friends, family and customers – all hit hard by some kind of calamity in their business or home. No one ever calls us when their residence or business is fine, right?

We fix problems, of course, but sometimes you’re just not prepared for the long-lasting effects that occur when an entire geographic area is hit hard by a disaster.

My story starts on Saturday, May 1. While I was working on projects around the house, the rains came. It was about 3 p.m., and almost immediately we found ourselves challenged with water rising around our own neighborhood.

My wife, Mary, had already forwarded all four of our office phones to our cell phone; we typically take any emergency calls after hours on our cell. Once the phone started ringing, it wouldn’t stop, continuing all evening into early Sunday morning. Mary kept a ledger and wrote down everyone’s information.

On Sunday, the calls continued throughout the day. Finally, on Sunday evening, I told Mary we needed help. I broadcast my needs, asking for as many bodies and equipment as possible to come to Nashville. The response was truly inspiring. We were slammed, and I had never seen this kind of activity before.

Bill Eaton from Steamatic of ArkLaTex brought his wife Brenda and friend Lindsay, who saved our office from total destruction. When I told Mary that she could no longer answer the phone, I thought she was going to shoot me, but four hours later she looked as though 20 tons had been lifted from her shoulders.

The crucial lesson? Maintain a communications infrastructure to support disaster recovery. Quick, efficient communications enabled us to move manpower into Nashville on time and with minimal interruptions.

But all the manpower in the world won’t matter if you can’t get them where you need them; the flooding hampered our efforts by shutting down certain areas of the city. We were unable to travel on I-65, I-40 and I-24, and many of the main thoroughfares were shut down. For example, it took 3 ½ hours to travel to a destination that normally would have been only a 15-minute drive. We almost had crews stranded because of rising waters.

Take a look at the various video clips on YouTube; they show the kind of blanket damage something like a flood can do.

Automation Center Wiped Out

Our first assignment was to work on the Automation Center, a distributor of industrial control products owned by one of my neighbors, Dave Westerman. When I spoke with Bill Eaton, he said he wanted to work on jobs that had an estimated repair cost of $50,000 to $100,000 because his team was ideally suited to work on these types of jobs.

Bill and his crew arrived at the Automation Center to find the water 72 inches above the cap that occurred during the 100-year flood.

Unfortunately, the Automation Center did not have its contents covered, and there was water from floor to ceiling. Once the water receded, there was an inch of mud silt on everything.

Cleanup began, and miraculously, Dave could carry on business because his employees had forwarded all of their office lines to their cell phones. They were able to conduct business from their homes.

There is never anything “typical” about a cleanup for the owner or the persons involved in the disaster. Everything at the Automation Center was wiped out, and Dave did not want to freeze dry any documents. However, he is trying to save as much information as he can from water-logged hard drives.

Saving the Customer Money = A Customer for Life

Who doesn’t want to save money, especially expenses occurring because of a disaster?

We did just that for a residential customer, Nelson Miller, owner of a home worth $1.5 million at Old Hickory Lake. Miller’s first call for help was to Ricky Smith, vice president of the Nashville Better Business Bureau. He asked Smith for a recommendation of a restoration provider he could trust; Smith gave Miller our number.

Miller’s home was custom from floor to ceiling. His home was made of cut hickory, red oak and acorn wood from his property, but like so many Nashville residents, he did not have flood insurance.

I estimated the losses at a conservative $25,000 just to get the home dry. That did not include rebuilding. We immediately began taking out the carpet and pad, but did not use drying equipment because Miller thought the water was “drying out pretty good on its own.”

Using various tools, including an infrared camera, you could easily see the water signature throughout the home. It’s like having a pair of X-ray eyes.

The home was flooded due to the runoff from the gutters, and because we did not have to tear up the cork flooring under the ceramic tile, I changed the category of water damage from 3 to 1. We also did not have to cut out walls, which decreased the severity of damage.

As a result of our efforts and less water damage than first thought, the price came down significantly to $15,000. The pricing dropped even more as the week went on.

The final bill? $7,800. I thought Miller was going to hug me. He was happy because the pricing was so much less than first predicted. He also was happy with the referral he received from the BBB.

We now have a customer for life.