FROM EXTON TO HOUSTON AND BACK AGAIN: Mobilizing business in the face of disaster

Tommy Hoopsick, owner, 1-800 WATER DAMAGE of DelChester

As a local business, we understand first and foremost the importance of community and the necessity of banding together to help one another when a serious, community-wide crisis arises. Nothing reminds us of this more than when disasters like hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria strike. As a restoration business, we’re in the unique position to be able to make a real difference in people’s lives when such significant devastation occurs. Sometimes, that even means traveling more than 1500 miles to communities in need, while still maintaining our relationships and responsibilities to our clients at home.

When you’re in the restoration industry and major weather events occur, you often have to be on-site responding to clients as soon as the skies clear. Because of this, you learn to start gauging and reacting to severe weather before it’s even over. As soon as Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 25 and the flooding began, it was clear they were going to need as much help as they could get. Knowing we would have to move the moment the floodwaters stopped rising, my team and I mobilized everything we would need to take our services down there, and we waited until we received the “OK” indicating it was safe to leave.

Harvey finally moved out of Texas on August 29, and the next day, we were on the road to Houston in two work vans loaded with equipment. Before even arriving in Texas, we experienced the widespread impact of Harvey’s historic flooding. The normally 23-hour drive ended up taking 31 hours because the interstate going into Houston (I-10) was completely flooded, forcing us to take back roads through Louisiana and Texas.

Once we finally got to Houston, we knew we had a crew to meet up with. This is essential in Harvey-scale disasters because you really need an entire network of people, vehicles, and equipment behind you in order to navigate and manage the massive influx of water damage and property restoration needs. Fortunately, as a franchise business, we have that network. There are three 1-800 WATER DAMAGE locations in Texas, and 12 other owners from around the country were also traveling down to Houston with their teams like I was. Additionally, during major disasters like Harvey, we work closely with local and national teams from our parent company, BELFOR Property Restoration, in order to maximize resources and manpower.

We spent our first two days setting up the work and warehouse spaces in the Houston 1-800 WATER DAMAGE office, which would function as our Command Center where everyone would meet each morning to discuss protocol and job assignments. After that, it was all jobs, all day. Even with a network of more than 1000 people from 1-800WATER DAMAGE and BELFOR, we were still working long hours every day to stay on top of all the jobs that were continuing to come in.

The owner and crew from each 1-800 WATER DAMAGE office would stay together as a team, and we’d be assigned to job sites accordingly. We would work on two or three different jobs every day. Our standard scope of work involved demolition, drying out, and mold remediation. We demolished any drywall, insulation, and flooring that had been soaked by floodwaters. We dried out the remainder of the spaces, and then assessed the mold damage. Most homes (and even some cars) needed extensive mold remediation because several feet of contaminated water sat in them for weeks before finally receding. In the worst-hit neighborhood we went to, some of the homes had taken on eight feet of water. Even working in the restoration industry, the damage was unlike anything I’d seen before; you really can’t imagine it until you see it in person.

I returned to Exton on September 19. During the three weeks I was in Houston, my team and I completed work on more than a dozen houses, with all 1-800 WATER DAMAGE crews collectively covering a total of about 100 houses. Because of the sheer number of residential and commercial properties impacted by Harvey, 1-800 WATER DAMAGE and BELFOR will still have teams down there for months – my own team even stayed a week longer to continue helping. But we were able to help local teams make a dent in the workload, and we’re proud we could help in such a time of need.

Going down to Texas post-Harvey was the right thing for us to do. Our work there was hugely rewarding, not only because we were able to help so many families and communities, but also because it was an invaluable learning experience that will help us continue to build our business here. We learned a lot of new restoration techniques from BELFOR’s head of technical training, who’s an industry expert, and we also made a ton of connections with insurance companies who have local business in our area. Bringing these assets back to the local markets allows us to better serve our customers and clients throughout Chester and Delaware Counties, and we’re excited to see where we go from here.

FROM EXTON TO HOUSTON AND BACK AGAIN: Mobilizing business in the face of disaster
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