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Category: Technical How To

So You Want To Go After CAT Losses??

So You Want To Go After CAT Losses??


Just about each and every year several islands in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica, Cuba, Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and the east coast of the United States stands a good chance of finding themselves in the path of a large catastrophe loss we call a hurricane.

And just in the last few days Hurricane Mathew wreaked havoc on several small islands and is currently pounding the several States that line the Atlantic as I type this.

There is a huge draw for cleaners, restorers and construction companies to drop what they are doing, pack up equipment and crew to head into the promised land of prosperity and tons of jobs. Jobs that will pay good companies very well to help in such a time of need.

And for those companies that are prepared and experienced in this type of work they can easily make a years worth of income in a short period of time.

But for those that are new or inexperienced in the logistics and nuances of Catastrophe (CAT) Loss work it can be a recipe for disaster.

In my latest video for my “Ask Annissa” weekly column, I talk about some of the important things you need to think about before tackling a CAT loss like Hurricane Mathew.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts…





Ozone vs Hydroxyl…Which One Do You Use And Why?

Ozone vs Hydroxyl…Which One Do You Use And Why?

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Ozone has been around in the restoration industry for a very long time. And it’s use has proven effective but have you considered that there may be a better way to deodorize?

Hydroxyl is an old technology that has been used for cleaning and disinfecting for many many years. And it is now gaining a reputation in the restoration industry for it’s ability to remove unpleasant odors.

Have you used either method and what has been your experience?

In the video below I share my thoughts and experiences with both.

The Hazards Of Restoration On A Hoarder Job

The Hazards Of Restoration On A Hoarder Job

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When it comes to dealing with a fire there are many challenges. And if you find yourself in a situation where you are dealing with a homeowner who has been hoarding, there will be unique challenges that you will need to navigate.

There are lots of articles that have been written going in-depth on the psychological side of hoarding and its impact. It would serve you well to read some of them if you are going to tackle contents cleaning jobs that involve a hoarder so you are better equipped to help your client on a psychological level in these types of scenarios.

People become hoarders for many reasons:

  • Depression (by far the most common)
  • Trauma (death, divorce, abuse, loss of some kind)
  • OCD/ADD/ADHD
  • Heredity (grew up in a hoarding home) and Genetics
  • Fear of becoming poor
  • Fear of forgetting (items hold memories)
  • Perfectionists (until they find the perfect spot for something….)
  • Don’t want to be wasteful
  • Brain Injuries/Stroke/Anneurysm
  • Dimentia
  • To Push Others Away/Safety
  • Kleptomania/Impulse Control
  • And literally hundreds of other reasons

Understanding these reasons will go a long way in helping you understand your client and how best to handle the cleanup with them.

Here is a recent article that I wrote for Restoration and Remediation Magazine where I go into the steps that are necessary to be able to handle a job like this.

Check it out and let me know what experience you have had working in a home where someone has been hoarding.

How Do You Write A Scope?

How Do You Write A Scope?




One of the most important pieces to any restoration job is knowing how to correctly write a scope of repairs so that you can get paid for all of your hard work.

And sadly this is an area that a lot of restoration companies lack expertise in.

I just started a new video series breaking down the 5 key components you need in a good scope.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts…




We Decided To Put On An Extra Class…You Coming?

We Decided To Put On An Extra Class…You Coming?

Due to popular demand we have decided to add an extra class into our schedule this year.

Normally our schedule is April and October. But for those of you that missed our Spring class the good news is you won’t have to wait until October to add a huge high value service to your cleaning business.

We have added a special class this June on the 12th and 13th at our Washington State location.

What will the class cover?

How Much will I need to invest?

Check out the details here and see what our students have to say about Firehouse.

www.firehouseeducation.com/upcoming-classes

See you in class!! 🙂

Talk soon,

Annissa

Do You Clean It Or Is It Destroyed?

Do You Clean It Or Is It Destroyed?

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Sometimes it is painfully obvious that an item is destroyed and you cannot clean it. But for the times that it’s not quite so obvious you really need to apply some common sense here and ask yourself a few questions.

First and foremost you need to know if this item is even something that the homeowner wants to keep. Quite often we hold onto things with the thought that one day we may use them and want to keep them around the house just in case. And when there is a fire in the home suddenly homeowners realize that those things they were holding onto are just collecting dust and not something that they have even been using so they are happy to use the fire damage as a reason to chuck these items in the garbage and call it good. Generally these items may not be logged on the destroyed that goes to the adjuster. But be sure to discuss this with your homeowner and be sure to get them to sign off that the items are not to be logged to the insurance company for payment.

The next thing to think about is the value of the item. And when I say value I don’t just mean monetary but emotional value for the homeowner as well. You need to think about whether or not the item’s value makes cleaning cost prohibitive or if the emotional value makes it a must to restore regardless.

There is a very delicate balance needed here so you keep both your adjuster as well as your homeowner happy with your bottom line results.

Remember to always have your homeowner sign off on all destroyed items before they are disposed of or taken off the premises if possible and get approvals from your adjuster on all electronics or any items over $500.(this may vary depending on your demographics)

Whatever you decide it is very important for the success of the job that you be in constant contact with all parties involved so everyone is on the same page and understanding exactly what is being destroyed and why.

Here is a video from our Youtube Channel that I thought you may find helpful when deciding what call to make when it comes to food that has been potentially affected by smoke or soot. Let me know what you think by commenting below.




Going Out Of Business

Going Out Of Business

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I want to share a story with you about a really good top notch cleaning company that asked me for help last week.

They said that they were struggling and had been for the past couple of years. Each month they watched as their revenue go lower and
lower and lower.

They were desperate.

At this point they have cut their overhead,layed off employees and even sold one of the vans they were using in their business.

They told me they have been doing everything they can to stay in business and keep their head above water. And yet their bank account just keeps getting lower and lower and their hours keep getting longer and longer.

“The economy is horrible and we are tired. Do you think if we took your class and added fire cleaning there is a need in our area?”

Ok I get asked this question all the time. And my answer is always the same.

Absolutely YES!

There is ALWAYS a huge need in the restoration industry for good, carring, highly skilled, organized, compassionate companies to handle and process Contents Cleaning jobs all over the world.

The problem with companies wanting to get into Contents Cleaning is they don’t realize what a gold mine of revenue they have at their disposal and if they aren’t properly trained and ready to handle the work they could ruin a golden opportunity before they even know what they have.

The cool part about cleaners getting into Contents Cleaning and Restoration is you already have a lot of the supplies and equipment
you need. So the startup cost can be quite minimal.

I did tell them that to me it didn’t sound like they were trying to save their business. It sounded like they were going out of business
the slow and painful way.

Don’t let this happen to you.

If you are struggling in your cleaning business or just tired of being the one behind the wand and in the truck 10 hours a day then you need to do something to change that.

The great part about Contents Cleaning is you can have others doing the work for you while you supervise and oversee things.
You don’t have to be the one behind the wand so to speak to be making money.

I hate to see a good cleaning business struggling when there is such a need for them in the industry.

And fires happend all the time they aren’t depedant on the economy.

If you would like to find out more about adding this very profitable and systemized division to your cleaning company checkout our upcoming class dates and let us show you the way to higher profits.



Know What You Are Dealing With

Know What You Are Dealing With

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When cleaning someones home you will come across some pretty interesting stuff at times. On this particular job we came across this unique piece of history.

We had the fun of cleaning an antique slot machine that was handed down to our homeowner by her father when he passed away.

The very first nickel slot machine was created in 1893 by Gustav Schultze. This particular slot machine we cleaned is from the 1960’s and was one of the first of its kind to allow a player to play with 5 nickels at once. Now I have never put money into a slot machine so I don’t even understand the significance of this but it sure sounds pretty cool. 🙂

Now the home owner does have a rider on her insurance policy for this piece as it has an official appraisal and is worth $24000! So one of the first questions that we ask a home owner on the very first day of every job is “do you have any riders on your insurance policy?”

Not only is this important to know when cleaning something as you may decide not to use an aggressive cleaner on something that has antique value for fear of removing delicate finishes but you will want to charge more for handling the item. You have a lot more at risk when you are handling a single item that if damaged could cost you a ton of money.

On one job I was paid $1500 just to bubble wrap and transport a table valued at $18000+ to another speciality contractor to be refinished. I charged more than just Xactimate pricing when I clean a piece like this slot machine.

If you are a cleaner or restorer what is the mosty expensive or most unique item you have been asked to clean?




What Equipment Will I Need??

What Equipment Will I Need??

So this question goes back to my original post How Much $$ It Really Takes? and it has the same answer…It Depends.

It depends on what services are you going to do completely in house and what aspects of the cleaning and restoration are you going to sub to others? So you need to have decided at this point what services you are definitely going to offer. Remember the more you offer the better chance you have of getting the job as insurance companies don’t want to deal with a bunch of different contractors on each job and the homeowners want one go to company so they feel like they are in good hands.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t sub out specialty things like textiles, grand father clocks and artwork. I am just saying the more you handle within your company the more control you have over the job and the insurance company as well as the homeowner will see that.

The equipment and supplies that you will need will depend on what you decide. You can start out small and always grow into more in house services too. I like this concept because it means you don’t have a huge initial outlay before you even know if you are really that crazy about contents and structure cleaning. I will talk about the supply side of things in my next post.

Another good thing to think about is that if you even just dabble into the cleaning side of restoration it can help you secure reconstruction jobs as well if that is your main focus by getting your foot in the door so to speak.

Now that being said let us talk about equipment. J

I am going to talk about several pieces of equipment from several companies and let you know what I have found that I like to use. That doesn’t mean other equipment isn’t any good it means this is what I’ve found I like.

And as far as the little pieces like hammers, screw drivers, scissors, etc. I am not going to get into great detail about most of these little tools as their cost is very nominal in price at about $50-$100 total.

Industrial Hepa Vacuum~ This is a must have piece if you will be doing any kind of restoration cleaning. Not only will it remove soot particles without smearing on things like fabrics, paper and unfinished wood but it won’t throw what you are removing right back into the air. It is so vital to remove even the tiniest bit of smoke or soot particles as they will cause odor.

There are many different types and models. Pullman Holt is the brand that I like but there are many others out there as well. I use the large canister type mostly but also really like the back pack model. Whatever you use you just need to make sure that you have a good assortment of attachments that come with it. The price of a good Hepa Vacuum can range from about $500-$1500. Replacement filters for these little babies can also be something to consider when deciding which model to buy. Mine costs about $350 each to replace but some can cost as much as $800 each when you need to replace them.

The price may also determine which type you use at first as well as the size you choose. The backpack style is definitely cheaper in price than say the canister is. And they have a 3 gallon and a 5 gallon model that are priced differently as well. What I like most about the Pullman Holt is their quality. I have had mine for 9 years and have never had any problems with it. It takes a beating and keeps on going. 🙂

Air Scrubber~ There are several different sizes of air scrubbers. I use the Hepa500 from Dri-Eze because it is so easy to move around and travel with. The size of your air scrubber will determine how much volume of air space that it can handle. So you may need more Air Scrubbers if they are smaller and you have a larger area to clean but if they are smaller they may be easier for you and your team to manipulate.

The purpose of the Air Scrubber is to remove the millions of particulates in the air from the loss be it fire, water, sewer backup, etc. After a fire in particular the air inside the structure is extremely full or debris and you nor your team should be breathing that. The proper amount of Air Scrubbers should be running as long as you are in the structure. The cost can be from about $550-$1200.





Air Compressor~ You will need this to blow out certain items that can usually only be cleaned using dry processes or to remove loose soot particles before wet cleaning an item. The Compressor can be basic. The one I use is a Makita from Home Depot and it is a small portable one. Mine cost about $280.

Ozone Generator~ Ozone is a proven deodorizer and works very well. However I will tell you that I don’t like to use it. It leaves a chemical smell on object that takes several days if not weeks to air out and it is very dangerous and can kill humans, animals and plants. Cost is about $800.

Hydroxyl Generator~ Hydroxyl is a natural process that is used to deodorize and disinfect areas and surfaces. I have used Hydroxyl for almost 3 years now and find it to be very effective on all odors. The thing I love most about this machine is that it is completely safe for humans, plants and animals to be in the area while it is being used unlike Ozone.

Unlike Ozone there is no chemical smell after you shut the machine off. It actually smells like nothing just fresh air. Ozone also can damage many things like leather and rubber where Hydroxyl does not. It is completely safe. Hydroxyl not only deodorizes contents but all structure components as well.

The downside is that this machine runs about $3000. This is something that can be rented however to ease the financial burden.

Airmover~ There are several models and types of airmovers. And they range in price from about $200 to $800 depending on the make and model. You can also rent these for as little as $20 per day from a commercial rental store.

The important thing here is to buy a professional airmover not a fan from Home Depot. You will need airmovers to use Ozone and Hydroxyl Generators as well as to dry out items that have maybe gotten wet from the fire department putting out the fire. You will also need one or two for your drying room to dry contents that you have wet cleaned.

Dehumidifier~ This is definitely a piece of equipment that you can rent just like the airmover. The Dehu is not something that you will need on every job either if you are dealing with mostly fire clean ups. You will always need them on water, sewer back and possibly trauma scene clean ups. In case you have never used one before they are for pulling moisture out of the air that is usually put there by the airmovers that you have set on the jobsite. It costs about $70 to $120 per day to rent and anywhere from $1400 to $4000 to buy.

Ultrasonic Machine~ This is my favorite piece of equipment to play I mean work J with. The Ultrasonic is the most valuable brilliant piece of equipment when doing contents cleaning and restoration. Not only can you clean items faster but also better than you ever could by hand.

Now this little baby is quite expensive at about $13000 to $16000. However you can rent them as well. You may even be able to partner with a blind cleaning company to lease use of one they might have. This would be a piece that I would highly recommend that you buy as soon as you can. I have seen them for as little as $5000 used.

Now they come in many sizes so you want to be sure to get one that would be big enough say to fit a large laundry hamper in. This size will allow you to clean items like electronic as well. If you are going to clean electronics with it you will need to use special chemicals and deionized water.

You can find table top models that are much cheaper but really don’t do you much good for contents cleaning as most contents wont fit in them and it will slow up your process a lot.

Electronics Cleaning System~ The Odell system for electronics cleaning is a really good system. As is the Fireline portable system pictured to the right. The price of these systems can range from $700 to as high as $25000. So this is not a purchase that I would recommend until you are definitely serious about contents.

Electronics are a high profit item however it also an easy item to sub out to another company that has all the big expensive equipment. You still make good money when you sub it out but defiantly not as much as if you did them in house. But just like the Ultrasonic Machine I would recommend making sure you are ready to make this kind of big investment especially when you can lease or rent these for way less than purchasing and save your cash flow in the beginning.

Esporta System~ This lovely little unit is used to clean laundry, shoes, purchases, belts, hats and pretty much anything that we call soft items. It can also clean stuffed animals, some toys, etc. The Esporta Machine can run as high as $80000 so again this would something I would purchase after I had my company up and running to the point where I was able to be serious about taking on laundry type items.

You can also use this machine to do these types of damaged items for other companies as well to make some money.

 I personally have always used a garment cleaning service for my soft contents because I do my contents mobile. This is definitely not something that you need in the beginning or even at all. There are many contents cleaning and restoration companies that sub this kind of work out rather than handle it on there own. I do want to stress however that there is really really good money to be made in laundry.

Truck Mount or Portable Cleaning Unit~ When cleaning contents you will be dealing with upholstery, mattresses, certain drapes, pillows and rugs. These items will most likely need to be cleaned using a professional steam cleaning unit.

There are basically two types. One is called a truck or trailer mount and the other is a hot water extraction portable unit.

Now I want to make sure and clarify that I am not talking about going to the grocery store and renting a Rug Doctor when I say a portable cleaning unit. Those types of unprofessional units will only damage contents not clean them.

I have pictured here a van and two different types of trailer mounted units as well as a very good professional portable unit. The price range for these can be anywhere from $70000 to $4000.

I want to stress that you do not need to own any of these units to be able to clean contents and structure. This is a very easy item that you can find a good sub contractor to do for you.

I have used a portable from US Products and several truck mount type cleaning units and they have all been really good. I am not going to get into which truck mount unit is better than another because that would be a very long post with way too many opinions I am sure. 🙂

I also want to touch on textiles for a moment. I am actually going to direct you over to my friend Lisa Wagner to let her give you the expert opinion on rugs. Textiles are a very unique piece of contents cleaning and restoration and should only be handled within your company once you have a trained Textile Pro on your team and the right equipment to take care of them. Lisa does offer world class training and education if you want to delve into that niche.

Well I know that this was a long post but I hope you gained some value and tons of knowledge about what equipment is need to clean contents as well as structures that have been damaged in a loss of some kind. Please don’t be shy let me know if you have any questions or need any help finding any of these pieces.

Next we are going into the supplies you will need and how much you will need to initially invest in them.

~Annissa

How Big Does It Need To Be?

How Big Does It Need To Be?





I think the better question to ask here is How small can it be?

More is just more it is not necessarily better.

I will never forget a phone conversation that I had recently with a consulting client about the road blocks that were keeping him from launching his new contents division in his cleaning company. He told me he was having trouble finding a building big enough. I asked him how big the buildings were that he had been looking at and he told me 2000 to 2800 square feet. I asked him how much space he thought he needed and he said at least 4000 just for the cleaning areas and about 3 to 4 times that for vault storage.

When I told him he could easily setup shop in under 800 square feet the phone went silent with disbelief.

Some of you reading this will completely disagree with this last statement. But I would challenge you to think outside the box here with me.

Our Company processes a complete household of contents in just under 7 days in a cleaning warehouse that is a little less than 320 square feet.

In fact, I feel that the smaller your cleaning area is the more efficient you are. If you have all of your equipment spread out over 1000 or 2000 square feet that means you have more movement going on to clean, pack and process each and every job. Wasted movement that you are wasting money on.

You also need to remember the bigger the building the more it will cost you in overhead. Like utilities, insurance and upkeep not to mention the cost of purchasing or leasing all this extra space.

Thinking that you have to have a huge warehouse in order to be successful at processing and cleaning contents is a limiting belief. And one that is simply not true.

Now having a huge warehouse is fine as long as it is setup in the right way so your work area is super efficient. But what I don’t want you to think is that all of that space is required or you won’t be able to get the job done.

It can also make you be more efficient being in a small space out of necessity. No different than when you live in a small house you have to be organized and efficient with the use of your space because there isn’t very much of it. So when looking at your warehouse space think about how much area do you really need to work in? Don’t think you have to use all that space just because it’s there. What I actually want you to think about is just the opposite. How small of an area can use?

To begin with you need to plan and draw a layout of your work area with your equipment in place. Design is very carefully for productivity. This planning stage will also help you get a better feel for your space needs.

When you are in the planning stages you need to decide what equipment you are going to buy outright and what are you going to rent or lease. There are also some pieces of equipment that you may decide to downsize to save space.

As for storage of cleaned and processed contents you have a few different options. You can have a nice big warehouse space setup with vaults or bays to organize and store your jobs. Or you can rent storage units and store and organize completed jobs that way. You can still make a profit on charging the insurance company for storage just not as much as you would if you had your own warehouse.

What I really want you to get out of this is that you don’t need a ton a space and whatever you do don’t let this be a stumbling block for you getting off the ground. Start in a small space and work your way up from there.

You may even find you don’t need all that space after all.

What are some things that you feel would be a draw back to a not having a huge warehouse of your own? How about some advantages that I haven’t mentioned?

~Annissa