Restoring lives

When and if the shock of flood damage, suicides, sewer backups, or other unexpected events sinks in, remediation helps victims tackle the mess.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

With hundreds of businesses and households still dealing with the aftereffects of this year’s floods, and in particular the 10- to 13-inch dumping of rain that areas west of Madison experienced in August, FGS The Restoration Co. and other remediation companies have been busy.

Bob Beasley, 58, FGS restoration technician, admits he’d never seen anything like the amount of rain that fell in torrents from one storm on Aug. 20 and swallowed parts of south central Wisconsin for weeks to come.

Personal and financial losses from events like unexpected flooding can be devastating. In fact, the floods of 2018 revealed that only 2 percent of affected homeowners and businesses carried flood insurance.

Yet there’s an air of calmness in Beasley’s demeanor. After all, cleaning and restoring properties so businesses can reopen and homeowners can get their lives back is what FGS does, and what Beasley, in particular, is highly qualified to do.

We meet him at Hitters SportsPlex in Middleton where damage has, for the most part, already been mitigated. In fact, to the naked eye, except for some expected cosmetic changes, few things seem out of place. Entering the building, batting cages are to the right, tennis courts bustle with activity to the left, and the front desk and concession area are a few steps ahead. Silver Lining Martial Arts, a separate business, has adjacent space in the back.

Hitters’ General Manager Joel Tennison, at the front desk this day, recalls the morning after the storm when he sloshed through the flooded streets to open the building and discovered the entire 50,000-square-foot facility submerged under six to eight inches of floodwater. “The power was out,” he says, “and I couldn’t really see anything other than daylight outside. It was scary, knowing there was electrical in the building.” He estimates that the business sustained about $200,000 in damage, not including lost business.

FGS and Beasley arrived the very next day, he says, and cleanup took only two weeks. On the morning of our interview, Beasley saunters up to the desk, grinning as he glances around the restored space. He nods to Tennison, whom he hadn’t known prior to the August storm.

Squeegee support

From top: Tennis resumes at Hitters, which was inundated in August with six to eight-inches of floodwater and mud. Beasley’s team handled the cleanup, from hand-scrubbing the massive hanging curtains to removing carpets and mats, but first water and humidity had to be removed to prevent mold growth.

Just a few weeks earlier, floodwaters left floors coated with fine dirt that settled into carpets and mats. The water can contain a host of contaminants, from animal feces to chemicals, Beasley notes.

For that reason, everything that touches it is considered contaminated and must either be cleaned and sanitized — including walls, studs, metal, carpets, and other soft materials — or removed and sent to the landfill.

“The first thing you do is get the water out,” Beasley explains. At Hitters, the crew first had to remove large, heavy curtains separating the various courts. Then, lining up side by side, Beasley and four other FGS employees stood shoulder to shoulder, each armed with a large floor squeegee, to quickly push water through open doors to the outside. Later, large pumps were brought in to continue the process.

In a pitching area against a back wall, artificial turf was removed because it was “completely saturated and dirty,” Beasley reports, including the rubber cushioning beneath the turf. Similarly, at Silver Lining Martial Arts, matting that had been glued to the floor had to be scraped off.

“That was a chore,” Beasley sighs.

Restoration companies often rent large equipment, including fans to blow heat into a space to speed drying, but Beasley says the FGS crew probably couldn’t have completed the Hitters’ job in two weeks were it not for more than a dozen temporary workers who showed up every morning to help clean the facility. “Temp agencies really came through for us,” he acknowledges.

Hanging curtains were taken down, hand scrubbed, and sanitized, and workers also cleaned channels around the interior perimeter where the walls meet the concrete floors — also by hand — removing any and all wet insulation “because there’s no other way to do it,”  Beasley says. “It’s a very tedious job.”

Removing the water is the just the beginning, he cautions. “You have to dry the air at the same time because materials continue to soak up moisture.” Remediation specialists calculate the entire volume of the room when it comes to assessing water damage and repair costs. In this case, he says, Hitters’ high ceilings turned its 50,000-square-foot footprint into a 100,000-plus-cubic-foot job.

Remediation — cleaning, sanitizing with a product called Benefect, and drying — was done as quickly as possible to avoid mold growth, which can start in three to seven days. Over the years, Beasley says he’s seen a rainbow of mold colors. “You need a stable, steady drying process. Once you start drying, you stop the mold.” There’s a science to it, too, he adds. “You have to maintain the moisture level so you’re not drying too fast or too slow because if you dry too fast, you can cause structural issues.”

It took FGS’ crew almost 10 days of consistent drying and cleaning before Hitters SportsPlex was declared dry.



Certifiably centered

The Lawton, Oklahoma native had worked for another remediation/restoration company for four years prior to joining FGS just a week before the August storm. He’s earned certifications from both the Restoration Sciences Academy (RSA) and the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC), which he considers the “big dog” for training and certifications. As such, he’s trained in water restoration and certified in applied structural drying, fire, odor, mold, trauma, carpet, and lead.

FGS, a “sister” of Wisconsin Management Co., prides itself on being a one-stop-shop, offering everything from cleanup through rebuild.

Beasley works on the remedial side of the business, and says a typical day may include service calls for residential water leaks or mold usually caused by slow-leaking refrigerators or roofs. The company, though, handles projects of all types and sizes, from sewer system backups, to fire damage, to trauma (accidents or suicides).

“Those are the hardest cases,” Beasley acknowledges. “Hoarders are unique, too,” he adds. During his career he’s been called on to remove belongings from hoarder’s homes, which then require complete sanitization. “I’ve found pets that were missing, and other biologicals,” he reports.

Like first responders, remediation and restoration teams deal with unforeseen circumstances all the time, but the most difficult situations are those that happen around the holidays, he says.

Yes, it can be a dirty job, sometimes requiring Tyvek suits, masks, or hepatitis B or tetanus shots, but the human element is what keeps Beasley coming back, the ability to offer a solution and some much-needed empathy and compassion when people are suddenly faced with a life-altering event.

A U.S. Army veteran who was awarded two Bronze Stars for service in Granada and Southwest Asia, Beasley insists helping people just makes him feel good.

“You go in and you can see the shock on people’s faces because they don’t know what to do. We explain what needs to be done and after they see that we know what we’re doing, they relax knowing that it’s going to be handled. It’s okay. When we’re done, they’re so thankful.”

Still, the most difficult part of remediation work might be finding others to share that same passion, he acknowledges. “This is a unique field. You have to want to do it and enjoy it.”

Meanwhile at Hitters, Tennison believes the facility dodged a bullet. “I think we really got lucky because this storm hit when we were right between our summer and indoor seasons. We were able to get up and running on the tennis facilities first and open probably a lot sooner than many businesses.”

With Hitters open for business, Beasley hops in his car to check on two residential mold concerns in the area. “I like these jobs,” he smiles. “To me, they are the most interesting because of the challenge of finding the mold.”

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