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Charleston

Why I Went Into the Water and Fire Restoration Business

I am fascinated with how things work. So when I talk to people about my business, I have the tendency to talk about nuts and bolts. This is unfortunate, because most people are bored to tears by nuts and bolts. And as it turns out, the mechanics of water and fire damage restoration had nothing to do with me opening my business.

Ten years ago we had a catastrophic fire in our home. The damage was so bad that we eventually tore the house down. I remember standing in the remains of my living room, staring dumbstruck at a silhouette on a wall where a picture once hung. The picture was the only thing I owned that belonged to my beloved grandmother, and it was completely destroyed.

I remember feeling incredibly fortunate. My three year old daughter was supposed to be in the house. But through an odd series of events, my youngest was not at home. My eldest daughter was upstairs and should have been trapped by the fire, but miraculously escaped. No one was lost. No one was injured. Because of the courage of one of my neighbors, even my dog was saved.

But I also remember feeling completely uncertain. Would insurance honor the claim? Would they pay me enough to put my house back together? Would my home and all my possessions forever smell like smoke? Would the odor forever remind me of that cataclysmic event?

The answer to some of our problems involved the nuts and bolts of cleaning plates and lamps and furniture. It involved the mechanics of insurance policies. I’m a concrete, task oriented person, so I was soon able to wrap my head around quantifiable obstacles and measureable goals.

It was far more difficult for the rest of my family. Perhaps because they were all female, or perhaps because they were more clever than me, they saw the fire not as a set of concrete obstacles to overcome, but as symbol. The vagaries and uncertainties of life had come crashing into our home and left a pile of wreckage. It was nothing we could plan for. It was nothing we could predict. It came out of nowhere. Every charred chair and smoke filled book was a symbol, a reminder, that the unexpected is the wrecking ball of human plans.

The thought you put into choosing the colors you painted the walls, suddenly seems ridiculous. Your Great Aunt’s china, with which you took such great care, now lies in pieces. I had laid down a heart of pine floor with my own hands. A mechanized claw would rip it from our home and toss it in a dumpster.

I needed to put my home back together. My wife and children needed new symbols for the future. They needed to know that everything would be set right.

The nuts and bolts of putting my house back together were completely successful. It turns out the insurance company paid me to replace trousers that had not fit me for 10 years. They paid me for a saxophone I had not played in 15 years. For this reason and others, the house we rebuilt was slightly nicer and somewhat larger than the previous home.

Rebuilding our lives and that sense of security was a little more difficult.

Most of the people I help have not undergone disasters as catastrophic as mine. But I have learned that the character of the trauma is the same, even when the magnitude is less. If your living room is full of water, the first thing we are going to do is to put it into complete disarray. We have to move the furniture in order to extract the water. So it has to go into the dining room. So now your dining room is in disarray.

And then we move on to the kitchen. And then we move on to the bedroom. And then we bring in 20 fans. And they are all making a lot of noise. And then we bring in three dehumidifiers. And they are all producing heat. And each piece of equipment has a cord. And the home that once symbolized peace and security is now a symbol of chaos.

So my job is to dry your home. My job is to prevent further damage. My job is to prevent mold. Those are my jobs.

My mission is to say to the customer:

“all things will be set right – but it will take time.
Everything will be OK. But getting their will be very inconvenient.
I will walk with you through this whole process.
And I will do everything I can, to make you better off than you were before.”

It is a funny thing about my life. Every truly beautiful thing that has ever happened to me, followed some catastrophe. I own Rainbow International, because I can sometimes reach out to someone when life is dark and chaotic. Sometimes they will allow me to change dark symbols for bright ones.

Whenever disaster strikes you, remember, there’s always a Rainbow after the storm.