Local companies know how to help when disaster strikes

Do you have a recovery plan if a disaster strikes your home?

“You never think it’s going to happen to you. My home was totally destroyed. The first time I saw it, my heart sank,” says Adelena Aragon, a Northeast Heights homeowner.

She never imagined renting her home would have such catastrophic consequences. “It was people we trusted.”

A domestic situation escalated into a police encounter, resulting in more than 30 canisters of tear gas exploding in the house, a robot blasting through a brick wall and injuries that resulted in bloodstains.

“It was a completely tragic and unbearable situation,” says Aragon, 40, a high school counselor.

Rockefeller's Cleaning and Restoration Restoration experts survey damage to rebuild an exterior wall that a police robot knocked down at this Northeast Heights home. Rockefeller's also cleaned toxic fumes from tear gas cannisters.

Aragon immediately called her family, her real estate agent and her insurance agent. Her family helped her board up the house, while her insurance agent told her to call Rockefeller’s Cleaning and Restoration to make the residence safe enough for the adjuster to evaluate Aragon’s losses.

“It was a biohazard situation,” Aragon says. “When I called Rockefeller’s I was still in shock, I didn’t know where to start. They were wonderful. They walked me through the process step by step.”

The tear gas permanently damaged the house. The drywall and attic insulation had to be removed. She estimates the entire restoration will cost about $95,000 and could be completed by the end of May.

Alex Borgeson of Rockefeller’s says her family’s company has seen almost all the ways something can go wrong in their 37 years of business.

In situations with toxic airborne chemicals like the tear gas in Aragon’s home, they often have to pull the walls down, says Larry Borgeson. “If it’s porous, it has to go – carpet and drapes. Even the cabinets if they are pressed wood.”

Kelly Borgeson, Larry’s wife and Alex’s mother, says it’s good to know who can help in times of a disaster, adding they are available night or day. “Always check a company’s credentials. You should prepare with your insurance. Sit down and talk to your agent. If tragedy strikes in the middle of the night, would you know who to call?”

The fully certified company often cleans up and remediates trauma situations like Aragon’s house, fire and smoke damage, water and mold damage, hostage and hoarding situations and clandestine drug operations. They are also licensed general contractors.

“We are aware that our clients are under a lot of stress. We are discreet and compassionate,” Alex Borgeson says. “We are respectful. Everyone always asks, how can this happen? No one ever thinks it will happen to them.”

Of course, damage can occur, even without the drama of a police scene.

Project manager and estimator Drew Garcia of Albuquerque’s American Restoration Water and Fire, also a nationally certified company, explains minerals in New Mexico’s hard water can slowly build inside water heaters and inside hoses for washers, dishwashers and icemakers, until they burst, flooding homes. “Most of the damage we see are due to broken pipes, but most of the time the causes are lack of maintenance.”

Another common cause of damage, sewer back-ups, could be prevented with a back flow preventer in the front yard where the sewer enters the municipal line: “It’s a collar with a flap that costs about $30.”

While Garcia realizes most people are unaware of potential disaster, national insurance data shows on average most people will experience one fire and two floods in their lifetimes.

John Sheriff, owner of Paul Davis Restoration in Albuquerque, also a nationally certified local company, in business for 25 years, says his company most often sees the deeper damage caused by leaking traditional flat roofs. Wet walls and wet ceilings lead to mold.

“People can call a restoration contractor to assess the situation, before they make a decision about insurance,” Sheriff says, adding that calling sooner than later and beginning on the work helps reduce damage. He recommends having a long conversation with your insurance agent to discover what’s covered and what’s not and asking for a referral to a restoration contractor so you know who to call in times of disaster.

Up north in Eldorado, Quentin and Melida Collins are recovering from a September fire that destroyed their home. They had to wait for an official investigation before they called on Rockefeller’s to repair the damage.

Melida Collins praises Rockefeller’s. “They treated us like people and not like a file.” She is also very grateful to the New Mexico National Guard and the Eldorado Community Church who supported her family through difficult times.

“We barely got out in time with our children,” Quentin Collins explains. They also managed to save their pets – dogs, a hedgehog and a bearded dragon.

Collins, of the New Mexico National Guard, says the fire apparently started in the garage-pantry area from an unknown cause. “Water damaged what wasn’t damaged by fire and smoke.”

He recommends frequently checking smoke detectors to make sure they work and cover the house and garage. He also recommends an up-to-date photo inventory of the house, its fixtures and possessions.

Be prepared

Peter Crosa, president of an independent adjusting firm in Florida and Georgia and a national board member of The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, says most people have adequate home insurance to recover from a loss. “The purpose of insurance is to lessen the burden of such a loss. Your insurance agent is the most qualified and most likely to make sure you have adequate insurance.” He and local experts recommend:

  • A homeowners or renters insurance policy. Make sure the deductible is truly affordable.
  • Secure a copy of the policy in a safe place, like a bank safe deposit box, away from your residence.
  • Inventory your belongings, every single material possession of value, from underwear to grand pianos. A photo inventory along with a written record can be helpful. Securely store it out of your home with the copy of the insurance policy.
  • Check to make sure you have insurance to cover bringing your home to current building code requirements.
  • Ask what your flood and water damage covers along with discovering your coverage for mold and fungus damage. Mold remediation can cost $10,000 to $20,000.

Crosa cautions: “The values you claim and support with invoices and photos of the item are less likely to be challenged by the insurance company’s adjuster. Remember, adjusters are trained to question, verify and challenge if values cannot be verified.”