What may have started out a normal day can turn sour in minutes. Fires, floods and assorted natural calamities or the unanticipated failure of mankind's own creations can result in a sudden need for professional help to recover from a disaster.
In six north central Iowa counties, a quick call to SERVPRO of Fort Dodge is often the first step toward getting a bad situation under control and the journey back to normal life under way.
Founded in 1967, SERVPRO has more than 1,600 franchise outlets in 48 states. These locally owned and operated companies provide an array of services including fire and water cleanup and restoration, as well as mold mitigation and remediation.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Servpro employees Joel Ulstad, in back, and Brent Kakacek work on cleaning items in the company shop. SERVPRO?provides an array of services including fire and water cleanup and restoration, as well as mold mitigation and remediation.
Jerry McMahon, a 1983 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High, acquired the SERVPRO franchise for Calhoun, Hamilton, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Webster and Wright counties in October 2010. Before becoming the SERVPRO representative locally, he had two decades of carpet cleaning experience as the owner of Hawkeye Carpet Care. While the disaster recovery focus of SERVPRO is now his main concern, he said he continues to offer carpet cleaning to a wide array of clients, some of whom he has been serving for two decades. He estimated that 15 to 20 percent of his business is cleaning carpets for homeowners and businesses.
The primary mission of SERVPRO of Fort Dodge is easy to state, but requires a team of experts to execute.
"It's all about helping people through disasters," McMahon said. "Nobody plans on a disaster. When it happens, it gives us a good feeling to give them peace of mind. To let them know that we're going to help them through this."
A key part of accomplishing this goal is fast response when an incident occurs. McMahon stressed that at SERVPRO help is a phone call away 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We will call the homeowner back within one hour," he said. "We will be on the job site within four."
McMahon stressed that the victim's insurance company will receive an initial reading on the situation within eight hours. He also emphasized that his team is often able to respond even faster than the guaranteed response times.
"Those are our guarantees," McMahon said, noting that his personnel typically do even better. "On average, the homeowner's getting a call within five or 10 minutes and we're on the job site usually within an hour."
He explained that it is important to get on top of a bad situation as fast as possible to prevent it from becoming worse than necessary.
"A lot of damage that occurs is what we call secondary damage," McMahon said. "It's very important that we get there quickly."
Beyond carpet cleaning
The decision to broaden the scope of his business well beyond carpet cleaning is one McMahon said has proved a good one for him, both personally and professionally.
"Cleaning carpets is not quite as satisfying as when you are able to help some people who are really down on their luck," he said. "Disaster work can be really tedious because some people are a nervous wreck and they can get frustrated when things don't go quite as quickly they want. It's also satisfying at the end, when it's all cleaned up and their house looks like it used to. ... I had a choice. I was really happy cleaning carpets. We started getting into restoration and I enjoyed it and really haven't looked back."
Helping people understand what can be repaired or salvaged is part of the service SERVPRO personnel provide. McMahon said recovering and restoring treasured possessions is an especially rewarding aspect of the work, noting that people are often surprised by what is possible. He said members of his staff have been trained to handle many types of repair and restoration. The company also has links to just about any type of specialized personnel that might be needed.
"There are special companies," McMahon explained. "We have a really big company in Chicago that deals with all the art. ... It really depends on the severity and what type of material it is whether it goes to a special company or not."
The message for people in need of disaster recovery capabilities is quite straightforward.
"We're going to make it look like it never even happened," McMahon said. "I would want them to have a peace of mind, knowing that they can trust us to take care of their precious home valuables and getting this disaster cleaned up in a timely manner."
SERVPRO's recovery and restoration services can address fire, smoke and soot; water removal and dehumidification; and mold mitigation and remediation. Its professionals are adept at coping with damage to electronics and assorted equipment as well as document drying and preservation, according to McMahon.
An array of cleaning services are available. In addition to carpet cleaning, duct cleaning is an important and popular service. So too is mold removal.
"Probably just as much mold work as we do water damage," McMahon said. "It can be very nasty for some people. ... In an indoor environment, it's just not a good thing."
Expanding the business is a key part of McMahon's game plan for the years ahead.
"I would like to grow a lot larger where we would have 50 percent of the market share in northwest Iowa eventually," he said. "I think we're probably only around 10 percent now."
Contact Terrence Dwyer at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org