Disaster strikes: Now the rebuilding begins

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ams karp family
One of some 15 families who sought shelter at Advanced Masonry Systems in Sarasota set up an office area for them to stay with their children. " It was like a big camp out," said AMS principal Ron Karp.

As Florida digs out from Hurricane Irma’s devastation, there are stories of how contractors, architects, engineers, suppliers, and professional service providers took immediate action during the crisis to help their communities survive – and indications of how they will help with the longer-term recovery.

As an example, Advanced Masonry Systems (AMS) in Sarasota opened its 15,000 sq. ft. office/warehouse to 15 families who needed shelter, housing more than 60 people.

“All was good until the wind blew the roof membrane off half of the building and water started coming in,” said AMS principal Ron Karp.

“Everyone reacted calmly and moved to the front of the building to escape the water,” he said. “At the end of the day, nobody was hurt and everyone went home safely.”

“Now that everything has calmed down, our vendors such as HD Supply and L&W, are helping us to obtain the materials we need to make temporary roof repairs. Work to get things back to normal is now ongoing – all is good.”

ams cars
Cars parked in the AMS warehouse as about 60 people stayed there through the storm, even though part of the roof membrane blew off.

Steve Cona III, president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, noted that the storm affected different parts of the state with differing severity. “Polk County and Southwest Florida were the hardest hit,” he said, and the Tampa Bay area was largely spared. (The storm certainly caused extreme damage in the Florida Keys.)

Cona said the most urgent immediate priorities and needs are “power and supplies.”
“ABC members always stand ready to help rebuild communities they serve,” he said.

The shortage of gas and manpower is affecting contractors who weren’t directly hit by the storm. “I also checked on our project sites, and although we didn’t have any damage the hurricane has cost us and our clients timely delays and shortage of gas and manpower,” said Maria Ehrlich, marketing director at Focus Development in Tampa.

“Our Naples office had to evacuate and has been working remotely due to power outages at home and office,” said Kalley Willis from insurance specialist law firm Saxe Doernberger & Vita, PC.

“As always, our most urgent priorities and needs are service to our clients and ensuring that deadlines are not missed due to downtime or travel delay,” she wrote. “Our team has already begun the discussion of rebuilding and how we might offer our services to assist others.  We are in the process of developing a pro bono plan that will allow us to advise on the various insurance coverage issues that property owners will likely face due to Hurricane Irma.”

Some contractors with multi-branch locations outside of Florida are preparing to marshal resources for the rebuilding process. A news release from Western Speciality Contractors says its branches in Florida, Texas and Georgia serve as staging locations for Gulf Coast disaster recovery services. Says the company has been helping companies recover from natural disasters on the Gulf Coast for over 50 years.

“Bringing a building or structure back to life in the case of a natural disaster takes a certain level of experience and skill,” said Chester Scott, branch manager of Western’s Atlanta, GA branch. “Special skills are needed to properly assess the damage, develop a recovery plan and initiate the restoration or take steps to mitigate further loss.”

Florida Construction News welcomes your stories about how you experienced and survived the storm, and how you are adapting your business to facilitate the recovery. You can communicate to Mark Buckshon at buckshon@floridaconstructionnews.com.

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