An Atlantic City street after Hurriane Sandy. Todd Mller has a recent project here.
An Atlantic City street after Hurriane Sandy. Todd Mller has a recent project here.

On Thursday afternoon (11/1), we were finally permitted to go into Margate City, one of the towns we work in to inspect current and past projects. On Friday we were able to get into Ventnor City, where our offices are located and where more of our work is located. After inspecting 20 [recent projects], I was pleased to see that there was no structural damage whatsoever, no damage to roofing or siding, or broken windows.  The only “damage” was water that got into the crawlspaces, which needs to be pumped out. But that is how FEMA requires us to design a crawlspace — with a special vent that is designed to “open” when water pushes against it.

SAFETY PLAN

We are just now getting back up to speed. There was no damage at our office, but my house — which was a house boat for about 36 hours — got water in the crawlspace. I hired ServiceMaster to pump out the water and dry it out. I could have done it with my own staff, but I wanted an expert with all of the specialized equipment to do it. 

We do not have a specific “disaster plan” at the office, but we do perform a daily computer backup to a special hot-swappable hard drive. Once a week the drive is removed and taken off-site. Though this is more work than using “the cloud,” it is more economical because with our CAD drawings and over 20 years of project data, we have over a terabyte of data (1,000 gigabytes). Using the cloud for this much data would be prohibitively expensive.

With smaller storms rolling though here on a fairly regular basis we do “button down” our houses and sites prior to a storm's arrival. Though each project is different, depending on the scope and progress, this preparation usually includes removing any loose materials from the outside of the site, covering the Dumpsters with tarps, tying down the port-a-potty, securing all exterior doors and windows, etc.

LABOR GONE WILD

The out-of-town contractors have already descended on us! There are placards on telephone poles with out-of-town area codes and radio ads by companies we have never heard of all professing their experience in working in our community. Prior to Hurricane (tropical storm/nor'easter) Sandy we were already operating at capacity; now we need to deal with shortages of materials and labor as well as material price increases (which have already begun) on projects we have already committed to. 

We are also exploring the idea of increasing our capacity to handle the influx of new work; the phones are ringing off of the hook. We had an office meeting to discuss this and decided to stick with what we know best —

building new homes and remodeling existing ones — and to stay away from the flood remediation and cleanup. We will leave that to Servpro and ServiceMaster. — Todd Allen Miller owns QMA Design+Build, in Ventnor, N.J. Related articles:

Sandy Hook: Will Hurricane Sandy Remake the Coast of New Jersey?

When it Comes to Disaster, it Pays to be Prepared 

Disaster Recovery: We can do better than this