Bringing Disaster Preparedness and Restoration to North America

First Onsite Property Restoration
Written by David Caldwell

With the world’s climate crisis mounting ever further, disaster preparedness and recovery in construction both old and new are proving paramount. In North America, First Onsite Property Restoration elevates the field of emergency mitigation, providing prevention and response expertise in all areas of commercial properties.

From the U.S. and global headquarters of First Onsite in Metro Denver, as well as its Canadian headquarters in Toronto, the team seamlessly coordinates dozens of subsidiaries – acquired in recent years – all proudly operating under the First Onsite brand.

Due to the velocity and volume required in a restoration project, particularly disaster-related, First Onsite is implementing a strategy of maximum reach. To this end, the company now operates in over 90 locations across Canada and the United States.

Thanks to this wide geographic reach, First Onsite provides restoration services for multiple types of damage. This includes fire, smoke, and soot damage, as well as accompanying water damage from extinguished fires; flood- and storm-related mold and structural damage; large and complex loss recovery; and emergency response planning.

As part of its mandate, First Onsite supplies additional services necessary for restoration, including temporary power, specialty cleaning, and general contracting and reconstruction services to bring clients the help they urgently need as quickly as possible to ensure clients can get back to business.

At present, to combat the current pandemic, First Onsite has implemented its trademark ARMOR three-step decontamination service. First establishing a controlled work area for employees, First Onsite technicians sanitize all surfaces with EPA-certified, environmentally-friendly, colorless and odorless disinfectants guaranteed to immediately sanitize and also keep most surfaces COVID-free for up to 12 months. This process, using advanced antimicrobial bio-static coating, can protect home and business occupants while ensuring business operations remain uninterrupted.

First Onsite is also able to implement any of its services in an equally comprehensive range of buildings, both residential and commercial.

For commercial restoration, First Onsite can service commercial properties as well as hospitals, senior living facilities, large universities, and more, while transport options including cruise ships, aircraft, marine shipping, trains, trucks, and even city buses and light rail are also part of First Onsite’s portfolio.

First Onsite’s expertise in the range of skills required when restoring buildings of different construction and use – for instance, healthcare – is unmatched, according to Senior Vice President for Company Culture Jenny Vandehey. “Within restoration, work in healthcare is going to look different than work in other types of industry,” she says.

First Onsite’s wide-ranging partners ensure the company can deploy highly trained and experienced specialists to deal with any situation, anywhere, using the latest in disaster mitigation and restoration technology.

As a recent example, First Onsite initially deployed a field command center to Florida in preparation for Hurricane Dorian, which was poised to strike the area. But as the storm turned north to affect multiple Atlantic states and provinces, the company shifted its strategy to a highly mobile ‘storm chaperone’ command center, able to follow Dorian’s path and mobilize recovery teams as needed.

This past February, when the polar freeze hit Texas, First Onsite opened 1,100 new projects in response to the storm. It was a record number of projects for the company. While there are inherent difficulties in the sheer volume of projects from this CAT event, the company had the support from other regions across the country, a dedicated National Team, and the proper materials and equipment to manage the response. On a deeper, less tangible level, though, the successful response came down to three core things: planning, preparation, and partnership.

This command center, coordinating with First Onsite’s larger command and communication networks elsewhere, performed on-the-spot storm damage analyses and deployed teams to affected areas. Thanks to the company’s widespread reach and large subsidiary and subcontractor network, First Onsite, living up to its name, successfully coordinated responses over 900 square miles of coverage.

Indeed, First Onsite’s abilities have earned recognition beyond North America. When heavy summer rains led to mudslides in Rio de Janeiro, sending muddy debris through a major hotel, First Onsite deployed to Brazil.

Working in close contact with partners in Mexico and Bolivia, the company used its resource network to rapidly deploy personnel and equipment to the affected area. Tina Ballard, Senior Vice President for Human Resources, remarks that although an international reach isn’t an immediate goal, First Onsite intends to do whatever it takes to reach out to clients. “We go where our clients ask us to go,” she says. “If we can mobilize a team to go international, we will go.”

This large network also reflects First Onsite’s acquisition-focused business strategy. As Vandehey remarks, the company’s goal is to be the single point of contact for their customers: “Our immediate aspiration is to be the only partner our customers will ever need,” she says.

Ballard explains that First Onsite can deploy specialists throughout the continent and beyond thanks to its recent acquisitions. “We can serve all of Canada, and all of the U.S., if needed,” she says. “We intend to expand that footprint through acquisition as well as greenfield growth.”

Marc Cohen, Chief Strategy Officer, explains that, “We’ve been very intentional about our approach [to acquisitions]. We learn from every new partner and we take that learning and use it to make each partnership a more exceptional experience for new partners and teams, and that translates into growth for our new partners and for First Onsite.”

As an example of this acquisition-focused and continental-reach strategy, the company acquired A-1 Flood Tech in Washington, D.C., shortly before this writing, adding to its inventory yet another well-entrenched business with a strong customer base and years of experience. With offices in both Maryland and Virginia, A-1 will now benefit from First Onsite’s resources and expertise and further expand the company’s geographic footprint.

As First Onsite expands its reach, the challenge now is to integrate many individual companies into a coherent continental structure, without compromising each company’s individuality. “The values and cultures of those companies have been a big influence on who we pursue and bring into the company,” Vandehey says. “A shared set of values – that’s something we’re looking at every day.”

Cohen agrees. “Every company that we partner with has a little bit of a different culture, that’s to be expected,” he shares. “So, one of the more important aspects of our process is to make sure that even though there are differences in cultures, we embrace those differences and use them to make First Onsite’s culture stronger.”

This focus on values and a clear company culture is the product of a recent rebranding, necessary to bring more than 90 locations in line with a central structure. There have been growing pains, but Vandehey says everyone’s efforts have paid off with a common sense of shared mission.

“Prior to our rebrand earlier this year, we were a collection of many companies,” she recalls. “Now that we’ve come together with one name, that’s allowed us to feel a shared sense of purpose and to strengthen our culture in many ways, because we can all rally around that.”

As First Onsite continues to expand and acquire, it’s also working hard to fill its ranks. The company’s high standards call for applicants of the highest quality, and not merely in terms of hard skills. Ballard notes that First Onsite is looking for empathetic staff: “someone who wants to run toward a disaster and help when people really are at their lowest point,” she says.

Additionally, the company is ensuring recruits have coaching abilities, making them easily able to pass their skills on to new hires. While this strategy does limit the candidate pool, Ballard says it’s a goal worth striving for. “We want to stand out, and stand out with our people.”

In a rapidly changing world marked by extreme weather, such as landslides in British Columbia and unseasonal tornadoes in Kentucky – to name only two recent disasters – First Onsite is proving its mettle, helping its customers resume normal operations.

Experienced staff, advanced resources, and a continental reach all ensure First Onsite’s clients have the most dependable, knowledgeable help available to them – just when they need it.

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