Expert Q&A: How to Be Prepared for a Residential Disaster

Signature Exteriors roofing contractor St. Charles
Jennifer Donley Claria Clean

At Signature Exteriors, a St. Charles, Missouri-based roofing contractor, we’re proud to work with such a fantastic community of related experts, from insurance agents to home inspectors and even our own in-house roofing team. We wanted to share their expertise with our customers and readers, so we created an “Expert’s Corner” on our blog in which we interview these highly talented professionals.

Today's interview is with Claria Clean president Jennifer Donley.


What kind of residential disasters do you see most (wind, tornados, fire, water)?

Water damage is by far the most common residential disaster. Of those, we see failed supply lines (to the dishwasher, washing machine, refrigerator, etc.), toilet overflows and sink overflows most often. We also see a lot of burst pipes in the winter and in the spring when people first turn their hoses on. And of course flooded basements from sump pump failures and backups during heavy rains.

Learn More: Missouri Storm History Search Tool

What are some simple ways to prepare your house for these types of unexpected disasters?

  • Shut off the water to the house when going on a vacation and/or have someone check the house daily for any issues (especially the basement and especially if it’s finished).

  • Have a battery backup on your sump pump as well as an alarm if it fails.

  • Don’t leave water running in one of the above mentioned appliances when leaving the house (can’t avoid the ice maker, obviously).

  • Check your basement – often – for water when it rains heavily.

  • Unplug your exterior hoses in late fall before it freezes.

  • Have roof issues or ceiling discoloration checked immediately.

  • Know where the water shut off is in your house (a lot of people don’t).

You must work with some pretty emotional clients. How do you prepare your family for household disasters such as fire or tornado?  

It is very emotional. The best recommendation I have is to document all your belongings (video works great) and keep the documentation off site.

Also, make sure your home is properly insured – this sounds simple but a lot of homes are lacking coverage for sewer/sump pump backup or code upgrades. Be sure your agent knows about additions, collectibles, upgrades, etc. because at claim time, any money saved from not having coverage for those items just doesn’t seem worth it. (P.S. I used to work in the insurance world so I’ve seen both sides of this!)

If your home has been damaged by storms or fire, what do you recommend as the first thing a person should do?

Call a company that you trust so they can start mitigating damage immediately (boarding up, tarping, etc.). It’s important to have this information handy before something happens, if possible.

Do you deal with insurance agents or help homeowners with their insurance claim? Or do they call Claria Clean after the insurance has been dealt with?

We work with agents, adjusters and homeowners throughout the claim process. It’s really important to engage the restoration company alongside the insurance company/claim to make sure that nothing gets left out of estimates or payouts and that all parties agree to the proper scope of work to restore the home.

What does fire and water restoration of a house entail?

In both instances, there are 2 main phases:

  • Emergency Cleanup & Mitigation

  • Rebuild or Reconstruction

We liken part one to going to the emergency room to get stabilized and part two to rehabilitation.

Emergency Cleanup & Mitigation usually only takes a few days to board up, dry, perform demo and initially clean the home to prepare for reconstruction.  

Rebuild or Reconstruction can take several months as the home is put back together and floors, walls, ceilings and contents (all your stuff) is cleaned, put back, repainted, etc.

What are the easiest and hardest aspects of your job in a situation like this?

We’ve been in business since 2006 in St. Louis and surrounding areas, and we’ve met and helped a lot of people, which has been great. But every restoration job is different so we never know from one to the next what we’re walking into. The uncertainty means we have to be able to shift quickly and be ready for anything.

Related Content: The First Thing You Should Do When Your House Has Been Damaged by a Storm

Today's Q&A was with Jennifer Donley, President and Co-Founder of Claria Clean, a damage restoration and cleanup company located in the St. Louis area. Claria Clean works with home and building owners to provide cleanup and restoration services following damage from water, fire, mold, smoke and trauma.

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