The Monterey County Herald, Tuesday, June 1, 1999
Monterey County Business
Standing Up to Disaster
Restoring Homes and Offices
By Jordanna E. Berger
It wasn’t until a drunken driver crashed through their living room that Terry and Theresa Ream found their calling in disaster restoration. The insurance adjuster who was handling the Reams’ case liked the estimate they provided for the damage, so he started calling them for other jobs.
“I like the urgency, the high intensity of disaster restoration,” said Theresa Ream. “It’s so different than normal construction because it’s an emergency situation on a daily basis. We go out and we take care of the problem. There’s a high energy level around the office that you wouldn’t get with a normal construction company.”
The Reams founded Ream Construction & Disaster Cleaning in Sand City in 1981. It now employs 38, with Theresa, 43, serving as president and Terry 45, as vice president. A native of San Jose, Terry Ream moved to the area in 1970, when he was stationed at Fort Ord. He has been in construction all his life. Theresa Ream grew up in Marina. Ream Construction specializes in fire damage and water damage restoration, handling both content and structural renovation, as well as trees falling on home, suicides and animal smells. Its staff can clean air ducts, and do light restoration, painting, carpentry work and sand blasting. For other work, Ream Construction has more than 100 subcontractors.
“We specialize in structures that have been affected by smoke, soot, water, heat, etc.,” said Terry Ream. “We bring them back to life ad salvage them.” The Carmel Pine Cone newspaper called Ream Construction in 1995 to clean up flood damage after sprinklers were triggered by a power-strip fire. Employees arriving at work had found a foot of water in the offices. Ream Construction restored the newspaper’s archives as much as possible.
“Ream Construction worked as quickly as possible and made us as comfortable as possible while walls were being dried or torn down,” said Gilda Soul, bookkeeper at the Pine Cone. Ream Construction has worked on fire-restoration projects for other businesses, such as KAZU public radio station in Pacific Grove and the six-story Santa Cruz Administration Building.
At any moment, Ream Construction is likely to be working on 15 projects in structure restoration and 25 in content restoration. Its largest disaster-restoration project has been in the range of $375,000 to rebuild the structure and $120,000 to restore the contents.
“Home rather than commercial disaster restoration is a more stressful environment because of the loss of personal items and loved ones or pets,” said Theresa Ream. “Our crew is trained in compassion.” The staff will even make temporary living arrangements for clients, she said.
“If you have a fire today, I can get there in the next hour, as soon as the fire department leaves. I’ll board up your windows and start pulling your carpets out so they’re not sitting in the mucky water. We’ll do whatever we have to do to control the damage,” Terry Ream said.
“This work is very different than working with someone who is planning an addition,” he said. “We’re all builders, but not every company knows how to get that odor out. When your house is fixed and done, you don’t want it to smell like smoke.” The company is a member of Disaster Kleenup International Inc., a network of 120-member contractors throughout the U.S. who are experts at disaster restoration.
“Ream Construction came highly recommended to us. The company has been a member for just over a year,” said Derry Strong, president of DKI. DKI candidates must pass stringent criteria to become members, including experience with insurance companies, minimum revenue of $500,000 and full-service handling of fire and water damage, content and structural restoration.
The candidacy process takes approximately two months and includes site surveys, review of financial statements and employee interviews. Members must attend four training meetings a year and serve a territory with no more than 2 million inhabitants. Ream Construction is the only DKI member in the tri-county area.
During the floods in 1995, Ream Construction handled the contents of 25 homes, down to the forks and knives, putting everything in warehouses for drying. Some of the houses were done twice because floods hit again in 1997. Ream Construction won the 1996 Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Small Business Service Excellence award for handling the 1995 floods.
When El Nino hit the area in April 1998, Ream Construction received 40 calls in two hours. Basements were flooding and trees had fallen on roofs. It received 120 calls in three days. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which handles natural disasters, disbursed $1.1 million to Monterey County residents for temporary housing during the El Nino storms. Ream Construction formerly was more involved in regular construction and Victorian remodeling, but has focused on fire and water disasters.
“We’ve made a commitment to be the best fire and water restoration company in the area,” said Terry Ream.