Critical Infrastructure in Financial District Quickly Restored after Flash Flooding
Parking garages, sub-level infrastructure, and mechanical rooms, including critical financial infrastructure
On August 7, 2018, a 45-minute downpour of torrential rain caused extensive localized flooding across the Greater Toronto Area. Some parts of the downtown core and financial district received 75-100 millimetres (3-4 inches) of rain in two-hour period, overwhelming the storm water infrastructure.
The severe rainfall compromised many downtown businesses and facilities, including critical financial district infrastructure. Flooding and water damage affected parking garages, sub-level infrastructure, operating equipment, and business-critical mechanical rooms. Estimated damages exceeded $113 million in insurable losses, and approximately two to three times that figure in self-insured and other property losses.
“We got a lot of calls that night from a lot of concerned clients who recognized this was more than your average rainstorm, but instead a natural event that could severely impact their operations if not addressed quickly and appropriately.”
– Bill Fender, Senior Vice President, Commercial Property Portfolios, FirstOnSite
The flooding was intense, affected multiple businesses and properties, and the massive, sudden impact on business- critical mechanical rooms and operating equipment created multiple immediate needs for emergency mitigation and restoration in order to minimize business interruption.
The scope of the damage required the ability to quickly and efficiently assemble a huge complement of commercial restoration experts, equipment, and resources. (As an example, a complex that did not call FirstOnSite was shut down for 48 hours, costing money in downtime and affecting approximately 3,000 employees).
Another key priority was the privacy and security of sensitive information. Some of the work would require utilizing security cleared resources, as well as adherence to client confidentiality standards. In some cases, restoration experts were prohibited from taking photographs of damage, which would make it difficult to share information and assess the scope of work with offsite resources.
Local FirstOnSite crews were immediately mobilized to the city’s downtown core and began work within two hours, extracting water and cleaning out drainage systems. With the size, complexity, and quantity of projects requiring assistance, FirstOnSite also activated its Commercial and Complex Team, and Large Loss Unit, whose Project Managers would focus on managing the longer term restoration of complex losses and the most critical infrastructure, and in many cases be dedicated to a single property through recovery.
FirstOnSite’s Project Managers began by conducting in-person walkthroughs with client management, to view and discuss damages, to determine business continuity priorities, and to collaboratively plan the best path to recovery. They also made sure that privacy concerns were handled according to standard operating procedure, which included requiring security clearances and conducting identity checks prior to granting access to sensitive areas and information.
FirstOnSite brought in resources from across its North American network, including specialized equipment, labour, and engineers, to handle both the large scope of requirements across multiple businesses and the specific needs of individual clients. They had a minimum of 400 staff working at any given time, and at its peak, brought in more than 450 individual staff in to handle repairs and maintain business continuity at over 60 different businesses.
FirstOnSite’s two-pronged approach quickly restored the damaged subterranean spaces and helped customers to avoid extensive financial losses. The firms affected by the flash flooding had their key services quickly restored with minimal disruption to their businesses. Most of the restoration work for the 60+ companies had the work completed within 30 days of commencing repairs and remediation, which ensured that those firms affected by flooding were able to maintain business continuity.
Upon conclusion of the work, the firms that brought in FirstOnSite to deal with the flooding damage commended their Project Managers and teams for the speed of the restoration work, their know how in dealing with this type of emergency situation, and their dedication to minimal disruption.
“I just want to acknowledge the long hours of dedication and hard work by your Project Manager during the recent flood. He was committed, receptive, and always on site to ensure our needs were met. He clearly went above and beyond to deliver first-in-class customer service. FirstOnSite, you are truly appreciated.
Thank you for all your efforts.”
– Senior Executive
FirstOnSite restores eleven schools in time for classes, along with 90 other commercial properties following GTA floods
On Monday, July 8, 2013, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was hit with a massive summer storm breaking the single day record set by Hurricane Hazel in 1954. Thirteen west end schools had been flooded, some of which required extensive repairs with the school year fast approaching.
Suddenness – Property owners caught unaware & unprepared.
Enormous Numbers of Properties with Damage – Thousands of residential and commercial property owners scrambling for help; restoration companies stretched to the limit.
Variety of Restoration Needs – Structural repairs, water damage to labs, libraries, lockers and gymnasiums, each school unique.
Mould Potential – mould only needs 24 – 48 hours to grow causing significant health hazard.
Timeline – Students returning to class in two months.
Speed – Project Managers were dispatched to each school, Technology – quickly generated initial site reports (ISRs) using mobileCT, FirstOnSite’s proprietary claims management software. Reports sent directly to the insurance adjuster, who was able to quickly understand, assess and approve work.
Mobilization & Resource Access – scale up and mobilize expertise, crews, equipment and resources from across the continent to meet the demands of this disaster.
Organization – work was prioritized, scheduled and done through the night to meet timelines.
Communication and Co-operation – worked closely with school custodians, insurance adjuster, School Board risk manager and Service Quality Supervisors.
All projects completed by the agreed-upon deadline of August 27, 2013.
After historic flooding FirstOnSite gets WHL team back on the ice
From June 19 to 21, 2013, over 100 millimeters of rain fell on Southern Alberta, causing rivers to swell to more than five times their normal flow rate. The city of Medicine Hat evacuated almost 1/5th of its residents.
Damage – Contaminated sludge reached the first row of seats and the locker rooms. Main breakers and transformers were destroyed, making power impossible.
Health & Safety – Noxious and hazardous black water and sludge.
Timing – WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers season soon to begin.
Unique Needs – The size, the surface area involved, custom materials needed, and irreplaceable memorabilia were all significant factors.
Resource Access – Drawing on vast resources, FirstOnSite had more than 100 workers on site, from Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. Emergency generators were brought in, and massive, specially designed desiccant air dryers handled ice surface and stands.
Prioritization and Speed – Daily walk-throughs were performed to update building management on progress, and to manage completion schedule.
Health & Safety – Extensive health and safety inspections were undertaken, both by FirstOnSite and by third party environmental engineers.
Flexibility – FirstOnSite tackled unique arena needs: concrete rink pad needed to be completely dry before creation of ice sheet; NHL Grade hockey boards needed to be sourced and installed, along with 14,000 square feet of puck flooring. FirstOnSite also thoroughly and carefully cleaned and restored Tigers’ Walls of Fame, and 43 years of hockey club’s memorabilia and history.
FirstOnSite crews were on the job July 1, with a completion deadline of October 1. Despite the toxins, size and complexity of the job, FirstOnSite had the Tigers safely back on their ice by September 10.
“FirstOnSite did a fantastic job of restoring our arena. I think the place may be cleaner today than it was on opening day in 1969.” – Former Medicine Hat Tiger and City Alderman
After torrential flooding, FirstOnSite gets High River bank branch up and running
Damage – Large holes in the floor and ceiling below and into the basement.
Health & Safety – Backed up sewage mixed with water from surrounding cattle ranches, created category 3 black water – noxious and extremely hazardous. Asbestos was also a serious health concern, as were microbes and mould.
Building Age Concerns – building was over 100 years old, and had undergone a number of renovations over the century.
PREP – Because this bank was a member of FirstOnSite’s PREP program, the lines of communication were open and planning had begun the moment torrential rain started to fall. Though access to the site was delayed by city officials, FirstOnSite was prepared and had 15 workers on the job as soon as they were allowed entry.
Mobilization and Access to Resources – Trades of all kinds were quickly stretched responding to flooding in communities across Southern Alberta, so FirstOnSite immediately flew in top-notch trades the East Coast.
Health and Safety – full personal protective equipment with respirators, and a health and safety manager was on site to supervise the response. Air quality tests were run regularly to monitor progress and identify risks.
Full remediation completed on August 31, 2013, particularly challenging given the surrounding circumstances − the evacuation order, the scope of the damage, and the high degree of demand on restoration companies throughout Southern Alberta − this was just one of dozens of jobs FirstOnSite completed on behalf of this national bank in the past year.
FirstOnSite goes deep on five level Calgary parkade; utilizes best environmental practices in toxic flood event
From June 19 to 21, 2013, over 100 millimeters of rain fell on the city of Calgary. As the city’s rivers overflowed, 75,000 Calgarians were put under evacuation orders. The 350,000 people who work downtown were told to stay home.
Black Water – five level parkade filled with a mix of river sludge and highly toxic sewage backup, known as black water.
Quantity – below grade levels filled with toxic water from P5, more than sixty feet below ground, up to P3 (estimated 12 million gallons)
Ongoing – because the facility was below grade, water continued to drain into it as it was pumped out
Pre-Existing Relationship – project managers were in touch with property management identifying the potential need for a response before the storm had even lifted.
Mobilization and Resource Access – Despite incredible strain on the restoration industry, FirstOnSite mobilized more than 20 workers to the 180,000 square foot site, supervised by an experienced project manager and a construction manager.Health & Safety – Trained crews arrived in time to identify the environmental hazards and contain them before they were allowed to spread throughout the rest of the facility and beyond creating an even more challenging situation. While maintaining essential environmental safety measures, crews began by engaging in selective demolition operations. This site required full necessary safety training, including confined space training and protective fall training. FirstOnSite’s health and safety officer led multiple disinfection sessions with environmentally safe products.
Full remediation and restoration of the parkade was completed in just under two weeks. This specific project was particularly challenging given the surrounding circumstances − the city-wide evacuation order, the scope of the damage, the environmental hazards and the high degree of demand on restoration companies throughout Southern Alberta − this was just one of many jobs FirstOnSite completed in the Calgary area immediately following the floods.
FirstOnSite restores, rebuilds 128 unit townhouse complex following High River floods
In High River, more than 150 people needed to be rescued from the rooftops of their homes. On June 20, all 13,000 residents were ordered to evacuate in the wake of unprecedented flooding.
Complexity – 128 units, managing multiple materials, (flooring, paint colours, finishing, etc) sourcing & work flow
Health & Safety – experienced significant damage caused by backed up sewage mixed with water from surrounding cattle ranches, carrying toxic category 3 black water.
Residents Needs – Pressure to return to homes.
Delay – One month after the flood, the condo association called FirstOnSite (after trying local contractors).
Organization – onsite office built to manage project
Mobilization and Resource Access – Despite being extremely busy with flood remediation projects across Southern Alberta, FirstOnSite was able to draw from its corporate branches across the country, and scale up in High River to complete the job. The mobilization included 10 full-time managers and more than 150 staff and temporary workers.
Communication – FirstOnSite managers recognized the need for excellent communication with residents, and posted progress updates on the condo’s website, as well as on a billboard at the complex, and identified potential issues on the residents’ Facebook page.
Focus on Resident Safety – full-time health and safety manager
Under extremely challenging circumstances, FirstOnSite was able to scale up, mitigate and professionally clean affected areas to industry standards, manage a complex reconstruction project while considering the residents’ need to move back home, and install measures to prevent future flood damage. Most importantly, it was done and safely without a single injury on site.
Helping businesses rebuild – How FirstOnSite rallied 250 workers in Goderich, Ontario
About Goderich and the F3 Tornado
For the lakeside town of Goderich in southwestern Ontario, a seemingly normal Sunday on August 21, 2011 turned to a scene of chaos. A F3 tornado made its way through the town uprooting trees and power lines, flipping cars, and leaving most of the town’s buildings with some form of damage. The tornado reached 280km/h and travelled about 20 km through the community before fizzling out. It left the town’s historic downtown in ruins, it damaged the Sifto salt mine, the salt evaporation plant and most of the product that was ready to be shipped, and caused millions of dollars in damage to a grain elevator complex. In all, the Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates the insured damage to be around $75 million. The human toll was also high – one person died and 37 were injured in the storm.
The location of the town near the Great Lakes made it easily accessible for crews. Following the powerful tornado, more than 250 FirstOnSite workers were on site for several weeks to help mitigate the damage after the storm.
The tornado first hit the Sifto salt mine – located on the waterfront. The storm then made its way into the grain elevator site, hit a residential area next, and then left its mark on the downtown. It then continued through another residential area before hitting the Sifto evaporation plant. FirstOnSite worked at all these sites and brought in specialized crews to deal with complex technical issues. Depending on the area of town damaged, it had to deal with transite siding removal, asbestos abatement inside, debris, mould remediation and some light-to-moderate demolition. Some sites were also water damaged from the rain storm that accompanied the tornado.For seasoned veterans at FirstOnSite, some who have witnessed the destruction of other disasters like Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. state of Louisiana, and the Leamington/Windsor Tornado/Floods of last year, the damage caused by this tornado was intense. There wasn’t one area that was more affected than another. It hit heavy industrial, commercial and residential sites equally in the town and FirstOnSite responded to calls in each segment.
After the tornado blew through, the town was considered a hot zone and FirstOnSite worked with its crews, sub-trades, as well as engineers and adjustors, to make sure they were fitted with special masks and given training to stay safe at the affected sites. FirstOnSite also had two health and safety specialists in Goderich to ensure safety during the remediation process.
FirstOnSite had the biggest presence in the town from a large loss standpoint and was chosen to head up the remediation at large industrial sites because of its proven track record handling large claims and its ability to scale and draw resources to complete a job. Though it had its hand in a lot of claims in the town, the most notable jobs involved the Sifto sites and the grain elevator complex.
Training & Safety
The Sifto salt mine is the largest in the world – it extends five kilometres under Lake Huron and is 550 metres deep (about the same as the CN Tower in Toronto is high). Sifto is the largest employer in the town. When the tornado struck, it wiped out storage domes on site and caused significant damage to the equipment on site. Getting the site back up and running and safe for workers was pivotal. Since it is an active mine, anyone travelling to the site has to undergo special training. FirstOnSite arranged for their crews to be trained, bussed in and provided them with a special trailer to logistically manage the workers, as the mine is surrounded by water, the space is tight and hard to access. Crews were trained to operate safely in the mine, and were familiarized with the various cranes and platforms on location. With its specialized workers on site each day, the mine took more than three months to clean up with about 75 people working on removing debris. Some of the workers ended up being Sifto employees who were laid off when the site closed after the storm and FirstOnSite hired them to help.
Full Spectrum Mitigation
The evaporation plant is located on the east side of town. This is where salt brine is extracted from underground and evaporated in order to turn it into various products like food salt, table salt and salt licks. This plant suffered quite a bit of damage from a gravel ballast roof located next to the plant. In the high winds, the small stones became projectiles and tore through the plant damaging a substantial amount of the product and structures at the site. Like with any large project, new tasks came up daily as things were uncovered. Crews had to remove transite at extreme heights, and perform other remediation and abatement jobs. The site also required some small document recovery efforts and required FirstOnSite to provide temporary power.
Another important piece of business in the town is the grain elevators in the SouthPier Terminals that are located across the harbour from the salt mine. For three-to-four weeks following the tornado, SouthPier Terminals could not get anyone to come on site and begin the cleanup work. They heard about FirstOnSite’s work at Sifto and called for help. Within a week, FirstOnSite crews were trained to work on the site and began cleaning up debris and rebuilding the site. The tornado ripped apart siding and required very specialized work, including staff working off swing lifts 150-feet off the ground. A lot of specialized equipment had to be brought into town for the cleanup including multiple man-lifts and cranes of various sizes. FirstOnSite at one point had two 150-ft. man-lifts, which are the two biggest man-lifts in Canada.
Seasoned veterans with FirstOnSite have remarked that this disaster did cause an overwhelming amount of destruction in a concentrated area. The response to this disaster once again underscores FirstOnSite’s abilities to scale, with both manpower and equipment, to deal with any project. The company remains committed to working with the town of Goderich and will continue to do work in the area until it is no longer needed.
FirstOnSite Restoration rallies to help rebuild town of Slave Lake.
About Slave Lake and the Fires
For the residents of Slave Lake, Alberta, May 15, 2011 will be forever etched in their memories. A forest fire was burning about 15km outside of town when winds in excess of 100kph pushed the flames past fire barriers and into Slave Lake. The fire swept through the community, destroying 40 percent of the town and forcing the evacuation of nearly all its 7,000 residents. For days, the highways were blocked 70 kilometres south of the town and residents weren’t allowed to return.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, insured damage caused by the wildfires amounted to more than $700 million, making it the second costliest insured disaster in Canadian history. More than 700 homes and businesses were damaged by the fire, including the library, a local radio station and the Town Hall.
Getting workers, equipment and necessary supplies into an isolated, closed-off town can be a challenge and this time it was as the roads were closed and fires continued to burn in the surrounding area. FirstOnSite Restoration has years of experience responding to large disasters. It has a team of industry specialists dedicated to deploy in catastrophic situations. When they arrived into town to assess the situation they encountered several problem areas.
The initial challenge was getting the community’s shattered infrastructure back on its feet and there were three immediate concerns. The RCMP’s detachment was rendered unusable due to smoke from fire, the two local supermarkets had rotting food as the power had been off in the area, and at the centre of town, the Town Hall stood in ruins.
And there was of course the large number of homes and businesses that were burned, had smoke damage and rotting food in the refrigerators because the power was off for days. With any large scale disaster, there are competing priorities and they require a decisive response. For the crews at FirstOnSite Restoration, their ability to mobilize to the town quickly proved to be beneficial and crews got right to work setting up support camp.
FirstOnSite set up a Command Centre about five kilometres outside of town. The camp was located on a ten-acre plot and was equipped with power, running water and wireless internet. It fed and slept more than 150 team members, supervisors, insurance adjusters and other personnel following the fire. The restoration giant deployed crews from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec in what is now considered the company’s and the country’s largest mobilization effort.
More than 30 fully-stocked trucks were deployed to the site along with HVAC duct cleaning trucks and a “reefer” truck – a large refrigeration vehicle. In total, more than 1,200 pieces of equipment were used, including air scrubbers, dehumidifiers and air movers. FirstOnSite was informed by the RCMP that residents wouldn’t be able to return until the detachment was up and running. FirstOnSite made this a top priority and thanks to the RCMP decision makers a quick go ahead resulted in a quick recovery. The building had suffered extensive smoke damage, but crews got right to work and officers were soon able to lead business owners and residents back into town. FirstOnSite repaired external damage to the building and removed soot from inside and odours with air scrubbers. Next they moved on to one of the supermarkets and began the process of removing rotting food and sterilizing the food preparation areas so that the store could receive a new shipment of goods and begin supplying the town with food.
As for the Town Hall, due to heavy fire and water damage, it was well beyond repair. Quick action had to be taken to prevent the massive 85,000 sq ft structure from acting as a springboard for other fires and was essentially sacrificed for the town. FirstOnSite took care of the controlled demolition of the building and cleaning up the area.
The most common damage found across town was smoke damage, followed by fire damage. About 60 percent of emergency calls were for partial rebuilds. FirstOnSite’s team of specialized workers performed a variety of remediation and restoration jobs in the weeks that followed the fire. There was charring, mould and health hazardous asbestos that required specialty cleanup. Most homes and businesses needed their ducts and furniture cleaned and toxic odours removed from the air. FirstOnSite was also the only firm to have HAZ-MAT specialists and a health and safety expert in town – not an industry standard, but a FirstOnSite standard.
As if the fire damage wasn’t enough to contend with, heavy rains in the area flooded homes and compounded the problems. FirstOnSite had to switch gears from fire cleanup to water damage mitigation and was able to do that because of the manpower and expertise on the ground.
One of the most publicized restoration stories to come out of Slave Lake involved a local Boston Pizza restaurant that was a day away from receiving a new food shipment, but the kitchen had rotting food, the prep areas were dirty and the seating area was smoke damaged. Within a day, FirstOnSite crews had the restaurant ready to open. This was one of the first restaurants in town that was able to welcome patrons to watch Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Opening the restaurant proved to be a morale booster for the town, as Boston Pizza had its busiest day ever as people took in the NHL action. For residents, the restaurant was a much needed source of prepared food – as their own kitchens had to undergo clean up.
“It’s fantastic that we were able to open, especially with the community going through all the stresses… and we’re thankful for what FirstOnSite was able to do for us.” – Tyler Warman, General Manager, Boston Pizza, Slave Lake
FirstOnSite also helped a local church reopen for Sunday service and prides itself on having responded to most jobs within 24 hours.
“The residents of Slave Lake were some of the most resilient we’ve ever seen,” said Martin Moran, director of business development in Western Canada for FirstOnSite Restoration. “Children in town made ‘thank you’ signs for the firefighters that helped save part of the town and there was a real outpouring of community. Everyone stood together to rebuild and start the next chapter of life.”
“As long as it takes…” Five words that sum up FirstOnSite’s commitment to the town and people of Slave Lake. Six months after the fire, the FirstOnSite command centre was still home to a semi-permanent staff that continued to rebuild the town and deal with any new claims.
Brick by brick and piece by piece, the community of Slave Lake is being rebuilt – FirstOnSite has grown as a company through this disaster. They recognize their advantage in being able to respond quickly with skilled workers and remediating damage, but also know that coordination and administration are key to being able to better serve customers.
The fire showed FirstOnSite how much value they add to communities devastated by disaster. The company is now also helping the small town of Goderich, Ontario rebuild after a tornado touched down in the town. The lessons learned in Slave Lake will help FirstOnSite continue to serve communities better from coast to coast.
Last fall, Sherbrooke, Quebec, suffered from severe rain lasting for several days, with waters cresting more than 24 feet above the river-bed. The flood hit a majority of the Bishop’s University buildings both on and off campus, as well as nearby Champlain College. The water damage was extensive, with some students even using canoes to get around campus.
The flood also dealt a serious blow to the planning and orchestration of Bishop’s Centennial Theatre’s inaugural concert. By the time the waters started to recede, the theatre’s basement was under several feet of water.
The first show of the season was scheduled for the 15th of October and our crews from FirstOnSite/Première Action had less than 2 weeks to get the theatre concert-ready. Not only did the show go on, but our teams continued to work around the clock and the theatre was ready to re-open completely for the following weekend. The Campus paper called it a miracle:
“ It’s a miracle! With the big, window-less trucks, vacuum tubes and sucking sounds, for a while there was some serious doubt about our poor Centennial Theatre. Would they be able to turn the power back on and get back in gear for the arrival of Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles on the 21st? The answer is, yes. And they can do it despite the damage sustained during the now-infamous Deluge of 2010, which led students to coin the term, Lennoxvenice.”
The executive management team of FirstOnSite met with the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia to discuss emergency management and our PREP Program in particular. A careful review of each of the venues was undertaken and it was agreed that FirstOnSite’s expertise would be most valuable serving the Olympic Village.
Millennium Properties reviewed the protocols and emergency preparedness plans from 3 local emergency services providers, and FirstOnSite was chosen as their primary provider. We then met with Millennium Properties and VANOC Venue Services to discuss and plan for the challenges that could be encountered during the games.
PREP Planning Approach
Our emergency response planning for the Olympic Village included numerous steps.
- Met with the Vancouver Police Department E-Ops in charge of traffic and lane closures/control
- Traveled and viewed all ingress and egress into and out of the city
- Conducted staff selection: Project Managers, construction, water damage and safety personnel
- Coordinated staff time rotations including identifying staff on-call solutions, so as to minimize exhaustion in the event of a major flood or incident unrelated to the Olympics
- Provided staff accreditation
- Conducted vehicle preparedness, including every conceivable item we thought may be necessary to quickly mitigate a loss, deal with the effects and remove ourselves from the location
As FirstOnSite was not an Olympic sponsor, we were not permitted to display any corporate branding of any kind. All company logos, including staff clothing and equipment had to be covered over before entering ANY venue location. We went to great lengths to accommodate this request.
Security for the athletes was a priority. As a result, severe restrictions on items brought through the entry gates were imposed, and passage would be slow. It was determined that emergency equipment would need to enter prior to the event, and remain within the Village for the duration of the Games. A cube van was identified and loaded, and underwent exhaustive searches by Olympic security. The cube van acted as a mobile unit that could be activated throughout the Village in the case of a loss situation and return back to its secured area, never having to leave the premises. This worked out exceptionally well.
Post-2010 Winter Olympic Games
FirstOnSite was retained to provide continued emergency services, including repairs and remediation due to mould and odour control from venting issues and the reparation of ongoing losses unrelated to the Games.
FirstOnSite Provides Hope by Restoring Historic Church Caught in Blaze
Fire Restoration of Historic Church
The church was erected in 1917, at a time when it stood as a bastion of hope, while World War I and Conscription raged on. It was the centre of community life for over a century in the small town located in Atlantic Canada. Then, one day in March 2017, a fire damaged the church, leaving the congregation and community spinning.
Firefighters arrived at the church around 10 a.m. one morning – luckily nobody was hurt. It took several hours to put out the fire, which had started in the air exchange system, and several days before the FirstOnSite Restoration team could enter the building.
Some highly impacted areas of the church had immediate safety concerns, and the FirstOnSite crew had to be cautious.
Significant work was required to secure the building structure and to ensure that it was safe. A large section of the roof had to be secured. Power safety and hazards had to be identified and addressed before power could be restored. It took approximately two weeks to secure the building and making it safe before commencing restoration work.
This large project required coordination of numerous tradespeople, as well as constant movement and flow of work and workers. A large portion of the damaged roof required replacement, and new flooring was required. The entire basement and all electrical systems also had to be restored.
“It was critical to ensure that everything lined up and to keep everyone updated on what was happening.”
–Margo Malowney, VP Communications
FirstOnSite acted as general contractor for the entire job. It was critical to ensure that everything lined up and to keep everyone updated on what was happening. While the various crews worked in earnest, communication was a key to their success.
FirstOnSite’s experience in taking on difficult projects of scale and scope helped the large institution during a difficult time.
FirstOnSite kept all stakeholders “in the loop,” which helped to secure confidence in its abilities and progress. The team held weekly meetings with church leaders and provided guided site visits to safely show progress.
FirstOnSite’s experience in taking on difficult projects of scale and scope helped the large institution during a difficult time. It was able to supply a dedicated team of people and resources to tackle this complex and sensitive restoration.
The Community Restored
The whole event profoundly impacted the small, tight-knit town. Pews were relocated to other locations and the church held temporary services across the street during the restoration. The overall vibe – people not being able to go to their sanctuary – had a deep impact on the FirstOnSite team, as they watched the community mourn its loss while relying on the company to restore its hope.
In the end, the job took nearly seven months to complete. The church held a grand reopening and a three-day celebration that included a gospel concert and an unveiling of a new church sign that FirstOnSite rebuilt and gifted to the congregation.
“FirstOnSite was able to supply a dedicated team of people and resources to tackle this complicated and sensitive restoration project”
–Margo Malowney, VP Communications
FirstOnSite gets East Coast Toy Store Up and Running after Fire and Smoke Damage
Restoration of Toy Store after Severe Fire Damage
In 2014, a large commercial building in Atlantic Canada experienced severe fire damage, which began in a thrift store laundry room. The 2,700 square metre building contained several small businesses and not-for-profit organizations, including a large specialty toy store that sold expensive European toys, a used clothing store, an ethnic grocery store, an after-school program and a charity office. The building – owned by the toy store proprietor – had to be evacuated, shut down and assessed. Severe smoke damage affected the entire building. The provincial fire marshal controlled the site for four days and did not permit work on the building until completing the investigation. Thousands of pieces of inventory were destroyed or damaged, and business owners insisted on returning to work in a safe, restored building.
A major disaster such as a fire can wipe out a small business. Every dollar and piece of inventory is critical to its financial stability, and being shut down for an extended time can be detrimental. In some cases, smoke infiltration levels can be deemed safe and businesses can remain open through the cleanup and restoration process. Disrupting business continuity is not ideal, but it was unavoidable in this situation.
The smoke levels were deemed too dangerous, which required closing the commercial complex during cleanup and restoration. Due to the extent of the fire and smoke damage, the building also had to be gutted. During the restoration process, it was determined that the building was not up to code. This made the project scope more complex and time consuming than originally anticipated.
FirstOnSite worked closely with the insurance company, the building owner and the architect to properly restore the building. FirstOnSite maintained communications with the involved parties to provide regular updates on the restoration.
When the restoration team was able to enter the building, they barricaded the danger spots and put in odour control to ensure a safe working space for all involved. Simultaneously, they counted valuable inventories to determine what could and could not be salvaged.
Since the building was not up to code, FirstOnSite worked with the key stakeholders to properly restore the building and ensure that this type of incident would not occur again.
Since the building was not up to code, FirstOnSite worked with the key stakeholders to properly restore the building and ensure that this type of incident would not occur again. The local FirstOnSite branch was resourceful and able to handle the entire restoration process, bringing in subcontractors when required.
“The local FirstOnSite branch was resourceful and able to handle the entire restoration process, bringing in subcontractors when required.”
–Margo Malowney, VP Communications
In May 2009, a fire alarm was triggered and an alarm rang at the Rimouski fire department, requiring the assistance of two other fire departments (Bic and St-Anaclet). The fire had started on the roof of the main building of the University of Rimouski, causing severe damage on 5 floors of 3 different wings.
The damaged areas included a lot of service areas (student and printing services), the bookstore, offices, and finance and human resources. This necessitated the restoration of over 3,000 boxes of student records and staff documents, furniture, and computer and electronic equipment.
In just 7 months, the building was reconstructed and fully operational. This is what Viateur Lavoie from the University of Rimouski had to say to FirstOnSite:
“When our University suffered a large fire in May 2009, I was truly impressed with the prompt response of FirstOnSite Restoration in controlling and coordinating the situation. After the disaster, they reacted swiftly by assembling skilled resources and specialty equipment for our conditions.
The actions undertaken by the crews were very important to the on-going operations of the university, and included the retrieval, processing and recovery of many of our documents, the cleaning and disinfection of our premises, and the timely demolition and reconstruction of affected spaces.
In conclusion, we greatly appreciated the professionalism, the know-how, the reliability and the courtesy of FirstOnSite Restoration.”
A large fire developed affecting several units of a semi-detached housing complex located in Bedford, Nova Scotia. Our crews were called by 3 separate insurers to provide emergency restoration services and later reconstruction for each of the owners. Due to the intensity of the fire, many of the units suffered major structural and water-related damages. To control the spread of flames and minimize damages, the fire department even called in an excavation contractor to knock down part of the middle unit.
Once the fire investigation was completed, FirstOnSite crews worked diligently to dismantle and prepare affected units for reconstruction. Our team ensured that newly exposed walls of the townhouse unit were properly insulated and waterproofed in order to prevent freeze-ups or water damages.
The crew worked within each of the affected units, inventorying, packing, and moving all contents to be professionally dried and cleaned. While the homeowners’ contents were being stored at a FirstOnSite facility, our team continued the restoration processes within each damaged unit. Thousands of square feet of drywall, insulation, and flooring were removed before the reconstruction could even begin.
Plans for the reconstruction of the middle townhouse unit were arranged as our crews continued their interior repairs to the adjacent units. The FirstOnSite team worked long hours to ensure that the owners of the neighbouring units were in their homes for the Christmas holidays.
After the building permit was obtained and a structural engineer confirmed stabilization of the firewalls, FirstOnSite started reconstruction of the middle townhouse unit during the cold, snowy month of February. The unit was roof-tight despite terrible weather by mid-March, and the owners were back home by May.
“The salvage and freeze drying of the Roy Studio collection was a huge challenge that broke new ground in conservation practice. FirstOnSite worked closely with CCI, National Library and Archives Canada and the Peterborough Centennial Museum. Their sensitive treatment, professional experience and expertise lead to a successful result unparalleled in the conservation literature for a collection of this kind.” Michael H., Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) Manager Preservation Services and Training
“On behalf of the entire team at the Fairmont Winnipeg, I would like to thank you and your crew at Premiere Restoration Services for the incredible efforts put forth on our behalf. As you know, the hotel business runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Shutting down any operations results in immediate impacts to our guests’ and colleagues’ experiences. With temperatures dropping to a record low at -50 degrees Celsius, the subsequent burst pipes resulted in quite a bit of flooding in key areas of the hotel. Upon contact with your company, you were on site immediately with your crew not far behind. Under your leadership, you directed the organization of the flood cleanup, the required demolition, and then the final restoration of our lounge and our signature restaurant. Your team worked day and night to put us together again, seven days is pretty outstanding. I have been in the service industry for 17years; the level of professionalism, care and quick action displayed is among the best I have experienced. Once again, on behalf of The Fairmont Winnipeg, thank you to you and your dedicated team of professionals.” Indu B., Winnipeg, Manitoba
“I felt from the first moment we had any dealings with your company that things would be handled in a proper and professional way. Due to the nature of our business, with the uncertainty of when we are needed, time was of the utmost importance. I was extremely pleased with the response time from when the flooding occurred and we were completely cleaned and ready once again for business.” Mr. M., Summerside, Prince Edward Island
Hello, It is Tim here. I just wanted to send you a big thank you for a chance to be part of your team at firstonsite while our plant was being rebuilt. You and your team treated me with the utmost respect and always had the time to stop and make sure everything was going alright. At a time when some of us were unsure what to do or where to go you stepped up and gave us the opportunity we were looking for. I will always have great memories of everyone I met during my time with firstonsite and once again a big thank you for everything you done. If you have a hat or something around could you please give it to Jason to give to me.I would put it down at my bar for a great conversation piece when people come around. THANK YOU!”
An employee FirstOnSite hired to help with the tornado cleanup efforts, Goderich, Ontario
I was very impressed by the professionalism & promptness of Brian C. and the girls that sorted through our belongings after the fire in our shop. I would recommend them.” Raymond and Lori W., Grovedale, Alberta
Because of the exceptional service I have received from you and your company, I am compelled to write today to thank you. During the recent expansion to our insurance agency, I was greatly impressed with the care that was taken by your tradespeople to keep noise levels to a point where we hardly knew they were there as well as keeping a clean worksite with little interference with our day-to-day work. It was extremely important for us to continue business daily with staff and client comfort respected. You did this very well. The quality of the workmanship, timing of the trades and fairness of the pricing were very much appreciated. Roy E., Gary S. and Art D. are a definite asset to your company for any future contracts you will have for their quality workmanship, effort and friendliness. They made what was assumed a nightmare upheaval into a pleasurable experience. Thanks again.” David C., Westphal, Nova Scotia
I would like to express my sincere thanks for the renovation for Econokopy at Penhorn Mall, N.S. The workmanship was above standard and no details were forgotten. As so often happens, we were under a deadline for our opening, and you met the challenge. We have received many compliments on the office.” Parker S., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Successfully completed a complicated project and adjusted well to the unexpected.” N.P. Winnipeg, Manitoba
This was our first time ever to experience something like this, and you folks made this experience run very smoothly! I will recommend your business to anyone and everyone. Once again thank you.” Brandon, Manitoba
Dear Kevin, Thank you for the superb job you and your men recently did on our office. The good humour and willingness on everyone’s part to get the job done – in spite of the fact that the job was considerably larger and more complicated than we had expected or planned for – was greatly appreciated. We are aware of the effort that was put into getting the job done as quickly and as efficiently as possible. We look forward to working with you again in the future.” Willa M., International Marine Biodiversity Development Corporation – Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard, I never dreamed it would be ready so fast, and everyone was so pleasant. Consider this memo as a Thank You and pat on the back for a job well done!” Veronica P., Acadia University – Wolfville, Nova Scotia
We were very pleased with your attention and workmanship during this very stressful time.” Philip R., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Your company has a well deserved reputation.” Dianne C., Bedford, Nova Scotia
A fine job on something that could have been quite a hassle.” Paul B., Halifax, Nova Scotia