Servicemaster owner Adam Kinser, right, directs his employees at the cleaning service center outside of Columbia.
When fire is out, floodwaters recede, chemicals spilled, ServiceMaster trucks arrive
When disaster strikes — and it’s been a big year for disasters — Adam Kinser and the teams at ServiceMaster stay busy, quickly responding to the scene in their bright yellow trucks.
Kinser is in his sixth year operating ServiceMaster, the Columbia-based restoration and cleaning franchise. It’s already been a year notable for response to flooding and a multitude of local fires along with expanded commercial contracts.
Employees from the Columbia franchise with specialized training joined those from the six ServiceMaster franchises in St. Louis to assist Iowa flood victims, he said. They hired temporary labor and are sharing equipment to help restore homes in Cedar Rapids, where floodwaters from the Cedar River forced the evacuation of more than 24,000 people.
ServiceMaster franchises hold a national contract with State Farm Insurance and more recently signed a contract as first responder to Wal-Mart. For Kinser, Wal-Mart coverage includes 13 Mid-Missouri counties.
“We are trying to go commercial rather than just to serving homeowners,” he said.
“There is nothing we can’t do,” he said. “I stress to our employees that we never turn down a job.”
That means he’ll solicit work cleaning up chemical spills, methamphetamine lab fires, chlorine and fuel spills. In Poplar Bluff, for example, ServiceMaster pulled from the ground and replaced a leaking 9,000-gallon tank of diesel fuel, he said.
Large Columbia-area restoration jobs have included a fire at the 3M manufacturing plant and the Harrisburg High School water loss.
“In Harrisburg, two years ago, they had a five-inch main bust and it ran over all night, flooding out pretty much the whole school,” he said.
Kinser recalled how the special key to shut off the water main couldn’t be located, so water was still coming out of the pipe when his team was there. It ruined the brand new gymnasium. “We moved the bleachers, removed and replaced the hardwood floor. A professional artist came to paint and we flew in a man from Wisconsin whose company had made the original wood. The only other floor like this in Mid-Missouri is the one in Mizzou Arena,” he said.
But not all calls are so serious.
“I’ve had calls in the middle of the night that ‘I hear something in my attic or there’s a terrible smell coming from there,’” Kinser said. “I’ve crawled up in attics and dug around in two feet of insulation to find a frozen up squirrel. Whatever it takes.”
Fire and water damage make up about 85 percent of the daily business, he said. The firm has eight full-time employees and a large network of floor-to-ceiling subcontractors.
Time is essential to prevent secondary damage from fire and water, Kinser said.
“The whole thing about our business is showing a sense of urgency,” he said. “Some people don’t understand that. Our contract says we must call back customers in four hours. We call them back within 15 minutes, and our average response time to the location is an hour and 15 minutes.”
Kinser’s home is about a hundred yards from the business site at 10620 N. Highway VV, which speeds response time, he said. “We have a van set and go out like the fire department.”
So far this year, ServiceMaster has been called to more than 25 fires, a number he says is way out of proportion.
“This is not the time of year for fires, which is usually around the Fourth of July or early winter when people are stoking up their fireplaces or furnaces. This is abnormal, it just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
The ServiceMaster warehouse is filled with the belongings of people whose homes were damaged by fire or water. Some items are heirlooms and some are as commonplace as mattresses, but all of them are cleaned and then wrapped in plastic.
The company also is called to clean after shootings or other types of trauma in a home. Employees have worked to restore locations following several suicides, Kinser said.
About a third of the calls come directly from the people involved. Most of them don’t know if the damage is going to be covered by their insurance policies.
Others who call may have already had two homeowners’ claims.
“A third claim could put them over the edge where they get dropped, or their rates are going to go through the roof,” he said.
“We will go out and give them an estimate to see if the damage is enough that they should call their insurance company,” he said.
“I bet 90 percent of our calls are from women. I don’t know why,” he said. “Every marketing study that I have looked at says nothing about the men. Your focus is on the women.”
ServiceMaster, nationwide, includes about 5,500 locally owned franchises. The parent firm was acquired in 2007 by the European-based equity firm of Clayton, Dubilier and Rice Inc. for a reported $5.5 billion.
ServiceMaster of Columbia
10620 N. Highway VV
Servicemaster Clean Owner Adam Kinser, right, and Operations Manager Tommy Probst shrink wrap a tricycle after cleaning it in the service center outside of Columbia.
Reggie McBride of Servicemaster Clean scrubs wall stains in a recently fire-damaged apartment, in the Cherry Hill Village.
Servicemaster Clean Production Manager Reggie McBride cleans a stool at the service center outside of Columbia.