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With floodwaters receding, companies that specialize in water damage restoration have become a crucial source of information and assistance, as they field hundreds of calls from homeowners.

“We’re definitely inundated in the state of Montana,” said Mark Springer, president of Dayspring Restoration. “We have hundreds of folks who are needing assistance right now. It’s absolutely astronomical the amount of demand to help these folks.”

Dayspring Restoration has eight locations around the state, with around 225 people in its organization, according to Springer.

“When someone contacts us, they’re in a really devastated mindset and often are just trying to find answers. Something we try to do is help people as a resource,” Springer said.

While they don’t necessarily encourage people to tackle the restoration on their own due to the challenges and safety risks, the restoration experts said they understand the financial concerns around hiring a certified restoration company.

“If they are choosing to do it on their own, we completely support that. The most important thing we’re trying to coach people through is the health and human safety aspect of what they might be getting into,” said Christopher Yanker, general manager at Bozeman’s Buffalo Restoration.

It’s important for people to first cut power to their home as flooding can cause significant electrical hazards. With river flooding, it’s also common for rodents, snakes and insects to find their way inside the home.

The mud that flows in from the home could also be contaminated and individuals are encouraged to have the proper personal protective equipment, including rubber boots, gloves and proper respiratory protection. The water from a river flood is considered contaminated as it typically includes pathogens, fertilizer, and septic water.

“Once someone can get into the home, the next step is to identify what’s salvageable,” Springer said, adding people should get electronics with important files, sentimental or heirlooms out of the home to stabilize them.

From there, it’s important to identify the extent of the damage and how impacted the building materials have been by contaminated water, typically sheetrock, drywall, insulation, carpet and carpet pad. It’s also crucial to remove up to 12 inches of wallboard or sheetrock beyond where the flood line is because the moisture can wick upwards.

Since river water is considered a contaminant, people will need to disinfect all the remaining surfaces, with a specific anti-microbial cleaner that kills microorganisms that enter the home through the flood waters. Household bleach won’t cut it.

“If those surfaces are not properly cleaned and disinfected, it can lead to additional secondary damage down the road,” said Springer. “In some cases, people may just want to dry out the materials, not realizing there is mud or silt in the crawl space or behind the wall.”

The next step is to ensure everything is completely dried before beginning reconstruction.

“If they begin reconstruction before it’s dry, then they’re going to have a secondary problem down the road — rot, mold or structural problems,” Springer said.

Restoration companies are seeing a broad range of needs from severe flooding to minimal flood damage. But with so many people impacted by the flood in some way, companies are handling hundreds of callers.

Buffalo Restoration even brought in more people to cover the phones and field questions.

“We’re getting a variety of questions and concerns from people, ranging from people who are in panic mode trying to gather information, people who don’t have insurance or any kind of coverage and are looking for information on what they should be doing and some people who want us to come do inspections,” said Yanker at Buffalo Restoration.

A typical water restoration company will handle burst pipes, overflowing sewage and other more common occurrences, so not all companies have the resources to tackle river flood damage.

Newman Restoration and Cleaning, with offices in Billings and Big Sky, has partnered with Summit Cleaning out of Red Lodge to assist with restoration and recovery efforts.

As of Monday, Newman Restoration was working on 25 restoration projects in the Red Lodge Area, about a dozen in Columbus and a handful in the Livingston area, according to Andrew Newman, the company’s owner.

Out of the 25 projects in Red Lodge, only about five have flood insurance, Newman said.

“If they don’t have (flood insurance), you have to break down what the process is and what the cost is. A lot of people are paying out of pocket and to do it right, it’s costly,” he said.

Insurance companies work from historical flooding data when determining which homeowners should have flood insurance, Newman said. Often, those who might want flood insurance but don’t live within the historical flood plain, aren’t allowed to get it from their insurance company.

For those who do have flood insurance, Newman said the process will likely go through FEMA following the national emergency declaration. People should contact their insurance agent who will file a claim and provide the number for a general FEMA call center. Agents at the call center will collect more detailed information and within 48 hours, people should be notified on when a FEMA adjuster can arrive to do an inspection.

“We’re hearing it’s about a month before they’ll have someone out to your property,” Newman said, adding that FEMA would likely instruct people to get a certified restoration company to begin mitigating the damage as soon as possible.

At this point, it’s unclear how much money people are likely to get from FEMA for restoration and repairs, Newman said.

One area that could impact those looking to repair or renovate after the flood is the cost of construction materials and labor among inflation and supply chain issues.

“Construction labor is under incredible demand and has driven the price up,” Springer said. “Their hourly wages and retail costs for labor is just much higher here than in other parts of the country. It will put an additional strain on the reimbursement FEMA provides.”

The restoration companies who spoke with the Chronicle stressed the importance of finding a reputable company to do the work.

“It’s common when there’s a federally declared disaster area to have companies flooding into the state from out of it that are unlicensed contractors and are sometimes unethical or charlatans,” Springer said.

The restoration experts encouraged people to be wary of anyone asking for full payment up front, and companies who aren’t licensed or connected with another certified restoration companies in Montana.

Certified water damage restoration companies will be held to a higher standard than other contractors, and those companies looking to begin doing restoration work might not realize what they’re doing is wrong, according to Newman.

“It needs to be one certified process and unless you’re tied to the industry and do this work every day, you won’t know what that looks like,” he said.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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