On the House: 'A resource' for repairs after Sandy

Posted: January 07, 2013

They describe themselves as property-damage experts and "emergency response restoration contractors," but what Dean Ragone and Frank Messina try to be are nice guys.

Their Somerdale-based company, All Risk, deals strictly with commercial properties, such as large apartment complexes.

In Sandy-stricken Hoboken, the firm handled 23 complexes, many hit hard by Hurricane Irene in 2011, getting them up and running on generator power around the clock for 10 to 12 days, Messina said.

"Some of these are lower-income residential, and we didn't want to make life even worse for them," he said. Sandy's effects "will go on for a long time, with thousands of people dislodged and suffering."

"Many of the buildings we've seen along the coast will never be rebuilt," he said, adding that the worst damage was from 63d Street in Sea Isle City, north to Hoboken.

In the days after Sandy, the company received pleas for help from almost 150 homeowners. Since All Risk handles commercial properties only, they had to turn them down.

"But we are not callous, so what we did offer was to be a resource for them," said Messina, adding that 50 to 75 of the callers were paired with contractors who handle residential damage.

In terms of response, what All Risk has done thus far is impressive. From the week before Sandy arrived to the beginning of December, the company handled 200 jobs. About 150 were larger commercial jobs, the rest smaller ones for family, friends, and business colleagues.

All Risk had 150 employees on the ground, logging more than 40,000 man-hours; used more than 50 vehicles, as well as a contingent of rented tractor-trailers for advance staging of resources, and deployed 40 generators, 30 kilowatt to 75 kilowatt.

"We started getting calls from our clients a week in advance," said Christine Messina, Frank's daughter and All-Risk's operations manager.

Because of experience with such storms as Irene in the last year, she said, "They were asking if we would be ready for them."

The goal, said Frank Messina, "is to get them back in business in the shortest period of time, whether it is in a week or three months."

All Risk will walk away from a job if the client lacks a realistic view of the time required to repair the damage, he said. "We usually end up going back and completing the job when another company that promised to meet the client's timetable cannot."

The toughest place to work has been Seaside Heights, where the iconic roller-coaster came to rest in the water.

"The first time we were escorted in, only a side road was passable," he said. "There was a line of vehicles trying to get in that was three miles long. It took four hours for the last vehicle in line to reach the town."

Ragone said his company cut its teeth in 1992 in Florida, cleaning up after Hurricane Andrew, which, he noted, changed building codes in a way he expects to see in New Jersey.

"You expect this kind of storm to occur in Florida, but not here," he said.

On the House: Town By Town

In the Sunday Business section, Alan J. Heavens takes a look at real estate and life throughout the Philadelphia region. This week's focus: Burlington City.

Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, aheavens@phillynews.com or @alheavens at Twitter.

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