SERVPRO stays busy in Sussex amid pandemic

SERVPRO of Sussex County, based in Georgetown, has been extra busy during the COVID-19 pandemic. From left, SERVPRO of Sussex County owner Ray Hopkins, Richard Phillips (Operations Manager) and Dave Zeigler (Sales/Marketing). Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

GEORGETOWN — Across the board, many businesses have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

SERVPRO of Sussex County is not among them.

Business, as might be expected in a viral pandemic, is booming for the locally-owned company based on Rt. 9 just east of Georgetown, whose mission is promote health safety and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Basically, mid to late march we started to get inquiries and being that we were in the beginning of Phase 1 and most of the state was under lockdown, businesses were asking …. ‘what we should do as we prepare, and we have reached that point where we may reopen?’ said Dave Zeigler, who handles sales and marketing for SERVPRO of Sussex County. “I would say … we have seen more than 400 injuries since late March, early April. And probably 100 to 150 confirmed jobs. That is kind of skewed because some of those 100 to 150 that are at that mark now are weekly, so they are ongoing.”

“It has increased,” said Ray Hopkins, who has owned the SERVPRO business for 27 years.

Increased business is not exclusively due to COVID-19.
“The amazing part is you would think that all of our stuff would increase with COVID, and that’s not true. Regular business has increased — fire damages, water damages, mold jobs,” said Richard Phillips, SERVPRO’s operations manager. “We have increased. We have ads out across the board. We’re moving to different areas as we expand doing other work, so we definitely need people. We’re growing.”

“When people see a trusted company that has handled their home emergencies and they parlay that into the fact that now we are specialists in the bio-hazard control as well, there is an extra element of trust. I believe that the surge in our other business is partnered with that,” Mr. Zeigler said.

At one point, SERVPRO was working in about a dozen hotels.

SERVPRO services all of the CHEER Inc. centers on a regular basis, and all of their vehicles.

The broad spectrum of the services has covered everything from small markets, doctors’ offices, assisted living centers, medical offices and restaurants to residential people and residential realtors who are renting out summer places at the beach.

“There are a lot of companies out there that looked at this as … ‘we can make a quick buck off this because there is a lot fear and hysteria,’” said Mr. Zeigler. “Our job is to protect the community first and foremost. We take that as a true vocation.”

All SERVPRO sanitation products have been proven to fight the viral family that is in COVID-2, said Mr. Zeigler. All products are EPA (Environmental Protection Administration), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), CDC (Center for Disease Control) and OSHA (Occupational Safety Health administration compliant.

Currently, SERVPRO is using anti-viral products “that have been proven in the past against EARS, SARS and some of deadliest viruses and diseases that has ever affected the public. That is where we apply the peace of mind,” Mr. Zeigler said.

SERVPRO launched a calculated approach where they offer pre-emptive to give clients peace of mind as a home owner or a business owner to invite someone in, “and also peace of mind that if someone in your family contracts the virus we will be there to restore your facility or your residence to the pre-viral environment,” said Mr. Zeigler.

“As far as work differences we just had to change our mindset like everything is treated like a trauma or mold job at this point for the safety of our crews,” Mr. Phillips said. “The mindset has changed to the point where we treat every job like if we were going to mold or a trauma cleanup or biohazard.”

Basically, every aspect of the community has been touched by this, Mr. Zeigler said. And it’s both; pre-emptive in hopes of preserving a pristine and sanitized environment so that the virus will not flourish, and we have also responded to active cases. There is a difference between the two.

For pre-emptive service, one SERVPRO worker in the full Tyvek and PPE will do a deep fogging of the entire area. Pre-emptive is quick process. Depending on square footage, SERVPRO can fog a 2,000 square-foot building in less than an hour.

“Because that fog permeates and it lies on porous and nonporous surfaces there is a necessity for a wipe-down right after that, because you don’t want to leave a business or home with a film on the table or the chair,” Mr. Zeigler said. “We focus on high touch areas and surfaces. Curtains, pillows, drapes, upholstery – they are tough to clean because they are porous. They absorb.”
In active COVID-19 case, “everyone on the team goes in in full PPE (personal protective equipment), with facemasks with respirators, full Tyvek suit, boots, gloves … everything. They also have the training. It is very important,” said Mr. Zeigler.

After anti-viral fogging, there is a 15-minute lag time where no one can be in that house. “And it’s not because the products are harmful, it’s because if someone in the group should have any type of COPD or asthma, we don’t want that to become a lung irritant,” Mr. Zeigler said.

Then, staff goes in with masks and proper PPE and does a thorough wipe-down. “That creates an environment where typically the virus will not thrive and will not grow, because it has proven to kill the family of viruses that COVID is in,” said Mr. Zeigler.

Mr. Zeigler made note that SERVOPRO personnel will only go in “when we feel that the people in the household are no longer contagious but with the assumption is the virus is still active. Hence, everybody in PPE. The girls that do the wipe-down, in PPE. There is a deeper fogging applied. So that hour to do a 2,000 SF building is now an hour and a half because we are concentrating the product, because we know the virus has been there. Basically, that is type of remediation that we are applying.”

SERVPRO’s list of jobs and work span Sussex County, including churches, restaurants, hotels, businesses small and large, medical offices, schools, libraries, government offices, town offices, assisted living centers, residential homeowners and rental properties, various retailers, vehicles and buses and even lifeguard stations.

“We had an issue in Dewey and Rehoboth where six lifeguards tested positive and we were first to respond,” Mr. Zeigler said.

Long before a service van arrives at a client’s home or business, protection begins for SERVOPRO staff. That was top priority of Mr. Hopkins and wife JoAnn.

“Personal responsibility is No. 1,” said Mr. Zeigler. “We wear our masks. We take it very seriously. We wash our hands. We advocate that. When I see other people being irresponsible, there is the weakness and that is why the hurdle is still at the level that it is.”

Anyone entering the headquarters on Rt. 9 undergoes a no-touch temperature check. Anyone SERVPRO employee not feeling up to par is encouraged to stay home and depending on symptoms get tested.

“Basically, what has changed as you walked in you got temperature taken. We take temperatures every day,” said Mr. Phillips. “Every crew and department is actually scattered throughout the office in their own designated areas so we’re not more than six people at a time together.”

“And we are a hybrid, so we do have people offsite that work from home,” said Mr. Phillips.

“They (the Hopkins’) took the proper immediate reaction to protect their employees. I’m the beat on the street and I see so many people that don’t do it and other businesses that don’t do it. I don’t see the tracing,” said Mr. Zeigler. “We have not had one positive case in this entire staff. That shows you the level diligence that people are paying.

Understanding science, Mr. Zeigler says, can be a challenge.

Right now, with the science, I would love to see one nightly news cast where everyone in science agrees. Right now, that is still conflicted, and it is sending mixed messages to the public. That is a concern. For a long time, people didn’t think they even needed to wear a mask. Now, everybody needs to wear a mask. In some states if you don’t you will be fined thousands of dollars,”
Mr. Zeigler said. “Science hasn’t come out and said COVID is dead after 10 days; COVID is dead after 14 days; COVID is dead after a month.”

“And now, with the talk of it being airborne, you are getting into ventilation systems, air quality, it is type of thing that we are specialists in all of that,” said Mr. Zeigler. “The science, hopefully as they learn more will become more consistent.”

With no definite end of the pandemic in sight, expectation is demand for SERVPRO service will continue, of not grow.

“It appears so. We just don’t know. We just go with what we have and wait and see what happens,” said Mr. Hopkins. “We just try to keep an eye on things.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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