Case Studies

Cousino-Harris Disaster Kleenup

Ready for Disaster
  • Written by: Cousino-Harris Disaster Kleenup
  • Produced by: Kyle Gahm
  • Estimated reading time: 5 mins

The team at CousinoHarris Disaster Kleenup (CHD) understands that there’s never a minute to waste once disaster strikes; the company has built itself on a strong foundation of customer service, quality craftsmanship, as well as care and concern for CHD employees. CHD has over 40 years of experience in the insurance restoration industry, and the team has always emphasized the importance of conducting business with extreme honesty and a passion to ensure every job is approached with the best interests of the client and the community in mind.

“We have always considered it a privilege to be invited into someone’s home or place of business and we respect it as though we are guests,” says Forrest Cousino, chairman and founder of CHD. “It’s the way we run our business because we feel it deserves that level of respect and we act appropriately.”

CHD is based out of a head office in Perrysburg, Ohio, with four additional locations across the state and another in Ann Arbor, Mich.; this allows the company to react swiftly to emergency calls across the Midwest.

The company is proud to be part of the nation’s elite tier of commercial and residential insurance restoration specialists; CHD facilitates progress between the insurance company and the policyholder with an unparalleled sense of compassion and a commitment to call customers back promptly. The company boasts extensive in-house capabilities to tackle damage resulting from fire, water, wind, tornado, mold, vandalism and vehicle damage to the structure. CHD is also one of a handful of companies with the in-house expertise to provide trauma scene cleanup, including the removal and decontamination of spaces exposed to hazardous chemicals like meth labs.

The company is also a member of Disaster Kleenup International, the world’s largest trade organization for insurance restoration specialists. CHD’s membership ensures that every project is handled with the care and professionalism to put customers back in business or back at home swiftly.

“We are not expected to give what we don’t have,” says Cousino. “However, we are expected to give what we do have. In this industry a key is importing true care and consideration for the persons who suffered a loss. If you view customers as a profit, they will see right through you.”

No Job Too Small

CHD is no stranger to going above and beyond for customers in the wake of any size loss. Cousino recalls the time he personally arranged to have a claim taken care of by a locally trusted professional when CHD couldn’t get to the home quickly enough. The client was about a 6.5-hour drive from CHD in good weather, but the area was hit hard by a level-three winter storm. Cousino immediately jumped on the horn with the policyholder, arranged a next-day wire transfer to the local contractor, and fixed the problem in just under five hours.

“We just reassured him to take care of himself, because we could always settle up with the insurance company later,” explains Cousino. “We didn’t turn a profit on that job, nor did we want to because we just do whatever it takes.”

Virtually every part of the restoration process is handled by CHD, as the company employs its own carpenters, electricians and plumbers in addition to specialists in insulation, drywall, painting, doors and trims and carpeting. The entire CHD team numbers over 100 professionals, all of who are drug-tested and held to a high standard of professionalism and personal integrity. When CHD does need to call in outside help, the company pulls from a network of tried, true and tested contacts that can deliver an end-result worthy of the CHD stamp of approval.

“I never wanted to run a company just for dollars and cents,” asserts Cousino. “We’re conscious of cost, of course, but it often means a few extra dollars to get the best-of-the-best and it’s worth it for us. If there’s a problem even five years down the line, we like knowing that we won’t have to put up a fight to get the problem fixed. It’s why we have been working with some of our contacts for 30 and 40 years.”

When Speed is Necessary

The team has been able to pull off things that seemed impossible, which turned at least one skeptic into a believer. Cousino received a call one Sunday from an insurance company that informed him the CHD team would need to head out to a school that Monday. The school had suffered significant damage following a firebomb attack the previous night by a former student. The high school happened to be the only one in a very rural area, and Cousino didn’t waste a minute before jumping in the car to assess the damage himself, as closing the school even for one day was simply not comprehensible. CHD will work on Sundays if, according to Cousino, “their ox is in the ditch.”

The room where the fire had started seemed too badly damaged to be open in time for students the next day. However, Cousino mobilized the CHD team and also offered to pay any of the school’s teachers and senior students to assist his team in readying the rest of the school.

“I can remember one of the maintenance guys asking why I was lying,” says Cousino. “I just told him that I completely understood why he would think that, but I needed his help right now. The bottom line is that by 6:45 the next morning, all of the ceiling tiles had been replaced, the school was clean and painted and there was no interruption to the school schedule.” CHD completed $250,000 of work in 12 hours.

Additional repairs to the worst affected area of the school took a bit longer as it was subject to the scrutiny of the insurance company and the local fire marshal. Other fast turnaround projects came in the form of a 42-hour, $1.3 million fire restoration to a local supermarket and a $3.5 million tornado restoration to a steel mill, both of which were completed without any noticeable impact to the client’s operations.

Together Today and Tomorrow

CHD employees are a breed apart, and community service is part and parcel of CHD’s mission. The community supports a variety of charities at the financial and board level not to pat itself on the back, but because of the team’s ingrained sense of social responsibility. “We have an obligation as a company to give back to our community,” says Cousino. “A Brink’s truck does not follow a hearse.”

“Experience, financial stability, speediness and professionalism are all parts of our success,” says Cousino. “I also know that our company is run with gratefulness to God. We believe in giving back and we don’t do it for business purposes. We do it because it’s part of our overall philosophy and to give back our first fruits.”

CHD has even participated in one “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and organized the Play It Forward toy drive, using its in-house equipment to clean and sanitize all toys.

And while a major economic turnaround for CHD’s community doesn’t seem likely within the next few years, Cousino and the CDH team take comfort in celebrating over 40 years of giving back to the community professionally and personally. The company has built a reputation of integrity and compassion by treating every job as an opportunity to build upon the last, which will carry CousinoHarris Disaster Kleenup through rain or shine.

Published on: March 9, 2013

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