ARS – Unique Capacity to Handle Large-Loss Projects

Joe Gagliano’s article printed from the July 2018 edition of Insurance People Magazine

ARS created a digitized plan to scan more than eight million pieces of paper, as part of a large loss project in 2017, and then deliver the scanned information back to the clients on strict and accelerated timelines.

Joe Gagliano
President of Access Restoration Services

In May 2017, a series of explosions and a fire in downtown Toronto led to the evacuation of an office complex that housed a couple of financial institutions.  It could have been much worse than it turned out to be. As luck would have it, no one was injured because the blasts and fire occurred in late afternoon, just after employees had begun heading home for the day.

One of the companies called in to handle the situation was Access Restoration Services (ARS), a Toronto- based firm in business for 60 years that specializes in large-loss projects.  “A transformer exploded and caused heavy thick acrid smoke to spread throughout the building,” says Joe Gagliano, ARS president.   In response, we very quickly mobilized about 400 of our people to clear the building and move out all the contents.  We had 325,000 square feet of office space to evacuate.  We had to pack up all the employees’ workstations and all the equipment had to be relocated.

For most businesses, emergency plans are usually based on shutdowns of 24 to 96 hours – no one ever plans that they will be out for a year. In this case, no one had planned for a situation where they’d be out for an extended time, Gagliano says.  Around 1,300 people had to be relocated from the 13-story building.  We were able to develop a large-scale plan of moving them out to a temporary 350,00 square foot building that we own in Toronto, Gagliano says.  “We created offices, large-scale cleaning room and storage rooms.   I don’t know of anybody else in the country that has this type of capability.”

As with all major losses to a company, Gagliano says ARS had to inventory highly sensitive information and document all the files that came out of the affected building.

“We then had to go through a very particular and onerous plan of cleaning items that simply could not be destroyed. We had teams of people working 24/7 on that. We also created a digitized plan where we had large-scale scanners to scan more than eight million pieces of paper. We created special files that went to specific departments of the financial institution, following very strict guidelines mandated by the client.   Because the paperwork was contaminated, our crews had to wear masks and Tyvek suits just as forensics teams do to handle the paper.”

The scanned information was turned around and delivered to the client not only on strict timelines but also accelerated ones.  Gagliano says the project represented one of the larger scale losses in Toronto last year, and the success of the claim could not have happened without the client’s support and knowledge.

“Our client knew exactly what they wanted and, together, we created a formula to manage the claim by establishing a leadership team that communicated their requirements to streamline the process of bringing the claim to a successful conclusion,” Gagliano stresses the insurance company, AIG Canada, and the independent adjusting firm, Crawford Adjusters, also went out of their way to facilitate the requirements

of ARS and the client with effective communication, empathy for the client and cost controls. “Collectively, we all made an excellent team in the handling of this very complicated and multi-faceted claim.  He says the explosions and fire represented two large-scale losses that ARS handled in the last two years.

The company also worked on the wildfire at Fort McMur- ray, Alta., in May 2016.  Almost 90,000 people were forced to evacuate the community, making it the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta history. Damage ran into the billions of dollars as 2,400 homes and buildings were destroyed, the costliest disaster in Canadian history.

Access Restoration Services is a family- owned business. It provides restoration services for water, fire and storm damage.  In addition to its head office in Toronto, it has five other locations throughout Ontario as well as offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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