Steve slepcevic, disaster recovery expert top 10 things to do when disaster strikes
Steve Slepcevic – Disaster Recovery Expert
About Steve Slepcevic:
Steve Slepcevic founded Paramount Disaster Recovery Inc. in 1989 and serves as its
president and chief executive officer. Through his diligence in serving the clients of
Paramount, Mr. Slepcevic has guided Paramount to become the recognized consulting
firm in nationwide disaster emergency response, construction consulting, and complete
reconstruction. Mr. Slepcevic has completed projects for major hotels and restaurants,
hospitals, office buildings and commercial developments, apartment buildings and
community associations, and residential property owners in the United States and
Steve Slepcevic founded Virtual Evacuation to address a vitally important but often
underdeveloped aspect of disaster preparedness – evacuation planning and training.
Today, evacuation planning and emergency management has become a sophisticated
field in the science of civil engineering with the goal of saving lives through safer facility
design and optimized rescue training operations. Leading experts in the fire industry,
emergency management systems, engineering, and architectural design were
immediately attracted to the concept of Virtual Evacuation and have unselfishly
provided their knowledge and insight to make Virtual Evacuation a cutting-edge
consulting company that is unique in its approach to disaster preparedness.
Mr. Slepcevic has lectured extensively throughout the United States to property owners,
building managers, risk managers, community associations and real estate professionals
in the areas of disaster preparedness and response. Mr. Slepcevic has been an invited
guest speaker at many industry forums and trade associations where his insightful
presentations have proved to be interesting and educational.
Accomplished in his field, Mr. Slepcevic’s articles have appeared in such leading industry
publications as Architectural West, RSI, Roofing Contractor, Remodeling Contractor,
Caribbean Business Journal, Daily Breeze, Disaster Resource, Industrial News Journal, IFL
Reports, and SBI, among others. He was featured prominently as an expert in the Ed
McMahon mold litigation and has consulted and/or testified as an expert in litigation
matters. Paramount and Mr. Slepcevic maintain professional affiliations with RIMS, CAI,
BOMA, IREM, NAA, NRA, ICSC, NRCA, IAEM and many others.
Mr. Slepcevic attended El Camino College where he studied architectural and structural
Steve Slepcevic, Disaster Recovery Expert - Top 10 Things to Do When Disaster Strikes!
Most disasters, by their very nature, are unforeseen and can happen anytime,
anywhere, at a moment’s notice, from wind, water, vandalism, fire to terrorism.
Reaction time is critical and can mean the difference between preventing further
destruction or easily reclaiming damaged property and possessions after disaster
strikes. It is important that property owners and business owners know what to do
when disaster strikes. Here is a list that every property owner and business owner
1. Contact your insurance agent and file your claim promptly. The policy specifies that
you do this on a timely basis … immediately. Get a copy of the accord claim form from
your agent as submitted by him as written confirmation of the claim filing.
2. Protect the property from further damage and document your loss. Take video or
photos lots of photos! Then, protect the roof to prevent further water damage or secure
the premises to prevent theft. Personal property must be inventoried and moved to a
storage facility if the structure is severely damaged in order to make the necessary
3. Set up a team within your company to deal with the loss. Make sure this team is
composed of your most competent, trustworthy people since your company’s recovery
lies in the balance. Only one person on the team should be the information conduit to
the insurance company, since, as in anything else in business, loose lips sink ships.
Information is everything in an insurance claim and you must be all wise in that which
leaves your company. Company adjusters have denied claims based on statements given
by employees that were only rumors to begin with. Direct your team to implement the
contingency operations plan, (if you have one), to facilitate maintenance of your
business as a going concern. You must do this to mitigate your covered business income
loss thereby maximizing the potential within the insurance policy to cover the loss. If
you do not have a contingency operations plan, develop it with an expert in Contingency
4. Study your insurance policy. Don’t let anyone else assume this responsibility - not
your employees, not your broker and certainly not the insurance adjuster. The policy
was broadly written to allow flexibility by the company in adjusting the loss and the
adjuster will utilize this flexibility to convince you to see things his way. The insurer
wrote the insurance policy and you had no opportunity to negotiate the terms when
you purchased it. Therefore, any ambiguities in the language should fall in your favor.
5. Gain control of the situation. This is your loss, not the insurance company’s loss. You
must be pro-active in the insurance claims process. Your adjuster is the eyes, ears and
the voice of the insurance company. Nowhere in your policy does it say that the
insurance company must provide you with an adjuster. The policy states quite the
contrary – all policies require you to prepare and present your claim. So why does the
insurance company provide you with an adjuster? Because the company wants to
control the loss adjustment by having their representative steer the process in their
desired direction and to persuade you to agree to their adjuster’s calculations of the
loss. Allowing the insurance company to prepare your claim is just like allowing the IRS
to prepare your tax return … . They may not dig deep enough to find everything to
which you are entitled!
6. Retain experts to assist you in proving the loss. You may need an architect, engineer,
equipment expert, general contractor or even a coverage attorney. Make sure that they
understand how to deal with insurance companies, as you want them to work in your
best interest. (Even though the insurance company will be paying you, your experts may
believe that since the insurance company writes the checks, they also call the shots!)
The insurer will most likely bring their own preferred experts to generate reports that
may favor the insurer’s perspective.
7. Demand that the company issue a large advance check upon adjuster’s first visit. Do
not be embarrassed to ask for money since it is yours! This first visit is to enable the
company to reserve the loss (set aside money from the company cash to pay the claim),
and to strategize their approach to the claim. Although the policy does not specifically
require the company to issue an advance, it is not reasonable for them to withhold
money that they know they owe, especially since your cash flow requirements continue
after the loss.
8. Always be aware of the players and their positions in the game. Although most in the
insurance industry are honest and ethical, full disclosure of who is the agent of whom, is
not the norm is this business! Your agent may have a fiduciary duty to the insurance
company, not you. If he is an agent of the insurer, he does owe a fiduciary duty to them
and not to you. The adjuster, on the other hand, no matter how friendly and seemingly
cooperative he may appear, owes a fiduciary duty to the insurer. The claim process
should not be adversarial by any means, but it is a high stakes chess game that the
insurance companies play every day. This being your first or even second claim does not
put you on a level playing field with the insurance company’s agents.
9. Keep in mind that adjusting a large property insurance claim is a very specialized field.
Even your attorney and CPA would probably not say that they are experts in this field.
Your broker, no matter how sophisticated, will most likely admit that neither he nor his
firm are experienced in handling claims. He may have a claims department within the
agency, but his job is to facilitate smooth communications between the insurer and you,
the insured. No insurance company allows insurance brokers or agents to adjust claims
over a few thousand dollars without the expertise of an adjuster as their agent in the
10. Retain a claims consultant with a team of experts as your agent in the preparation of
the claim. These consultants are licensed and qualified to handle your claim and act as
your fiduciary. They will maximize your legitimate recovery, minimize your downtime,
and create a level playing field with the insurance company throughout the claims
process. They will report to you and advise, to the best of their ability, as to the best
course of action. There will be literally hundreds of decisions to make regarding policy
coverage and limits, customary adjusting practices and claim formatting. Do not make
the mistake of collaborating with those whose goals are different than those of your
business. There is much more at stake than the dollars!
The following article was written by Steve Slepcevic, President of Paramount Disaster
Recovery, Inc. For more information, feel free to contact him at (310) 265-8846.
Paramount Disaster Recovery Inc., Economy Threatens Disaster Preparedness and
In this tough economy everyone is watching their spending, trying to make that buck
stretch just a little further, and insurance companies are no different. If you have ever
had to make a claim, you may already be aware of the problems associated with getting
what is fair. The people effected in some of the recent disasters, Hurricane Andrew,
Katrina, Ike and the international wildfires, know all too well what it is like to not receive
a fair claim payment from their insurance companies, you're better off believing a poker
player than a insurance claims adjuster. It's never a bad idea to hire a water and fire
damage restoration company to complete an independent assessment and cost
estimate. Hopefully, you won't need it, but if legal action becomes necessary, it's a
handy document to have in your corner. So when people like Steve Slepcevic and his
team of experts arrive on the scene to try to make a difference, sometimes the
insurance companies fight back with lawsuits and media slander attempting to scare
people from seeking those professionals that are there to walk them through the
disaster recovery process. Steve Slepcevic (Paramount Disaster Recovery) has focused
his business on restoring and reconstructing homes and businesses directly and
exclusively for the property owners after natural disasters
For those that don't know him, Steve Slepcevic has more than 25 years experience in
the disaster reconstruction industry that can be first traced back to his younger years
when he worked for uncles that were in the industry, everything from cabinetmakers to
Since 1989 Steve Slepcevic has completed several thousand projects with the goal of
getting their clients fully restored and rebuilt through the client’s insurance companies.
As for his passion in helping natural disaster victims Steve Slepcevic says, “At a young
age I was always troubled watching the floods and fires on TV and seeing people’s lives
and homes destroyed, my thought always went to who is going to help these people
rebuild their homes, businesses and restore their lives”.
Insurance companies are in a business of collecting premiums, not paying claims, and to
do so they tend to undercut their policyholders claims. Thousands of complaints with
state insurance departments and civil court cases show that insurance companies often
pay 30-60 percent of the cost of rebuilding a damaged home. Paying less to victims of
natural disasters has helped produce record profits. Even after the worst natural
disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina, insurance companies reported their highest
ever profit of $73 billion.
"Money managers have taken over this whole industry. Their eyes are not on people
who are hurt but on the bottom line for the next quarter" says Robert Hunter insurance
director at the Washington-based Consumer Federation of America, who was Texas
insurance commissioner from 1993 to 1995.
In order to keep stockholders happy by continuing to make those record breaking
profits insurance companies implement numerous delay tactics, from transferring
claims to several adjusters to try to lower claim amounts, to using a list of "preferred"
engineers, consultants, and industrial hygienists who will not perform proper testing on
contaminated areas. In the end the insurance company’s adjuster has the leverage to
deny or lowball the claim value.
As hard as it is for victims of natural disasters to work with the insurance companies it is
even harder for those people, such as Steve Slepcevic, that are trying to help victims
outside of the insurance companies influence. It hasn’t been an easy road for Steve
Slepcevic (Paramount Disaster Recovery) and his team of experts, but their passion to
help out property owners that are trying to rebuild their lives after a natural disaster
outweighs any shady tactics the insurance companies try to use to discredit them.
”I know it may be a rough road working through the trenches hand in hand with my
clients, but this is why I got in the business as a small boy sitting in his living room
watching the people suffered in the disaster devastated areas and thinking I'm going to
grow up and help these people rebuild their lives, I had no idea that it would be a
huge price to pay in the form of slander and lies” says Steve Slepcevic, “the insurance
carriers spend a lot of money in an attempt to keep me from teaching people what they
need to do to avoid being victimized by unscrupulous contractors and insurance
adjusters. Sometimes when you have something really important for people to know
that somebody, somewhere in power doesn't want them to know, you're going to
eventually pay a price for it.”
Steve Slepcevic and his team of certified and licensed contractors are just one of many
groups out their trying to make a difference. Every time there is a win for their clients
whether through one of the law cases, complete reconstruction, such that the client
receives the full value of the claim, the insurance companies just fight back harder
with lawsuits, fraud complaints, slanderous articles and posts.
Unfortunately not all disaster recovery agencies are as forthcoming and upfront as
Steve Slepcevic. Like any industry when there is an opportunity to exploit people to
make money there are some bad apples that take advantage of people in need, usually
ruining the reputation for the actual good ones out there.
With Natural Disasters on the Rise, Paramount Disaster Recovery Expert Urges
Property Owners to Prepare Emergency Response and Recovery Plans
First came Hurricane Katrina and many more followed, then L.A.'s massive Station Fire,
followed by the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes. In between, tornados, floods and
massive snowstorms have caused the loss of lives and massive property damage.
According to scientists who study global warming, these are just a few of the natural
disasters predicted in the years ahead. While we may not be able to stop disasters from
occurring, disaster recovery expert Steve Slepcevic says better preparation will help us
survive and recover.
Steve Slepcevic is president and founder of Paramount Disaster Recovery, Inc., a leading
nationwide disaster response and recovery contracting company. Since 1989,
Paramount has completed over 2,000 disaster restoration projects nationally. The
company's team includes licensed contractors, certified industrial hygienists, structural
engineers, and architects who are able to identify structural and hazardous material
problems that insurance claim adjusters may overlook due to lack of training,
experience or licensing.
Since the best approach is in offsetting damage, Steve Slepcevic recommends a few
simple steps to help properties withstand the onslaught of extreme weather. This
includes a periodic roof inspection and the clearing of scuppers and gutters to avoid roof
collapse before winter approaches. He notes, "There are over 3,000 roof collapses each
year in the U.S., resulting in over 20 deaths and a widespread disruption of business
Preparation of a Family Communication Plan is key to surviving any disaster. Says Steve
Slepcevic ,"In the plan, list who to contact in the event of an emergency and ways to do
so should normal communications be disrupted or family members get separated. In
addition, each family member should have a 5-day Disaster Kit for their vehicle with
food, water, clothing and additional emergency supplies."
Additionally, he recommends that every family draw up an Emergency Evacuation Plan
with a location to meet outside the city limits, should roads become inaccessible or their
home become uninhabitable. They should also designate an emergency phone number
for messages to be left every 4 to 8 hours, as needed.
Paramount Disaster Recovery offers nationwide classes with a team of experts for
preparing, responding to and recovering from disasters. The Disaster Preparedness
Summit (www.disastersummit.org) holds public events and can also be booked for
private education events, nationwide, specifically tailored for large commercial
In the event of a disaster, Steve Slepcevic recommends a "Post Disaster Plan" to deal
with destruction or damage to one's property. He states, "Most people assume that
their insurance company will take care of them, but owning an insurance policy is very
different from having a disaster recovery plan. When you are standing in the rubble of
your home, the last thing you need is to be arguing with an insurance adjuster about
what your insurance does or doesn't cover."
He points out that when filing a claim for damage, it is essential for property owners to
get help from professionals who understand the insurance language so the claim is
presented properly. For this, he recommends a public adjuster or an attorney. Having
help in documenting the damage, complete with the proper terminology, significantly
increases insurance company settlements and will often speed up its processing.
"Our purpose, as disaster recovery experts, is to help minimize the business
interruption, relieve some of the stress, and when possible, the degree of financial and
personal property loss by helping property owners through the reconstruction process
as their general contractor."
Paramount's Disaster Recovery, Inc. is headquartered in Southern California with
affiliate locations independently owned and operated throughout the world. Paramount
operates its own specially trained Emergency Response Team, known as Paramount's
Team TRAID™, ready for immediate deployment, nationwide, with 24 hour emergency
response service, consulting and complete reconstruction .
Paramount Disaster Recovery Inc., Tycoons of natural disaster recovery and restoring
It was emergencies, disasters and unfortunate situations that produced the Disaster
Response Industry. It also was these same things that produced the Insurance industry,
and since the beginning of both industries there has been a dark shroud surrounding
both filled with greed, ambulance chasing and misinformation.
It is not if a disaster will take place, but when it will. It is a given fact of life that there
will be floods, tornados, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and yes even the fuzzy area
surrounding the issue of mold, lead, ash, smoke and other hazardous containimates.
Unfortunately, it seems that those companies, which were produced by these
unfortunate situations, have become categorized as ‘ambulance chasers’ or
opportunists. Placing all disaster response companies and insurance companies in this
category would be a shame, for there are some very good companies that both
industries encompass. However it
would be an injustice to ignore the fact that there is a definite separation between
good and bad companies in each category.
When it comes to the services offered Disaster Response Companies and Insurance
Companies are really not that different, and yet the disaster response industry has been
classified as ‘storm chasers’. Granted, just like in any type of industry there are
unscrupulous practices that can be found in the disaster response industry.
Unfortunately price gouging, padded invoices and lack of certification for work
performed does take place. So how do you separate the bad apples form the good?
In order to ensure you never deal with the bad apples there are two main areas that
need to be looked at when in discussion of ‘storm chasers’:
I. Opportunity and the proper and improper approach to the opportunity.
II. Standards and Certifications and the lack thereof.
I. Opportunity and the proper and improper approach to the opportunity
Sadly there are those in the disaster response industry who do take advantage of a bad
situation for company gain, and this has been happening for some time. Thankfully
though you can easily distinguish between the good companies and the bad ones. The
following four factors will help you to separate a true disaster response company
from the bad ones, which I call a ‘reactionary incident driven company’:
i. A Disaster Response Company seeks to take care of the client. They are companies
which seek to know the client, their facility, how they do business and who they are
responsible BEFORE the unfortunate takes place. Just as a good Doctor does blood work,
evaluates blood pressure, weight and family history in order to take the best care of
their patient, a professional disaster response company will seek to gather information
in order to take care of that client. Reactionary incident driven companies or ‘storm
chasers’ do not know disaster planning and nor do they care. These companies look at it
in the way that the bigger the disaster the more money they can make. They do not look
at retaining a long-term client. Their relationship ends at the bill.
ii. A true Disaster Response Company works within the disaster plan of the client. They
offer training to the client and those they are responsible for, in order to prepare them
for what to expect in case of an unfortunate situation. A reactionary company will not
educate the client as to the ‘science of drying’; proper legal documentation and ways a
client can prepare themselves and their staff to quickly jump on a bad situation,
therefore limiting the scope of the loss.
iii. A true Disaster Response company has personal that are certified and are specialists
within the areas of concern. The reactionary incident driven company will wait until they
have a confirmed job before they hire manpower, usually at the last minute slapping
some company tee shirts on them and leading a client to believe that they are
professionals with the credentials to take care of their situation properly.
iv. A true Disaster Response Company understands and utilizes the proper equipment
and knows the actual ‘science of drying processes. In many cases a disaster reactionary
incident driven company will jam as much equipment as they can into a situation in
order to gain a greater profit. There are many different tools out there which all have a
place in different situations. This is where the storm chaser does not concern
themselves with educating a client. The more the client does not know, the more wiggle
room there is for the company to make extra money. Ozone, desiccants, air movers, air
scrubbers, injecti-dry, ultra violet and high heat dryers are just a few items that are
misused by companies. The client may think that these pieces of equipment are helping
them, when in fact it could be hurting and costing them more in unnecessary costs.
II. Industry Standards and Certifications
A storm chaser most likely will not have the certifications that are there for specialists.
The IICRC, which is the governing body for this Disaster Response Industry, has set up
strong courses and certifications in order to keep the standards of care to the client
high. I have heard so many times by storm chasers that they are certified in water
damage, mold remediation, when in fact there is no certification that they possess. A
true Disaster Response Company will have the necessary certifications within the areas
of service they are providing. Again, a true disaster response company will layout the
certifications to the client before something takes place, and will also seek to teach the
client about some of the practices required to gain the certifications.
It may sound like a daunting task, not only are you dealing with damage from the
natural disaster, while having to fight with your insurance company, but now you also
have to look out for those unscrupulous disaster recovery agencies that are trying to get
business. In order to make the process a little smoother Steve Slepcevic has a couple
pieces of advice. “When it comes to natural disasters,” says Steve Slepcevic, “one of the
main things if property owners are dealing with a smoke and or a water loss they should
certified industrial hygienists that specializes in that type of testing”. You want to make
sure that the hygienist you hire writes out a protocol that the contractor will follow,
“but make sure you review the remediation contractors policy,” says Steve Slepcevic “to
have pollution coverage and not an exclusion because if for any reason the containment
barrier is compromised and particulate is cross contaminated throughout the building it
could cost the property owner a lot of money to clean up the mess”.
The next thing you should do is always get a second opinion on your claim. “Make sure it
is from someone that is not an insurance preferred contractor or someone that is not in
the insurance repair business,” says Steve Slepcevic, “as most contractors that specialize
business are on the preferred list and bought by the insurance companies. What I mean
by that is they get a volume of work from the carrier's and you are one claim, their
loyalties lie with the insurance carrier that gives them steady work and they will not
Steve Slepcevic says his final piece of advice if all else fails is to contact a lawyer, “We
recommend one of the large law firms such as Myers, Widders, Gibson, Jones and
Snyder, Girardi and Keese, Kabateck Brown Kellner, Stone Rosenblatt & Cha, Thornhill
Law Partners, Steven Zelig or others that take bad faith actions on for the consumer”.
Since 1989, Steve Slepcevic has been assisting property and business owners nationwide
in restoring and reconstructing after a specific or wide-area disaster.