waste advice from ZTERS

Ask Angela: How to clean up after a storm, fire, or disaster

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Site Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Angela, we’ve been watching news coverage of weather and flooding and wondering about the process of cleaning up after a storm. Can a waste services company come in and clean everything up, or does the city help, or are we on our own as homeowners? Thanks in advance.

Angela: This is a really great question. We all hope no one ever has to rebuild their home—whether it’s from a storm, a tornado, a fire, or even a flood like we’ve experienced in our hometown of Houston—but, the fact is, it does happen. And as a homeowner, you may not know your options.

First of all, when you have catastrophic damage, there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks before you can start removing debris at all. If you had a house fire, most cities will have you wait a few weeks before that debris can go to a landfill. If it’s a large-scale catastrophe, like a flood, it might take a couple of weeks for an appropriate location to be chosen to receive all that debris.

Now comes the question of what you can do. Unfortunately, as a homeowner you’re kind of on your own for removing debris. Most people hire a general contractor to manage the process, and that company may or may not work directly with your insurance company to get that removal paid for.

Some people go out on their own and try to manage the process themselves. That’s totally up to you, and we have worked directly with homeowners before. Just know most haulers and waste service companies won’t deal directly with insurance companies. It’ll be up to you to know your insurance coverage and sort out payment on your own.

Sometimes people think FEMA will come in and clean up after a catastrophe, but they don’t clear private property. We actually wrote a blog post about storm debris dumpster rentals, so you can check that out for details.

It’s a good idea if you live in an area that’s prone to events like flooding, tornadoes, and extreme weather, to get some kind of game plan in mind in case you ever need to rebuild. Educate yourself on what licensed contractors do and what your home insurance covers. Hopefully it’s information you’ll never need, but the aftermath of an event isn’t the best time to figure out how rebuilding works.

If you decide you want to do it yourself and be your own contractor, keep in mind dumpsters and portable toilets will probably be in short supply after a major event. Prices will go up because haulers may need to borrow units from other areas and ship them in—and that’s going to add to the expense. Expect delays in deliveries and services, but know most dumpster and portable toilet companies are small operations and will work to accommodate everyone in a fair and timely manner.

At ZTERS, we do help people find dumpsters and portable toilets after catastrophic events. Usually we get calls from contractors, but we’re glad to help individuals, too. One thing we always tell people, though, is be sure you understand your insurance policy coverage. Haulers and portable toilet vendors—whether you go through a company like ZTERS or not—aren’t going to bill an insurance company. They’ll bill you or your contractor. So, make sure you know how your coverage works before you set out to DIY.

Photo of storm debris

Storm Debris Dumpster Rentals Explained

When Hurricane Harvey hit our hometown of Houston, flooding was the immediate concern. But when the floodwaters receded, homeowners were left to clean up the massive amount of storm debris on their property. That led to giant piles of soaked building materials, tree limbs and other debris in the front yards of many homes. Everything from appliances to carpeting to home interiors had to be thrown out, and people were left wondering about renting dumpsters for storm debris. City officials estimated hauling away eight million cubic yards of debris after the storm.

What often surprises homeowners after catastrophic events is the fact that private property debris isn’t part of what emergency crews help with. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) removes debris that poses an immediate risk to public health or is on public property. But in most cases, storm damage on personal property doesn’t qualify.

So, is renting a dumpster for storm debris the right option, or do you have alternatives to consider? Here’s a closer look at what you need to know about post-storm debris.

Check with your city

Each city has its own process for dealing with storm debris. For large-scale events, like hurricanes or tornadoes, you’ll find information posted online or through news reports to indicate the next steps for debris removal.

A special debris collection area will usually be established in the days after the storm. Once that happens, the city or county will provide instructions on when and what types of debris will be accepted. In some cases, the city will pick up neighborhood debris in stages over time. This could lead to debris sitting on your property for a longer period of time, but if you have minimal damage you most likely won’t need to rent a dumpster.

If your city’s disposal service offers curbside pickup, reach out to find out where you should place your storm debris. You can also look for any special instructions in news reports or on the city or county’s website. Follow the directions provided by your garbage collection agency, and you’ll get the most efficient debris pickup service.

Consider safety

Before you rent a dumpster for storm debris, consider the safety issues the storm created. Just because you’re able to access your property doesn’t mean there are clear paths for city workers—or dumpster haulers—to reach you with large trucks.

Dumpster rental companies and curbside collection services will have to wait until roads are clear before they can deliver dumpsters or pick up debris, so have patience. It’s natural to want to start working immediately, but sometimes road conditions may be unstable or unsafe for days or weeks after the event. In these cases, wait to deal with the debris until conditions settle.

Why rent a dumpster

If it was a large event, city-based services may take a long time to dispose of debris. Think months not weeks. Often, municipalities have limited capacity to handle the debris, such as limited manpower and truck capacity. If you want to clean up sooner, that’s where dumpsters for storm debris can be a solution. With a dumpster rental you can:

  • Sort and toss items at a time that works for you
  • Remove items like concrete that regular municipal garbage pickup may not accept
  • Dispose of large tree limbs, fence pieces, and even structural damage more easily
  • Schedule pickup at a time that works for you
  • Dispose of heavy and bulky items, like carpeting and sheet rock, that curbside pickup might not take immediately

When you rent a dumpster for storm debris, choose the largest size that can safely fit on your property. You will probably have large pieces of debris, so a larger unit will help ensure it all fits in one trip.

Storm debris dumpster pricing

As you shop for a dumpster rental service after a catastrophic event, be aware of pricing. Units will be in tight demand, and rates will definitely be higher than usual. But how high is too high?

After a storm, dumpsters and portable toilets are often trucked in from nearby states to meet demand. That’s going to add to the cost. However, you want to make sure you pay a fair price.

To protect yourself, work with trusted, reliable companies with a reputation for good customer service. ZTERS has been in business for a decade, and we’ve seen many storms and natural disasters. We work with thousands of vendors across the country, and we can tell you when price increases are justified and reasonable. We’ll give you honest answers to your questions about dumpster delivery and service after a storm.

No one wants to face rebuilding a destroyed home. As a Houston-based company, we know about the long road home from disaster. Give us a call if you have questions about dumpsters, temporary fencing or portable toilets for your home rebuild.