Have a problem? Flushing man to the rescue

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In 1980, Ron Alford had a successful Flushing business that dealt with hundreds of clients across the borough. But the problem was that many people struggled to understand exactly what he did.

Then late at night it hit him like a revelation.

“I woke up and said, ‘That’s it! I’m a disaster master! That’s what I do.”

Since that fateful day, Alford’s business has been called Disaster Masters Inc. Alford sees the name as far more than a title — in fact, to him it is the description of a profession.

His job is to give advice to anyone willing to listen on how to prevent disasters such as fires and floods. If such a disaster does occur, his company comes to the scene and offers a plan both on how to put the pieces together and one’s rights in dealing with insurance companies.

Alford compared himself to a doctor in the business of both prevention and treatment. His publicity and marketing director, Bradley Gallow, made a different reference.

“I think the Disaster Masters are very similar to Ghostbusters,” he said.

Alford, 62, works out of his home in Queensborough Hill. He is a busy man, sometime running out on a job in the middle of the night, and constantly answering his portable headset phone. He is quick to offer his opinions about his work, ranging from the uselessness of fire extinguishers to the importance of keeping a camera in one’s car.

Alford’s creed is to help the everyday citizen outsmart the insurance companies.

“The insurance industry spends billions of dollars on keeping you in the dark and them in the sunshine,” he said.

Alford, in fact, originally worked for an insurance company in Florida, where he grew up. He quit his job in 1965, when he realized the desk of a high-ranking executive at his company cost more than his own annual salary.

After a short career selling airplanes, Alford made his way up north to Queens, opening up Service King on Northern Boulevard in 1972.

Service King originally focused on cleaning carpets. Alford, however, began noticing how frequent water damage occurred in homes in Queens. Alford started giving advice on how to prevent and cope with such problems. Finally, in 1980, these problems became the crux of Alford’s business, and the Service King became Disaster Masters.

Alford recommends that people who suffer a disaster call him to get help in repairing the damage. He said he has a relationship with many companies that are experts at taking care of damages. That list of those companies, he said, is a trade secret.

While insurance companies will often take weeks to address the issue, Alford said he can be on the site in a matter of hours.

“Consumers don’t know who to call when their business is flooded, so they call insurers,” Alford said. “That’s the wrong thing to do.”

Much of his business, however, is giving advice to companies about the dangers that lurk in their offices. He takes tours of buildings, pointing out the clutter that could potentially cause a fire and a flood. One of his biggest clients is Citibank, Alford said.

Disaster Masters has continued to evolve. In the mid 1990s, Alford started tackling what he calls “disposopho­bia.”

As Alford defines it, disposophobia is the inability to throw anything out. Five percent of people in the world have the condition, he said.

“They are obsessive-compulsive hoarders,” Alford said. “It’s a mental disease.”

Alford goes to people’s homes and analyzes what is important, and what needs to be thrown out. As a result, the residence is left in better shape.

Sometimes a person collects more clutter after the job is completed. To help prevent such a relapse, he sometimes hypnotizes his client.

Alford said he is not a “cleaner,” preferring to call himself an “inventory professional.” Unlike a cleaner, an inventory professional has expertise on appraisals, Alford said.

Alford charges $125 for a consultation on disposophobia, and $225 for a half-hour visit to a disaster scene.

Although he plans on passing down his wisdom by training others to become Disaster Masters, Alford said he will never retire.

“I do this because it’s sort of like a calling to me. I do this because I know it’s the right thing to do.”

The Disaster Masters can be reached at (718) 939-5800.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 718 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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