July 11, 2018 by Kris Rzesnoski, vice-president, business development, Encircle
In the last article we talked about three-day drying as a myth that is not supported by the restoration industry. We also discussed the change in science from the 2000s to today and how it has opened insurers to expanded risks. Finally, we defined the difference between stabilization and restorative drying.
Let’s take a look at where some insurer guidelines and initiatives can hamper your results.
Science: Truths and Myths
Green is good! Many companies put in their mission statement that they are going to be environmentally friendly, and thus ask restorers to use green products. Green is good for both the environment and for profitability. It is good to want to keep trash out the landfill. My family recycles and we care about saving the environment, but when I am restoring, the reality of this is I don’t care about the global environment.
When it comes to drying, I only care about the indoor environment of the structure I am working on. If the materials or contents can’t be saved they are heading to the landfill. But a lot of carriers are applying time limitation rules on what you will pay for that impede successful rescue of materials. Limiting the number of days for drying means materials are being torn out and send to the landfill that could otherwise be dried if more time were allocated. Statistics coming out the U.S. suggest an average drying job takes five days.
IICRC S500 Standard 2015, V-4
Not one document gets more misquotes than the S500. Let’s break down this document and show how you can use it to make your insurance company more profitable. First, please do not call this a manual. It is not a how-to book of drying. You will not find the process for drying structures. You will not find the term “3-Step Bio-wash”, but you will find the general principles that restorers use to successfully perform the “3-Step Bio-wash”.
Did you know that the S500 is separated into two documents in the same book? If you have ever read one, you will notice there is a blue section and a white section. The blue section is the ANSI/IICRC S500 Standard; this is the Standard you quote and discuss. The white section is the ANSI/IICRC S500 Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration and is used for greater context for understanding the standard. It is not the standard.
So, let’s talk about the standard (blue section). If your contractor calls this a manual, you might want to think twice. The S500 is a summary of the significant procedures and methodologies of a water damage project. These are principles and a foundation for understanding proper restoration practices.
The S500 provides the user with general principles and practices to help guide a restorer to arrive at a logical conclusion as to what needs to happen on a job and to apply their knowledge to restore the structure or the contents. Why is this important? Every structure is different, materials are different, so guidelines provided to the restorer are outlined to assist in processing a site.
What about the white section, the ANSI/IICRC S500 Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration? The reference is only there to help explain and broaden the explanation of the standard.
Get back in the box
Have you ever heard the S500’s reference equipment calculation quoted? “You can only have this much equipment based on size of the building.” Did you know that those calculations are only an initial starting point and after the first minute they are obsolete? The scary part is insurers and contractors have been quoting these numbers like they are relevant. Contractors get asked to reduce their equipment on jobs because the calculation states it only needs 181 pints of drying. The chart most often quoted and referred to is the “Initial Dehumidification Factors for Simple Calculation” This chart was found in the previous S500s.
Does your company apply those standards as the rule? If so, you are walking into a litigation minefield (and if we learn anything from the U.S., competent attorneys are waiting for you), that you and your lawyers may have a very hard time settling out of, and the science in restoration will work against you.
2015: New calculations
In the 2015 standard new calculations were introduced to deal with different weather conditions, building construction, building uses and occupancy. These calculations are found in the white reference section of the S500. They are there to help you, not act as your “rules”. But let science walk you through this lesson on liability increase.
Ever heard a restorer in Vancouver or Newfoundland say that it takes them longer to dry at certain times of the year?
What is important to acknowledge here is that when you use this detailed calculation there can be a 7.5 times difference in starting point dehumidification. One 2,000-square-foot structure could require 228 pints per day as a starting point and another building of the same size could require 1,712 pints per day.
Who’s responsible for the mould that is left behind when you have undersized the dehumidification and have not allowed enough equipment and time for drying?
The laws of thermodynamics get applied in water damage and as the drying process progresses you must change the environment to achieve your drying plan. When you are drying materials that are harder to dry, like wood, framing, cement board, ceramic tiles, cabinets, hardwood flooring or plaster, those materials will need more vapour pressure. They take more energy to release the moisture.
Think about all those jobs where you referred a less-than-competent contractor into the job and the job was completed in three days or less and no readings were provided. Are you scared of the mould liability that lies beneath wet materials? Are you starting to grasp the large potential for problem buildings that have been left behind by an industry of three-day drying protocols? If you do not collect material readings and only have the psychrometric readings you probably should question if the location was dried properly.
When you place restrictions on equipment usage or “we only pay for three days”, then materials that cannot be dried in three days are removed and your claims costs are escalating because contractors are forced to remove materials from your structures to ensure they dry. The rules create a box and if you work outside that box you are ridiculed for not being an effective contractor. I would argue the box is creating incompetent contractors.
Liability increases and claims costs increase, but your emergency invoices are reduced. The only area where you have a chance to substantially reduce your claims cost is in the emergency.
No controls – No success
Many insurance companies are hesitant to use additional living expenses (ALE) to provide a stable environment for the restorer. In the past the priority for ALE was if the kitchen was unusable, the bathroom blocked or the living space was substantially affected.
It is almost like the claims departments are punished for thinking of using ALE to control the jobsite. Financially you can track the cost of using ALE and you can track the savings year over year of reducing the use of it.
Unfortunately for your escalating claims costs most bean counters do not have a way to quantify the returns of using ALE. If you provide the restorer with complete control of the structure for four to seven days you are allowing the optimal conditions to take place to dry that structure.
Do you remember those flooded training houses that were vacant, controlled environments, with proper power, no opening and closing of doors and nobody tampering with equipment? You cannot expect success when you do not provide optimal conditions.
I was going to say, “When I was an adjuster”, but let’s be honest: I spent less time behind the desk than that statement is worth. Overall I had two impressive bosses who preached adjusting the claim in an old-school method. Without that adjusting training, I would not be looking at the restoration perspective with the same clarity that I do today.
So, “when I was an adjuster”, the conversations regarding ALE were always about the inconvenience to the insured and never about creating efficiency in the process.
Have you ever walked onto a restorative drying job with the proper placement of equipment? Temperatures reach 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but 70 to 75 F is deemed comfortable. The decibel level of most jobs is between 75 and 90 db (lawn mower) and the noise is a very loud white noise that can cause many insureds to complain of headaches and migraines. The normal db level of a house is 55 or less and the db level that ear protection is required is 85 db for eight hours according to occupational health and safety. The moisture is being pulled from the air at an astonishing rate and their skin will not only be dry, but the mucus membranes in their nose, eyes and throat will also be very dry. Depending on the job, it might even be dangerous.
In the next issue we are going to outline the use of air-movers calculations and how restorers can work with you to achieve better results. We are building the foundation for the discussion about liability reduction and increased profitability not only for you but also for your contractors. This win-win translates into happy customers and long-term relationships.
Kris Rzesnoski is vice-president business development with Encircle.