Whether storms, flooding, or wildfire, most parts of North America deal with natural disasters as part of the yearly cycle of events. Yet, few incidents are more critical to CAT planning and disaster restoration than the annual hurricane season. Each summer, the country braces for another round of intense activity. And every year, the storms get bigger, causing ever greater amounts of property damage.
As we make our way through yet another record-breaking season, restoration firms have their work cut out for them. Hurricane Ida recently tied for the strongest landfall on record in Louisiana. So far, it’s caused damage to the tune of an estimated $95 billion and led to extreme rain and flooding in New York and New Jersey.
How can you make sure that your CAT response planning is up to the challenge of this year’s hurricane season—and all the others? While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, there are a few strategic moves you can make to position your business to come out on top in this quickly evolving industry.
The importance of workflow optimization to CAT planning
No matter how well prepared or resourceful you are, the need for emergency response combined with overwhelming work volumes will always create unique logistical problems. It’s the nature of disaster restoration.
Many restoration companies choose not to continue responding to future events following their first major weather event. The financial duress following the heavy outpouring of cash to fund mobilization and high work volume has brought many to the brink of bankruptcy and further. Other firms, however, have responded to the challenge of escalated work volumes by expanding their ability to trim processes and modify workflows.
Not only does this strategy give you the chance to flex up or down based on need, but it also lets you provide ‘stabilization as a service.’ By breaking projects down and classifying them into distinct phases, resource requirements become more manageable. You’re also able to further limit cash output by reducing the investment in a given project and collecting income before beginning further work.
An ability to reduce your scope also lets you leverage existing resources to cover more projects. For example, in the case of tropical storms, a stabilization emphasis will focus on the removal of wet affected materials. This reduces the equipment requirements, electrical needs, intensity of monitoring, and overall technical difficulty of preventing further damage.
CAT planning: improve workflow optimization with digital documentation
Spreading your resources over a greater number of projects can’t be done without a robust digital documentation system. By empowering every member of your team to record every detail of every transaction and customer encounter in real-time from anywhere they are, you’re giving yourself the visibility into your organization you need to carry out more precise, compartmentalized work.
Better documentation also lets you protect yourself. It could mean getting paid faster, too—no “slight advantage” in an industry of delays and adjustments. The fact is, incomplete records can delay payments, and a major (maybe even deadly) swell in accounts payable. On top of that, inaccurate or incomplete verification of work can lead to significant liability.
Digital documentation also helps you more clearly communicate your terms. For instance, service agreements, authorizations, and other instruments of documentation need to state a limited scope of work clearly. If the intent is to stop work once stabilization is achieved, this should be clearly articulated, along with a definition of stabilization. And when services to complete the restoration and repairs will be made available only after monies for stabilization have been paid in full, this should be clearly communicated and documented.
An appropriate attorney familiar with the laws governing business in the geographical area where the projects will occur should review these limited-service agreements and authorizations. This often requires commitment and significant prior effort—you must commit to the area before the weather event occurs to better ensure that you’re prepared and ready to go. In other words, if you have contracts prepared for the state of Texas, you shouldn’t expect to use those same documents in Louisiana—you’ll have to make different preparations for each area that you plan to service.
Next CAT planning: the importance of communication and documentation
In times of unprecedented disaster events and the prospect of even more to come, few businesses have the seemingly unlimited resources it may take to truly serve the market. For many of us, an emergency trimming of processes or resources could be necessary. If that’s the case, your ability to weather the storm could depend on how well you optimize your workflows with digital documentation and other tools.
Workflow management tools like DASH are designed to help restoration businesses adapt to the new market conditions. DASH supports customized forms, field signature capture, and digital documentation—everything your team needs to make quick, easy, and accurate documentation in the field or wherever they’re working.
Though it’ll soon be over, we’ll be dealing with this year’s hurricane season for years to come. And for businesses that have the right CAT planning strategy, there may be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on the other side. But if you haven’t yet prepared an effective catastrophe response strategy, you might also find out why hurricane season has been the final chapter for many a restoration firm.
About the Author
Throughout a 25-year career in the restoration industry, Brandon Burton has worked to support rapidly developing technology and industry best practices, with a passion for promoting the restoration industry’s continued growth in professionalism. Burton is the ANSI/IICRC Standards chairman, an approved IICRC instructor, and has provided training and consultation to more than 10,000 water damage restoration professionals. He is also a published author in the field. Burton is the Vice President of Technical Application for Next Gear Solutions, LLC, and formerly held the position of Technical Director for Legend Brands, managing the largest and most experienced training team in the restoration industry. He is also a past member of the RIA (ASCR) Restoration Council.