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June 20, 2023

Strategies to help restoration teams and businesses handle disasters

Ask any restorer and they’ll tell you that taking on CAT work is both draining and daunting; the typical tensions of a property restoration job are drastically magnified by the hectic and often emotional situation that’s at hand. That’s why it’s important for your team to be strategic and methodical when tackling this type of work.

In our recent webinar CAT response tactics for top restorers, experts Steve Glozik and Paul Donald discussed two different components that you and your team need to consider when dealing with CAT work. Firstly, you need to take care of your business, and secondly you need to take care of your people. Because when both are thriving, your company will be in a great position to take on more work with more confidence.

Factors for taking care of your business 🏢

Documentation processes

Your team may be tempted to ignore the documentation process, due to the high-volume of work involved in disaster restoration. Though it’s true that documenting each loss does require time and effort, you’ll be thankful you captured proper documentation and avoided countless headaches down the road when you’re looking to get paid for your work. With the right documentation tool that’s designed for the field, you can streamline this process and avoid critical CAT claim issues. Your estimators and PMs on the backend will also be thankful, since they rely on documentation from the field when creating an invoice. In the end, having documentation that tells the story of each job and justifies the work you did will reduce the pushback on your invoices, and get you paid faster and in full.

Top restorers are leveraging many different mediums to enhance their documentation, including:

You may be looking at that list and asking yourself “why would we need videos when we’re already taking all these photos? Aren’t those enough?” Although photos are necessary, a video walk-through combined with your expert commentary adds so much value and credibility to your report. Voiceover videos do an excellent job of explaining components of the loss that you may have otherwise forgotten or are difficult to convey, ultimately helping you build out that invoice at the end of the project. Weeks from now, you’ll be struggling to remember what you did on site; voiceover videos help resolve this issue and get reviewers on the same page from the start.

On commercial projects, Steve recommends having three voiceover videos each day: one at the beginning of the day, one during your lunch break, and a final one at the end of the day. By walking and videoing the whole project this often, you’ll be able to clearly show the progress being made.

Developing relationships

The next factor to consider when taking care of your business during CAT work is to start developing relationships with other restoration companies. Don’t wait until a disaster hits to start these conversations — you should be reaching out and communicating year round, creating a peer network so that it’s ready when the time comes to mobilize to a CAT.

If you haven’t already, start reaching out to different companies, both large and small, to see if they’re receptive to working and collaborating together on disaster restoration jobs. Try to find companies that have good synergy with your values, and even go to visit them to see their facilities and talk about CAT work in person. This way, you’ll have other companies primed to reach out to help when disaster strikes near you.

Once you’ve established these partnerships, you’ll also be able to get more work for yourselves. Before your team starts mobilizing outside of your service area, reach out to your partners in the area to let them know where you’ll be and what your capabilities are. Be very honest upfront about your timelines and capabilities — you’ll want to maintain these relationships, and that means maintaining their trust in your company, and setting honest expectations.

Factors for taking care of your people 🫅

Physical health and supplies

When it comes to your team’s personal supplies, there’s a lot to consider that can easily slip their minds. We’re talking about items like food, water, fuel, and clothing — when they’re in crisis mode, people probably won’t be thinking about something as seemingly small as whether or not they have enough socks. Nonetheless, these things are important to ensure the physical wellbeing of your team. Train your team and do a personal check of each person to ensure that they have everything that they may need to survive for the next week or two.

In addition to keeping your people prepared, you should also be planning around individuals, making assumptions that somebody’s going to forget something. Bring extra food and extra water in case someone forgets something or runs out of per diem to get groceries. It’s also helpful to have a dedicated person checking in on each tech to make sure they are eating good nutritious meals; if you have an HR person, you can offbranch them in this role. This dedicated HR person should be reaching out to get a pulse of the team, checking to see if there’s anything that they need or anything that needs to be taken care of back home.

Mental health and morale

With CAT work being so busy and chaotic, it’s bound to take a toll on the mental health of some of your teammates. Looking after their mental wellbeing is just as important, and should be a factor to consider when working on a schedule during these losses.

Take into consideration the hours that your team is working, have a dedicated person monitoring them. Listen to what your team is saying, and watch them for any mental errors and signs of fatigue. Some people may be reluctant to admit that they’re tired out of a sense of obligation to the team; they don’t want to be letting their team down during such a critical time. As nice of a sentiment that is, it’s best for the sake of each person and the team as a whole that they’re taking the necessary time to rest.

As an owner, operator, or supervisor, you have a say in the times that your team’s working. Ask yourself, “what time can I get my team out today so that they can get back, rest, shower, and get some extra sleep?” Make these decisions, and then explain to your customer how those extra hours of sleep will guarantee that they get more done that day.

Finally, it’s important to keep morale positive during a CAT by giving your team something to look forward to. Schedule some days off for your team, even if they say that they aren’t tired. Another way to boost morale is to have a team get-together that doesn’t revolve around work. For example, you could host a Friday breakfast buffet for your employees — this gives them something outside of their work to think about. Don’t keep these get-togethers a surprise though, let them be known so that they have something to look forward to in this stressful time.

Check out this interactive checklist to keep your team on top of things when preparing for CAT work!


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