This is the third piece in a five-part series of articles explores the participation of a qualified third-party expert in the execution of a competently executed structural restoration. This edition explores the considerable value of RIA’s WLS designation carried by such an expert.
Few deny that the property restoration industry has pro- progressively become more difficult due to a catastrophically diminished trust between insurers and service providers. Today, the intensity of this lack of trust has produced a market whereby administrators of preferred vendor programs, service provider networks, and third-party administrations (TPAs) privately negotiate stipulations with insurance carriers that are blatantly substandard and the promise to impose rules upon service providers who participate in their programs that are patently unfair. Too often, the result is a property owner who does not receive a competently executed restoration effort and/or a shortfall in a fully justifiable insurance settlement. The service provider must choose between the risk of participating in an incompetently executed restoration effort or prudently performing the project competently while forfeiting justifiable and necessary revenue.
The solution may be found through the regular involvement of an entity that can build trust between the insurer and service provider through the evaluation and guidance of an independent expert in the competent delivery of structural restoration that is in accord with the industry’s accepted standard of care to be followed; an RIA Registered Third Party Evaluator (RTPE)**. The RTPE would represent the needs of the structure — not the financial interests of the service provider or insurer.
Who would qualify to be this RTPE? It should be someone formally trained at the highest level in restoration practices, a truly seasoned professional with a significant portion of their careers spent in the development of skills and knowledge pertaining to the restoration and/or repairing of structures and contents. This would indeed contrast with many who claim to possess authoritative understandings on projects upon which they have never set foot and trades in which they have never actually executed in commerce.
A WLS CAN BE AN IICRC S500-2015 “DRYING CONSULTANT”
Of all the perils encountered by the restoration service provider, water damage losses are by far the most commonly debated by agencies retained by the insurance entity. There is a good reason why this is so.
The first three editions of the IICRC S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration (1991, 1999, and 2006) included significant portions of information that were either disappointingly absent or incorrect. The latest S500 standard (2015) has corrected many of these issues while some persistently remain.
Additionally, the IICRC exam learning objectives were in large part derived from the non-ANSI, non-standard of care to be followed reference guide whereby the student would be declared “right or wrong” based upon these ideas that frequently conflicted with logic and science.
These exam elements became the foundation of many debates among instructors, students, and, eventually, the insurance representatives. Program work emerged that imposed the ideas mentioned not in the ANSI standard, but rather in the non-standard guideline. This problem persists to this day — particularly with shameful drying software programs built upon the substandard ideas pro- promulgated by the IICRC exams and leveraged by insurance repair “preferred vendor program” negotiators.
Fortunately, some within the industry took the care to study the industry standards and rejected many of the dubious ideas derived from the reference guide and taught within many exams. They researched beyond the standards and studied authoritative alternate material. They researched and considered the legalities and regulations encountered on restorative drying projects. Finally, they exercised their well-researched understandings on real projects.
Who are these individuals who have become restorative drying authorities upon whom an inquirer can acquire an intelligent answer?
An RIA Water Loss Specialist (WLS) is an individual who has demonstrated they have taken the subject of structural restorative drying particularly seriously. Established in 1996 by a distinguished group of industry experts, the program producing WLS professionals was quickly recognized as the top credential that could be acquired by a restorative drying expert.
Several IICRC credentials were accepted as building block prerequisites for a WLS applicant. It is important
to note that the intention was not to necessarily validate the learning objectives taught within other courses, but rather to recognize what the general industry has been taught — right or wrong. This is an important foundation upon which to build a valuable water damage consultancy. Knowledge of common fallacies taught to the industry can be very beneficial to an expert’s body of knowledge so as to effectively respond in redirecting the poorly informed.
Other prerequisites include “… a wide variety of vet-ted industry-related courses representing the four major Domains of Knowledge as part of its pre-requisite course requirements.”
These prerequisite Domains of Knowledge are addressed with the following subjects necessary for WLS applicants:
• “Domain #1: Basic Skills in Water Damage Restoration
• Domain #2: Hands-on Water Damage, Restoration & Drying Training
• Domain #3: Microbial Remediation
• Domain #4: Health & Safety Training
• Domain #5: Building Science
• Domain #6: Project Management & Commercial
Aside from the formal education acquired in a classroom, WLS applicants must be able to prove they have several years (currently five) of verifiable work experience related to the restoration industry and/or several years (currently three) of verifiable supervisory experience. As this credential becomes progressively more esteemed, the necessary field experience may one day be extended to reflect a longer time frame. It is important to note the RIA declares work experience to include:
• restoration worker,
• project supervisor,
• restoration company manager,
• facility manager,
• restoration instructor.
Specifically absent from this list are individuals who “review service provider files.” They do not fall under the category of “worker, supervisor, consultant, manager or estimator.” They are merely “reviewers” [to assemble the documents necessary to complete the file; not to interpret or evaluate the scope of procedures performed], absent of any practical experience. Such individuals are unlikely to be qualified to fully understand the trade of structural restorative drying and the decisions required to competently engineer and execute an effective restoration and drying strategy. Therefore, they are logically determined to not possess the expertise necessary to qualify them to be a competent “evaluator.”
The result is that the WLS applicant who attends the Prep Course is not taught a series of exam questions, but rather attends the event with the full knowledge that they are there to prove they already possess the knowledge necessary to carry the title of Water Loss Specialist. This is likely possible since “The Water Loss Specialist (WLS) Advanced Certification Program is recognized by insurance companies, building owners and managers, as well as the public and governmental authorities as the premier achievement of excellence.” 2
RIA WLS SERVING AS AN IICRC S500-2015 “DRYING CONSULTANT” AND RTPE
The S500-2015 speaks specifically to the structural restorative drying service provider regarding the inclusion of a specialized expert in the execution of their work. Many of the comments made within this standard distinctly segregate the qualified from the unqualified in the performance of structural restorative drying. You are invited to seriously consider the message expressed in the carefully worded introduction to Section 12 of the S500-2015, particularly as it relates to those who attempt to review a qualified service provider’s services.
The “RIA Registered Third Party Evaluator (RTPE)” is a proposed idea under consideration by the RIA. This series of articles is drafted with the intention of determining market interest and sentiment. You are strongly encouraged to provide feedback on this subject — both positive and negative — through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the editor of this magazine, email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you.
12 Specialized Experts
“Restorers should be qualified by education, training, and experience to appropriately execute the skills and expertise required to safely perform the restoration of structure and contents.”
Therefore, those who wish to contribute to or review the restorer’s processes should also be likewise qualified and their qualifications should be established prior to any dialogue with a critic or debater.
“Restorers, who respond to water damage claims should perform only those services they are qualified to perform. If there are situations that arise where there is a need to perform services beyond the expertise of the restorer, specialized experts, whether from within or outside the company, should be used. When the service of specialized expertise is needed, restorers should hire, or recommend in a timely manner that the client hire, the appropriate specialized expert.”
When this statement is seriously considered, how many restoration professionals can answer the following questions relevant to the restoration of the property?
• What data has been collected to compellingly determine the category of water?
• What data indicates where the water went?
• Were the meters used on the project in excellent working condition and used as directed within the owner’s manuals?
• What risks are documented to be present on the project, and how were they managed?
• Were the equipment formulas mentioned within the S500 deployed within the context clearly described? (NOTE: This is one of the industry’s primary failures. Some formulas are NOT a component of the accepted standard of care to be followed.)
• Since the S500 equipment formulas never claim to be a “drying plan,” did the service provider define and produce a competently engineered and defensible plan? (S500-2015, 2015, p. 57; Std. 13.5.7) (Larsen, 2014, pp. Page 404 – 423)
• What evidence proves the drying records are authentic and accurate?
A CMP/WLS (and/or CR) is likely to be more qualified to answer these questions than most other credentialed tradesmen within the restoration industry.
“While specialized experts are occasionally used on routine residential or commercial water restoration projects, they are more likely to be used in complex moisture intrusions involving sewage, catastrophic flooding, mud accumulation, asbestos, lead-based paint, visible mold growth, building safety, or the need for specialty trades. Specialized experts include, but are not limited to:”
Yes, both residential and commercial projects can benefit from a qualified specialized expert – especially when the project is likely to undergo a rigorous third-party review (TPA). These unqualified and frequently substandard TPA reviews have become a significant “risk” that must be managed by the property owner and service provider. The list presented within the S500-2015 is long, (S500-2015, 2015, p. 45) but includes these particular skillsets carried by a WLS (and CMP):
• “safety and health(e.g.,CertifiedSafetyProfessional(CSP), Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, CAIH), indoor environmental professional (IEP), safety engineer);
• other experts (e.g., drying consultants, mold remediators, leak detection services, infrared thermographers). Projects that can require additional information beyond the restorer’s ability can include, but are not limited to:
• extensive or complex structural damage;
• long-term moisture problems resulting in a musty, moldy, or other abnormal odor in the absence of visible microbial growth;
• the need to document the presence of pre-existing damage;
• the need for thermal imaging and photo documentation;
• plumbing, electrical and roofing problems;
• complex sewage backflows;
• the presence of regulated or hazardous materials (e.g., asbestos, lead, fuel oil);
• complex drying situations;
• issues involving worker and occupant safety and health; or
• the need for project oversight (e.g., administration, supervision, management, and auditing of project closure).
If a pre-restoration or pre-remediation assessment is needed, then an independent specialized expert who meets the description of an indoor environmental professional (IEP) should be used. If microbial post-restoration or post-remediation verifications are needed, they should be conducted by an indoor environmental professional. Where elevated risk factors are present (see section 10.6.7), then an IEP should be retained by one of the materially interested parties.”
RTPES WITH A WLS (AND CMP) CREDENTIAL AND THE TPA
Entities who have negotiated program stipulations with the insurance carriers (TPAs) carry the fiduciary responsibility to represent the interests of the entity they claim to serve: the insurance carrier. This is their customer — not the service provider or property owner. Furthermore, these entities are frequently grossly unqualified to speak to the scoping or procedural needs of the restoration project on any level! These facts should alarm all who are involved in an insurance claim.
Any homeowner who suffers damages from a covered peril according to the terms of their insurance policy can file an insurance claim and is entitled to have the expenses related to their property being competently restored. To establish the scope of work and needs of a competent restoration protocol, an RIA RTPE can be retained by the property owner to define the needs of the project. If the insurance company and the TPA were indeed interested in serving their common customer (the property owner), they too would welcome the qualified RTPE who possesses a WLS credential.
Service providers who participate in claim referral programs regularly encounter disputes from unqualified program enforcers. A qualified RTPE can provide an unbiased description of the structural repair needs and a competent execution. The insured can then include the expense of the RTPE in their proof of loss declaration. This can also be of value to the service provider as they submit their justifiable charges for the services as collaborated with the RTPE.
The TPA can then stick to what they do best: assemble documents in preparation for the licensed adjuster’s review and expedient file closure.
An RTPE who carries a WLS credential can be a qualified “drying consultant” as described in the S500-2015 in determining the usual, customary, and justifiable services required to competently restore a structure. Following the CMP credential, the second advanced credential acquired by those seeking to be an RTPE should be the Water Loss Specialist (WLS). The next credential they should seek is their capstone credential, the Certified Restorer (CR) so as to complete their RTPE accreditation — a trifecta of expertise! We will review this credential in the next issue.RIA