April 23, 2020

Restoring Faith

AH client partner Restoration Industry Association helps communities recovering from disaster

The Restoration Industry Association (RIA) is the oldest and largest non-profit, professional trade association that provides leadership and best practices through advocacy, standards, and professional qualifications for the restoration industry. The RIA represents 20,000 cleaning and restoration professionals from 1,100-member firms specializing in cleaning, water and fire damage restoration, contents restoration, mold remediation, and environmental issues.

Disasters come in endless varieties – hurricanes, fires, floods, lightning strikes, earthquakes, wind damage, or even burst pipes. Whatever the cause, everything stops – abruptly. RIA members are on the front lines of helping families and businesses recover from these often catastrophic events by providing critical restoration services.

Getting the Information Out

“RIA is not only a resource for restoration professionals, but also provides consumers with important information to help them recover from these types of disruptive events,” said Kristy Cohen, RIA’s Chief Executive Officer.

The RIA website and C&R (cleaning and restoration) Hub offer a mix of consumer resources on topics such as working with insurance companies after a disaster and disaster planning tips, along with technical papers, reports, and information to promote best practices for restoration professionals.

“We offer relevant resources related to what's happening in the industry, and the latest concerns or questions that restorers and consumers are going to have.” said Cohen.

One recent example was the development of a guidance document designed to assist property owners returning to fire affected properties. It was developed in response to the Australian bushfires and provides consumers with a checklist of information about building safety, contamination and knowing when it’s safe to go back to your property after a fire.

“It’s designed to increase awareness and education of consumers. We understand that it can be very overwhelming to go through these types of catastrophic events,” said Cohen. “Our goal is to provide helpful information to say, ‘OK, here are some things that you need to be aware of if this happens to you.’”

The website also includes an insurance FAQ to help consumers who may be overwhelmed in the wake of experiencing a catastrophic event.

“We want to help educate the consumers on the intricacies of dealing with the insurance company and your insurance policy process after a loss,” said Cohen. “Providing practical information can help people get through these types of events.”

With the information made available to the general public via the RIA website and C&R Hub, restoration professionals are better able to help their customers recover from catastrophic events.

A Personal Touch

RIA members understand that in addition to the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to do the job right, it also takes a kind, personal touch to help consumers out in their most dire time.

 “Sometimes you're putting them back together emotionally as well as helping them go through a grieving process, when they've lost something,” said Katie Smith, CR, RIA’s President-Elect and owner of PHC Restoration in North Carolina. “It's a tough, emotional process for our customers to have property damage. Whether it's their home or business, you think about how that would impact your own family or livelihood and how scary that loss is for the customer.” Depending on the severity of damage, customers may be displaced for months at a time, prolonging the trauma that comes with a catastrophic event. “What people have in their homes are not just things, they’re memories,” said Smith. “That loss can be devastating.”

Smith explains that restorers need to build a bond with their customers, understanding that, to some customers, they’re almost like “the hero that shows up” during a time of need. “Recently, I went back to visit a customer just to say, ‘Hey and welcome back home’ and, she spoke about how awesome the experience was and said, ‘I want to do something for your team,’” said Smith.

The team at PHC Restoration restored important furniture and quilting supplies that the customer used for an Etsy store. Smith’s team ensured they were good stewards of the insurance funds so the customer wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for any of the restoration services provided. Smith’s team received a cake and thank you card from the customer praising the work they had done.

Another customer got up at 3 a.m. to cook breakfast for the 20 people that helped restore her home and brought it to PHC Restoration before the work day, which starts at 6:45 a.m.

“Think about how hard you work to buy a house,” said Smith. “It’s the place where you raise your family. Even if you don't have kids, it's your safe place. And when you have a fire, especially those that require restoration projects that last longer, you build a strong relationship with your customers and can make a big impact.”

After the many hours of hard work restoring homes, businesses, furniture, and other valuable items, Smith says that at the end of it all, it’s fulfilling to see their customers get back on their feet and move back home.

“We always say that the best day of our work is the day that we move our customers back in.”