Days on end of watching and waiting are now coming to an end for thousands of willing, capable, and determined workers in the restoration industry. The first wave has already arrived in Fort McMurray and, in the days ahead, they will start to claw back what the fire took.
There’s little public glory for these men and women because they’re in for the long haul and media attention spans are short. Working 12-hour days six days a week, away from their families and homes, they focus on a single purpose: restore what is damaged; rebuild what is destroyed. They cooperate with insurers and property owners and are skilled, well trained, and dedicated as only true professionals can be. Every resident and every business owner that sustained a loss will meet these people and will appreciate their service, commitment, and compassion.
Many of the contractors working in Fort McMurray have one thing in common: they’re members of the Restoration Contractors Organization of Canada (RCOC). Most of the big firms are listed on RCOC’s website. These firms and many smaller restoration contractors share an important trait: a high standard of ethics.
Unfortunately, there are others headed towards Fort McMurray that are anything but honest. Just as in Slave Lake and every other calamity, there are those that seek to take advantage of disarray and disruption. For them, the policyholder is a target and #ymmfire is the latest get-rich-quick scheme.
To combat this, we need a degree of transparency and collaboration between insurers and contractors that goes beyond the norm. It isn’t easy – there are huge sums of money at stake and many restoration contractors are already reeling financially from several years of eroding revenue streams. They will be forced to incur costs even before they get to the worksites and it will be many weeks – possibly months – before they start to see payments coming in from insurers. Until then, contractors will hold their breath in anticipation of the dreaded ‘redlined’ estimate: “Your charges are excessive.” To read that after a job is authorised and completed sucks the air right out of a Project Manager’s lungs.
Let’s not let that happen this time around. Contractors should take the initiative, reach out to their insurer partners, and explain the true costs of operating hundreds or even thousands of kilometers from their home base. The recovery of Fort Mac is not business as usual. Insurers already know this; however, don’t expect them to step forward with suggested cost uplifts – it’s not their expertise. Contractors must calculate and state what the various cost loadings will be. In advance of commencing work. In writing. Get agreement to this.
The fires in Fort McMurray are nearly out. There’s no reason to get burned again.