At the time of INCLEAN’S industry ring around mid-January, service providers were ready to meet the call of insurance companies and assessor. The waiting time for phone calls and txt messages from insurance companies was predicated on just when those companies were up and running having been affected themselves.
NUCCRA national president Gary Bourke – whose firm is Gold Coast based – outlined what’s in store for service provider technicians. “The work hasn’t started coming in yet and much has to be done in terms of restoring power and clearing away mud, dirt and garbage.
“Hopefully the insurance companies will have learned from previous flood scenarios and will ensure that sites are properly dried and dehumidified before builders start their work. That means using the right equipment and taking the time needed to make sure the building frames etc are truly dry,” Bourke stated.
He noted that the ideal machines for doing drying tasks most effectively, desiccant de-humidifiers, are thin on the ground in Australia.
“It should also be noted that not all carpet cleaners are restorers and not all restorers do mould,” Bourke cautioned.
He pointed out the safety issues related to the application of applying antimicrobials and emphasised the need for protective clothing and face masks for applicators.
“It’s at these times training and education comes to the fore. Those who have invested time and money into education will benefit from these tragic situations but those not educated will be caught out in the longer term” (by not applying the correct processes).
Cross contamination on-site will be a major issue.
Much of the restoration process will be determined by insurance companies. “Many older, experienced, assessors had developed good knowledge about the need to deal with moisture issues. However, some companies are now applying a ‘builder’s model’, which often means builders who do not have the structural drying education are called in first,” Bourke explained.
The negative health and hygiene outcomes can be felt for months and years.
The industry was already pretty busy up and until when Toowoomba and Brisbane were flooded. Steady rains up and down the east coast were delivering plenty of work to technicians, noted Network Restorers’ Ashley Easterby.
“However, we are well organised and our member suppliers are ready. In fact, I am on my way (the morning of 17 January) to the Brisbane Airport to meet some US restoration executives who are flying in. They will be project managers for the larger sites we will be called on to restore,” Easterby said.
“At this stage only Suncorp and APIA have committed to meeting all claims. Most people are not insured for flood, they took a cheaper option and now find themselves without any financial cover,” he explained.
Easterby also added that the hiatus being experienced by restorers was due to a number of factors including the fact that insurance companies had been hit with the floods and were not back functioning with call centres are other admin.
When normalcy returns, what are the opportunities? “There will be at least three months’ work for restoration firms. Some Victorian firms came up to Queensland to work but with flooding in their own state there’s plenty on back home.
“Our members will be working only for preferred customers and that way will ensure payment,” added Easterby.
For Advanced Specialized Equipment, which has both supply and technician roles, it sees supply of drying equipment and antimicrobials as key tasks. “We are setting up supply stations in Queensland in order that we can meet the needs of restoration companies,” noted ASE’s Grant Stevens. “We are operating 24/7 for our clients.”
He agreed that major issues include structural drying and contents cleaning but he also observed that delivering enough skilled manpower on-site will be a big problem.
For Carpet Cleaners Warehouse, the Brisbane flood was kind in that its Geebung facility was not affected and remained ‘high and dry’ above the waters. “We are already experiencing equipment shortages and we are flying in a large order of antimicrobial from the US,” said CCW’s Nick Bredhauer.
He reinforced what other industry execs have said re. drying. “Builders will pick up a lot of work but they must be made aware of how critical it is to property dry the site they are restoring. The Newcastle flood gave us a mould lesson and years later remediation work is having to be carried out due to the wrong initial practices.
For building service contractors, Australian Cleaning Contractors’ Association’s executive director John Laws surmised that contract cleaners are likely to benefit down the track from new building site clean-up work with restoration companies tackling the more immediate work.