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Who You Gonna Call?


The recent flooding across the UK has seen unusually high press coverage; programmes have ranged from basic news items and personal experience, to in-depth analyses of biological contamination. The increase in interest is due to many factors, but three in particular may have far-reaching consequences and opportunities for professional contractors.


The first issue is the end of flood insurance as we know it, and the emergence of the government backed “Flood RE” scheme – insurance companies have partnered with the government to provide affordable insurance to some homes on the flood plain, but of great importance is the fact that not all homes will be covered and economic solutions will have to be found for those who either can't get insurance, or who have to pay substantial contributions.


The government is keen to limit its financial exposure, and is asking questions on the competence of the restoration industry. I was asked to address a cross party committee at the House of Commons in February, to explain how the industry is approaching the national floods and in particular how the new “Code of Practice” PAS 64 had been working, to which I replied: “Not very well, and the PAS 64 is generally ignored” – a dramatic but true statement. This industry code of practice requires


78 | DAMAGE MANAGEMENT


contractors to provide verification and evidence that they have actually dried and sanitised the property, while proving that the air or indoor air quality is up to standard – this is quite a move away from the historical approach of: “Trust Me”.


The next issue is the failure of many companies to provide competent contractors who are up to speed with innovation and best practice, such as PAS 64. Historically, a three-day training course where answers to exam questions are invariably given out has resulted in a dumbing-down of the workforce while technology has rocketed, but few can afford to implement innovation when they are often tied to contracts where they can't make money by doing it ‘the right way’. The industry is set to boom as flooding and associated cleaning and decontamination issues become a top priority of either the legal profession or the insurer paymasters. It has to be considered why contractors find it difficult to comply with an industry code of best practice and provide evidence that they actually did what they were paid for, and this has resulted in the launch of specialist auditors to assess contractors’ objectives and results.


A Google search of “PAS 64” will provide a background of the guidelines and standards, and the information relating to flood victims and paymasters requiring compliance is readily available. It should be


realised that the Environment Agency funded this document while the Association of British Insurers sat on the technical commute, and the honeymoon period to achieve compliance may be very short.


One of the key issues of flooding is that homeowners will have to declare flood events to perspective purchasers, and their solicitor will request evidence to demonstrate that the property was remediated properly – they will, of course, ask for PAS 64 compliance and certification. Without it, the vendor may face a substantial price cut or even find their property un-sellable.


The third-party independent verification of drying and indoor air quality is a key component, and competent, highly-qualified environmental hygienists and cleaning specialists of this kind can be difficult to find in the UK if you don’t know where to start. Building Forensics have seen a dramatic interest in training, audits and guidance as insurers and policyholders are increasingly recognising shortfalls in many contracting companies’ approaches – this is opening the doors to small companies who can provide attention to detail and actually take pride in doing a job properly. I see huge opportunities for local contractors who can provide competent restoration works, if floods become a regular issue within the UK.


www.tomorrowscleaning.com


Jeff Charlton, Principle Consultant at Building Forensics training providers, discusses the problems that can await homeowners and companies who do not hire a professional cleaning team to deal with flood damage.


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