Are you competent?

fire damaged custom artisan tablePrinciple number two is making sure we are competent to do the task at hand.  I’m reminded of the time I went out on an after-hours water damage call to a house that we had recently finished restoring from a previous water damage just a few month before.  I was met at the door by the distressed looking owner of the house holding a butcher knife.  (Yes, think Jack Nicholson in the shining. It was a bit awkward).  When I walked in the house I saw that she had used that same butcher knife to cut the carpet (in a very ragged line) somewhat near the seam in a door way.  On the previous emergency visit, I had used a razor knife and a straightedge to cut a seam at that same doorway to allow the carpet to be moved and the saturated pad pulled out. She had seen me perform the task last time and her only explanation was that she felt she had to “do something”. Apparently she had the best of intentions, but good intentions don’t necessarily translate into qualification to do the job right.


Some variation of this is actually a pretty common occurrence in the damage repair business.  We often walk into a job that although they found themselves compelled to “do something”, the property owner didn’t really have the skills to successfully complete the action they took.  Unfortunately, it isn’t always the panicked homeowner that tries to do something that they don’t have the skill set to accomplish.

smoke damage braided rug


While we want to be “quick” in our actions to move the project along whenever we have the opportunity to do so, the second filter we want to use in taking action is to ask the ask “are we competent to do the task at hand”.


In dealing with property damage, there are a lot of things we do as a company on a regular basis. With proper training and repetition certain tasks requiring specific skill sets become routine and we become competent to carry out those tasks in a true journeyman like manner.  But one thing about dealing with property damage is that the project is not always about routine tasks.  Whether it is a restoring a damaged custom trim package or dealing with a unique piece of personal property like a sculpture with a patina smoked up in a fire or a pen and ink drawing in a damaged condition as a result of excess humidity, we are constantly presented with unusual scenarios that no one person or one company could be competent to handle in-house.


At the entry level, our newest member to the team needs to be able to give an a honest appraisal of the skills that they bring with them to the job.  Even the demolition of damaged drywall requires a certain level of skill to complete efficiently without affecting the next trade on the job.  From day one, we tell our staff that if they are put onto a project to complete a task and they do not feel they are 100% competent to complete that task, they should stop and make sure that they get the training or the supervision they need before they move ahead.


By the same token, when our most experienced supervisor runs a cross a situation that requires a skill set that they haven’t mastered, we need to be able to turn to our network of experts across the country for advice or hands-on expertise to make sure the project is as successful as it can be.


Property damage is never convenient.  There is always some level of pressure to “get it done” as quickly as possible.  It can be difficult for the egos of the new guy and the old pro to admit that they don’t  have the skills needed to address whatever set of circumstances comes up.  But at REE-Construction/First General Idaho we believe that the ability to judge our own competence is a important skill in and of itself.



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