Water Loss Specialists Bring Next Level Skills to Hurricane-Prone Areas

RIA Blog Editor
on Wed, 09/29/2021
Water Loss: Flood in Basement

As hurricane season continues to cause major damage to the homes and buildings in the American South and Northeast, the need for water loss mitigation is becoming more and more in-demand. Hurricane Ida has been projected to have caused over $90 billion in damage, putting it as the seventh costliest hurricane since 2000, alone.

However, hurricane season only lasts from June to late November. Water mitigation is a year-round issue. That is where a Water Loss Specialist (WLS) comes in. With highly specialized skills such as project management and drying techniques, a WLS is a necessary member of any restoration team.

Fortunately, the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) offers restorers a comprehensive Water Loss Specialist Advanced Certification Program to teach all the skills needed to become a WLS..

Why the WLS Program is Important

While the RIA WLS program focuses on topics like microbial remediation and building science to give restorers a more complete education on water loss, the program truly stands out by going beyond on-the-job experience, allowing restorers to become experts in the field.

“What I think restorers need to understand is that when you have a Water Loss Specialist designation, you have reached, essentially, the pinnacle of water mitigation in terms of technical classroom knowledge-and you are now proving your knowledge on paper,” said Chad Brandt, WLS, a General Manger of PuroClean of Chandler. “There is no higher certification in the water mitigation industry than a WLS.”

For Robb Harrell, WLS, XCT, MWR, Director of Operational Improvements and Technology at American Technology Incorporated, the Water Loss Certification expands restorer skill sets to be ready for even the most extreme water loss situations.

“It better prepares you for those hurricane and storm situations that other restorers who don’t have their WLS will not be able to handle,” Harrell said.

But Harrell emphasizes extreme situations come in all shapes, such as plumbing emergencies and fire suppression systems. For example, in the winter months when heating elements are more widely used, homes are more prone to fires. Fire departments, in trying to oust a fire, may cause major water damage with their firehoses.

“Hurricane season is just a small sliver of time,” Harrell said. “Water loss restoration is needed for all time periods.”

As for who should take the highly sought after WLS program, Brandt recommends anyone in a supervisory role, since supervisors are making consequential decisions that can affect the outcome of the job at hand.

Teaching that Goes Above and Beyond

The Water Loss Specialist Advanced Certification Program’s focus expands beyond water damage and digs into the finer details of laws, contracts and other aspects that deepen the  knowledge of any restorer.

For example, a restorer’s vehicle, when crossing over state lines, may be labeled a commercial vehicle in the eyes of the Department of Transportation (DOT), even if the vehicle doesn’t have a DOT number on it. This in turn allows motor carrier enforcement offices to apply DOT rules on a vehicle.

“I think when you're new to the industry, you don't really understand much about laws and regulations,” Brandt said. “So, understanding how that pertains to everything we do; that's where it starts, and that's where it ends with these legally binding contracts.”

On the contracts side, students of the program will learn that each state has different regulations. For example, in Louisiana, restorers must provide a copy of the Consumer Advisory to every home or property owner.

The WLS courses are taught by some heavy hitters in the restoration industry like Ken Larsen CR, WLS, FLS, CLS, CMP, David Sweet WLS, FLS, CMP, Lorne McIntyre CR, WLS, FLS, CLS, CSDS, and Pete Consigli CR, WLS, experts who have decades of experience in the restoration field and only want the industry to grow.

That level of detailed education was important for Brandt and Harrell when deciding to take the program. And, for Brandt, the WLS courses went into more depth than he could have ever imagined.

“I was seeking some higher-level principles, guidelines, and knowledge almost on a scientific- and engineering-type level,” Brandt said. “The program was so intriguing; I could not take enough notes.”

For Harrell, the biggest takeaway was not only improving his skills as a restorer but the relationships that he created through the classes.

“I definitely improved my skill sets and my understanding of a water loss because I was able to foster unbelievable relationships with the people in my class as well as my Proctor,” Harrell said.

WLS Importance for Hurricane-Prone Areas

Still, restoration as a field is most paramount during the most extreme emergencies. The WLS program provides restorers a deep understanding on how to tackle major disaster areas like buildings that have been flooded by storms and even hurricanes.

“What the program does in a hurricane situation is it differentiates your skill set versus your competitors, at dealing with unusual contaminated water that comes from a hurricane event,” Harrell said.

That expertise shows in the importance of understanding the work needed to be done before a hurricane or major storm even hits an area. “The program can help you after the storm, because you've done your preparation beforehand,” Harrell said.

Harrell explains that a WLS takes into consideration multiple points when a major weather event is about to occur. How much water will it bring? Fast wind speeds? Or a combination of the two? What about all the different types of materials possibly affected by a hurricane, which include hardwood flooring, ceramics, and more? What about regional weather’s influences on building structures, or how the environment influences building design and restoration?

A WLS can answer all those questions.

“The atmospherics can get away from you fast if you aren’t closely monitoring your drying systems & progress, in a hurricane environment, because not only do you have high humidity, but you’re also going to have different building materials and building envelopes-since most restorers will be coming from other parts of the country for CAT events,” Brandt said. “So, you need to know where you're driving the energy, where you're driving the moisture, and what effect this has on the structure, materials and overall cost of the project.”

One way a WLS prepares is staging equipment, meaning that restorers and their equipment like, generators and dehumidifiers, are in an area that is safe and out of a storm’s reach, but close enough to the affected area that restorers can mobilize after the storm.


Water loss mitigation is a year-round process that will never stop. With floods, heavy rainstorms, and hurricanes that can cost millions if not billions of dollars of damage, it is now more important than ever that restorers achieve their Water Loss Specialist certification.

The WLS Advanced Certification Program runs from October 20-22. Register now!