When a devastating house fire destroyed the first floor of a home in the Kitchener-Waterloo community, it tragically took the lives of a former firefighter and his pet. The man’s only living relative, his sister, was heartbroken and asked to see the scene. For Glenn Wilkinson, the owner of Paul Davis Kitchener-Waterloo, guiding the woman on her emotional visit reminded him and his team how honoured they are to help disaster victims navigate terrible events and accept deep losses.
“This was the original family home and had a lot of happy recollections for her that were now mingled with an awful memory,” Wilkinson says. “The compassion required to help this lady through such a difficult time was considerable. Tears, anger, laughter and a multitude of other emotions flowed continuously. Every step of the way, we were there to help her move to the next phase of her grief.”
As the Paul Davis team navigated the legal and insurance hurdles on this project – the homeowner died without a will, complicating many financial and legal decisions – they delivered a heartwarming gift to the grief-stricken sister: her brother’s original firefighter uniform. It was the only memento that was salvageable. “She could not have been happier to see it,” Wilkinson says. “We try to save some better memories out of distressing situations to help disaster victims heal.”
All Paul Davis employees are trained to care for and work compassionately with disaster victims, recognizing that they are going through a terrible time in their lives. Because fires are particularly disturbing, Paul Davis has created a team of Emergency Recovery Coordinators (ERCs) to help victims of fires. These specialists, who often work with commercial property owners or at large fire scenes:
- Assess next steps after the flames are extinguished.
- Coordinate immediate mitigation activities such as securing the premises and removing contents for restoration or storage.
- Coordinate among first responders, insurance carriers, fire marshals, local authorities and other partners involved in post-fire activities.
- Provide estimates and coordinate restoration activities.
- Maintain communications among all parties from loss through complete restoration.
Many ERCs are former police officers, firefighters and EMTs who have dedicated their lives to public service and feel a strong drive to help others. Their lengthy experience and compassionate assistance deliver a sense of order, confidence and momentum that not only starts the property toward recovery but immeasurably helps those affected as well.
All Paul Davis team members – from Paul Davis owners to ERCs to technicians – work hard to be the comforting presence that customers need to see right after a fire. “Tears, shock, fear, sadness – these are very common reactions we see in traumatized people and we’re ready for them,” concludes Wilkinson. “We are honoured to accompany people through very difficult circumstances with dignity, respect and hope. We’re proud we can help.”