Thousands of gallons of water cascade from the second floor, flowing down the steps, pushing furniture aside and soaking everything in its surging path: wallboard, wiring, carpets, flooring, artwork and appliances. As the waters from upstairs subside, the damage spreads slowly but steadily. Water streams into the garage from its rafters and seeps through the foundation into crawl spaces.

Fortunately, this flood isn’t a real disaster. It’s part of another training day at the Paul Davis Training Facility in Jacksonville, Florida. The most advanced training center of its kind in North America, this campus offers courses approved by the Institute of Inspection, Restoration and Cleaning Certification (IICRC), a standards-setting non-profit industry organization. Hands-on modules deliver invaluable instruction in fire and water damage mitigation, fire and smoke restoration, water damage restoration, structural cleanup, odour control, contents cleaning and contents restoration. Students – a diverse bunch hailing from private industry, regulatory groups, governmental organizations, Paul Davis franchises and more – learn from expert training staff with decades of experience, including two of the fewer than two dozen IICRC-certified Applied Structural Drying instructors on the continent. 

The full-size, two-story “flood house” is a specially equipped 1,700 square-foot home built into the facility. Enabling real-life opportunities to practise technologies, equipment and methods, the home includes a bedroom, living room, kitchen, dining area, and bathroom. All feature furniture, appliances, different flooring types, decorations, wiring and electronics. Its spaces flood regularly and reset repeatedly for new students without sustaining major structural damage or requiring extensive repairs.

“Students learn how water affects different materials including carpet, drywall, wood and tile,” explains Leslie Anderson, Head of Training. “They understand how water flows through a house, how air travels through areas and within building structures like walls, how materials dry, where hidden moisture pockets occur. They develop excellent skills by taking real-time moisture readings, building containment structures and much more. There’s no substitute for this type of realistic, hands-on practice.”

Education at the Training Facility extends far beyond this state-of-the art practice area. For example, students practise using the Complete Contents Program, a software platform which enables teams at disaster sites to create a systematic contents claim service: cataloguing and tracking all damaged items. Based on studies that many people learn best visually, the Training Center features two large theaters boasting innovative theater systems. Participants acquire critical skills like estimating and communication, which are key to compassionately and accurately assisting disaster victims.

Students acquire much more than IICRC certification in diverse mitigation and restoration types. They also build relationships with Paul Davis specialists who assist with challenging situations in the field. 

“It’s not at all unusual for our instructors to get calls late at night from teams confronting a difficult fire or water loss,” says Sonny Bass, Technical Director at Paul Davis, “and we’ll do virtual walk-throughs with them on the spot to talk about techniques and approaches. Thanks to their training, however, we find they often know exactly what to do.