Hurricane Preparedness: Documenting Structural Conditions – Chris Matthews and Vincent Decicco
In this episode, Chris Matthews, President and Principal for GCI Consultants, speaks with Vincent Decicco, owner of Full Frame Virtual Reality. They discuss hurricane preparedness, documentation of structure conditions prior to an event, and what people can do as policyholders to protect themselves and document their structures and their possessions.
About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.
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Chris: Welcome, everyone, to our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Chris Matthews, president and principal for GCI Consultants, and I will be hosting today’s podcast. I’m excited today to have as our guest, owner Vincent Decicco of Full Frame Virtual Reality. He’s going to talk to us about hurricane preparedness, documentation of structure conditions prior to an event, and what people can do as policyholders to protect themselves and document their structures and their possessions. So, welcome, Vincent. You want to tell us a little bit about your background, and we’ll get right into today’s topic?
Vincent: Wow, what a great intro. Thank you so much, Chris. And thank you, listeners. Thank you for having me on the podcast and putting up with some shenanigans. My longwinded sentences. And sure, I’d love to tell you a little bit more about me. The business that we’re talking about today was created in 2020, Full Frame Virtual Reality. And I’ve been in the business since…in this particular industry, the property loss industry, since 2015, is when I was originally introduced to it, and I’ve never left. There’s a lot of pros and cons to it, as I’m sure you’re very, very well aware of, Chris.
So, I started Full Frame Virtual Reality back in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 scare. The market was changing dramatically. You know, at the time, I was working for attorneys down in South Florida, and identified with the Matterport Pro2. I’m sure that a lot of folks that are actually listening to this podcast can relate to this, and how useful a tool it is. Not that I’m promoting Matterport at all, but it’s a useful tool. And jumped out to apply my learnings and my ability to market with people within the industry, water loss mitigators, and roofers, and, you know, just about everybody that was out there, and started this business. And here we are today. We like to simplify it, so it’s DBA, FFVR, for Full Frame Virtual Reality.
Chris: And you were telling me before we started recording a little bit about what you do with the Matterport, what, kind of, your process is. So, you wanna just kind of take us through that, as to what services you offer, and how that can help the policyholder in the event of a storm?
Vincent: I love it. I love it. And thank you so much, Chris. So, this was founded on…so, the services that we’re extending out to clients now, really founded on after Hurricane Ida, what we were learning during Hurricane Ida. So, me and my ragtag group of service providers went out to help with the hurricane, and we got there a little bit late. We actually got there…let’s see. We actually were in Louisiana in October last year. October, November. And what we discovered is probably relatable to every single hurricane, is there are people that have already gone through some really terrible times. Right? The hurricane hits, and they go through…
Vincent: …that very, very incredibly slow process. Not to badmouth insurance carriers, but there’s no way for an insurance carrier to have the staffing required for an after-hurricane event. If they were to keep that much staff on hand constantly, premiums would have to go through the roof. There’s just no way to be a profitable company, right? So everybody winds up waiting. So, while we were out there, and we were helping out folks in the industry, and direct to clients as well, we formulated this process that if people were just aware enough to understand that there’s this massive gap…it’s a huge gap. There’s a massive gap between securing a policy, and then, in the event of a hurricane or a major disaster, they can actually be a part of fixing this enormous gap. I wish the insurance carriers did it a little bit better. But unfortunately, it kind of falls on the steps of the policyholder.
If you do some really super simple things… You guys, if there’s policyholders out there listening to this conversation… By the way, I actually push your podcasts. They’re the best. But it’s real simple. There are core components to getting a claim done properly. And our offering is based on very four simple kind of pillars of interaction. One is to get proof of value at the time. The time is before the damage, that you’ve maintained your home, that your seals weren’t busted on your windows, that your door frames were square, all of the visual stuff that every adjuster, whether public or independent, is looking for. Looking for traits of what was going on prior to the storm. But the Matterport [inaudible 00:05:11] supports what the value was, what the upkeep was on the property that was insured. So, that’s number one.
Number two is an accurate floor plan. I don’t know of any adjuster that’s ever come out to a house, especially after a hurricane, that does not have to spend time with accurate measurements. And it’s all in the details. So, having a pre-populated, accurate floor plan for that adjuster, it’s ideal. You’re literally helping him do his job and get right measurements. Because you and I both know, a half inch off on a sketch, going through Xactimate can mean thousands of dollars that nobody picks up on. Right?
Vincent: Continuous flooring and…
Vincent: …that sort of thing. So, we also do a 28-point inspection, that reinforces what you can’t touch on the Matterport. It reinforces that yes, we did confirm that the seals are, they’re still pliable, that the silicone seals on the doors and the windows…that the energy efficiency of the home is where it should be. And that’s a 28-point inspection that we do. We do a light roof inspection. We don’t do the full roof inspection, but we do do a light roof inspection, to just validate the state of the tiles, or whatever the roofing happens to be [inaudible 00:06:31] to maintain condition. Super important. And we take all of that, and we keep it on the cloud, including a copy of the policy. So that in the event there’s a hurricane, it’s one call or one email to my company, and it makes all of that information available to the carrier, to the attorney, even to the adjusters, or the water restoration guys. Everybody and anybody that they want to authorize to have that information, we send it right over to ’em.
Chris: Perfect. And the idea is that you guys are creating that baseline that’s always difficult to recreate after an event.
Chris: You know, what were those conditions prior to the storm? And we see that on our end all the time, because we’re out there doing the detailed inspections of windows, doors, exterior walls, roofs after an event, and documenting those conditions then. But there can be arguments, as you well know, about, well, which of this was pre-existing damage? Which of this resulted from the storm? So this is…the policyholder should be aware that if there is a very well-documented baseline, a lot of these arguments that can come up are taken care of before the process even starts.
Vincent: Exactly. And to a lesser degree. So, what I feel really good about is there is some discrepancy. And I know…if I don’t know anything, I know this fact. I don’t know nothing. Right? Honestly, you spent years in college, and you’re an engineer. Like, that’s a big title for me. So you really understand the mechanisms behind deterioration, or…hopefully this will be a different conversation. Why do we have so many sinkholes in Florida? Like, that’s a ridiculous situation. But, yeah. So, the idea is that I don’t know if it’s gonna necessarily change the industry, what we’re presenting to the mass public. But I think it’s an opportunity to best foot forward. We’re not blaming the insurance carriers for doing X, Y, and Z. But now the policyholder has an opportunity to go in educated. To know what’s going on, go in educated, and be a part of the solution.
Chris: Exactly. And provide clarity for everybody as to, this is what it was before, and the adjuster, or if it’s necessary, someone like us is coming in and saying, you know, this is…these are the conditions afterward. So it makes it a lot more of an exact process, I think, if there is that baseline to compare things to. So, if you’ve come in and done your work, you have the information stored on the cloud, what do you recommend to the policyholder if there has been an event? If they have damage to their home or their property, what do they do at that point?
Vincent: Well, great questions. Thank you, Chris. So, because you and I are old hands at this, there’s a few things you wanna do. One thing you wanna do for sure is to contact your carrier. And I’m sure they’re aware that there’s been a hurricane, but you want to contact your carrier and let them know that there’s damage, and you’re requesting an adjuster to come out and evaluate. Right? So, that’s absolutely prime number one. The other thing that everyone should be aware of, and I’m sure that they are, is the timeline.
If we’re focused on Florida…my company right now only covers Florida. We can get out to clients within 48 hours, if it’s needed. Within 48 hours, I should say. But keep an eye on the timeline, because mold literally sets in, you know, within 24, 48 hours. After the AC goes out, literally, we’re living in a wet box. So be particularly careful of your timelines. And if you’re a client of ours, I would strongly recommend you, as soon as you call your insurance carrier, call us next. Make sure that the information is ready to go, pass on the contact information for the carrier, who your assigned adjuster is, and we’ll make sure that they have information before they even get to your home.
Chris: So, do you interact directly then with their insurance company, or is that one of the services that you provide, or is it just providing the baseline data, and they take it from there? What’s kind of…what’s your normal process there?
Vincent: I love it. I love it. So, because this is a new service, this is a new process, we haven’t seen the end results of the outcome. Here’s what I can tell you. We are not having the client sign an AOB. This is a pre-existing service that was extended to a policyholder. So we’re not acting on an AOB. We’re not acting in any direction, except we have the information available for the client. So, ideally, what will happen is we will just package that up and send it via email and/or text message, however it needs to be delivered. We’re not that client’s public adjuster. That’s a different contract entirely. They don’t…
Chris: Right. Okay, [crosstalk 00:11:45]
Vincent: …have to take that route, if that makes any sense. Mm-hmm.
Chris: Yep. Got it, got it. Just wanted to be clear on that. So, you talk some about being up in Louisiana after Ida. So, there was something that was kind of interesting to me in the notes we had from you, is that you were talking about some settlement issues, some foundation settlement issues with the hurricane, which is kind of out of our area of expertise. You know, we’re focused more…
Chris: …on the vertical sections above ground. But what were some of what you were seeing as far as that foundation settlement issue?
Vincent: So, thank you for opening that up, Chris. Totally want to pick your brain. Florida is built on sand. It just is. Right? So, I was born in Florida. I didn’t ask to be born in Florida. It is my environment. But in Louisiana, they got nothing but mud over there, those poor people. If anybody is from Louisiana that’s hearing this, I apologize, but I also love your mud. So, let’s put that there. So, it was like the emperor’s new clothes. Like, no… I kept seeing the same things repeatedly in house over house over house over house that I was called into to help with.
Number one, the foundations for the majority of the homes were cockeyed. Everything’s built on stilts. Everything, at least that I touch, everything was built on stilts because of the “mud.” But it seemed like adjusters were going the other way. They were not considering that the house is literally…you could put a marble in the kitchen, and it would wind up in the living room. And in Florida, you know, we have concrete foundations. I totally didn’t understand why people were overlooking that. And I couldn’t imagine how an engineer would prescribe how to fix that situation. It was just crazy. And it was the majority of the homes that I did.
And what was incredibly noticeable was the door frames went from rectangular to kind of a diamond shape, where doors wouldn’t even open anymore, front doors wouldn’t open. So that was, like, a big, continuous thing that was going on out there. The other thing…and not to jump around too much, but the other thing was brick work. Both the foundational brickwork and the facade brick work was a mess. And I’m assuming that’s because, you know, everything was shifting at that particular time. But, yeah. So that was…that’s why that was actually in the notes. Like, what’s up with foundations in Louisiana? And what do you do with that?
Chris: Yeah. And we saw that too. We inspected a lot of houses in the Lake Charles, Louisiana area, and saw similar things to… Now, we were focused on the windows there, so it was kind of beyond our scope. But certainly, anecdotally, we saw the same types of things you were seeing, with the brick, and the door openings, and foundation-related issues. At this point, I’m not sure how those are being resolved, but that’s what caught my interest in your notes, is that we were seeing those same kind of things, especially in certain areas, certain types of construction, those kinds of things where we were really seeing a lot of that, floors out of level, door openings that were no longer plumb and square, those kinds of things.
So, yeah, I think that’s something we’re both kind of interested in. What’s the outcome of that? And you had mentioned, too, ceiling and wall molding issues. We saw a lot of that same kind of thing. It makes it clear that there’s been an issue with the foundation. But, like I say, that was kind of beyond our scope. So I’m interested to see what the outcome is on some of that. And I don’t think those are things that are easily remedied either. Right? I mean, to correct those kinds of things, you’re usually talking about pilings, some other core drilling issues to get down to solid ground, and re-level that foundation. So, yeah. Not easy things. It’s not easy replacing windows and doors either, but getting into that foundation is a lot…is a big thing, I’m sure.
Vincent: So, I lost two pair of shoes in the Mississippi mud. I kid you not. I lost two pair of shoes. And literally, they were pulled off my feet. So, the first pair that I came up there with, regular lace-up shoes, I lost them. I had to pull them out three times in order for me to go across a yard. And then I got a pair of boots with, you know, a little bit taller, a little bit longer laces. But yeah, that mud is still amazing to me. I have nightmares about the mud in Louisiana.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah, it’s definitely different. Definitely different. Lots of different issues, lots of different construction types, lots of different damage types. You know, it’s interesting to us. You know, we’ve been to hurricanes after…you know, after hurricanes in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and the effects of the storm, based upon the type of construction, as you were talking about, the kinds of foundation, the types of building materials, there could be lots of different things going on, depending upon where you are, how long the storm was affecting the area, whether there’s a lot of storm surge involved. All these different things can really have a big effect, based upon our experience…
Chris: ….through the years and going in after these things. But really, I think it’s a great track that you’re on with building this baseline information. And we at GCI have talked about that a lot. Even in the larger commercial buildings and large multifamily residential buildings, it would be really worthwhile for everyone to have that baseline information. Because hey, let’s be honest, some people don’t take care of their property. Right? Some people don’t do their…
Chris: …maintenance. Some people, it may have had some pretty severe problems before the storm. But it shouldn’t be assumed of everybody. And somebody who is doing all that work would definitely benefit from having that baseline, to show that things were in good shape before the storm affected it. So I think it’s a really needed service in the industry. Like you said, will it change the industry or not? I don’t know. But I think it’s the way things should go, in my opinion, from our end.
Vincent: Well, thank you for that point of validation, Chris. Because educating so far has been a, it’s been a challenge. It’s been a challenge [crosstalk 00:18:14] So, what we’re currently trying to do to kind of educate the policyholders is we’re throwing little, like, lunch and learns right now in Central Florida, throwing lunch and learns, [inaudible 00:18:26] to help sponsor it, and we’ll also get insurance brokers to come in, and they certainly, you know, give their 10-minute speech about what they service and offer. But it’s all about educating policyholders. We’re all policyholders. You can’t be in this society and not have an insurance on your car. We do nothing for cars, but on your car, your home, your health. Right? So, that’s just kind of how it goes.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Good stuff. Well, that’s great. And it is. It’s all about people who have not been through the experience, right? They need to understand what the process is going to be. And if you haven’t been through it, it’s different than what you experience in your everyday life. So that’s where it starts, I think, with education.
Vincent: Yeah. Well, I don’t know how process of the podcasting does, or how it actually functions, I should say. But I would love to get feedback to any professionals in the industry that can either, say, maybe give some good pointers, or think that it’s a good, valid thing. Or, the other way around. Like, it may be a waste of time, or there’s a different road to go down. But I’m trying to push for more connections, but any feedback at this point, because it is difficult. It’s difficult trying to change or introduce something that’s fairly new into the industry, and love to know, you know, from other people. Ideally, I try to keep this whole thing neutral. It can serve everyone, everyone that has to touch a policy.
Chris: Exactly, right. Right, right, right. Yeah. And we will…you know, sometimes we do get feedback on our podcast, and we do get some responses and that kind of thing. And we’ll certainly share those and invite everyone. You know, as Vincent said, this is a new service offering that he’s putting out to market, and feedback on the value of that, how that’s presented, everything else, I think, would be great for him to hear, and great for all of us in the industry. As you said, in my mind, as a neutral baseline of what the conditions were. I think that is…to me, it’s a great service, and we’d all love to hear any feedback from any of our listeners. I thank you very much for joining us today, Vincent. And again, what’s your website, if anyone wants to get more information about your services and your educational events, etc.?
Vincent: Oh, I love it. So, we do list all of our lunch and learns on our website. Our website has been simplified. It’s ffvr.org. F-F-V-R.org. Or you can go to the old one, which is fullframevirtualreality.org. Go ahead and go with the first. You can also reach me directly by phone, 954-849-2052. I certainly take text messages or calls, and happy to talk to anyone, from policyholder to other professionals in the industry.
Chris: Great. All right. Well, thank you again for joining us today. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in. We also invite you to take a further look at our services, at gciconsultants.com, or you can reach us at 877-740-9990 to discuss any of your building envelope needs. Thank you again, and I look forward to talking with you the next time on our “Everything Building Envelope” podcast.