By law the Florida Department Of Agriculture & Consumer Services (DACS) requires a pest control company to hold onto WDO (wood destroying organism reports) for 7 years after the inspection. So recently I decided to make some room in my attic and I unloaded a boat load of old reports. All were separated by year and then each month was bundled together with a now brittle or broken rubber band. Most stacks I gave nothing but a quick glance and into the doubled plastic trash bag they went. One stack however, made me pause. This heap of reports was separated from the rest. Though faded, each had its own file cover and was filled with notes, letters and pictures as well as old buried fears and emotions. As I sat sweating in the hot attic this ancient pile brought back reams of memories and took me quite awhile to go through as I examined each piece of paper one by one.
Of course I found the old report where I was successfully sued but thankfully, writing about it here in my blog and including that story in my new book, I can honestly say I had no ill emotions come up as I perused the old case. I guess you could say that kind of cleansed my soul a bit. (and my wallet) But others I had completely forgotten about and I was amazed at the frivolous things people had complaints about. I found the one where a man threatened fire and brimstone because my finger poked through some bubbled paint exposing termites. One where 5 years AFTER my inspection of a home that I FOUND TERMITES and recommended treatment from the company that it was ALREADY under contract with and so many just like it. But one report caught my eye and I took note because it wasn’t one I put together. It was from DACS.
The report in question I remember quite well but I will admit, at the time I passed it off. You see at that time I was doing 50 or 60 wdos a month plus my regular route. I’d like to claim I do great inspections, I bet you do too. But I’m only sharing this because at that time I was doing so many (too many) that mistakes were bound to happen, rushed “look see’s” were oh so tempting and in all honesty– one can get a little cocky when all you have to do is fall over a log backwards and the phone rings with 5 new inspection requests.
This secret dossier (I call it secret) was dated for November 1999 and I remember feeling jilted when I received it in the mail. No one ever told me there was a problem, the customer never called me to complain and my DACS inspector didn’t contact me for any expounding views. The file was impressive (scary really) as it was obvious this was well investigated complete with pictures, graphs, interviews and correspondences. It seemed like everyone knew what was going on except me. The biggest reason I passed it off however was because of a final letter included in the report to the complainant. It basically stated that they could find no wrong doing and that the evidence presented could not have been expected to be visible at the time. (something to that effect) So I filed it away and now some 13 years later- I realized two things.
#1- I dodged a bullet because the letter also stated it was their right to seek more legal counsel on the matter. Since they already went to such trouble as to call the state behind my back it’s just fortunate the next letter wasn’t from their lawyer. #2- DACS is watching and their authority is something I (you) can’t take for granted.
From what I’m told, DACS can go ANYWHERE your little bug truck goes. Anytime they have good reason such as a complaint, tip or just in the natural course of an investigation or daily travel. There is no place sacred. They can stop you, inspect your truck, ask questions, perform chemical tests, take samples, write you up or even impound your vehicle if there are egregious enough violations. And (as I found out in 99) they don’t have to tell you what they’re doing at a place you’ve performed service or they can, eh em, request your presence and you are expected to be there. I’m sure the list is a bit longer than this but suffice to say, DACS is our Big Brother.
I guess now would be a good time to launch a tirade about the abuse of powers and the separation of pest and state (I made that up), but I can’t. To me, I see a great need for this type of service not only for the public but for us as an industry as well. It wasn’t to many years ago that Florida was rife with fly by night bug men who had little regulation and even less enforcement. The need for a governing body to reign this in was there & it was done with a lot of good leadership and thought. But even more importantly there has been no ‘heavy hand’ that swooped in with mindless bureaucracy and brute dictates. DACS has leaned heavily on the industry itself to help guide our own future and even police ourselves to some extent. Their inspectors teach at ceu’s and work shops and -dare I say? Look out for us when it’s pretty obvious we’re getting hosed.
I’m no fan of government per se because the saying “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” fits 99.9% of the time. But I will say that for our industry and my state of Florida, it’s good to have a Big Brother.
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