We are a restoration company, the professionals you call when your house has flooded, burned, filled with smoke or you find mold. We are the ones you call when you need help because some sort of disaster has happened in your home or place of business to provide relief and assistance, to answer your questions and help get things “back to normal.” We are the company that has a small army of individuals who are ready at a moment’s notice to arrive on scene and help in an emergency situation, so damage is lessened and property is saved. We are not the ones whose business is being flooded, but in the tail end of 2020 that is exactly what happened to the company who helps and saves and restores.
A fire hydrant located immediately behind our company’s warehouse where all our equipment and offices are located was hit by a vehicle right around noon on an otherwise quiet Tuesday. The force of the impact jarred the hydrant, causing it to break off from the water pipe. At that point, there was nothing to stop the water from escaping from the underground water pipe that serves the hydrant and water shot up from the exposed pipe like a geyser at a rate of approximately 6,000 gallons per minute. What goes up must come down, and down it came causing a small lake in the area behind our warehouse. There were three suites/warehouses immediately in the path of the water; SERVPRO of Vacaville/Fairfield/Dixon was lucky enough to occupy two of them.
Since all of our production crews were out on various jobs sites, the large slide up door we use to access the warehouse was closed and water almost immediately rose to approximately two feet on the outside of the door. But it didn’t stay outside very long. Within a matter of seconds, the water began to run under the door and into our warehouse - not slowly seep, but rather gush like a current running downstream. As luck would have it, the owner of our franchise was just returning to the office and could not help but notice the side of the parking lot resembled a small lake and could see water spewing up from the hydrant. He immediately informed the office staff of the situation, who went to work elevating and unplugging computers and electronic devices and quickly moving anything in our front offices that could potentially be damaged by water to higher ground.
The water quickly covered the entire floor of the warehouse, a 2,200 square foot area, which was filled with all of our restoration equipment, packing boxes and supplies and cleaning solutions. Ultimately, the fire department was able to turn off the water supply so the surge of water into the building stopped and power to the building was shut off.
With no production employees on hand at the time of the incident, our Production Manager immediately contacted our the Crew Chiefs and directed them to make their way back to the warehouse as soon as possible.
What happened next was an orchestrated and coordinated effort unlike any I had ever been a part of before. I should have remembered - this is what we do, this is what our crews are trained for - but in the severity of the situation and the shock of having just experienced such a massive and urgent water loss, I lost site of those facts for just a moment. I was immediately reminded of those truths however, because our crews wasted no time putting their skills to good use. After a quick coordination meeting, everyone had their assignments and went to work. There were two areas to tackle – the offices and the warehouse. Crews assigned to the warehouse started by squeegeeing the water off the floors. Next, they began moving all the equipment outside to a dry area or to the suite immediately across the parking lot, which we had quickly secured as an alternate storage area for our supplies and equipment. There were many cardboard boxes that were stored in the warehouse that were now soaked through, so some of our crews began transferring contents from those wet boxes to dry ones, making sure to only replace dry contents in the new boxes and label each box carefully.
At the same time that our warehouse was being dried and cleared out, another crew was fast at work in our front offices. First on the list was getting rid of the water on the floors that had pooled in the reception area, as well as in our two carpeted offices. This was accomplished through squeegees and extractors. Critical during this period is timing - you want to work quickly to extract the water to minimize the damage, all the while being extremely cautious because the water can cause the area to be extremely slippery and hazardous. Within a relatively short period of time, the bulk of the water was eradicated and the next step was elevating everything that was sitting directly on the floor so drying can begin. File cabinets and desks were lifted and furniture blocks were placed underneath to allow air flow and discourage mold from forming. Dehumidifiers were also placed throughout the offices to absorb moisture.
With the immediate threat to property relieved, and knowing that all our employees were safe, our thoughts turned to what any other business would logically be concerned with – “How do we open for business tomorrow?” Well, the business can’t run unless the office is working, so our focus then became getting the administrative portion of our business up and running. Our crews stepped up again, transferring everything we needed for our administrative staff to the suite next door including rewiring computers, transferring phones, moving files and carrying supplies.
You might think this story took place over the course of several days, or maybe even a week, but water started flowing into our warehouse as 11:50 a.m. and we closed our doors at 5 p.m. that same evening, knowing that we had a very messy and damp office to return to the next day, but also knowing that the phones would ring, the computers would turn on, and that the trucks would be dispatched to customer’s homes. And if it wasn’t obvious before, it became crystal clear that we have an amazing assembly of individuals who are our employees who came running when their own “house” was threatened, who worked tirelessly in water and mud to lessen the damage and restore their own workplace to how it had previously been.
What we also reminded was that EVERY COMPANY AND EVERY HOME needs an emergency plan. Everyone in your home and business needs to know where your emergency turn off valves and electrical panel is located and how to cut off power if needed. You also need to think out and write out exactly what needs to be done in the event of an emergency at your own home or business. Be specific. SERVPRO actually can provide this service for you free of charge. We can help you create your Emergency Ready Profile (ERP) which will minimize business interruption by having an immediate plan of action in case of an emergency, just like we experienced. We created an ERP for our own business, which was a great help determining what to do and who to call and provides solutions in advance of an emergency.
If you do experience any kind of loss, be sure to document that loss with plenty of pictures showing exactly what was damaged before you move or clean up anything.
And remember to stay calm, take a moment to think about what are the most important things to do with the time you have and then execute your plan safely and quickly.
Everyone will experience some sort of emergency at one time or another. No home, business or person is immune to it. But having superior employees who banded together to work quickly and expertly helped minimize damage at our own business, and I can say with confidence that we can help those in our community if they experience a similar situation.
Call us today and let us help you write your story.
SERVPRO of Vacaville/Fairfield/Dixon. Here to Help 24 hours a day 7 days a week. 707-724-8977.