I have just had the opportunity to live through a significant fire situation with many lessons for small businesses. Let me start at the beginning. I smelled the odor of burning somewhere in the building. First, I checked all the locations in my place that could have been sources. Then I went to my neighbors to find the source…nothing there. Then I contacted the property manager who was in my place within minutes along with a security person and a hand full of keys. As we continued to search areas in the building, the security person used various keys to open locked doors. On a few occasions he had to return to a central location to get more keys. This was time consuming and a lesson for where the keys were kept.
On opening one door we found the place filled with black smoke. We closed the door, asked the security person to call 911 who did not answer immediately. The property manager manually pulled the fire alarm that went directly to the fire department and alerted building occupants to leave the building immediately. The fire department responded within 10 minutes and we were able to direct them to the fire source, which they confirmed using the fire security system in the building. They opened the door with oxygen masks on and a large fire hose. The black smoke drove me away from the immediate scene, joining other observers. We could see water was pouring out of the source location. At its height there were more than eight fire trucks and over 40 fire professionals present. . All occupants were escorted by firemen out of the building. There were some that did not leave when the alarm was sounded. Here is another lesson.
The fire was located in the walls of a unit, where a plumber had been working with solder earlier in the day. Power to the building had to be turned off, as four units were impacted by the fire and multiple others by smoke and/or water damage. Another lesson here.
When under control fire personnel escorted occupants back to their units to retrieve necessary items as the building was closed and anticipated occupancy was 30-90 days later. The property manager did a superb job driving the processes necessary to allow partial occupancy within about one week. Yet another lesson here for everyone.
As I write this article my insurance carrier is engaged and has provided assurances, advice the help. I just received a message that power has been restored to my unit and I can now have the restoration organization begin their work. More lessons here.
I should be back in the unit within a few days.
How would your business survive a situation like this?
Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor
Visit us at: www.scoresouthflorida.net