The reality is, disaster, whether it be a storm, fire, flood, earthquake, health and safety issue or violent incident, can strike at any time, impacting business operations and bottom lines for days, weeks and even months. That’s why the idiom “better safe than sorry” is a good rule of thumb for independent retailers. “Facility restoration can be time consuming, depending on the severity of the situation, and the more time it takes to recover, the more it will impact daily operations and cost shopkeepers in business and maintenance fees,” stresses Greg Denning, president of All American Mechanical Contractors. Denning has handled disaster and emergency maintenance recovery for retailers and restaurants in Southern California for more than 25 years. Here are some suggestions he offers to independent retailers both to prepare to handle, and in the event of, disaster.
- Don’t wait for disaster to strike to research and build a relationship with an outside maintenance company. Very few retailers can handle emergency recovery on their own, and finding a company after an incident will cost you time and money in higher fees.
- Once you establish a preferred facility maintenance team, obtain a pre-approved list of emergency services and pricing from your maintenance company so that you can quickly work out cost before starting any restoration.
- Involve your maintenance company as soon as disaster strikes. Conduct a preliminary assessment of the damage and provide those details to them. This will help them execute cleanup faster by having the right crew and materials on stand by.
- Ensure the maintenance company you work with will prioritize your needs. In a situation where a disaster impacts a whole community, many maintenance companies focus on the larger businesses first, leaving small businesses waiting.
- Know where you can obtain generators, temporary lighting and other necessary supplies in a moment’s notice. Your maintenance company can help you obtain these materials.
- Once restoration has started, you may be able to reopen your facility in phases by directing the maintenance company to work from store front to back of the house. Any areas still being worked on can be blocked off. Temporary lighting and creative product displays will come in handy in directing customer attention away from any restoration still in progress.
- Use a maintenance company that prioritizes discreet service. Since you will have customers in your store during restoration, you will want to ensure that the maintenance technicians will blend in with professional, rather than industrial, looking uniforms and discreet trucks.
- Certain situations involving biohazards, such as sewage, mold and blood, will require specialized companies. Make sure your maintenance company partners with certified vendors that will quickly and properly handle these materials.
- Keep a record of your facility’s materials, fixtures and finishes. This will help the maintenance team speed up the process of material procurement and replacement.
In emergency recovery situations, the maintenance crew is a retailer’s strongest ally, Denning remarks. “Having the right maintenance company on call and ready to respond can be the difference between having your doors closed for 24 hours or for a month. Recovery has to be swift, or your customers might decide to change their shopping habits.”