What to Do When Disaster Strikes Your Warehouse

Javier Ramirez
October 13, 2017

Recent headlines about hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes . . . even fires show how vulnerable we are. The photos of people’s homes destroyed. It’s devastating. But the impact on the business community—something not often covered on the nightly news—has far-reaching implications.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of businesses suffering a disaster never reopen. That is a chilling statistic. So what’s a business to do?

The obvious answer is preparation. Have a plan in place. Many organizations offer information on preparing for disasters. However, there isn’t much information about what to do after a disaster strikes as it relates to warehouses or distribution centers. The speed at which a company acts is critical in its overall success. Here are several key items to consider.

Inspecting/assessing the damage

It is, or should be, a given that your facility is structurally sound prior to restarting operations. Checking for damage from floor to roof is essential for getting approval from the local building inspectors. But structural assessment involves more than the building. You need to check the structural integrity of your racks too. Racks are no different from the building or other pieces of equipment. Wind, water and fire all have negative effect on your rack systems. Much of the damage is not visible to the eye and requires careful inspection. There is no benefit in starting work after a disaster only to close down again because your rack system “looked” sound, when it really was another disaster waiting to happen.

If there is damage to the rack system, you need to move quickly. There are several options to consider. The first is removing equipment damaged beyond repair. It’s not as if companies can put their ruined racks on the curb so the weekly trash collection can take it away. No, this process requires special skills. Each piece requires care in dismantling and disposal. Next, salvageable equipment must be repaired or replaced. Again, repair tends to be less expensive than replacement. This is only true when qualified professionals complete repairs.

Your equipment options

Purchasing or leasing new equipment is a possibility, although this comes with certain challenges. Cost is always one challenge. Most companies do not have a “disaster” budget, so funds must come from another part of the budget.

Another challenge may result depending on how widespread the disaster is. Larger events could create competition (and skyrocketing prices) between companies looking for the same equipment. Delivery of new equipment from rack manufacturers could go from a few days to more than several months. Smart companies can get around that bottleneck by investing in high-quality used equipment. This equipment is ready to go and ready for delivery.

OK. Your building is safe for use and the racks are in good working order. What about equipment such as forklifts? These are extremely durable pieces of equipment. But have you ever tried starting a forklift after it’s been under six feet of sewer water? How will you ship product if your forklift fleet won’t cooperate?

Purchasing new forklifts is an option. Will if fit in your company’s budget? Only you know that. There are other alternatives. You could invest in good-quality used lift equipment. You could also lease/rent forklifts. This is an excellent alternative. It allows you to get back to business quickly without the large investment required to purchase. Many companies go the extra mile to help customers during a disaster, including East Coast Storage Equipment.

Relocation

There are other times when all the planning and preparation in the world work. Suppose the disaster leaves a large portion of your facility in shambles. Maybe your facility is all right, but the infrastructure surrounding it will take months to repair. Both scenarios point to frustration and delays. Relocation may be a viable option. Finding a comparable facility may take some effort, but once you do, you will need to get your working equipment to that location.

It isn’t a matter of backing a truck to the old loading dock, putting the equipment in and unloading it at the new facility. You must determine what equipment is salvageable. You also need it dismantled and packed in an orderly manner so no delays happen when you’re ready to assemble in the new building. You need a team able to handle this quickly and efficiently.

Plan, partner and protect your warehouse

It’s important to plan for the worst. We hope those plans are never needed. But if disaster does strike, you need a team of professionals who will speed the recovery. Give us a call today and learn how we can help you plan, then respond. Our disaster response services include engineering, forklift rentals, relocation, equipment salvage/repair and more.

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