“It was a little bit chaotic and stressful, as you can imagine, watching your building engulfed in flames with part of it burning to the ground.”
Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with UNICOM Engineering’s General Manager, Rusty Cone, to chat about a time before email and wide spread internet use and certainly before digital communication solutions like mass notification systems were used.
Take a look at our question and answer session below.
Pocketstop: Take us back to July 3, 1996. What happened?
Rusty Cone: It was at 5:47AM, I received a call from our security monitor. We had a fire alarm! I was surprised and said that was unusual, expecting just the security alarm would be the call. She said, No Rusty you have a fire! So, I got in the car and drove to work. There were no cell phones, no one to call on the way. I just had to get there.
PS: What happened when you arrived?
RC: Well, the fire department was on the scene making sure the fire wasn’t getting out of control. And then we watched. We watched the fire burn for about 5 hours! And I had to think quickly because any phone tree we may have had then or contingency plan was in the building. I had to start from scratch.
PS: How did you notify your employees about the fire? Were you able to let them know to stay home?
RC: We didn’t. We didn’t have a way. Everyone’s phone number was inside the building. We were starting work early that day, 6AM versus the normal 7AM, so people started arriving about the time the fire department showed up! It was a little bit chaotic and stressful, as you can imagine, watching your building engulfed in flames with part of it burning to the ground. We gathered the entire team that was there in the parking lot. Everyone had questions, we were trying to answer. We told people to go home and come back to work on Monday, but we will start at 8AM and hour later than normal. Many stayed to watch the fire department put out the fire.
PS: If you had had access to the RedFlag mass notification system, would it have been useful?
RC: Absolutely. Frist, RedFlag would have given us a very easy way to communicate to our employees. I still would have personally gone in to handle the fire as a manager, but I could have sent notifications to everyone from my house before I left. I had a long drive to work then and once I arrived there were going to be other things to worry about. Being able to send messages at my convenience so our employees would receive the news about the fire when they woke up would have been a huge help in keeping the scene clear.
PS: How else could have the RedFlag mass notification system helped you?
RC: Having RedFlag would have also given me access to my contact database. Not only could we have notified employees, but if we had it set up that way, I could have had access to our customer’s information as well as suppliers and partners. I could have made phone calls and sent notifications from the parking lot to our key stakeholders. Today, we keep our emergency action plans and business continuity plans on our company’s intranet which employees have access to. Being able to pre-load messages for these types of situations with links to critical information would also have been very helpful.
PS: What did you do, since you didn’t have access to your information?
RC: I stayed up all night and built a plan for getting the destroyed portions of our business back into commission. Luckily the fire didn’t get to the capital intensive part of the facility nor our shipping area, so we actually were able to ship products later that afternoon. We did a pretty good job handling the situation with the tools we had at the time, but it was all done face to face in meetings hourly to work all the actions we had developed to return the business to at least producing come that Monday. But having a communication solution like RedFlag would definitely have been beneficial for more than one reason.
PS: Rusty, thanks for chatting with us today about this critical situation you experienced in the past.
RC: My pleasure. One final note, our success that day, and today if a fire happened again, depends on how much preparation we do for these contingencies. Simply having RedFlag would not have been enough. But having the mass notification system set up with specific groups and notifications for a fire or flood, or whatever the situation may be, is really the key to coming out of a critical situation with your reputation, processes and brand still intact. As we used to say in the Navy, prior planning prevents piss poor performance! And RedFlag is an excellent tool to help any business be prepared for the worst.
For more information about the RedFlag mass notification system or Pocketstop’s other operational or marketing communication solutions give us a call today at 877-840-2444 or go to www.pocketstop.com to live chat with us today.