Fire gave no warning but offered lessons

Posted by lantelligence on Mar 1, 2017

“That was a lifesaver, getting our computer system and payroll off site”

The phone at Jim McIngvale’s desk rang about 8:30 Thursday night with a frantic call from a manager telling him the warehouse behind Gallery Furniture’s I-45 store was ablaze. 

Within minutes, firefighters were telling McIngvale to evacuate the showroom, and for the next three hours he and his employees stood in the parking lot, watching the warehouse burn.
There, in the glow from the burning business he founded 28 years ago, McIngvale began formulating the plan for what to do next.

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“As far as this fire, it was just kind of a minute-by-minute reaction,” he told us later.

As Houston braces for the first hurricane season since Ike lambasted the area last year, many businesses are reassessing their disaster preparedness plans. The Gallery Furniture fire, though, is a reminder that they can’t pick their crisis.

McIngvale said Gallery had prepared well for Ike, with generators, food and water and even helmets for employees who stayed at the store through the storm. With a hurricane, disaster usually comes with a warning, giving businesses time to prepare.

He knew, of course, that furniture stores were vulnerable to fire. After flames destroyed a North Carolina furniture warehouse a few years ago, injuring six firefighters, he implemented a strict no-smoking policy in the warehouse, he said.

He also credits a decision, ahead of Ike, to back up Gallery’s computer records to a remote location with Fortitude Technology enabling him to resume business the morning after the fire. “That was a lifesaver, getting our computer system and payroll off site,” he said.

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Thus, Gallery could access its records from its Galleria-area store, even though power is still off at the I-45 location.

Gallery would have been shut down during the lucrative Memorial Day weekend had it not been for the second store, opened just two months ago after years of steadfastly sticking with the one location on I-45.

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Cheryl Bridges, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M, said small businesses often have an advantage over larger rivals in times of crisis: customer loyalty and even sympathy.
“If disaster strikes, you have much better chance of recovery,” Bridges said. “The sooner you can bounce back and take advantage of that momentum and support, that’s going to help.”

Bridges said Gallery, which is one of the center’s sponsors, also benefitted from being able to respond quickly. It shipped $150,000 worth of inventory the day after the fire and located new warehouse space, McIngvale said.

Even so, he said he’s learned that he wasn’t nearly as prepared for crisis as he thought.

“I never expected anything like this. I never expected the devastation,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to have rethink everything going forward.”

Natural disaster is something we tend to thing very little about and often are not being prepared. Yet, it takes very little effort to protect your busines from unexpected destruction. 

Watch THIS VIDEO to learn how Backup-as-a-Sevice and Disaster Recovery-on-Demand work. 

Tags: Business Continuity