Road closed sign

A Retailer’s Nightmare

After major flood destroys property, getting back to business is the top priority
Sunday, March 1, 2015

In April 2014, heavy rains, melting snow and ice jams in Atlantic Canada forced river waters to rise, submerging roads, filling basements and prompting hundreds to be evacuated from their homes and businesses. One large local retailer with 50,000 square feet of floor space, was left to cope with a foot of water.

The challenge
The floods took place on the Wednesday prior to the long Easter weekend, which was also the first long weekend coming into the spring retail season. The retailer was counting on spring shopping business through the weekend, both in their store and in the about-to-open Garden Center. It was critical to get the store cleaned, safe and open for customers in time for the weekend. Store management also needed to have the longer term, necessary rebuild done while not affecting ongoing business.

The solution
The day of the flood, the retailer brought FirstOnSite Restoration in to mitigate the damage as well as to get the store ready to open as soon as possible. While employees and crews were already busy mopping up water, work truly could only begin when the flood water receded the following day. Until they receded, FirstOnSite used the time to work with store management and plan their approach—sectioning off areas of the store, identifying priorities, challenges, needs, bringing in labour and equipment and readying themselves.

Fortunately, the retailer’s management team had been moving inventory from the floor levels to higher shelves before the evacuation order came in, so the merchandise was, for the most part, unharmed. FirstOnSite set up a Command Center in the heart of the store and managed activity, supplies, planning, administration, labour, and health & safety from there. Approximately 35 FirstOnSite staff went to work safely cleaning the hazardous sludge and silt from the floor and merchandising racks, along with more than a dozen of the retailer’s staff.

The results
With the planned approach and close communication with store management, crews completed the clean up near midnight on Good Friday, and the store was safe and ready to open for business Saturday morning.

The follow-up
Once the store was back in business, FirstOnSite worked with store management to handle the ongoing rebuild with the goal of minimal business interruption throughout. Once again, working closely with the retailer’s management team, a sectioning process was devised to enable work to continue while the store remained in operation. Of particular challenge in this location was the fact that the store had been built on and around earlier building envelopes, and in some cases walls were discovered to be 10 layers deep.

Each layer had to be stabilized, cleaned and restored: a process made more complicated by the 17 foot high shelving racks full of merchandise. Planning maps and schematics were developed to help manage the process as crews set up containment units around identified and sectioned areas. Sections were cleared and cleaned in a priority order determined by the retailer, one section at a time, oftentimes in separate phases within the sections themselves.

Local trades were employed throughout the process, and regular progress reports were conducted to ensure expectations were understood and met, and feedback gathered and addressed. Care was taken to minimize time and costs wherever possible: in conjunction with store management, wall areas that were not in public view were not top-coated, filler strips were utilized to rebuild shelving walls in lieu of removing entire rack systems full of merchandise—saving two days of labour per section, and cabinetry was rebuilt and repaired instead of costly replacement whenever possible.

The full restoration was concluded June 4th, less than seven weeks after the flood, and the retail store suffered only one and a half days of downtime after one of the worst regional floods in recent history. The work was also scrutinized by a third party environmental company who gave the work a clean bill of health.

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