On the morning of Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, Will Wright, CEO, Peerless Events and Tents, Austin, Texas, received the call that no rental operator wants to get. Fire had broken out at the company’s 50,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in Dallas.
“The worst-case scenario played out,” Wright says. “It was an electrical fire that started near the tent cleaning solution. Right above that were our plastic resin chairs. When those caught fire, it was like a tire fire, creating a thick, black smoke that got incredibly hot — so hot that it put a hole in the roof and bent a support beam. The sprinklers put the fire out quickly, but it was so hot when it made contact with the sprinkler heads that moisture was created. Black soot from the resin chairs painted all over our equipment.”
That situation created multiple challenges to deal with, including:
A place to operate. “Our business interruption coverage wasn’t enough to cover the lease of another building. We have since rectified that. We operated out of our existing property, putting up our tents in our parking lot,” Wright says.
Going through all the inventory. “We had to go through everything to identify what was salvageable and what was not,” he says.
Working with the restoration company. “The restoration company we used worked with several different entities to clean linens, dishes or tabletops off-site. It was an incredibly large feat just keeping track of where everything was, overseeing quality control and managing all that while it was coming in and out of our warehouse,” Wright says.
Continuing operations. “We never shut down and never missed a beat with any of our deliveries or commitments to our clients. We are very proud of that and couldn’t have done it without leaning on our other three facilities. It cost us more from an operations standpoint, but we didn’t lose any credibility or inbound calls,” he says.
Controlling public perception. “Communicating that we were still operating was key. We set up a mobile work site and hot spots for our sales team and operations. We used one of our tents — built it on site and installed hard walls and HVAC in it and brought in a comfort station so we could continue operating out of that facility while we also were project managing the restoration effort,” Wright says.
While the new warehouse was up and operational by September, Wright has still been working on other aspects related to the fire, including paperwork. “That has been a longer battle,” he says.