If you haven’t seen the spectacular video footage of our flood here at OptimalHQ there is a link below. Watching it impartially now – it was impressive, the massive quantities of water, the ceiling tiles and light fittings falling, the team moving things out of harms way. At the time it was chaotic, I had no sense of time, we couldn’t stop or control the water and to top it all off I was soaking wet and quite probably in shock.

As a learning exercise this event has been  invaluable. The flood itself, while an inconvenience, didn’t cause the extensive damage it could have done (which we were told by every new trades person or insurance assessor who visited) so has given us a chance to consider disaster scenarios with minimal physical impact. Most importantly nobody was injured. Next most importantly we continued to operate with the team up and running within an hour and the training course we were running at the time was also back up and running within an hour.

What we have learned about water damage:

  • It smells – and the smell lingers for days and days. We all have so much sympathy for anyone who has experienced a flood, especially those in Samoa and Queensland experiencing flooding in their homes right now. It’s not pleasant. As one of the team mentioned it smells like “mice”.
  • Water travels – it went through our cabinets, all over the floor, down the stairwell into the floor below – and if the Air conditioning guys hadn’t been on the roof at the time or it had been after hours I imagine every floor in our building would have had extensive water damage as well.
  • It takes a long time to dry out. We had blowers and dehumidifiers here for a week to dry both the carpet and inside the walls. So it sounded like working in a jetplane for much of the time. (wee plug for Harbour City ChemDry, Torren and Dale were awesome).

What we learned about minimising business interruption:

  • You can’t plan enough. We hadn’t envisaged this scenario when developing our Business Continuity Plan (BCP) but it was totally relevant. We realise now our BCP is a little lacking having experienced an actual event but having spent some time planning for any event (we had been thinking Earthquake as you can well imagine) made a massive difference to the reactions and actions of the team. For Example – Turning the power off, having torches, having phone numbers for building managers and airconditioning people in our phones all resulted in both preventing injuries and reducing the impact of the water.
  • Using Software as a Service (SaaS) Applications and Cloud based storage meant no down time. Our team who were in the office picked up their laptops and moved to customer sites. Luckily those laptops weren’t damaged, had they been we have PC’s at some customer sites where key people could have been working while we sourced replacement laptops – so there may have been a short interuption for some staff in that scenario. Upshot is being able to work from anywhere is a huge factor in business continuity planning.
  • Insurance is good. Our claim was surprisingly small, limited to a few external hard drives, many books (sadly “what’s the difference between God and Larry Ellison” was a major casualty), manuals and course materials. The good part however was our insurance company deals with the landlords insurance company and everything has been fixed (immediately fixed up) and we haven’t been out of pocket at all.
    • Note we have revisited the level of our contents cover – realising had this happened to our fancy new kitchen we might have been a tad under insured, as we grow we will do this on a more regular basis
    • we don’t hold business interruption insurance – it’s expensive and in this instance we wouldn’t have made a claim

What I learned about People:

  • Our staff were fantastic. Bronnie and I spent 1 week working on the flood event and doing our day jobs from the smelly noisy office. Everyone else was amazing, they came and checked in on us, helped us move things around, move things back once the carpet and our brand new life chairs had dried out, came and had coffees with us to provide moral support – we are very very lucky to have such a supportive team.
  • For the most part our customers were fantastic. We had one customer offer us long term desks for working from their office and others sent supportive notes or left supportive phone messages. Conversely others just said nothing and didn’t ask how it’s going.
  •  Human nature is interesting. We had external visitors in the office, one of whom filmed the water (see link below) and sent it to the media. Others helped us with the initial panic moving of equipment so it wasn’t a casualty of the water, others watched. The comment above about some of our customers – all of whom were advised of what we were dealing with – not acknowledging our plight did surprise me a little as well.
    • I guess if you have been through any kind of disaster your level of empathy and support is greater?
    • I also wonder whether this is a nature / nurture thing. Some people are naturally programmed to pitch in and help in any situation, offer their assistance and support without hesitation.

Footnote lessons:

  • Throughout the immediate aftermath we had many many people here – trades people, insurance people, landlords people etc – all of whom commented to both Bronnie and I how surprisingly chipper and calm we were being. I wasn’t feeling calm (people can confirm that one) but there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent this and once it had happened there was nothing we could do about it.
    • We really believe that our not losing it, offering drinks and biscuits, being supportive of what the tradies were here to do really really helped them focus and get us back onto our floor within the week.
  •  Key lesson for me was knowing exactly who was here on the floor was very important. We have our staff update their daily plans on Yammer both so we’re communicating who’s where and doing what but now so I know where everyone is everyday – just in case something else happens.
  • Have a full fridge at all times, other supplies are important and sensible for other kinds of disasters, but in our case beer and Gatorade were very handy to have in a large supply. Thanks to Dan Lee I had a bottle of Champagne – it was fantastic at the end of an otherwise exhausting day!

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington-central/8180540/Burst-air-con-pipe-caught-on-camera

I do hope some of the lessons are helpful. Feel free to contact me if you have other questions at all as well. Here’s to no disasters. Vic.