Operating After the Fire

Operating After the Fire

By now I’m sure you have heard that the two buildings housing the Office of the Bishop, The Foundation, and River City Food Bank were severely damaged by a four-alarm fire on October 21. One building is expected to be a total loss and the other building was severely damaged by fire and smoke. We will not be able to reoccupy these buildings any time soon, or possibly ever.

This was a catastrophic event that stopped us dead in our tracks for a few days and continues to hamper operations. It was time consuming and painful to walk through what remains of our buildings and identify what we most needed to be saved. Much of it was considered a total loss because it was literally incinerated. Other items were considered lost because the cost of restoration seemed prohibitive to the insurance adjuster and the fire restoration company. In some cases we intervened in these decisions as certain files were so valuable to us that we have requested procedures be applied to save them. Our files, books, fine arts, and furniture are now in a warehouse to be treated in various ways in the hopes that we can receive them into our new offices once they are identified.

We were helped to regain operating capacity soon after the fire due to measures taken long ago to protect ourselves against such an event. One of these measures was to set up off-site backup of electronic data at a remote location. Because of our size we contract with a local information technology administrator (GNT Solutions) to manage our network. Thanks to them our e-mail was up and running the next day and they downloaded the contents of our server after about 24 hours. Getting access to this network was a little more complicated and it took almost a week to get everyone set up on a virtual private network allowing us to more fully continue our operations.

We were very fortunate that by the end of the day October 22 Cassie Bangerter had connected us with one of her other non-profit clients who had available office space. They were thrilled to rent several cubicles to us on a month-to-month basis for up to six months. This emergency office space has been a God-send, enabling us to run a more efficient operation by providing greater proximity to each other.

Establishing a phone system in this temporary space has been more of a challenge. Because of our size we had a T-1 line providing both data and voice services to our offices. It takes a minimum of 30 – 45 days to move a T-1 and the cost is about $1,000. This is clearly not a good option. We have eliminated other work-around possibilities and are now looking at analog lines so staff do not exceed minutes on their personal cell phones. We hope to have a viable solution in place in a little over a week. It won’t be perfect but it will get us by. Our service provider did set us up with a general voice mail box attached to our main line so we can get messages and return these calls.

I have to say I’m learning a lot. I have new ideas about how we might improve our IT system going forward so our operations will be more seamless in the event of a future interruption. A week without our electronic files was hard to bear especially with convention on the horizon. I’m learning a lot about how insurance works. So far we are very happy with the response from Church Insurance Company and I look forward to reporting more about our outcomes at the Congregational Leadership Conference. I’ve learned that a fireproof file cabinet is certainly better than nothing but the protection only goes so far. I intend to look more seriously at a paperless office. I’ve always assumed this to be too costly but have a new perspective today.

All in all, I think we had good systems in place and staff are doing a great job of getting back on their feet. It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t easy, and I hope you all can be patient with us for the next few months. We will continue to do our best to serve your needs.

For more information on the fire, and continued details about our progress in recovery, please visit the Fire Newscenter

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Harry Allagree+ wrote:
Sorry you all had to go through this, but sounds as though you're handling it well. Know that my daily prayers are with each one of you. Peace.

Fri, November 5, 2010 @ 8:01 PM

2. Theresa Lee - St Lukes Woodland wrote:
Anything I can do, please let me know. I have had nothing but support from all of you and would like to help in any way if I can.

Tue, November 9, 2010 @ 6:54 AM

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