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Tent companies prepare for disaster response

Feature, Management | June 1, 2012 | By:

When disaster strikes, is your company ready to respond?

Natural disasters and emergencies demand immediate action. Among the first groups called to respond, tent rental companies install shelters and provide critical supplies within a few hours or days, often in devastated surroundings. While organizations differ in the scope of the resources they provide, most plan and prepare how they will respond to disasters and emergencies before they occur.

Mike Holland, president of Chattanooga Tent Co., Chattanooga, Tenn., and steering committee member for IFAI’s Tent Rental Division, says his company’s location enables it to respond quickly to disasters such as hurricanes on the Atlantic, Gulf and Florida coasts. “We have contracts with several customers who put us on notice when a disaster occurs. Frequently, we are expected to arrive at the site within 24 hours and have a base camp up and running within 72 hours after we’re contacted.” Base camps, which can house dozens, hundreds or thousands of relief workers and emergency employees for weeks or months, typically include tents for sleeping, dining, bathrooms, recreation, administration and medical care that are equipped with flooring, climate control and lighting.

Chattanooga Tent’s primary disaster response customers are companies that manage the base camps at disaster sites for government agencies and relief organizations. “Our contracts outline formal disaster response plans and specify details like pricing, timelines, mileage charges, manpower and inventory,” Holland says. “Many of these contracts stipulate that we put aside a small percentage of our inventory during key periods like hurricane season. We are in constant touch with these customers and know what is expected of us when disaster occurs.”

Global inventory

According to Dennis Remsberg, product manager of rapid deployment (RDS), Losberger US, Frederick, Md., the tent manufacturer provides disaster response products through its network of worldwide distributors and its dealer rental network in the U.S. The company manufactures a line of rapid deployable shelters and systems that workers can install in less than 15 minutes at disaster sites.

Remsberg says Losberger’s commitment to disaster response led to its recent decision to place a large number of rapid deployable shelters in inventory at central locations in the U.S. and Europe. “The company requires its U.S. dealers to purchase enough stock of rapid deployable shelters to meet the minimum requirements of the FEMA regional operations offices in their markets. This means that every dealer has enough shelters to respond to small, local disasters. For situations that are larger in scope, dealers can rent shelters from other dealers, then pull from Losberger’s larger inventory in the U.S. and, if necessary, from the stock in Europe.”

Strong alliances

Brian Jenkins, owner of Dallas Party Tent & Event, Arlington, Texas, says one of his company’s largest customers is a major disaster management company. “With locations in Houston, Dallas and Oklahoma, we are close to the scenes of many major hurricanes, tornados and hail storms and can quickly supply tents, tables and chairs for them. When hurricane season starts in May, we stock up on tents as well as the tent straps and aluminum poles needed to install them. During these busy months, we check our inventories daily to make sure we can cover our customers here and provide the needed supplies for disaster relief. It’s important to have solid working relationships with other tent rental companies and key vendors so we can get what we need in a hurry.”

National Response, Hollywood, Fla., which is operated by Classic Party Rentals, in conjunction with Prime Event Group and Classic Tents, responds to disasters on the national, regional and local levels and draws on resources from its national network of Classic Party Rentals locations when needed. Keith Krzeminski, director of business development, says that because the network has access to more than five million square feet of tenting, it does not set aside inventory for disaster response. “Our company’s disaster response plan and dedicated disaster support team help us service our existing contracts with private organizations and government agencies, and respond to requests from relief agencies, utility companies and refineries,” he says.

According to Krzeminski, the type of tents and equipment sent to a disaster site are often driven by what relief workers need. “Emergency crews battling wildwood fires typically want smaller, more mobile tents so they can move as necessary while base camps have larger structures and more amenities to support larger numbers of people for longer periods of time.”

Shortened response time

Jimmy Parks, national vice president of sales, Karl’s Event Services, Oak Creek, Wis., says the company’s locations in Texas and Florida are its primary points of contact for disaster response. “Each location is fully equipped with the inventory needed for day-to-day business and we store all shower and laundry trailers as well as any excess equipment for emergencies in Houston,” he says. “Preloading these locations is a key factor in getting staging sites up and running as soon as possible.”

Park adds that building partnerships with government agencies and disaster relief organizations today can create effective working relationships later. “There are year-round preparation meetings for internal and external teams and various assessment processes to ensure we are ready. Karl’s also has its own disaster relief team that works throughout the year on inventory, manpower needs and trucking for potential disasters.”

Holland believes disaster response organizations should rely more on the tent industry’s expertise. “We’re a ‘get-it-done’ industry and we know how to do the job right,” he says.

Suzanne Wilson is a freelance writer based in Bloomington, Minn.

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