Thursday morning just before I was ready to leave for work, the phone rang. It was Sherry, my secretary, telling me that there was a little problem with the roof of our building. It was sagging a little from the weight of the snow and employees were frightened of the possibility of it coming down. A decision had to be made on whether or not to evacuate and close the store.
I told her to give me five minutes and I would be there to assess the situation. We have had record amounts of heavy, wet snow so I was aware of possible problems with the roofs in the area. In fact, there had been men from my staff and men from the staff of the mall where we are located, on that roof every day for the past week, shoveling snow and freeing up frozen drains. We are located on the East end of the Mall; the winds blow from the West. Along with the large amounts of snow we were receiving, there were strong winds (up to 45 mph) blowing the snow from the rest of the Mall to our roof where it settled.
When I got to the store, I could see the fright and concern in the eyes of my staff, I could also see the physical evidence of what could turn into a very serious problem. Following emergency protocol specified by my company, I immediatley phoned my VP to report this and to ask for permission to close the business. At the same time, I was thinking of calling the Fire Dept to come in and check it out for me. Someone else was thinking the same thing and made that call instead.
In a few minutes , the Fire Chief, his crew and the City Building Inspector were there, doing their job. Meanwhile, our Company Engineer from Boise was on the phone arranging for a Construction Engineer from the University of Idaho to come assess the roof and the Maintenance Manager of the Mall had called in people from the company that had built the roof. All of this was happening very quickly. Within 30minutes, the Fire Chief and City Engineer had made the decision for us, that we should evacuate and close until the Engineer could make an assessment of the situation. That was about 8:30 am. I was relieved to have my people and customers safely out of the building.
No one, not even me or my Assistant were allowed inside until it was declared safe. Even though I knew this was a big finacial loss, I was still convinced it was the only prudent thing to do. I also knew that as "The Captain of the Ship", I would not leave the property until I was certain all was well.
As it turned out, Rob and I were finally allowed to go back in around 10:30 am, to call some men in to help the Construction company shovel snow off the roof, which would take some of the weight and pressure off. This was in accordance with the recommendations of the Engineer. A plan of action was made and by 1:00 pm there were twenty-five men up there. It was about 30 degrees outside and the winds were strong, making it very, very cold.
Those men worked for nearly nine hours, shoveling snow onto tarps and dragging it to the back edge of the building, dumping it to the ground where a backhoe was also digging and hauling it away from the truck ramps and compactors which were being buried, some piles as high as the roof. That was a huge amount of wet snow to deal with.
I was there for fourteen hours that day, answering endless phone calls, arranging food and drink, and worrying about the safety of those men on the roof, especially after it turned dark, which is early in Moscow. My V.P. arrived about 6:00 PM, after driving through terrible conditions, from Seattle, put on this work clothes and was up there shoveling along side everyone else. At around 8:00 pm the Engineer and City Building Inspector came back, reassessed the building and declared it safe to reopen, which we did at 8:25 pm. (we are a 24 hour store) I cashiered, while Rob called people in to work. By 9:30 we had all the help we needed and I was able to go home.
Although I had not done any of the physical work (Rob wouldn't let me go up on the roof), when I got home, my shoulders ached like I had been up there with them all those hours. Tension, I suppose. Friday was business as usual even though I was still getting lots of phone calls from curios people wanting to know about our caved-in roof, deaths that had supposedly occured, many injured people, etc., etc.........the normal rumors that start in these kind of circumstances. I assured them all that we had closed as a safety precaution for our customers and employees and to take care of a "potential problem" before it became a tragedy. Everyone who called was living this nightmare winter and understood what could have happened and thanked us for making such a wise decision.
I thank God for keeping my men safe from harm and most of all, I thank those men for working their butts off in that cold wind with not one utterance of complaint. In my eyes, they are Rockstars! Life is Good!!!