LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE POLAR VORTEX

February 15th, 2019, Minneapolis, Minnesota:
 
A brutal Polar Vortex with bone-chilling and mind-numbing temperatures blew into the Midwest January 29 through February 1 – and still cold -- bringing the coldest weather in a generation—and that’s an understatement! And it seems like winter is far from over!
 
While Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan dealt with record-setting cold, Minnesota took the brunt of it. The National Weather Service recorded the state’s lowest wind chill temperature on January 31 was -56 degrees in Cotton, Minnesota, 35 miles north of Duluth. That came close to -66 wind chills in the extreme northern counties in the mid-1980s.
 
But the frigid records this year weren’t all up north. The National Weather Service reported the wind chill at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on January 30 was minus 53. The -28 degree air temperature nearly matched the record of -30 set in 1887. (Yes, you read that right: 1887.)
 
Of course, heating resources like natural gas are jeopardized in such extreme temperatures. Fearing natural gas outages, Xcel Energy, the largest utility in the state, told 460,000 customers in central Minnesota to keep their thermostats no higher than 60 degrees, as turning them up would strain the natural gas system. In Princeton, 150 homes lost gas service, prompting Xcel to buy those affected space heaters and hotel rooms to stay in until the extreme cold subsided.
 
The Polar Vortex impacted every industry. Schools, stores, restaurants, and businesses closed. Workers were encouraged to telecommute from home. MnDOT reported it pulled snowplows off the roads in 11 southeastern counties, citing mechanical problems because of the extreme cold. Heck, you know it’s bad when the United States Postal Service shuts down!
 
The media seemed to enjoy covering the Polar Vortex finding extreme stories of hardy Minnesotans dealing with extreme cold. WCCO, the CBS affiliate, reported over 100,000 gallons spilled out of the White Bear Lake Township water tower when its plumbing froze. The lobby of a downtown Minneapolis apartment building was flooded when a frozen water pipe burst in the city’s downtown skyway system. ABC’s KSTP talked to a restoration company in St. Paul that took more than 30 calls for frozen pipes and water related damage in one day. A typical winter day yields one or two calls for frozen or broken pipes, they said.
 
Then came Warmageddon. On February 2, temperatures skyrocketed to 39 degrees—that’s a spike of 67 degrees—bringing a whole new set of weather-related issues, such as bursting thawing pipes and dense fog.
 
LESSON LEARNED
 
Brothers Fire & Security was undeniably impacted by the Weather Whiplash of 2019. We had over 80 calls in a 72-hour period. We immediately took care of the emergency intake and deployment. Most of the calls were for frozen sprinkler pipes and heads.
 
But several of these calls were from frustrated businesses who couldn’t reach their fire and security providers. The vendors got too busy and didn’t have enough staff to handle the volume of emergency calls. Some who did respond only got half the job done and never returned to finish it.
 
The input we got on our emergency calls and in the days that followed reinforces the cold hard fact that businesses should evaluate and make any necessary changes to their life safety needs after emergency situations, such as extreme cold.
 
For example, a few regular property managers were on vacation and missed out on the cold (lucky folks!). But stand-in property managers were not prepared to handle the chaos. They needed better checklists and easy access to their fire and security vendors.
 
Frustration and stress and expensive clean-up can be prevented by planning ahead:

  • If property managers are going to be on vacation, make sure replacement managers have everything they need to handle emergencies caused by:
    • Cold
    • Heat
    • Fire
    • Security breaches
    • Medical situations
    • Power outages
  • Make sure that more than one person at each location knows what to do in emergency situations.
  • Take time to regularly schedule drills with your entire staff and train new people in emergency procedures.
  • Keep emergency phone numbers for your vendors and EMS at your fingertips.

 
MOVING FORWARD
 
If you needed emergency fire and security services during the Polar Vortex and were happy with the service you got, great! But if you experience a vendor that doesn’t continue to meet your needs, then it’s a smart business move to review their performance.
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If you don’t get the answers you want, give Brothers Fire & Security a call. We’ll sit down to discuss your concerns and long-term needs. Together, we’ll come up with a plan that works for you, your business, your timelines and your budget.
 
Some vendors change their rates based on the type of emergency. For example, a new client we were able to help told us that their vendor was charging $500 per hour for services. Most companies charge less than half that for a weekend or emergency services call. Realistically, your vendors should be charging the same rates no matter what the service.
 
And to put your mind at ease, Brothers Fire & Security has the same rates for all situations, no matter what time of day or night or the emergency! As our valued customer, you will always know what to expect from us.
 
ABOUT BROTHERS FIRE & SECURITY

As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods.