By David Perea
OK,forget everything you’ve learned about how an attractive, well-maintained storage facility is a critical element of marketing your site to potential tenants. Don’t take as gospel that curb appeal always serves as a magnet, drawing customers to your location. And for Pete’s sake, don’t bet the barn that a well-organized staff is essential for portraying to the public how efficient your business is.
But before all you facility managers start bringing your hammocks to work, understand I’m not encouraging you to let your site go to pot. I’m just saying that sometimes an event, no matter how chaotic, can be more significant to your facility’s success than sustaining a professional image.
We’re all aware of the devastation Hurricane Katrina (not to mention Rita) wrought on New Orleans and surrounding areas. Many Americans have reached out to help the victims left homeless and destitute, most of who are still in the process of being housed and building a new life. But what some people haven’t considered is the despair being suffered by man’s greatest friends: pets!
Thousands of dogs and cats are still roaming the city streets, suffering malnutrition, disease and loneliness. With mankind sufficiently rescued, the focus has turned to saving the lives of homeless animals.
Caught Up in the Moment
My wife and I live in Denver—a safe 1,400 miles away from the scene of disaster—where we manage Alameda Mini Storage. But somehow we were swept up by the storm’s lingering winds and catapulted into the middle of our canine friends’ struggle for rescue and survival.
The Misha May Foundation is a local animal-rescue organization with a mission to facilitate dog adoptions. When it was in need of space to temporarily house about 45 canine survivors while finding them new homes, the owners of our facility were eager to help. And why not? Besides being a great marketing tactic, what could be more fulfilling than to match a needy dog with a loving family?
We certainly had enough space in our outdoor units to accommodate the dogs. Sure, it might get a little cool in the evening; but we had a power source to plug in a couple of small heaters if necessary. Day-time temperatures had been in the mid-70s for weeks, so our tail-wagging friends would be able to play in the large dog run we set up along our perimeter fence. No problem, right? Wrong! Murphy’s Law kicked into action, and everything that could go wrong did .
A Few Obstacles
What were we thinking? This is Colorado, the state where they treat weather forecasters with scorn and ridicule. If you want to be known as a liar and laughing stock, become a forecaster in good-old Colorado, where the weather conditions are virtually impossible to predict.
The day before the dogs arrived was the hottest ever recorded for that day of the month. So it was only natural to assume the stage was set for a smooth event. But it was not to be. First, the dogs arrived early in the morning instead of the afternoon as planned. With many of the volunteers not yet at their posts, the dogs still had to be unloaded and staged in their makeshift kennels. A few of us managed to do the best we could until sufficient help appeared.
Next, many of the cages were not adequate sizes for the dogs. Fortunately, the veterinary hospital next door offered the use of larger, lighter and more portable kennels. Then the electrical circuit could not handle the amperage necessary to use the heaters. Again, the vet came to the rescue by allowing us to plug into its power.
But none of that eventually mattered because by late Sunday afternoon, Colorado was struck with a wicked storm that dumped more than 10 inches of snow within 24 hours. That’s when the real chaos started.
A Storm of Challenge
During the first few hours of the storm, it became apparent the dogs were too cold. After all, they were from New Orleans. They’d never even seen snow much less set their paws in it. It didn’t help that the blowing snow was particularly heavy and wet. Our rescue mission was now more pronounced than before, as the situation had become truly grave.
We ultimately allowed the dogs to take shelter in our 98 percent occupied, climate-controlled building. But because there were hardly any available units, the kennels had to be lined along the hallways. What a nightmare—a disaster on top of a disaster! But the light always glows brightest in the darkest corner of night.
The power of the media is frightening and amazing at the same time. When the dogs first arrived, a couple of local TV news channels were informed of the rescue and visited our facility to film the event. After the story aired on their daily news slot, the public took notice. Many concerned pet-lovers began to visit our site with the intention of viewing dogs for possible adoption. Others simply called to thank us for aiding in the noble effort.
Somewhere along the line, the mission became the story, and the story became larger than our business. Our facility was not just being noticed as a place for storage, but as a storage place that really cares. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that our usually clean facility was not quite as tidy. It wasn’t a big deal that our normally immaculate building looked like a MASH unit for canines. The public and tenants alike didn’t even seem to mind the very distinct smell, much like that of a petting zoo.
People who came by couldn’t have cared less that our managers looked dilapidated from their new position as dog-rescue missionaries, either. Though, personally, I thought it was a bit over the top—one Good Samaritan mistook me for a homeless man and dropped a dollar bill into my half-filled coffee mug.
At day’s end, the only thing that really mattered to our tenants and the community at large was that Alameda Mini Storage had played a large role in rescuing displaced dogs from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and we helped our four-legged buddies find new homes with caring families. Were we caught off guard? Yes. A little disorganized? Indeed. Chaotic? Absolutely. Do we need a vacation? You better believe it. Was it worth it? You bet!
David Perea and his wife, Krikett, are facility managers at Alameda Mini Storage in Denver, owned by Mindy Levy-Peckar and the Levy Family. David has bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Northern Colorado. For more information, call 303.363.0939; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.alamedaministorage.com.
Interested in Adopting/Fostering a Katrina Victim?
If you’re interested in adopting or fostering an animal affected by Hurricane Katrina, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) suggests you visit PetFinder.com and register as a potential foster or permanent home. The group also urges you to consider animals in local shelters, as they need good homes too; and by adopting them, you may create much-needed space for Katrina victims. You can also visit the website for the Hurricane Katrina Emergency Animal Shelter at Louisiana State University: www.vetmed.lsu.edu
If you’re involved with a shelter or placement group that can hold animals from the affected region, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is coordinating shelter-to-shelter offers of assistance. Ongoing rescue, shelter and reunion efforts in New Orleans and surrounding parishes are being coordinated by the Louisiana SPCA.