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A Storage Pro in Action and Other Thoughts From the Road

Jim Chiswell Comments

During a recent meeting in Phoenix, I had a chance to witness firsthand how a self-storage professional handles a crisis. Knowing just how busy everyone at this meeting was, we all had agreed to keep our telephones on so we could deal with important issues. Little did any of us realize at the time how prophetic our decision would be.

About three-quarters through our meeting, a cell phone rang, belonging to Mel Holsinger, president of Professional Self Storage Management in Tucson, Ariz. I could tell from the look on his face that a problem was unfolding. Mel excused himself briefly from the meeting to handle the call. When he returned, he apologized for the interruption, but explained that there was a fire burning at an El Paso, Texas, facility his firm manages. His manager had pulled one customer out of a unit before he was seriously injured.

Hearing his startling news we all agreed to take a break. During the next 30 minutes or so, I watched and listened as the pre-planning and training of his entire team moved into high gear. Yes, the firefighters were still fighting the fire, but Mel and his staff were also working on their own pre-established crisis game plan.

All customer records and computers were secured. The fire at no time threatened the office. A security service had already been contacted to provide round-the-clock surveillance for the facility and particularly the customers’ units that were impacted.

The facility’s owner was called and brought up to date on the developments. The insurance company was notified. The contact information for those customers who were obviously going to be affected was collected for the eventual calls that would be made to explain the situation.

I could hear Mel reminding his managers that all inquires from the media should be directed to the Tucson home office. I have always maintained that dealing with the media is an area that many emergency plans sometimes overlook. I do not feel that any manager or other employee should talk to news reporters from print, radio or TV. This isn’t an ego thing. It is a potential liability and/or image issue. I don’t know any managers, despite their qualifications, who should assume those responsibilities. It is up to the owner or, in this case, the management company to address any media inquiries.

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