By Dallas Dogger
Thirty people lost their lives in December and January during Australia’s floods, the worst the country has seen in decades. More than 27,000 homes were flooded in Brisbane alone, and countless businesses were affected. To put the flood into perspective, imagine Nevada, Texas and California under water.
Self-storage sites in some areas of South Brisbane were hit hard, with Melco Storage in Oxley, Storage King Rocklea and Kennards Self Storage in Milton all affected. Melco was completely engulfed, with water over the roofline.
Many other sites suffered power loss and road closures. A number of facilities operated on generator power until services could be resumed. National Storage, one of Australia’s largest self-storage operators, had to be evacuated from Brisbane’s central business district. It was more than two weeks before power was restored and workers could return. National’s self-storage call center was also shut down and relocated to an alternative site.
“We had very little notice that we would need to evacuate, which did not give us much time to pick up gear and relocate. We just shut the door and left,” said Mike Berry, director of finance for National Storage.
The City of Toowoomba, 120 miles west of Brisbane, was hit hard by a torrential storm in January. The intense storm dumped more than 10 inches of rain in an hour, turning the central business district into a raging torrent never before seen. Though Toowoomba is on top of a range some 1,900 feet above sea level, cars and containers were washed down the main street. The wall of water then cascaded at high speed down the range toward Brisbane, taking out complete towns like Lowood, killing many in its path. Residents had no warning.
The waters travelled all the way to the Bremer River, which joins the Brisbane River on the outskirts of the city. At this stage, authorities could not control the flow. Floodwaters surged on Jan. 12 into Brisbane and flooded more than 25,000 homes and businesses.
Getting the Word Out
A suggestion from one of our customers led us to compile a list of dry and secure self-storage sites around flood-affected areas. We had a number of great responses from facility managers, who gave us details such as location and units available so flood victims could easily find them. We posted the list on the Centreforce IT website and updated it several times a day. Within an hour of the posting, more than 100 people had viewed the page.
We also updated our Facebook and Twitter pages and gave the information to local authorities. Our tweets were reposted by others, and this in turn made the list go viral—hundreds and hundreds viewed it. One flood victim saw the list and contacted us directly from the United States. We helped him rent three spaces and determine how to get his wine collection to safety. The power of good Web contact and social media in a crisis cannot be overstated.
In times of major disaster, self-storage facility operators can be counted on to help. There are 25,000 homes in Brisbane alone that need major repairs. Many may have to be rebuilt, and homeowners will need to store the goods they have left while the work is done.
At a recent meeting of fellow IT companies in Brisbane, we discussed the preparedness of businesses for impending disaster. It’s surprising how many didn’t have plans for the flood, especially bigger businesses. Many believed the Wivenhoe Dam, which lies across the Brisbane River, would prevent flooding. It didn’t. The key is to have a plan—even if you don’t think you’ll be affected.
Dallas Dogger is the CEO of Brisbane, Australia-based Centreforce IT, an installer of self-storage access-control, CCTV and door-alarm systems throughout Australasia. For more information, visit www.centreforceit.com.au.