Coordinating the delivery of water, supplies, generators, and other equipment into the New Orleans area in the wake of Hurricane Ida might seem like the work of a disaster relief agency, not a facility services company.
Yet, that’s exactly what KBS managers were doing this week after Hurricane Ida ripped through the region with triple-digit wind speeds, life-threatening storm surges, and massive rainfall on Sunday. The Category 4 storm left devastation in its path, knocking out power to more than 1 million people in the area, as well as severing water and sewage capabilities.
“Disaster relief – that’s exactly what we are doing,” said Casey Killian, Executive Vice President of Operations for KBS. “We are providing as much help as we can for workers who were affected by the storm. We need to make sure they are safe and can get through the next few weeks.”
KBS was able to get into position quickly because of investments made since Hurricane Katrina. Whether it’s access to fuel, generators, vehicles or supplies that would be needed in the event of a hurricane disaster, KBS has the infrastructure required for rapid response and storm clean-up.
KBS has several hundred employees in the area that provide daily facility services at bank branches, office buildings, universities, and a variety of retail clients, including big box outlets. KBS has more than 1,000 customer locations stretching along the Northern Gulf Coast, from Louisiana to Alabama.
Since Sunday, the KBS team has been hard at work on multiple fronts:
- Making sure all employees are safe and accounted for, as well as checking in on vendor partners and understanding client needs.
- Determining which employees needed financial assistance for alternative lodging, or had their homes damaged in the storm.
- Sending in trucks full of pallets of water – and potentially non-perishable food items – to multiple distribution centers for employees.
- Supplying generators to employees so they have power for cooking, refrigeration, communications – and air conditioning. “It’s not only this huge storm, but the heat is also unrelenting, they need AC,” Killian said.
- Providing fuel and trucks to help distribute supplies and equipment, both to employees and to customer sites.
- Supporting clients with storm clean-up and ensuring staff is available to help open or keep stores open so they can provide the essentials to their community
Behind the scenes, KBS operations and customer success leaders met virtually every day since last Friday to track the storm’s progress and provide updates on customers and crews. One long-time resident and facility services expert said the hurricane was as bad as advertised.
“There is a lot of damage and debris – nearly every rooftop has some type of damage, whether its missing shingles or portions of the roof missing,” said Charlie Lusco, a KBS operations executive and former president of New Orleans -based Empire Services, which KBS acquired in 2017. “This wasn’t as bad as Hurricane Katrina, which had all the flooding, but there was much more wind damage (from Hurricane Ida).”
Most customers in the direct path closed due to the hurricane, and will likely remain closed without power, water, and sewage. Yet, there is still work to be done. KBS crews have been busy cleaning debris from customers sites, tarping roofs, taking up carpets, and doing flood restoration.
The work will grow as customer locations slowly reopen – but that could take weeks. In the meantime, it will be the job of KBS operational leaders to help employees get back on their feet, activate vendor partners, and keep in constant contact with customers.
“A lot of these employees have been with KBS and Empire (now part of KBS) for many, many years,” Lusco said. “They are like family to us. We’ll make sure they get back on their feet, and back to work, as soon as it's safe.”