Rising from the Rubble: The Southwest Missouri Story
IBS of Southwest Missouri asks if the exterior walls can "withstand a flying Peterbilt?"
It’s been more than three months since the single most deadly storm to hit the state of Missouri since the 1920s: the May 22, 2011 massive tornado. It decimated John and Cindy Spillane’s warehouse in the college village of Duquesne, southeast of Joplin. On that Sunday afternoon an F-5 monster cut an 80-mile swath across Missouri, obliterating 70% of Duquesne, leveling multiple businesses, including Interstate Battery System of Southwest Missouri.
John Spillane vividly remembers that day. He and Cindy were hunkered down in the basement of their Joplin home, one of the few houses in the area fortunate enough to have a basement. He knew the storm tracking for Joplin was going to be bad. He could hear the fear and controlled panic in the weatherman’s voice on air. Technology made it possible to stay in contact with loved ones during this time. John recalls a very close call when his daughter desperately texted him on behalf of her best friend who was on the road trying to outrun the twister: Where should her friend go? Luckily she found safety in a home improvement center two doors down from the edge of the destruction.
Thankfully, the lives and homes of the Spillane’s, their family and employees were spared, just a few missing shingles to mark the storm’s passing. The IBS warehouse was another story, a complete loss much of it wiped off the foundation. Amid the disaster, the Spillanes rejoiced in tiny bits of luck. That day the primary delivery truck was not parked in its usual warehouse spot but was in the shop for repairs. Cindy’s interior office was miraculously left intact. Her desk had not moved an inch, the file cabinets still standing, lap top stowed in the desk drawer. All evidence of an F-5’s capriciousness.
Help came in many forms. IOT Distributors loaned trucks to Spillane, loaded with supplies and batteries to fill the former 4,000-unit inventory obliterated by the tornado. Independents rallied to the Spillane’s aid; many sent supplies, loaned employees, sent UPS deliveries of food and donated money. Cindy’s extended family organized a 15-member worker army and set up base camp at the Spillane home. Miraculously the temporary warehouse was operational in one week.
Today the Spillanes are running the business from a temporary warehouse. They work long hours, pulling double duty operating the business under triage conditions, while dealing with the insurance company in preparation of rebuilding the warehouse on the same foundation that the F-5 pealed bare.
When asked what advice would John give his fellow Distributors in preparing for an unforeseen disaster, he was generous in sharing his experiences and wisdom.
1. Check your insurance policy; ensure that your business has enough coverage for replacing lost assets, and that the policy has been adjusted for seasonal inventory increases and the new mandated six-week inventory requirements.
2. Walk around your office/warehouse with a video recorder, document all of your assets, update as new assets are purchased. List your assets and values on paper, attach copies of receipts, update as needed, store video and asset lists in two places bank safety deposit box and safe.
3. Back up data daily; keep backup off-site.
4. Build an interior safe room in your warehouse, below ground level if possible. Conduct monthly disaster preparedness drills with staff members using the safe room.
5. Implement a disaster plan buddy system wherein each employee is accountable for checking on the whereabouts of another staff member.