NationsRent, already involved in relief efforts following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, had to face the devastation first hand as Hurricane Wilma barreled through Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the home of its corporate office.
Overall, the company weathered the hurricane well, said Drew Pickens, director of corporate communications for NationsRent.
Local stores experienced downed data and power lines, as well as some Internet issues, but immediately after the hurricane passed, an emergency laptop equipped with a cell card was rushed to each affected store. This allowed counter personnel to access NationsRent’s RentalMan system, used to write rental contracts and check inventory. The stores also instituted a number of manual processes, such as walking the yard and manually reviewing equipment in-shop, he said.
Pickens said the corporate office suffered no physical damage and was able to reopen Oct. 27. With Blackberries and Virtual Private Networks, the team was able to stay in touch during and immediately after the storm.
But NationsRent was concerned about more than its buildings and inventory.
“First and foremost on our minds were the needs of our team members,” Pickens said. To ensure that employees’ personal needs were taken care of, hot lunches were provided, staffing shifts were permitted so employees would have time to take care of personal issues, and the NationsRent Employee Relief Fund was made available for any employees who suffered catastrophic financial hardship as a result of the storm.
Even though the hurricane forced NationsRent stores in the immediate area to close, all were back open on Oct. 25. Pickens said the stores initially operated on a limited schedule because of safety concerns and local curfews, and the needs of local municipalities received priority status to aid in the relief and recovery effort.
NationsRent’s hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast were not affected by Wilma. “By being able to shift fleet from other areas, we are sure to meet customer needs with the same standards of service that people have come to expect from NationsRent,” Pickens said.