Ottawa – It was 5:45 a.m. on the Victoria Day holiday, May 19, 2014, when General Bearing Service (GBS) president Pierre Bouchard received a disturbing phone call. The voice on the phone told him that an electrical fire was taking place at his company’s Gatineau, QC, branch. It was a four-alarm blaze. Needless to say, Bouchard – whose company is headquarted in Ottawa – got on the move right away.
On his arrival at the Gatineau branch, the fire was still raging. “There were eight large fire trucks and about 30 firefighters battling the blaze amid heavy smoke,” Bouchard says.
After the fire was contained, the building remained under investigation for most of the morning. It was not released to Bouchard until about 11:00 a.m. Most of GBS's employees had passed by the location earlier and had already begun to discuss solutions on how they would be able to continue serving their customers in the days to come.
Bouchard asked his vice-president of operations, Ken Yamasaki, to come in and help get a computer system in place. With the use of generators and cell phones to create a wi-fi hotspot, the staff soon got a system up and running. This enabled them to access stock information, take orders and create receipts.
Amazingly, it was back to business-as-usual very quickly.
The next day, there was almost no indication that the Gatineau location had lost much of its on-site stock. To get inventory to the location, GBS’s trucks were re-scheduled to travel from the distributor’s Ottawa location a couple of times a day, while its Montreal branch arranged to send stock overnight for parts that couldn't be provided from local stockrooms.
“I can't believe the level of commitment this company and its employees have towards their customers,” said one client.
A temporary business area with 1,500 sq. ft. of space was set up in part of the same building, in a location that was not affected by the flames or smoke. The GBS inventory that had been stored in this area was cleared out and placed inside a large shipping container on the premises.
The Gatineau branch, a 3,500 sq. ft. facility, is now operating from the back entrance of this new space until insurance settlements are completed and the fire-damaged area is renovated and restored.