“We are going to put up a backup generator for power, because that is what really hampered us more than anything,” said John Yard, national sales vice president for Huper Optik USA (Huper Optik), with its corporate campus located in Harris County, as he recalled last week’s snowstorm. Huper Optik is moving into a new building it purchased as well.

Huper Optik lost power for three days, a main reason why Yard said that having a generator would “eliminate a lot of the issues the company faced this time.”

Texan Glass and Solar Control

“The initial thought for everyone started out as ‘it doesn’t snow in South Texas, how cool would it be to get a little bit’? Then it went to these temps are going to be brutal. When we woke up and saw what we got was when it started moving more to survival mode and realizing this is going to be a bad week,” said Dave Duensing, Texan Glass & Solar Control president, located in The Woodlands, Texas.

Overall Safety

Jonathan Thompson managing partner of SunSational Solutions, located in San Antonio and Austin, Texas, said all of his employees are okay and that the business was shut down for a week, as a result of the snowstorm.

Yard said that everyone “kind of got through” the snowstorm and there were several employees who had broken pipes in their homes. Many also lost power for several days and have started getting things back together and coming back into work.

“Of course we walked into a broken pipe Monday at the office and this is one of those once-in-a lifetime events,” said Yard. “And in times like this you find out funny little things, like the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston, Texas only has two sand trucks so it’s not like we were prepared for ice and snow.”

Being Prepared

Although you can’t plan for Mother Nature’s strike there are things businesses can do to prepare, like having constant communication with employees and customers. SunSational Solutions and Huper Optik have experience in communication during a disaster.

“One thing that was neat about COVID is that because we rely so much on communicating without everyone in the office, our business is very functional without everyone being in the brick and mortar location,” explained Thompson. “We were able to use those tools to stay in communication at that time. I think the lessons we learned in 2020 from COVID can be applied to situations like this pretty easily and companies can get through it.”

Duensing said that the business went through Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and had about four feet of water that ruined everything inside of the business. Last week had a similar slight catastrophic feel to it for him.

“Being raised in Nebraska, I understand ice and snow. The initial precaution we did over the weekend of the 13th-14th was to ground all company trucks and employees from coming into the locations,” Duensing explained. “We really had no idea if we would wake up to nothing, or ice or snow. In Texas a big problem is overpasses and bridges getting iced over and there is no means of salting or getting them cleared so it will shut the towns down. As things did melt a little and more severe cold hit, they ended up icing over worse so we were shut down Monday through Wednesday.”

He said the business had a partial crew working on Thursday and as the week continued things began to get closer to “normal.”

“We actually began putting systems in place four or five years ago that would allow for employees to work remotely,” explains Yard. “The makeup of our (Houston) office went from about 15 who worked inside of it to now about six to eight and the rest are spread throughout the country. We also have a phone system that allows us to work like we’re all in one building.”

He added that COVID has taught window film businesses that meeting face to face isn’t always necessary anymore, as technology allows communication across various platforms. The company’s communication and remote systems have paid off several times, according to Yard, as well as being able to pull materials from other warehouse locations.

“Our Houston, Texas location really died for a couple of reasons–number one there were three to four days where UPS not only wouldn’t pick up but they weren’t moving things out of the city,” said Yard.

To combat this issue he said the company was able to utilize other warehouses when transportation in Houston stopped.

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