One flood-hit businessman tells his story: ‘Tears were running down my face’

In the thick of it… this aerial shot of York during the floods shows Eboracum Security's office in Frankins Yard off Fossgate
10 Jan 2016 @ 8.39 pm
| Business, News

Carl Nickson runs Eboracum Security, one of many York businesses hit by the floods. Here he describes his shock at what happened – and gratitude for the community which rallied round

Boxing Day 2015. Well in the swing of festivities and looking forward to our January break following our biggest Christmas ever work wise. Our lovely neighbours (MOR Music) called us and alerted us to water coming up from the drains in the yard outside our office.

I attended to find that the water was quickly rising and I was met by five colleagues who had already waded through the water into the office and started to salvage items.

Wooden pallets had been placed in the yard to assist with entry/exit to the premises surrounding which includes residential flats, businesses and holiday lets.

At the back of my mind I knew that many other businesses and houses were about to be flooded. We have a business disaster recovery plan in place but I never expected to activate it due to the Foss flooding.

The big move

Water seeps in… much worse was to come
Water seeps in… much worse was to come

We prioritised data and files to enable continuity of the business. This was important because we are responsible for protecting our customer’s people and property and we couldn’t have any room for creating a vulnerability.

All customer and employee data was removed off site.

I made a judgement that the water wouldn’t rise above ankle height (I was so wrong) so we lifted any other items onto desks and worktops in an effort to limit damage.

Our team then helped our neighbours to do the same – move their stock and equipment to higher levels. I was certain that we did everything we needed.

Later that night we returned to find that the river water had started to flood into our office. The yard outside was filling up fast. Our next attempt was to locate hessian sacks and fill them with sand in an attempt to create make-shift sandbags.

We were there until approximately 2am with this however our efforts were overpowered by the sheer amount of water, and the fact that it was coming up through the floor, not under the door!

Resources stretched to the max

A floating bin and flooded desktop with items on top
A floating bin and flooded desktop with items on top

In my mind, I was sure that we had salvaged everything we needed to enable business continuity. Luckily we use cloud based scheduling and customer relationship management so we were still able to access essential information.

Inline with our business continuity plan, I made hard copies of all deployment activity in the event of an internet failure which proved to be vital when the BT exchange was flooded and all phone line/ internet stopped working across York.

The BT exchange flooding had a massive knock-on affect and we soon learned that our resources would be stretched to the max. Our customer’s alarm systems were sending signals to the alarm receiving centres regarding the phone line being down and generating a fault.

This created high demand for us to respond to each call. We were inundated by non-customers requesting urgent emergency guarding of their premises to prevent risk of theft or damage and meet their insurers requirements.

We were unable to get near some of our customer buildings due to the flooding on the roads and access points.

‘I felt physically sick’

The kitchen: at this point the waters were still rising
The kitchen: at this point the waters were still rising

The next morning – 27th December – I arrived at our office and couldn’t even get into the yard. I used the rear entrance and waded through the flood water at waist height to gain access into our office to assess the damage.

When I got into the office I was hit with frustration and felt physically sick at the fact that my business base was destroyed.

We worked so hard to get things just how we needed them with a recent refurbishment only two months ago. I was settled by the fact that we were all safe and that its only property.

The dirty silty water had reached the kitchen worktops, writing off everything up to that point.

I waded through the office and felt the carpets lifting up against my legs. I stopped and stood there for at least a minute in silence, not believing my eyes. I left the office and went home to my family.

I told my wife about the office and unstoppable tears ran down my face. I was absolutely gutted. Not just because of the business, but because of what is happening to our city and how many people are affected.

I couldn’t begin to imagine what it would feel like if it was our home that was flooded.

The response was amazing

Carl and his wife wade in to the building
Carl and his wife wade in to the building

I returned later with my lovely wife and Paul my ops manager. We waded in and salvaged any remaining items/paperwork due to damp setting in. The office was steaming and the ceiling tiles started to bow/warp with the damp rising from the water.

We left the offices to wait for the water to subside. For the next two nights we were deployed to our maximum to alarm calls, emergency guarding and mobile patrols. The emergency services were out on cordons, pumping water and doing York Proud.

Our teams got hands on at our customer sites and assisted them through the night with pumping out water.

We had an operational nightmare on our hands as there are certain British Standards that we have to meet regarding certain processes. The office was set up to meet these security standards and I had to urgently find an alternative method.

I used social media to tell friends and family about what had happened at our Office. The response was amazing. I had messages of support, donations, offers to help with clear-ups and other business’s offering temporary office space to us. I cannot thank these people enough.

We are in a fortunate position that the nature of our business means that we can continue to trade because we still deploy operatives onto customer sites.

What a mess

york-floods-eboracum-security-yard
york-floods-eboracum-security-damage

The flooding in the yard and the damage inside

By the 29th December the water had subsided and we re-entered the offices. What a mess.

The once cream carpet now dark brown with a layer of silt, damp walls, wall paper curling off, warped ceiling tiles, everything stained up to waist height and rubbish splayed all over the place.

We left it a day or two and then cleared out the office completely of all our property.

I am very proud to have a team who I consider not only to be employees, but to be my friends who worked hard back to back shifts and really dedicated themselves to helping our business continue and also our customers business to continue.

The office is now drying out and hopefully we will be back in soon.

I am completely overwhelmed by the kindness of the York community including the Latter Day Saints church in Acomb which was stocked to the roof full of cleaning supplies, shovels, wellies and other equipment that had been donated to help flood victims.

We had a vicar come directly to our office during the clear-out who offered his personal support to us.

So much support

Underwater… the sink and toilet area
Underwater… the sink and toilet area

We have had continuous support from Make It York / City Of York council whereby making us aware of a grant that we are eligible for to help us get our office back up and running quickly.
I am very impressed with this support from the council who also provided skips for businesses to bin flood damaged items.

Thanks to York Hub for their support in providing us with a temporary hot-desk, MOR Music for name-dropping us on the one show, kind emails and support from our customers, messages from friends and family and our amazing team.

There are also the unsung heros to thank such as the creator of “York Floods 2015…” Facebook group which has generated an unprecedented amount of support from locals and non-locals.

I have learned not to underestimate the power of water and never underestimate the power of the York community.

Good luck to all those affected by the flooding – best wishes for a quick recovery – and Happy New Year!

This article originally appeared on the Eboracum Security website