File photo (Chatham-Kent Fire & Emergency Services)

Fire never strikes at a good time when it hits a business, but thanks to the partnerships between Chatham-Kent Fire & Emergency Services and Economic Development Services, businesses are getting back up and running in record time.

Municipal officials said in a media release the success of this team is thanks to the close connection between staff across all departments.

“Before our firefighters have cleared the scene after the fire, we have already reached out to our colleagues in Economic Development,” stated Bob Crawford, Chief of Fire & Emergency Services, in a press release.

“It’s a big help when Economic Development arrives on scene to help the business owner focus on helping the business get back on their feet.”

Stuart McFadden, Director of Economic Development Services, says he recounts a time a year ago just before Christmas when 20,000 square feet of warehouse space went up in flames and all of the inventory was destroyed.

“I can’t fix the fire, but I was able to meet with the business owners at the scene and while they were upset about the loss of products in the warehouse, their bigger concern was the loss of storage space for truckloads of incoming products that were already on the way to Chatham,” McFadden said.

“Once I knew their immediate needs, I was on the phone making calls and found them temporary warehouse space so they could continue to operate.”

In another situation, Chatham-Kent Fire & Emergency services was called to put out a business fire that impacted not just warehousing but also the headquarters.

The structure was unsafe to occupy as it had been badly damaged, and again thanks to a collaborative approach, Economic Development staff were able to help the business setup a temporary base of operations with computers, desks, and Internet access.

“Was it a perfect solution, no, but it saved the business and got them in a space where they could quickly resume working,” said McFadden.

“For obvious reasons I never want to get the call to go out to a fire at a business, but the reality is that when it does happen it’s because an all hands on deck approach is needed and I’m glad I can be there to lend support.”

Crawford added: “At the end of the day it’s about making the best of a bad situation and recognizing that it takes a team approach to find solutions.”

As a reminder to both businesses and also to Chatham-Kent residents, it is recommended that you create a safety plan, municipal officials say.

A residential safety plan should include the essentials such as working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, a map to a safe place on your property, and an emergency safety kit. Business safety and contingency planning may be more in depth and depending on the size of the business will have requirements based on safety regulations.

Within 48 hours following a fire or emergency situation, CKFES fire crews conduct a Reassurance Campaign by going door-to-door offering C.H.i.R.P. checks and prevention information about the event to businesses and residents in the surrounding areas.

“It can be a real eye-opener for many residents, because we tend to have an ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude when it comes to fire,” stated Whitney Burk, Public Educator with Chatham-Kent Fire & Emergency Services.

“People are usually extremely receptive after an incident has occurred in their neighbourhood. We provide reassurance by checking that devices such as smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working properly, and chat with them about what they can do to prevent fires.”

For more information about creating a safety plan, the C.H.i.R.P. check program, or business safety checks, please visit the Chatham-Kent Fire & Emergency Services website at http://ckfes.ca/.