Security Business

APR 2019

Find news and information for the executive corporate security director, CSO, facility manager and assets protection manager on issues of policy, products, incidents, risk management, threat assessments and preparedness.

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Page 23 of 68

April 2019 / / Security Business 23 In his own Words: Stephen Spears The President of Puerto Rico-based Bonneville Contracting and Technology Group (Fast50 No. 7) outlines the impact of hurricane destruction and rebuilding on the company Our dramatic growth is directly relatable to Hurricanes Irma and Maria – while they were a curse to the populations of both the Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico, they were a blessing in disguise for Bonneville Contracting and Technology Group. It is an understatement to say how incredibly proud I am of our people and their bravery, resilience and commitment in the midst of the catastrophic destruction of their homes and my adopted island. We all lived for months under incredibly difficult circumstances without electricity, fuel, communications, running water and travelable roadways; however, one by one they all found their way to work every day to not only provide for their families, but also to put the broken pieces of their homes and island back together. We had been through hurricanes before, but nothing like Irma and Maria, back-to-back. I find it impossible to describe what living through an event like this one was like with people dying all around because of the impossible circumstances. On the company front, we awoke to no electricity, absolutely no internal or external communications, unusable roadways and widespread desperation. Our pre-storm plan was to meet at the office at 9 a.m., the day after the storms passed – of 65 employees, only four made it, and they had to walk in from a mile or more away. I personally could not get out of the suburb I live in, which is 12 miles away. Day two, eight people including me made it, and by the fifth day, we were over 20. We could not call our customers or them us, so we dispatched employees to find and visit our clients to determine their needs while the rest set about removing debris from our yard and offices. Putting ourselves back into the best possible working mode was job 1; finding and attempting to serve the emergency needs of our existing clients was job 2; finding the basics for the operation of employees and the enterprise was job 3. Within a month, we were over 80 employees and online but understaffed, under-fueled, under-communicated and underequipped to meet and mitigate all of our customers’ needs. The jobs of surviving, living and working occupied our days that turned into weeks and months – but ever so gradually, things got better. As for rebuild projects, the destruction of public schools in the USVI led to an award to rebuild with temporary classrooms in 20 schools throughout the three islands. The contract was awarded to AECOM, and we are one of many subcontractors. We did all of the communications cabling, security, fire and paging systems and we are currently quoting biometrics for time and attendance. We also assessed the damages and then rebuilt the paging system at the St. Thomas Airport. We did the same (assess/mitigate) at several island marinas for private, territory and federal clients, and also for hotel customers. In Puerto Rico, we assessed and then repaired several damaged video surveillance and security systems for both public and private customers. Preliminary mitigation and assessments were done on large multiple municipal and government clients’ systems, and mitigation was done where it could be done. The cataclysmic proportion of damages and the islands’ financial crisis has limited the rebuilds. Customers in general continue to await insurance funds from FEMA and private insurers to rebuild. For some private-sector clients – large pharmaceutical, industrial and communications providers – we did both the initial emergency mitigation, then we did assessments, and now we are currently doing rebuilds that include hardening facilities for the future. Storm-proofing for the future has been mandated by FEMA, so rebuilding as it was before using federal funds is not acceptable. New, stiffer construction codes have been made law and will be required when federal funding finally starts flowing in 2019 and beyond. ■ The Bonneville Contracting team survived and thrived in the face of major adversity due to Hurricanes Maria and Irma. One of Bonneville's work trucks in the wake of Irma's destruction.

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