Cloverdale firm flooded out

A broken water main and a winter deluge nearly spelled disaster for accountancy company

Heavy rains and a leaking watermain caused one of the walls to burst at George & Sabbadin CGA.

Heavy rains and a leaking watermain caused one of the walls to burst at George & Sabbadin CGA.

There comes a moment in every disaster when denial is no longer an option, and the crisis must be dealt with head on.

For the staff at George & Sabbadin CGA, an accountancy firm, that moment came at around 6 p.m. Jan. 8, during their battle to cope with a flooding office, when one of the walls burst.

The restoration expert shouted, “Everybody out of the building!” fearing an imminent collapse.

Fortunately, the wall in question was not a load-bearing one and the building remained standing.

“I’m in panic mode at one point,” recalls Anne George, one of the firm’s owners. “Once that happened, the water started pouring in.”

There was only one thing to do next: summon the fire department and get sandbags on the scene pronto.

The fire department called the city to turn the water main off, stemming the rising tide.

“They showed up and they were wonderful. I can’t praise them enough,” George says.

The story begins three hours earlier, on one of the rainiest, wettest days of the new year.

“It was a terrible day,” she remembers. “The rain was just pouring down. It was miserable.”

It was about 3 p.m. when George noticed water pooling by one of the baseboards at the front of the office space, located in a single-storey building at 17678 58A Avenue.

She called over her business partner, and they began using towels to soak up the moisture.

“But as fast as we mopped it up, it was coming in.”

Before long, the pool of water expanded, heading into the reception area then into the rest of the office.

Thinking the water was coming in from outside, where there was a nearby drain, they called their handyman.

“We were thinking it was plugged and water was coming in.” The handyman wasn’t sure, either, but, assessing the situation, it was clear this was going to be no simple clean-up.

George called a restoration company, who sent over a technician, and the handyman headed to the hardware store for a sump pump.

“There was going to be an insurance claim, for sure,” she realized.

By now, the water was spreading into the hallway towards the file storage room.

It was time to move anything positioned on the floor.

“Everyone started moving stuff. Desks, chairs and cabinets,” George says.

Meanwhile, the January winter storm raged. The rain was falling in buckets.

By the time the handyman was at Home Depot, there were already six other people in the checkout lineup with sump pumps, too.

“That’s the sort of day it was,” George says.

Now more than a month after the flood, George says the prompt response from the restoration company and fire department helped minimize the damage, which would have been far worse had it happened overnight or on the weekend.

None of the company’s paperwork, documents or records were damaged, and no one was hurt.

But the entire office space has to be restored, forcing the businesses to relocate for several months.

“A move is very stressful at the best of times. We had to find alternate accommodations very quickly.”

George & Sabbadin has moved to Rodeo Square at 260 5620 152 Street. Telephone calls and mail are being forwarded to their temporary home. She had strong praise for her staff, who not only helped deal with the flood, they also came in on the weekend to help pack for the move.

The flood also forced their neighbours, Assante Capital Management Ltd.’s Cloverdale branch, to retreat to drier surroundings at 6166 165 Street, where it’s business as usual.

Furniture and some equipment suffered significant damage, but all of Assante’s documents and paperwork survived the deluge and have been relocated to a secure location, according to a note on the office door.

The building’s landlord has said repairs should be complete by mid-March.

In seeking a cause for the flood, George said the restoration expert speculated that the watermain had already broken. It had been sitting on a rock, and as the earth settled over time, it snapped.

Slowly, the ground underneath the cement slab became saturated. The combination of the leaking watermain and the heavy rains Jan. 8 “totally overwhelmed our drainage system,” she says.

Surviving – and dealing with – a flooded office has been a valuable learning experience for George.

There are a few tips she’d like to share with other businesses in Cloverdale, and among the advice they’ll be passing onto their clients.

Number one is to be aware that a flood can happen at any time – whether it’s a broken toilet or a broken water main.

Damage to computers and important files could be devastating if it’s after hours.

“It’s a good idea not to store things on the floor,” she says. “You might want to look at your work layout and move things. Or at least turn your computer off” when you go home for the day.

“If the computers are off and they get wet, they are likely salvageable.”

As the puddle of water started to spread, George dialed up a computer technician, who offered emergency advice on how to mitigate the damage.

There wasn’t time to shut everything off properly, but fortunately, staff were able to get all the computers off the floor, unplug electronic equipment, and sandbag the room where the officer server was stored.

She says only two boxes of files ended up getting wet – and they only contained files that were about to be archived.

“We dried them out. They’re not critical.”

She also advises businesses and homeowners take a close look at their insurance policies.

It turned out George & Sabbadin are covered for most of the necessary repairs – but not the work on the water main.

The company’s insurance policy also included something called bylaw coverage, meaning they’re covered for repair costs incurred because building standards have changed or improved.

“Our (insurance) covers it, but often, homeowners policies don’t. It’s just things you learn.”