Installer, distributor make do as things remain far from normal

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Six months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita disrupted life in the Big Easy, going about life and business remains difficult.
"The office? Well it's gone, okay." The building that housed Marie Nicolich's alarm company Nesarc Security, in business for 40 years, "was condemned. Everybody had to get out what they could."
Nicolich said she and her employees returned to an office, a second floor office mind you, with a foot of ceiling tiles and water on the floor. "And you could look up and see the sky in many places," she said. "We got a good bath."
Iggie Perrin, president of distributor Southern Electronics, at least got to see his name in the New York Times. He was quoted in a Nov. 11 article saying he'd been forced to offer two to three times what he normally would for help in cleaning up his flooded sales room.
Reached in late January, however, he had some good news to report. Southern Electronics is 100 percent operational, and is in the final phases of reconstructing the sales floor. "We were lucky," Perrin said. "We did have a Baton Rouge office, so we were able to use that as a base of operations. Even though all the phone service in the southern part of the state was out, all the long-distance fiber got destroyed, between IM [instant messaging] and flashlights we were able to get back in pretty quickly."
Southern has an interesting perspective on the storm and how it has affected New Orleans. They supplied the city with its surveillance cameras and are doing much of the maintenance and reconstruction of that system.
"It's getting better every day," said Perrin. "But it's still very depressing driving around." He said it was the scope of the destruction he thought about often. "Driving the coast, to get to the other end of where it's affected it's a two and a half hour drive on the interstate."
Nicolich has managed to find another location, but it wasn't easy. "We found a place," she said, "which wasn't very nice. We spent three weeks trying to make it usable." Like many in her situation, Nesarc was forced to buy all new office equipment, phone systems, the works, but "We hear from people all around the country," she said. "A few say they're not coming back, but the majority are planning to come back."
"We operated off of four cell phones for a long time," Nicolich said, when they were working out of her home. "We dried off as much as we could in the backyard. Some of it was so bad that even if it dried out the smell was bad. But, when the going gets tough, the tough has to get going."
Nesarc had to transfer all her monitored accounts to Alarm Monitoring Services, which had a backup and were able to stay live through the storms. Another central she'd been using in Jefferson Parish "just went completely down."
The problem she's currently most experiencing is a staffing issue: "Technicians are scarce as hen's teeth." And it's hard to get new ones online in a hurry because Louisiana is a licensure state and installers need to have a Level 1 license.
But, she said, "On the whole, we're not complaining. It doesn't do any good."