Portable Restroom Operators Provide Important Services in Hurricane Aftermath

It requires extra work and creative problem-solving, but portable restroom operators provide critical assistance after natural disasters

Portable Restroom Operators Provide Important Services in Hurricane Aftermath

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Hurricanes, and the widespread destruction that these storms leave in their wake, are on everyone’s mind. After the complete destruction that Harvey left behind in Texas and as we watch Irma rain down on Florida, all you can think of is the rebuilding that will be necessary in the days after these storms.

Rebuilding is a tough period. The devastation is so complete and so many people lose everything. It sometimes feels like there is a very fine line between helping and taking advantage of people. No business wants to be an “ambulance chaser.” Making money off of others’ misfortune is so distasteful. But at the same time, our companies provide a service that is much needed in the days after these storms. Restrooms are a basic necessity and when a company is prepared for the worst, you can come to the public’s aid in its time of need.

The best way to help is to be prepared before the storm even hits. Sometimes, you just get lucky by being in the right place at the right time. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in 2012, we had already delivered some 2,200 toilets for the upcoming New York City Marathon. Most of those restrooms were in Staten Island and Queens, two of the boroughs that were hit the hardest by this storm. It was simple luck that our toilets were already on the ground and ready to go. We quickly deployed drivers to deliver these toilets to some of the most ravaged areas of New York.

How did we get that call? It is all about registering your company on the correct databases. We are on a list of preferred vendors with the City of New York. When the city couldn’t reach its current vendor, the Office of Emergency Management reached out to us and we were happy to step up and help. Given that our office had no power, our team took calls on cellphones and wrote orders on legal notepads. It is not the ideal way to work but at that time it was our only option.

We are also registered as a preferred vendor with the local power companies. During Hurricane Irene in 2011, we provided restrooms to the power company camps that worked for weeks to bring electricity back to Connecticut. 

It's great to help as much as possible but you'd go out of business doing all this work without getting paid. For major municipalities, like New York City, you don’t get paid without a purchase order number. We took copious notes so that we could back bill when our computers were finally restored. 

But none of this work would have come our way if we never answered the phone. There are many times that I have been woken up in the middle of the night. If you answer these off-hour calls, the amount of work that comes your way is huge. But you have to have the resources and drivers available to provide these services. 

No amount of money would be worth one of my staff getting injured. Staten Island was like a war zone after Hurricane Sandy. There were no street signs and it was really easy for a driver to get lost. We really had to depend on the driver to tell us if we should pass on some work. 

The sheer devastation that these storms bring is awful to witness. People literally loose everything in the blink of an eye. At that point the simplest things, like food and water, are scarce to come by and in desperate need. A place to go to the bathroom and wash your hands seems like a gift from the gods. Our services are a key part of disaster relief. So be prepared so you can lend a helping hand the next time it is needed.

About the author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia. 

This article was originally posted September 2017.


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