Fuel Oil News

Fuel Oil News June 2013

The home heating oil industry has a long and proud history, and Fuel Oil News has been there supporting it since 1935. It is an industry that has faced many challenges during that time. In its 77th year, Fuel Oil News is doing more than just holding

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AREE S h o w R e p o r t First AREE After Hurricane Sandy The Atlantic Region Energy Expo returns to Atlantic City By Debra Reschke Schug W Fuel Oil News objective. Usually, our show reports go over a litany of facts and new products, perhaps some details of an interesting seminar or workshop, but this year's AREE came with more of an emotional impact, being the first AREE after last fall's Hurricane Sandy. Many fuel oil companies, both vendors and attendees, at the show personally dealt with the storm's aftermath. Therefore, coverage of the show feels like it needs more of a personal approach. As managing editor of Fuel Oil News, I have been covering AREE for the last three years. Amazingly, I had never seen the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk in all this time, as my workload during my visits did not allow for it. On the plane ride to the show, I thought about how I might have missed the opportunity completely, depending on how much of the boardwalk was still left. At the hospitality event in the host hotel, Revel, attendees could see in the distance that the Ferris wheel was still standing. Perhaps, it was a sign that things had returned to normal from seven months ago. Sadly, that was not the message conveyed the next day at the show. Not to be completely gloomy, the AREE show floor hummed, especially in the first few opening hours. A long line was maintained at the registration booth for a lengthy period and the aisles were crowded with people. Vendors reported a lot of activity and interest from the attendees. It was only until the end of the first day that it became clear that Hurricane Sandy had changed many lives in the industry in the session that took place on the tradeshow floor called, Lessons from Super Storm Sandy. Three Jersey Shore contractors sat on the panel discussion, informally led by AREE Committee Chairman Bob McAllister of McAllister…The Service Company, located in Somers Point, NJ, alongside Joe Roberts of JH Roberts in Long Beach Island, and Scott Nelson of Oceanside Service in Allenhurst, NJ. The discussion opened up with McAllister reminding the few dozen audience members that just a few months before, the eye of the hurricane had passed over the very building we were 18 e try to keep our reporting and articles at June 2013 | FUEL OIL NEWS | www.fueloilnews.com sitting in—the convention center. He then began to recount the challenges his company faced in the aftermath of the super storm. One mistake he admitted to was an automated call sent out before the storm to his 2,500 customers offering a "go by the house" inspection; a nice customer service gesture, but they were soon inundated with damage assessment calls. Joe Roberts said the day after the storm, his company worked with the utilities to assess the natural gas situation by checking gas lines. He said everyone working on Long Beach Island was instructed not to take pictures and not to post anything on social media websites to avoid inadvertently upsetting anyone whose house may have been destroyed. Roberts said it took a few days before he could even address his customers' problems. All three contractors described the struggle of having to support a customer base where everyone was in need all at once. Scott Nelson said it was not uncommon for his employees to be working six days a week, 12 hours a day; Nelson himself worked seven days a week for 14 hours a day for weeks after the storm. McAllister said his workers found ductwork encased in sand and raw sewage in crawl spaces in the immediate aftermath; later, mold became a pervasive problem. "No matter what level of staffing we would've had," he said, "it would not have been enough." He described an overwhelming demand for new equipment, with 750 leads coming in for just one week. Additionally, all three contractors faced daunting amounts of paperwork and numerous headaches dealing with insurance company claims. Some of those headaches could start again with a second wave of calls coming in from people who are just now starting to arrive at their summer homes on the shore for the vacation season, McAllister said. The session was an eye-opener to the countless hours of work put in and the sacrifices made by the companies servicing those impacted areas, with many employees also affected by the storm and simultaneously trying to fix their own challenges at home. It was testament to the importance of this industry, especially at times when disasters strike. l F O N

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