Contingency Planning or using the Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared".
No one wants to think about bad things happening, but responsible management has to anticipate that "Bad" things can happen to your Laundromat or to your customers. Good planning is the process where you anticipate likely problems that could occur in your Laundromat and determine how is the best way to handle the situation. Hurricane Sandy has reminded everyone in the Northeast just the tremendous power of nature and how little control we really have in mastering events. At best we can manage the events to minimize the amount of property damage, minimize injury to people and recover from the disaster as quickly as possible.
I know with myself that Murphy visits my Laundromats always when I am on vacation. (That means I am either taking too many vacations or that Murphy has really good timing.) By creating a notebook of likely problem scenarios and then stating the best case responses you can be on vacation and know that your manager will handle the disaster with the best possible response.
Some of the scenario that keeps me awake at night are:
- Slip & Falls where a customer really hurts themselves in our Laundromat,
- A Dryer Fire,
- Dryer fire where the building department shut off all the utilities to the Laundromat,
- Gas Company finds a gas leak in your store and red tags your entire Laundromat,
- A Car drives through your front window and injury some customers,
- A robber assaults your employee and robs your store,
- Someone takes a jeep and a tow chain and proceeds to take your bill changer, the changer wall and the store front down the street for a joy ride,
- Kids are rough-housing and a kid goes through your front glass window,
- A customer is assaulted by another customer, and the very frightening
- Some child gets locked in a washing machine that then starts running.
What you need to do is create your own disaster list. Think creatively and think about disasters that you have heard about either on the internet or from personal experience. Think of disasters that could happen to you, your employees or your customers. Then write down the proper response for your attendants, manger and owner. Create a step by step procedure as to what to do. I usually think personal safety first, stabilize or control, and then recover. So in the case of a dryer fire:
1.) First you want to get everyone safe and out of the Laundromat,
2.) Second, you want to call the fire department and then get a fire extinguisher and try to put out the fire,
3.) Third, you need to clean up the mess and determine if the dryer can be saved or needs to be replaced.
Obviously your staff should be trained to observe and recognize a dryer fire. They should also know how to call 911 and report the fire. They also should know how to operate a fire extinguisher. From an experienced veteran you should keep the dryer door closed until you are ready to use the fire extinguisher. (When you open the dryer door the smoldering clothes will burst into flames with the new source of fresh oxygen. From experience it is better to keep the dryer door closed to prevent the flames from spreading.)
With Sandy fresh in our mind I am personally looking into Electrical Transfer Switches for my main incoming power for the Laundromats that are prone to long electrical outages. I hope this motivates you to think about setting up a disaster action plan.