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Small businesses working to recover from costs of winter storm

Posted at 5:52 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 08:27:09-05

TULSA, Okla. — On the east side of Tulsa, there is Craters and Freighters, a small family owned business with 22 employees who package and ship for several big name companies.

But the winter storm with it's sub-zero polar punch, delivered a blow a Rick Arlan would just as soon not have been forced to accept.

"We had a lot of busted pipes with the fire system," Arlan said.

He said it caused around $40,000 in damages. Most of the overhead pipes and underground pipes need to be repaired or replaced.

"The fire department, rightfully so, came out and said we've got to get this fixed, and we realize that," Arlan said.

But there was an added expense Arlan said caught him by surprise. While working with his insurance company to start those repairs as quickly as possible. Arlan said he was told he'd either have to shut down or hire professional fire watchers to monitor the business while it's open.

The city fire code is clear. If a building doesn't have a working fire suppression system, the building shall either be evacuated or an approved fire watch shall be provided.

Arlan found out the going rate for city approved fire watchers, hired out by private companies, is $45 an hour.

"They said, 'It's for the safety of all individuals,' and I said, 'I want safety too for people, for our employees who have built this company.'"

At $45 an hour, having the building monitored can add up quickly. But we learned in most cases like this, the insurance company will pick up the added cost.

Still, Arlan wondered why one of his employees, who knows the layout of the building inside and out, couldn't get certified to be a fire watcher. But the Tulsa fire marshal said a certified fire watcher must pass an 80 hour course. It's the same certification all Tulsa firefighters must earn.

"It's a hill to climb," Arlan said. "We've done it before. We'll come out stronger, but it's hard."

So far, Craters and Freighters survived the COVID-19 pandemic. Arlan said he hopes they'll survive the costs of the cold.

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