Posted by:6 August, 2012
Getting community facilities back on track following damage is never easy, Phillip Herring, commercial director at VINCI Park UK, pictured, explains how they did after taking over council run parking operations.
In October 2011, eighteen months after we took over parking operations for Slough Borough Council, the Parking Shop was the subject of an arson attack. Smoke damage affected the parking offices, training suite and team briefing rooms, and the mobile enforcement vehicles were set on fire and knocked out of action.
In a situation like this it’s important to get things back on track as quickly as possible so that customers experience minimal levels of disruption. We quickly implemented a comprehensive emergency plan, which prioritised communication, to ensure that operations were back to normal within as quickly as the following day.
A strong communication strategy is essential when planning for unforeseen incidents. In this case a quick and effective response was vital. First we spoke to Slough Borough Council and our employees, and called a meeting to take any questions from our onsite team and assure them that services would be up and running again as soon as possible. We also liaised and cooperated with the local police force, as in this instance, the incident was criminal.
Next, we turned all our efforts to our customers to make sure any interruption to our service was as limited as possible. Members of the public were kept up-to-date with all operational developments and any queries were directed to our council based offices.
A customer service advisor was also placed at the entrance to the Parking Shop, and notices and signs were placed around the premises to inform any visitors of exactly what was going on.
We also made sure to engage with the local media, and issued a joint statement with the Council within hours of the incident. This was particularly important to reassure people that there had been no loss of data and that the parking operations had been unaffected.
In terms of operations, we prioritised cleaning all necessary equipment, computers and the control room. Patrol staff went out on foot the following day and the processing team were back in office the day after. Because of the level of damage, the Parking Shop was unable to re-open as quickly as the rest of the operation at Slough. However, recognising the importance of a customer focused operation, we set about transporting a fully fitted out temporary parking office to the site. This facility is an important part of our emergency contingency plan should incidents of this nature occur. The temporary portakabin style office is pre-fitted with all IT equipment, which enabled the office and processing staff to use temporary computers and continue their day to day duties.
Our facilities team set about coordinating the full refurbishment and repair of the damaged offices, which were officially reopened just three weeks after the incident happened. We then turned our focus to internal operations to ensure that damaged vehicles, phone lines, computers and specialist machinery were all replaced within the week.
After the incident, we reviewed our external CCTV provision and additional safety precautions at the site. Long-term onsite security guards were also arranged and out of hours security lighting was increased. Finally, we made the decision to move all vehicles to a secure site when not in use.
In order to execute emergency plans efficiently, it is vital that staff on the ground feel well equipped to handle events such as this, so at VINCI Park UK we place a strong emphasis on quality training for all our employees to ensure that staff feel empowered to effectively handle unprecedented incidents.
Incidents like this are unfortunate and largely unpredictable. The most important thing for a private parking operator is to ensure that service disruption is at an absolute minimum. To achieve this, a structured emergency plan needs to be in place, understood by those who will be involved in implementing, and executed quickly and effectively. The team at Slough never expected to experience an incident of this type, but having a plan in place enabled a smoother and quicker recovery.
Phillip Herring, Commercial Director, VINCI Park UK
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