Safety & Accident

Cedar Rapids Fleet Tested by Floods of 2008

Despite losing 91 units, four out of five garages, all but one fuel island, and an entire data network, the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fleet staff came together to overcome these challenges and forge a “new normal.”

January 2009, Government Fleet - Feature

by Chad Simon

Sometimes it takes a major disaster to successfully bring people together to work as a team, but how they will respond is an unknown until they are actually tested. Last summer, the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fleet staff passed the test.

Reminiscent of the scene post-Hurricane Katrina, the Cedar Rapids Flood of 2008 devastated the town of 125,000 June 13 when the Cedar River overflowed its banks before receding about a week later. Total damages were estimated at more than $500 million, according to Dennis Hogan, city fleet services manager, who oversaw a 900-vehicle fleet pre-flood.

The fleet alone lost 91 units, including trucks, cars, and trailers; all but one fuel island; and four of the City's five garages. In addition, 5,390 homes were evacuated and 10 square miles — 14 percent of the city — were buried under water. Fortunately, no casualties were reported.

The city's fleet staff (42 total) proactively evacuated critical equipment the day before the flood actually hit and temporarily set up operations in a tent erected at the Veteran's Memorial Stadium parking lot. Eventually, fleet moved its operations into an office trailer located at the central fire station's storage facility, which previously was flooded with 12 feet of water.

Replacing Equipment

To replace the lost equipment, out of necessity, the fleet sole-sourced vehicles and fuel islands from suppliers that would help get it through the winter since order-to-delivery timeframes would take longer than anticipated. "We must have everything in place for the winter so we can continue to move forward with our recovery effort," said Hogan.

The fleet is purchasing critical vehicles off lots and renting equipment through its vendor network. The City Council must approve all vehicle purchases over $100,000. In the long term, the fleet is utilizing rent-to-own situations in which rental costs come off the purchase price should the fleet decide to buy the units.

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