Debbie Missiaen recalls the moment she heard that the Blue Sea Systems warehouse, where she has worked for the past decade, was lost in a fire. “I had to go to the building myself to see if it was true,” recalls Missiaen.
Kelli Teichman, a 17-year employee of Blue Sea Systems, a division of Power Products LLC, remembers the call as well.
“It was a Saturday morning around 8am when I heard about it from a friend of mine who texted me; I thought she had a wrong number,” said Teichman. “I drove immediately to the Blue Sea Systems building and it looked like a bomb went off. The windows of our workstations were literally blown out. We were all in shock and worried about the future of the company and our careers, but the mood was of support and a resolve to dig-in and rebuild.”
In the early morning hours of November 10, 2018, a fire destroyed the Blue Sea Systems warehouse in Bellingham, Wash. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but the facility was destroyed in the blaze. Not only was the building a complete loss, but the company also lost $3 million in inventory. Now, almost eight months later, all the employees are back to work in a new facility and the business is fully operational --- a testament to hard work by the entire team, their families and the Bellingham community.
“The industry and community support were overwhelming,” said Dave Johnson, Senior Vice President of Blue Sea Systems. “We received emails and phone calls from customers, suppliers, and even competitors asking if they could help. Even though the fire was a tragic event, it helped us all remember how grateful we are to work in such a supportive industry.”
“In less than a year, Blue Sea Systems went from a total loss to almost fully recovered, which is incredible,” said Craig Smith, Blue Sea Systems vice president of operations. “We are a family, and the first thought after the fire was making sure everyone was OK. We even decided to continue paying employee salaries while the rebuild was being done. The next priority was to find a new facility and get back up and running as quick as possible. We know that the fire was disruptive for several customers but were able to recover to a fully operational state in less than one year which demonstrates the positive spirit and dedication of everyone in our organization.”
Shortly after the fire, Blue Sea Systems was flooded with calls from local businesses, trying to help. Within a week of the fire, the company set up a temporary office location and started receiving and shipping thanks to support from companies like Allsop and Lithtex Printing just to name a few; both graciously donated space at their facility. Employees at Blue Sea Systems continued to receive paychecks while they waited for word about when to come back to work.
“Our entire workforce had a positive attitude and offered to help,” said Teichman. “Every single employee, their families, the community and people we had never met before offered to help us rebuild. It was overwhelming at times, but together, we put the pieces back together and did whatever we needed to do to get back to production. We had the support of Brunswick and Mercury to rebuild our business and our careers. It was very emotional to realize how close we had all become through this -- not just working together as a team, but really caring about each other and each other’s well-being. I think we realized in that moment that we were family.”
Within six days of the fire, the employees, working with Brunswick’s IT department, was able to get the customer service system back up and running. Shortly after that, by using Power Products extensive network of production and distribution capabilities, the team began receiving and shipping orders again and were at 95% shipping rates in March – just four months later.
“There wasn’t a person in the company that I knew of or heard of that didn’t have a positive attitude and commitment to put in the effort to rebuild,” said Smith. “It was overwhelming at times, but honestly there was nobody complaining about doing anything necessary to get back to production.”
“Blue Sea Systems has spent decades building a legacy and reputation for designing and supplying the most reliable components in the marine and mobile industry,” said Tom Schuessler, Power Products president. “We do this because we truly care about quality and safety. It is this platform that we are using to rebuild our organization. The fire was a tragedy. But we are now using this as an opportunity to build an even greater company, and continue supporting our customers, and setting the standard for marine and mobile electrical accessories.”