Building Damage: The long term impact of a physical incident

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Office damage recovery
Last Wednesday, 19th October, a gas explosion occurred in Portland Oregon, This report, written a few days after the explosion, shows the extent of the impact loss of business premises – particularly if the premises are the major trading outlet of the company.  This event has affected many small business, underlining the devastating effect a disaster can have on an enterprise that relies on a single site.  It also highlights the uncertainty associated with how long it can take for the business to start trading normally again and therefore, the importance of preparing for extended disruption

You can avert your gaze from the two obliterated buildings at Northwest 23rd Avenue and Glisan Street. But you can’t escape the smoke.

Its sharp, acrid smell stings the nostrils. It’s one of the leftovers from Wednesday’s two massive natural gas explosions that destroyed those buildings, damaged others, and broke both legs of a firefighter seeking to save lives.

Two days later the visible smoke was gone. But Friday afternoon, the pungent odor lingered.

A weary Deborah Haynes stood outside her business, Blush Beauty Bar, across 23rd from the blast. “The soot is everywhere,” she said. “I smell like a chimney.”

Haynes and others whose buildings were damaged by Wednesday’s incident wondered what lay ahead, from questions about insurance, to making repairs, to replacing inventory. “It’s just beyond the scale of what we’re used to,” Hales said. “We’ve had individual businesses burned out by fire. We’ve never had all that happen at once on this kind of scale.”

Deborah Haynes, owner of Blush Beauty Bar at 513 N.W. 23rd Ave., does not know when her business will be able to resume normal operations.

In conversations with affected business owners and others Friday, it appeared that a definitive list of blast-damaged businesses and properties had not yet been compiled. At the least, these businesses were damaged: Pizzicato Pizza, 505 N.W. 23rd; Kitchen Kaboodle, 404 N.W. 23rd Ave.; Umpqua Bank, 467 N.W. 23rd; Blush Beauty Bar, 513 N.W. 23rd; Moonstruck Chocolate Café, 526 N.W. 23rd; Campbell Court Apartments and Office Suites, 530 N.W. 23rd; Ritual Adornments, 524 N.W. 23rd; dental office of Dr. Thomas Pollard, 419 N.W. 23rd; and FedEx Office Print & Ship Center, 475 NW 23rd. Businesses destroyed in the explosions include: Portland Bagelworks, 500 N.W. 23rd; Art Work Rebels, 510 N.W. 23rd; Fetch Eyewear, 506 N.W. 23rd; and Dosha Salon Spa NW, 2281 N.W. Glisan St., although part of the building in which the salon is located still stands.

Investigators from Portland Fire & Rescue, NW Natural, Portland Police and other agencies were expected to continue searching for clues to help explain how a natural gas rupture in the street could send apparently migrating gas into two nearby buildings. They also want to determine what ignited the gas, shooting flames skyward, exploding like a bomb and sending up billowing plumes of smoke.

Within 24 hours of the catastrophe, the construction project subcontractor reported its work crew had damaged the natural gas line near the project site across from the buildings. It’s uncertain when life will return to normal in the area, just as it’s unclear when construction will resume the project: a nearly $15 million, four-story building no the southeast corner of the intersection that will house the new home for Restoration Hardware

Haynes, who started cosmetics store Blush a dozen years ago on 23rd, said Friday she didn’t know when she’d be able to reopen.

Several of the floor-to-ceiling windows were shattered as well as the front-door glass.