Night of the Twister: Two Years of Work Nearly Blown Away

“We had our fingers crossed. Everything we’d done for the past two years was hinging on the Allegheny shredder. We transported it to the warehouse, wired it up, hit the power switch—and it ran like a charm.”

Over the last two years, Bob Frankland has put in a tremendous effort in the founding and expansion of Frankland Document Destruction, in Jackson, Tennessee. In one quick moment, however, everything he had worked so hard for was on the verge of being lost.

Sunday evening, May 4, 2003, two devastating tornadoes roared through Jackson just after midnight. One ripped a swath through the downtown area, where Frankland Document Destruction has a record storage facility—and where they park the company’s three mobile shredding trucks during off hours.

“My wife and I were at home tracking the storm on the weather reports,” Bob says. “When it was confirmed that tornadoes were touching down, we went to the most secure area of our house. It was a little after midnight. Hail was coming down the size of softballs, even though we live about five miles from the downtown area where the larger tornado hit.

“We lost power for some time, but eventually it seemed that the storm had passed, so we went to bed. About one-thirty in the morning, my father, who is co-founder and works with me at the company, knocked on our door. He had gotten calls about damage to the downtown area. ‘Son, we’d better head down to see what’s happened,’ he said.”

When they arrived at their facility, Bob and his father could hardly believe what they found. “We saw right away the extent of the damage,” Bob says. “The city was fortunate that the tornado came through at night. If it had been during the day, hundreds of people might have been hurt, perhaps killed.”

The tornado had devastated the company’s 40,000 square-foot building, almost entirely collapsing the roof. Their three trucks had been tossed around like toys. They had been blown 60 yards or more across the parking lot and out into an adjoining street. “Two of the trucks were made by Shred-Tech,” Bob says. “They were turned over and very badly damaged. The other truck we had purchased from Allegheny. It was a Mack 33000GVW that weighs nearly 5 tons. It had been blown across the street that borders our facility and into the side of a building, which had partially collapsed on top of it. Needless to say, the truck was totaled.

“That meant that we had no trucks ready for business the next day. We had a contingency plan in case one of the trucks went down, but when all three of our trucks were gone, I realized that we were in serious, serious trouble. The Shred-Tech trucks had the shredders built into them, and they were beyond repair. The Allegheny shredder ran off a generator and could be removed from the truck. The only chance we had of staying in business hinged on whether that Allegheny shredder still worked—after the truck had been totaled and a building had fallen on it.”

Bob called a wrecking company and had the trucks turned over and hauled back onto the company’s lot. Because he couldn’t get the shredders out of the Shred-Tech trucks, he sent them to the local service center.

“Fortunately, we had a warehouse in a different area of town that had not been damaged,” Bob says. “We picked up everything at our downtown facility that hadn’t been destroyed—files, computers, papers, anything we could find. We set them up in our other warehouse. I rented three trucks and sent them out on our normal routes. That was the day right after the storm. Our staff called each of our customers and told them what had happened—and described how we were going to continue servicing them.

“The tornado was a local disaster and everyone was pitching in to help,” Bob continues. “Our customers understood that we had lost our facility and trucks, and they trusted us enough to allow us to pick up their paper in the rented trucks and shred offsite in our warehouse. That’s what good customer service will do for you. When you create customer loyalty, people are going to stick beside you.”

Everything depended on the Allegheny shredder

One major problem remained: Bob didn’t know if he had a shredder that would work. “Our service manager tore off the doors of the Allegheny truck and pulled out the shredder. We had our fingers crossed. Everything we’d done for the past two years was hinging on the Allegheny shredder. We transported it to the warehouse, wired it up, hit the power switch—and it ran like a charm.

“The cases and housing around the shredder were smashed. We took them off, called Allegheny, and ordered new ones. The company manufactured new ones for us and had them to us in a couple days. Now the shredder looks brand new and is working as well as when we bought it. Without that Allegheny shredder, we would have had to fold up shop.”

It took two and a half months to get the other trucks up and running. During that time, the three rental trucks continued picking up from customers. “Of course, we had only one shredder,” says Bob. “To keep up, we had to shred day and night. We did that for close to three months. The Allegheny shredder ran nearly continuously all that time, without a hitch.

“We didn’t lose a single customer. The day after the tornado, we were running our routes just as though the whole thing hadn’t happened. That was a Monday, and we began shredding on Tuesday. We were shredding offsite because of the flexibility the Allegheny shredder gave us.

“One thing that an event like this reveals is the character of everyone you’re working with,” Bob says. “It becomes apparent which employees are in it because they love it—and which are just there for the job.”

It showed a lot about the equipment Bob had, too. “If not for our Allegheny shredder,” he says, “the last two years of my life would have been blown away.”

Bob Frankland, III, President and
Bob Frankland, IV, Vice President
Frankland Document Destruction, Jackson, Tennessee