Moore: Blood Is Thicker Than Water

  • Bob Gulla managing editor, Reason, FM Global

A surprise flood threatens to bring down a major facility

Working Together: Moore Company and FM Global

Working Together: Moore Company and FM Global

When a flood submerged the Moore Company under four feet of water, their first call was to FM Global. Within a day, they had an action plan to get back up and running.

The Moore Company, a privately held, fourth-generation, family-run company headquartered in Rhode Island, USA, has been in operation for more than a century. It is a reputable manufacturing business with five diverse branches. One of its core products is Darlington Fabrics, makers of elastic spandex fabric.

In March 2010, a massive flood pounded the Darlington facility, infiltrating it with 4 feet (1.2 meters) of water. For a brief moment, it looked like four generations of manufacturing would come to an end. That is, until FM Global and Moore partnered to launch a full-scale, all-hands-on-deck cleanup effort that would return the plant to full capacity at a dizzying pace.

Here's the story of that event in the words of the people who witnessed it firsthand.

Jon Senior, Plant Manager, Darlington Fabrics
The Moore Company family has been a part of my family for a long time. My story is the same as most of the folks who work here. People put their children through college working at Moore. It's always been a community-oriented company. They have played a big role in this community and have for a long time.

At this particular facility, the Darlington Fabrics facility, we bring in gray goods—big, knitted rolls of fabric—to prepare and dye them. Then we send the rolls back up to our facility across town for finishing and shipping. The Darlington facility is right on the Pawcatuck River. Normally, it's a place full of wildlife, striped bass, and all sorts of boating; all literally feet from the factory.

Leading up to the flood, it seemed to rain continuously. A week prior to the flood, we saw the river rising. But this time, it didn't subside. It got to the top of the banks and we thought, "Gee, that river looks awful high." It rained for a few more days, and it seemed dangerously high. Then, at that point, we had a big rainstorm. We heard the water coming over the banks. Then it came into the mill's parking lot. The cars were getting submerged. Then, the power station got hit, and all the power went down. We evacuated the plant. It happened so fast. At 7 a.m. everyone was working as usual, and by 10 a.m. everyone was gone. The place was empty.

We had a flood back in the 1980s, where just a little water made it into the plant, so this was something different. As I was looking at this flood, you could see the water was much higher. I just envisioned all of our machinery underwater. It was crazy. The water was coming in over the windowsills. Cars in our parking lot were almost completely submerged. I honestly didn't think the plant would ever run again. How could it possibly open?

For a few days, the river had the whole town in its clutches. Slowly it receded, and there was talk about getting the plant going again. My main concern was that we didn't have our machines. We couldn't do business and fill our orders. But things started rolling once FM Global came into the picture. There was a lot of activity once we could get back into the plant. Lots of people came with machines, big lights, a filtration system. They were cleaning up around the clock. It was pretty impressive.

We had daily communication meetings with FM Global and the cleaning crew. There was a whole team of engineers and electronics people working on the machines in concert. At that point, I could see the effort the company was putting into this thing. Like I said, at one point I thought it was shot, we were gone. But when I saw the crew, the machines and all the technical help, I'm happy to say I was wrong. We were going to make a go of this thing after all.

Dana Barlow, President and CEO, The Moore Company
Every family in this town has had a family member work here. There's a lot of history and culture here that we try to preserve. At one facility here, we knit raw materials into fabric. Then we truck fabric across town where we dye and finish the fabric. The fabric comes back to the first facility where it's packaged and shipped to our customers.

In late March 2010, the conditions were ripe for flood. We had had a lot of snow and that snow was melting. The March rain came and we had a lot of it. At our Darlington facility, we have a flood prevention group that watches the river very closely. What they saw was disturbing. The river rose very quickly and we started to sandbag. It became apparent that we weren't going to get ahead of it, so we had to start evacuating. It happened very quickly. We moved some product out of the building, but it became an evacuation instead.

The whole thing was a surreal experience. The police had the area cordoned off. I walked down to the river and looked across it at our plant. To see 4 feet (1.2 meters) of water running through the river side of the building was just unbelievable. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it.

In a time of need, FM Global really stepped up and showed us what an insurance carrier should do. I was amazed.

Dana Barlow, President and CEO, The Moore Company

It took a week for the water to subside. One of our first calls was to FM Global, our insurance carrier. They dispatched their response team to view what was going on. Within a day or two, they arranged for emergency response teams and restoration companies to come here from the Midwest, and we developed a cleanup plan. One company was an industrial cleaning company that helped us remove the damaged product, and the second team was a specialized equipment company that worked on drying, rewiring and replacing the motors on our equipment so we could get back up and running.

FM Global assigned Greg Twomey, branch claims manager, to the case, and he was here every day working with our people. We had a group meeting every afternoon to discuss where we were and what our game plan was. They reassured us all that this was what they did. They're trained to deal with these situations. They had the right resources for us, too.

In a terrible situation, they made us feel more comfortable. The folks they brought in knew exactly what they were doing; the cleanup effort was unbelievable. In a few weeks' time we could see that we were going to get the plant back up and running. While the cleanup was going on, we worked with Greg on the finances. We kept good records, and so we started working with FM Global to identify where the losses were and we tallied the extent of the damages.

That's the way a good insurance policy is supposed to work, and I'm happy to report that it really did work that way. In a time of need, FM Global really stepped up and showed us what an insurance carrier should do. I was amazed. The objective all along was getting us back in business, and that was exactly what happened.

Jim Rowe, Assistant Treasurer, The Moore Company
I procure a policy every year to make sure we have the proper coverage and I work to ensure that all our divisions are in compliance in terms of safety. Our relationship with FM Global has been going on for a quarter century or more, and we will continue to use them, because they provide excellent service. They really do act as partners. We rely heavily on their engineering expertise, which is what they do better than anyone.

Moore and FM Global are certainly in alignment in terms of loss prevention. Safety is a priority for both of us. Each one of The Moore Company facilities operates at the highest standards, and we take great pride in our safety record.

The flood loss in March 2010 was our first, and we were anxious about handling it properly. We wondered how long we would be shut down and how it would impact future sales. We needed outside help to get us back up and running.

FM Global came in with their resources and got the right people on the job quickly. The timeliness and swift action they took impressed us all here. Incredibly, we were fully up and running three months after the event. There were many companies in the same situation around here, affected by the same flood, that were out of business for nine months or more.

Both The Moore Company employees and the FM Global employees worked very well together. The cleanup operation was a huge deal; to get the contractors paid in a timely manner, we needed those progress payments. They really pitched in and made the funds available immediately.

We also worried that we might not get the right replacement parts for some of the specialized equipment we had. We have a lot of equipment that seemed irreplaceable. But FM Global stepped in and put us in contact with the right contractors to get the machinery fixed. At the end of the day, even though we went through a terrible experience, we couldn't have asked for a better partner to have our backs.

Greg Twomey, Branch Claims Manager, FM Global
I got a call from Moore the day after the loss, and I made arrangements to visit the next morning to speak with their assistant treasurer, Jim Rowe. I wanted an assessment of the loss. The facility was nearly 4 feet (1.2 meters) under water and he was looking for some direction. The visit gave us a sense of what the loss was. The objective was to assess the damage and get a jump on the repair project. At that point, we laid out a specific plan. This was days before the water retreated, but it gave everyone a jump on the plan.

It was a little tricky walking through the facility after the flood. There were no lights, and the slippery footing made it slow going. The catastrophe was localized, so the contractors locally were busy. We ended up getting contractors from Chicago and St. Louis to partner with us and got them repairing equipment and cleaning up.

Their goal was the same as ours: to get The Moore Company back in business as soon as possible. A partnership was made, and we moved forward with the plan as soon as the water receded. There was never any doubt in my mind that they'd get back up to speed. The only question was, how long would it take?

They were committed to get things done safely and correctly, and that's exactly what we wanted, too. That forestalled a lot of problems. They are committed to their employees, and they're honest and upfront. That made the claim process very smooth. They do what they say they'll do. They listen and take advice. They were committed to a safe claim resolution.

It was an emotional time for the company. Many of the employees wondered about whether the plant would be rebuilt and if they would have their jobs. But we calmed their fears. They restarted the business in two weeks and were fully up and running in three months.