Pet World Dilemma After the Fire

photo Lakeshore Systems, inc.

photo Lakeshore Systems, inc.

Our family business had a devastating fire on May 25, 2015. Please click below for background info leading up to this post. To expand comment potential, I’m hosting this particular post on my personal site so folks who don’t use Facebook or Twitter can participate.

http://www.petworldlawrence.com/component/content/article/42-news-items/450-official-statement-regarding-the-fire-.html

UPDATE

June 20, 2015
Live Animals and Fire Prevention at Pet World Express

The new, temporary Pet World location (across the parking lot by Bikram Yoga) is open and running. Well, crawling is probably a better word. But we didn’t want to wait any longer to reopen. You need our staff, our feeders, our water, and you’ve made it very clear you want to spend your money at “PW Express” in order to facilitate rebuilding. We appreciate that very much and the truth is, we need you more than you need us. We need to see your smiling faces, pet your dogs, test your water, trim your bird’s wings, count your crickets, and answer those pet questions. Every time you come in, even just to pick up a pig ear for your pooch, you are helping us heal and move forward. Thank you for that.

Everyone wants to know when we’ll have pets available at PWX. The building is up to code but not currently equipped with any fire prevention system – not even a smoke detector. We have emergency lights, lighted exit signs, and fire extinguishers but that’s it. A sprinkler system is not an option in the temporary location for a variety of reasons beyond our control. But we just found out that our insurance will pay for monitored smoke detection in the temporary location. Not just landline monitoring (which we all know is worthless when the landline is destroyed), but 4G cellular, wireless monitoring! That is very expensive but it’s the latest in monitored alarm communication and goes above and beyond most professional recommendations. I hope this is not inappropriate but I must say that American Family has done an outstanding job in assisting us and guiding us since day one when our agent (Ron King since 1988) was on the scene right away.

Here is the dilemma: live animals or no live animals in the temporary location? Pet World will not reopen permanently in the former location or any other location without the latest in fire safety, including sprinklers. If we can’t do it right, we won’t do it at all and, quite frankly, a sprinkler system is a deal breaker for us. No sprinkler system? No Pet World.

But what about in the temporary location for the next 3-6 months? The system we are installing at PWX goes above and beyond what is being proposed in fire safety code revisions. We’ll have 14 smoke detectors monitored by a non-stop 4G cellular alarm communicator with battery backup. Response time will be virtually minutes because the alarm will activate in mere seconds. 14 smoke detectors in this 2400 square foot space is basically the same as one detector per 9’ x 9’ room – except there are no walls so it’s even more effective. Overkill? Maybe. But without a sprinkler system we feel like it’s the next best thing. Are we being too paranoid? Yes, but we all know why. PWX is small and we can’t house very many live animals but unnecessary risk of even one animal is too much.

So please talk to us. One reason our customers feel the loss as much as we do is because you all are an integral part of PW and you know that. You speak, we listen. We ask, you answer. Pet World is yours more than ours. So here is my question to all our tangible customers, current and former, who actually shop with us in Lawrence and understand exactly what PW means to the Lawrence community: How do you feel about us having live animals in the temporary location after the new fire prevention system is installed, even though it will not have sprinklers?

Please comment via facebook, twitter, or on this blog post. Your feedback is very important. Thank you.

39 thoughts on “Pet World Dilemma After the Fire

  1. Donald

    We took a family vote and we think you should have them showcased on the page to order but we say do what seems most safe and offers the most peace of mind for you, until you open the new location.

    Reply
  2. Josh

    Hey Sherry, I have no plans to buy any more animals, so maybe my opinion is irrelevant. But with that kind of system, I think you’d be safe enough to move forward with some animals. Very very little risk and a lot of benefit for a lot of people. That’s my two cents. As always we continue to pray for the entire Pet World family and especially you and Tim.

    Reply
  3. Jenny Bustos-Gomez

    I think the answer best lies with you and your staff. Could you ever forgive yourself if this happened again? even though my girls are missing the live animals and petting the bunny rabbits, I am perfectly happy telling them that the building is not secure enough to have live animals yet.

    Reply
  4. Alaine Kuestersteffen

    Wow, what a hard question. So many variables like, what kind of animals? How fast would response time be even w the best monitoring? It’s the smoke inhalation that’s the scary part. Would 1st responders be further at risk trying to get animals out? In other words…sorry…I don’t know. Please know that I support your decision which ever way you go. If I lived closer I would sign up to volunteer my 1st responder experience in hopes that eased your mind regardless of risk.
    Hugs from Wichita. ..

    Reply
  5. Stacey VanHouten, Sheldon, Evan and Molly Weisgrau

    As a very long time loyal pet world family, we say go ahead and have animals in the temp location. It sounds as if you will have a state of the art digital system, and, frankly, what is Pet World without pets?

    Reply
  6. Marilyn Keen

    I trust your judgement and call on this. I appreciate that you want our input too. Those animals were a loss for the community as well as for you all. If you will have the 4G monitoring and response time is quick then I say take a chance if you feel in your gut this will be what you need to do. We want you to be able to stay in business and get back to what you do so well!

    Reply
    1. Sherry Emerson Post author

      You hit the nail on the head. Not only do we feel lost without the animals, PW can’t have that same, magical draw without them. Sales are directly related to customer traffic and with our tiny profit margins, it’s not only terrifying to forfeit the sales, we can’t recall the rest of our employees until the numbers go back up. Without our staff, PW can’t function. Staying in business temporarily is key to reopening permanently. But at the same time, we need to do what’s right for the animals. This is a tough one, for sure.

      Reply
  7. Sonya

    Sherry – You have every right to be paranoid, and we share in your paranoia :) The selling of live animals can wait until you can have piece of mind and know that every measure has been taken to ensure total fire safety has been checked off the list. I do believe the community can wait. We will continue to be your customers in the interim!!! … Peace of mind is paramount!

    Reply
  8. Donna

    Such a hard decision! How close is the nearest 1st responder? Given that you will install the latest technology, equipped with circuit breakers all around(?) I say go. Most fires start with electrical problems. We depend on circuit breakers everywhere in our barn. So no animal gets shocked/electrocuted. I say, go for it!

    Reply
  9. And

    You should do what makes you comfortable, but I don’t imagine such a tragedy will strike you twice in a few months. The pets are a major part of pet world. We come to get dog food but spend time with the animals because that’s the fun of pet world. We would love to see animals there, but we also understand your hesitance.

    Reply
  10. Rita

    I think that you should do what you are comfortable with. My opinion is that nothing is a hundred percent safe but with that alarm system it sounds like they would be far safer then they would be in my and most homes they will be going to.

    Reply
  11. Rochelle Marsh

    I feel like it would certainly be welcomed by the community. Often, we would go just to get one little thing, but mostly to see the animals, for something to do. One thought, might it be possible that the pets that are there go home with staff each night? Fish would be difficult to transport that often, but rabbits, lizards, etc.

    Much love!

    Reply
    1. Sherry Emerson Post author

      Yes, the staff discussion leans toward leaving low risk animals (fish, reptiles) overnight but taking high risk animals (mammals) home each night. Also, no birds yet. Too susceptible.

      Reply
  12. Alicia Bergquist

    I’m OK with it. We are hoping that you will start offering live feeder mice again soon. We don’t trust getting live feeders from chain pet stores. We trust you.

    Reply
  13. Christa Griffin

    The odds of this ever happening again especially to Pet World are so slim, but still very possible. The odds are in your favor with the smoke detectors and i feel you will be completely fine housing animals at PWX. However, the scarring of what happened to you and your employees will never leave your hearts. For the sake of your minds and sanity, i do not believe you should house animals. I do think every employee should sit down together with you and Tim and have a group vote of who feels comfortable with the animals overnight. Each person who would like to speak about why or why not should feel free. Sort of like a socratic seminar.
    Christa

    Reply
  14. Marsha

    I think that even without sprinklers that having the fire alarm system makes it safe enough to provide live animals for the pet world family and community to see, pet, hold, love and buy. I think pet world is the only true pet store in lawrence and it wouldn’t be the same without all the animals.

    Reply
  15. Kimberley Jolliff

    I think it is a great idea! Having a new fire prevention system installed will make a difference, in the unthinkable event that something happens again. But having live animals, even a limited amount will bring in more people/customers. Which will increase sales, which would benefit towards getting Pet World back up and running. Best wishes and luck to you all!!!

    Reply
  16. Amy McClellan

    I never blamed anyone for the fire protection system in place. No one ever thought it would have happened. No one, even the city thought of the unimaginable. Now that it had happened, everyone learned and everyone felt the sadness. I myslef am happy just to have the mini PW open. There is no need to rush things…slow and steady. You and the workers have to be comfortable and secure in your efforts….that is all that matters. Do what feels best to you, the rest will fall into place. You will alawys have loyal customers, regardless if it 1 month from now or a year from now.

    Reply
  17. Lori Wray

    For the safety of any animal who may reside there, until you get the sprinkler system installed, I say please don’t do it. This tragedy was flukey and random, but for the sake of your much-loved business and your own sanity, wait until this occurs. People will respectfully wait if they truly care, and it sounds like they do. I know I do.

    Reply
  18. Mary

    I would be fine with it. Knowing it is a temporary situation and some protection for that short time is better than no protection. God bless you both, your staff, your losses and your future!

    Reply
  19. Robin Bartekoske

    the live animals are so much apart of PW. they bring so many children, that is part of what makes PW such a wonderful store. aside from all the wonderful staff. is the children. to see the children’s smiles and squeals of joy and thrill to handle the pets that hey would never have the exposure to any other time it their lives. I can not imagine the loss these kids would have with out these opportunity’s you and Tim have given. the better people the kids are growing up to be because of something like PW. anymore a ONE of a kind store. Pleas if possible bring what you can. and as soon as you can Reopen. It would be a great loss to Lawrence and surrounding areas to loose PW forever. I am sure the community would do what ever is needed to help get it open. all you would need to do is ask. and WE WILL COME

    Reply
  20. Susan Hires

    More important is your comfort level. You have just experienced a heartbreak beyond comprehension. I think we your customers would be selfish to demand animals in the store right now. But I get the PW experience- many times when feeling blue, my go to pick-me-up has been an hour snuggling there. I for one would be happy to bring my PW baby, guinea pig Marigold to come to be petted.

    Reply
  21. Mary and Ted

    It sounds to us as if this is a very sound and good precaution, and safe for live animals. We say go for it!! All the best to you!

    Reply
    1. Sherry Emerson Post author

      Carole! We got the book you sent, thank you. I think we are leaning toward limited reptiles and fish on site then small mammals who go home with someone at night. Miss you!

      Reply
  22. Michelle, Melody and Tabby

    Ya know animals are a great source of healing after tragedies. They give us unconditional love, they calm most stressful situations . I say bring back what you are comfortable with at the temp. store., we have seen the joy and happiness on the faces of the customers and staff when they see the animals. We know it is a hard decision, but know what ever you decide The town of Lawrence will be behind you 100 % .. but it seems like you have the most up to date system available right . Go with your best judgement.

    Reply
    1. Carl Myers

      As a firefighter for 25 years I have seen smoke detectors save lives many times over. I have also seen a tragic outcome due to the lack of them. A monintered system will alert the fire depart at the beginning stages of a fire. Coupled with a quick response lives human and animal can be saved.
      I would also add a Knox Box to the building (ask LFD about this).

      Simple fire prevention training to your employees, I would love to help with that, annual fire inspections, and smoke detectors. You will be going above and beyond what most business do.

      One thing you guys should consider in the decision of animals in the temporary location is the business in the strip mall. A fire in their location can spread to yours. I don’t want to scare you just something to think about.

      After this extremely long reply :-) I think you guys will be OK to have anamils there!!!!!

      Reply
  23. Hannah

    Because of the circumstances I absolutely say no. If the am things missing from this building are directly going against the kind of business and fire prevention technique you are trying to build, then no. Ask yourself; would allowing animals in the business right now align with the fire prevention and morals you are trying to uphold in the future? If the answer is no, then you know it is not the right time to hold animals. Although the odds are against another incident like this, the consistent vision for fire prevention in the future of pet world would be appalled at the decision to house pets in the current temporary facility. The Lawrence community is behind you no matter what your choose, although as you said yourself. If you are to open your doors again, you are going to do it right. So why not start now?

    Reply
  24. Janet

    The only live pets our household currently purchases from PW are aquarium fish. You cannot resume selling those soon enough for us, and I’m risking an uninformed and selfish opinion that they would be the least likely critters to really need that sprinkler system in addition to the quick fire response you describe.

    Reply
  25. Nicole, Kevin, Sadie and Moose

    We very recently started shopping at PW and were devastated by the news. I can no longer own bunnies, so the store was my favorite place to settle this need for buns. Also, we prefer to buy our dog food locally and your store carried what we needed and the staff helped us to get the type of food we wanted for our furbabies. Fire is devastating, but we can’t live or love in fear of what happened in the past; especially when it is beyond our control. I understand the grief and I’m so sorry you have to have this dilemma. The decision will come to you when you least expect it.

    Reply
  26. Jason Dallinga

    If the system you have gives you no peace, only stock animals that you can move out at the end of the day. The fish and arthropods did fairly well they could probably stay. All of the other animals could sleep over with some of your staff and then come back to work in the morning.

    Reply
  27. Aaron Norris

    We have always trusted PW for all things pet related, and this is no different! Our belief in and support for you all has only increased while watching you handle this awful tragedy with such honesty and grace. Whatever the decision, we support it knowing that it was reached with great thought and care!

    Reply
  28. Christina Maki

    A little late to the party because we’ve been on vacation in the mountains with spotty reception.

    If it were me, knowing what you all do about which animals are more likely to survive another fire, I think I’d be most comfortable with the idea of keeping fish and reptiles and other animals who aren’t affected by carbon monoxide as quickly on site and waiting on mammals or only keeping a few that are easy to take home. It sounds like that’s what you all are leaning toward, and I think it’s your best option if you’d still like to have animals on site. I can totally understand why it’s a big help to your business. More than once I stopped by just because I wanted to see Fletcher and the other critters and walked out with a few purchases I didn’t know I “needed,” so it’s definitely a good way to bring people into the store. And since you guys need to get more capital in the short term to help with rebuilding, I know how important that is!

    Whatever you guys decide, I know it will be a decision you make with the animals’ best interests in mind.

    Reply
  29. Eric Ryan

    I would love to see pets in PWX! As stated above, the system in the temp location will be much, much better than the home systems peta are going to. I say go for it!

    Reply

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