Sweden Vattenfall’s Customer Service office in Umeå, northern Sweden, was completely destroyed by a major fire on 2 January. Within an hour, however, the unit had secured its most crucial public service, namely the reception of fault notifications.

Twenty four hours later most of the customer services were once again fully operational. That seemed almost inconceivable for Jimmy Sandell, Head of Nordic Customer Services, when he saw the office, workplace for some three hundred employees, go up in smoke. His explanation for this fast resolution:

"Many correct decisions were made quickly while the employees, irrespective of their unit, were still able to provide the necessary services. In short, we dealt with the crisis thanks to the efforts of many professionals who spared no pains in the process."

Vattenfall office in Umeå

Crisis plan
The fire, which destroyed half the neighbourhood, had started in an adjacent building at six thirty in the evening. At first it seemed that the fire could be limited, but the office was evacuated for safety reasons. By eight o clock it was clear that the smoke damage would prevent work the following day. Temporary premises were needed, and Jimmy Sandell called in his management team who were on weekend leave.

"The team worked on three fronts simultaneously: solve the premises issue, provide the required IT equipment and inform the employees," says Sandell.

As specified in the existing crisis plan, the fault notification service was immediately redirected to Eldistribution’s customer services in Trollhättan.

Group sms lists were used to notify the employees of the situation at ten o clock. In the meantime, the blaze had spread like wildfire. Before that, the fire brigade and employees had managed to rescue most of the office’s data equipment and telephones.

At one in the morning, Vattenfall’s IT manager was informed of the need for new IT solutions, and at the same time the search for possible temporary premises began.

Voluntary move to temporary premises
The day after the fire, some of the customer services personnel flew to Vattenfall’s office in Solna, where a floor was quickly prepared for them. Team manager Niclas Grundströmer brought along four removal boxes filled with equipment which had been rescued from the flames, while the IT department in Solna backed this up with laptops, monitors and the necessary connections.

"It was just brilliant how well we cooperated together," commented Grundströmer.

Jenny Örtengren and Peter Nyström were two of over 40 energy advisors who quickly decided to accept the offer to work in the office at Arenastaden and commute on a weekly basis.

Jenny Örtengren and Peter Nyström

"I only have myself to think about, so I just had to pack and set off," says Örtengren, who was in Solna on Tuesday evening and could go to her workplace as usual, at eight on Wednesday morning.

Peter Nyström is originally from Stockholm and had nothing against going back to stay there for a while.

"To move down to Arenastaden and work there was voluntary and it was an easy choice for me."

Two days after the fire, large parts of Vattenfall Customer Services had moved to temporary premises in Umeå and Vattenfall’s office in Stornorrfors power plant, six miles north of Umeå.

The search is currently under way for suitable temporary premises in Umeå, and Sandell is very hopeful that the matter will be resolved within 3 to 4 weeks.

"The aim is eventually to move back to the old address, although that is expected to take almost two years."

It is not yet clear what caused the fire, but the police suspect an electrical fault in the adjacent wooden building, where the fire started. No one was hurt in the fire.

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