If you were told to inventory the contents of your house, apartment, office or dorm room, where would you start? How many total items would be on your list?
In order to file an insurance claim after the May 22 fire, the K-State Libraries administration has been managing that overwhelming task. Roberta Johnson, director of administrative and IT services, walked us through the process of inventorying a building that’s bigger than nine football fields.
Johnson explained a series of steps have to be completed before the insurance company will provide financial compensation. Several tasks have been finalized.
First, K-State’s insurance company subcontracted with an insurance adjuster (in this case, Crawford & Company). Crawford & Company will work closely with Belfor, the recovery and restoration company, in determining the extent of the damage that was a result of the fire and the subsequent water exposure.
Before that happens, though, the entire contents of the building had to be inventoried and a determination made as to what was or was not salvageable, so Crawford & Company subcontracted with two more organizations. RCF Salvage inventoried all fixtures, furniture, and equipment (FFE) in the building, and Envista Forensics inventoried technology, which included everything from computers to the digital displays and checkout machines.
“I feel like I have nine million people to deal with,” she joked. “At one point there were 15 different agencies in the building, companies that have come from all over the country, Georgia, Indiana, Texas … to work on this project.”
The whole inventory process started on May 28, just six days after the fire. The bulk of the work was completed in about three weeks.
Either Johnson or K-State Libraries’ building manager, Robin Brown, walked through Hale Library with RCF Salvage’s staff to verify every single item that was inventoried. They signed what Johnson said felt like reams of carbon paper in the process, and the resulting 367 page FFE inventory included 7,749 line items. In many cases, just one of those lines represented more than one thing; for example, one entry might be a record of 35 wooden chairs.
Envista Forensics produced a second inventory report that included approximately 1,970 pieces of technology.
“Keep in mind that almost all of this was done by flashlight because there was no power in the building,” Johnson said. “We did have temporary lighting toward the end, but I just thought these were the world’s worst conditions for the work. They sifted through the contents of every office, cubicle and storage space. And yet they were still so professional. I’ve been amazed.”
So what happens next?
“This is a 550,000-square-foot building; there are a lot of nooks and crannies,” Johnson said. “We’re still coming across items, and occasionally we have to go back to the inventory to make sure they’ve been accounted for. It will take time to clear up any discrepancies.”
Only once the loose ends are tied up can the adjuster valuate the inventory and provide a dollar amount to the insurance company.
“Even once the inventory process is finalized, we still don’t have estimates about the structural damage itself,” Johnson said. “That’s an entirely separate process. And until we have that piece in addition to the inventory of the building’s contents, there won’t be a total damage estimate.”
In the meantime, Johnson says she does have some idea of what the largest losses will be in terms of expense.
“The servers in the basement are among the most expensive single items,” Johnson said.
Other big ticket items include the fixtures: cubicle walls, desks and workstations.
“Right now they’ve carted out more than 100 industrial-sized dumpsters full of fixtures and furniture, and they’re not done yet,” Johnson said. “The loss is massive.”
Johnson is highly pragmatic about the whole process, though.
“We had no injuries,” she said. “When you think about the extent of what happened, that’s the most important thing. No injuries. I’m so grateful for that.”
Of course, there are more than 100 K-State Libraries and IT Services employees who had offices and workstations in Hale Library, and most had personal items at their desks – everything from art to clothes to their own technology. An inventory of those items was compiled separately, and employees will make claims to the insurance agency at a later date.
Among some staff members, there’s a running bet as to whose office held the most personal items. Two of the academic services librarians, Melia Fritch and Cindy Logan, are the odds-on-favorites, so we asked them about their experience.
“There was such a sense of disbelief when we learned our office was a loss,” Logan said. “We have had so many fire alarm situations where nothing was damaged, I just thought they had to be wrong … there was no way there was that much damage. It took probably a week before the news really set in.”
On May 30, Fritch, Logan and their Hale Library co-workers were allowed in the building for the first time to retrieve any personal belongings that were salvageable.
“It was pretty surreal visiting the office for the first time after the fire,” Fritch said. “We walked through with all the safety gear on and carrying flashlights, and it was so hot. The most disturbing thing was going into to our office and feeling like FEMA had been through since there were these orange spray-painted words like “demo” all over the walls. That was weird.”
Fritch and Logan’s second floor office was packed with art, books, photos and objects. They both say they surround themselves with things that remind them of people they love, books about subjects they’re passionate about or quotes that express core beliefs.
“What I really miss is the artwork that my son had done throughout the years that I had hanging up,” Fritch said. “I was super happy that some of Tyler’s artwork was safe and I could take it, along with some photos I really wanted. Of course, I miss the Keurig, too—ha!—but the material objects, the decorations, the computer, the chair, books … those can be replaced.”
A video of Melia Fritch and Cindy Logan’s office taken shortly before the fire.
Logan, who laughingly admits to something of an office supply addiction, agreed, and added that she looks forward to the day when they get to move into a new space.
“For now, I miss having my 20 million different markers, highlighters, pens, notebooks and types of Post-it notes,” she said. “But I look forward to our new bright and shiny offices and making them feel like home once the building has been renovated. My office reflects me, and I will continue to fill it with things I love and from the people who love me.”