I watched as flames consumed wall panels and engulfed product displays. Firefighters managed to put the fire out, but everything was ruined.
Every exhibitor should run "fire drills" in preparation for those times when – not if – misfortune strikes. And one of those fire drills should be for an actual fire, like the one a few years ago that consumed a client's island exhibit at the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) show.
I was remotely monitoring the build going up at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas for our client, a medical-device manufacturer. AAO would open on Saturday, and by the end of the day on Thursday, my installation-and-dismantle manager sent me a text that the build was complete. So Thursday night I put my phone on silent and drifted off to sleep feeling great about our progress. When I woke up Friday at 6 a.m. and checked my phone, I was more than mildly perplexed to see I had six voicemails and nine text messages. I went straight for the voicemails.
"Hi, boss. I just heard something about a fire at the Sands Convention Center." Beep. "Hi, boss. Yes, I just got confirmation there is something going on there." Beep. "I just heard that the fire is around where our client's booth is." Beep. "Hey, is your phone silenced? I think I'll just head over there." Beep. "I'm here, and there are firetrucks everywhere. I'll keep you posted." Beep. "Holy crap! It's our client's booth, and it's basically burnt to the ground!" Beep.
The texts were of the same ilk but contained videos no exhibiting professional should have to witness. I watched as flames consumed wall panels and engulfed product displays. Firefighters managed to put the fire out, but everything was ruined.
We later learned that the late-night blaze was caused by an electrical short, but my immediate concern was replacing my client's exhibitry. With only 48 hours before the show opened, I sprang into action, phoning our graphic designers and urging them to sprint to the office just as I was. Once there, they uploaded all of the client's graphic files to Dropbox while I called our graphic supplier in Las Vegas and explained that I had a 911 graphic emergency. He assured me he could have the graphics done within eight hours, so I sent him the necessary files for production.
Knowing our Las Vegas warehouse didn't have all of the other required exhibitry in inventory, I called a friendly competitor with a warehouse near ours and told her what I needed, specifically carpet and padding, a hanging sign, wall panels, the works. She had everything except the display cases. Her crew started prepping the delivery while I put our I&D lead to work tracking down display cases and clearing the rubble.
Within hours, our reboot was rolling. As each item appeared at the dock, our crew grabbed it and set it up in record time. By the end of the day on Friday, we had a slightly altered but fully reconstructed booth. The only unfortunate part was that some of the client's products were burned beyond recognition. However, because of our strong network and quick response, our client's entire show didn't go up in smoke.
— Elliot Kohn, chief operating officer and principal, Kubik Inc., Savage, Maryland