Calm Response Saves the Day for 30-Floor Hotel

California plumbers spring into action when broken sewer line threatens employee locker room.
Calm Response Saves the Day for 30-Floor Hotel
Members of the BPI team (from left) are Linda Garcia (dispatcher), Jesus Hernandez (was present at the hotel job), Steve Morales, Robert Delashaw, Dionisio Raymond, Omar Pedraza (was present at the hotel job) and Juan Gonzalez (was present at the hotel job).

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The 2 a.m. call came in from the manager of a large hotel, who reported sewage from a broken 6-inch main had spewed over the employee locker room. The booked 30-floor facility needed to either address the issue quickly or shut down.

“The panic in his voice was bad,” recalls Juan Gonzalez, service manager at BPI Plumbing in Chula Vista, California. “I worked to calm him down and let him know that I was getting ready to suit up and head on down to check out the damages and see what repairs could be made. I told him we’d take good care of him like we had in the past. I showed up within the hour and reassured him that we’d make sure everything works by the time we leave.”

Realizing the job at hand was more than one person could handle, Gonzalez called several other technicians and within two hours of the initial emergency call the crew of five was repairing the root of the problem. Even so, quality communication with the hotel manager remained a crucial element of the job.

“I told him what the procedure was going to be, what we were going to do and what the action time was going to be,” Gonzalez says. “And then he just stepped back and said, ‘OK, you go ahead and take care of it. I have faith that you guys will get this resolved in a timely manner.’”

No room for error

Initially, the BPI crew temporarily repaired the drain to allow the hotel continued operation of the mainline.

“We couldn’t shut down the hotel, so we had to do the repairs live,” Gonzalez explains.

With the mainline running at full capacity, the challenge was on, and space constraints only added to the difficulty level. The lockers were bolted down to the floor for safety reasons, and the ceiling was very fragile as well.

The biggest obstacle was space with five guys trying to carry in 10-foot, 6-inch pieces of pipe — it’s very heavy pipe — and there was no room for error in the space we had to work with.

To cut the mainline, the crew used a Milwaukee Tool angle grinder. The age of the pipe meant that a chain snap could have crushed the pipe farther down the line and caused an even bigger issue, he says.

A large bin was used to capture the sewage, and from there a Zurn sewer injection pump was used to pump it out to a drain farther down the line. The crew contained the section, cleaned up the area and continued to work on replacing about 30 feet of the cast iron pipe.

“We were able to do the repair with no more contamination of the building and complete the work as needed,” Gonzalez says.

The actual repair work took about four to five hours, but from the time of arrival to the time of departure, it was closer to an eight-hour job.  

Gaining confidence

According to Gonzalez, shutting down and relocating all the guests to another hotel and refunding their money would’ve been a black eye to both the hotel and the general manager: “He was very, very happy knowing that he didn’t have to shut down the hotel.”

The cool performance under pressure came during a timely stretch, too. Gonzalez had recently joined BPI from a larger plumbing company, and because this hotel was happy with his prior work they decided to give BPI a try to see if the smaller company could effectively handle their needs. Owned by Alex Galicia and Brian Wicklund, BPI and its 24 employees provide full-service plumbing in San Diego County.

During this 90-day probation period they were essentially on trial, and there was a need to win over confidence.

“We had to prove to them that we could handle the workload,” he says. “And after this the relationship with the hotel general manager just grew stronger.”



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