It’s not often that the boss of a company gets his boots on to help with the clear-up in the aftermath of a flood. But that is exactly what Mark Calvert, CEO of Harrogate-based Adler & Allan, did during the winter floods of 2015-16.
Adler & Allan is an emergency response environmental services specialist and it’s fair to say that the business was rushed off its feet when large swathes of the north of England and Scotland were submerged.
“Our teams worked 24/7 across the north-west of the UK, in Carlisle, Yorkshire and Cumbria, to support residents and businesses affected by the flooding when Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank hit the UK in 2015 and 2016,” recalls Mr Calvert.
“We helped businesses to remove floodwater and get their businesses back up and running.”
Getting his hands dirty – and his feet wet – gave Mr Calvert a unique perspective.
“The severity of the situation meant that I wanted to be on the front line so I could understand the needs of the community and support our excellent teams who were doing an amazing job, working round the clock in very challenging conditions,” he says.
Following the floods of 2015-16, Adler & Allan has now made it its mission to help businesses become more resilient before such an event occurs.
“We believe all businesses need to become resilient to flooding so that when a flood event happens, they are prepared and can return to work quickly and with the least amount of disruption,” Mr Calvert says: .
“So as part of our work with the Business Emergency Resilience Group, which is part of Business in the Community, an initiative of HRH The Prince of Wales, we set up centres in Kendal, Cockermouth, Keswick and Carlisle to offer free advice to residents and businesses about the flood grants the Government put in place to install flood resistance and resilience measures, as well as how to prepare in advance for the impact of flooding.
“Since then, we have helped over 3,000 residents and businesses with advice and support.”
Adler & Allan was established in 1926 and today has 550 employees with a turnover of £65m.
Mr Calvert says his personal goals over the next five years for Adler & Allan include doubling the size of the business – in turnover, profit and employment opportunities.
The company does more than just clear up floodwater. It also mops up after tanker spills and has attended two large luxury yacht sinkings and a number of major pipeline tapping incidents. It has also been working with HMRC on seizures of illegal fuel.
Mr Calvert was involved in dealing with the emergency situation after the Buncefield fire in 2005.
He says: “It’s both challenging and incredibly rewarding to be in a position to help individuals and businesses when they are facing an emergency and I have been involved with many of the emergency situations that Adler & Allan have attended to.
“One that stands out alongside the flooding was dealing with the aftermath of the Buncefield fire.
“This was the largest explosion in the UK in peacetime, at an oil storage facility in Hertfordshire. Adler & Allan was the main contractor for the clean-up and I arrived on site on day one – December 17, 2005 – and remained as part of the team there until June 2006.
“Our crews worked for thousands of hours in hazardous conditions, with no ‘lost time’ injuries, and ensured that the clean-up was successfully completed to all of the stakeholders’ satisfaction.”
Given the unprecedented scale of the flooding over 15 months ago, deploying assets for maximum effectiveness can be a tricky business, but working within the environment allows Adler & Allan to understand the nature of the problem.
Mr Calvert says: “Because we’ve seen changes in flood patterns and we understand the times of the year when flooding is most likely to occur, particularly more recently, we can plan our resource requirements.
“Managing resources around something unpredictable can be a challenge, but our business is structured to allow us to deploy resource quickly and effectively in case of an emergency.
“We have flexible in-house resource and, as we’re a nationwide business, we can pull staff in from across the company in times of extreme need.”
This unique perspective enables Adler & Allan to adapt to the evolving nature of the flooding phenomenon.
“Are the patterns of flooding that we are responding to changing? Yes,” says Mr Calvert.
“I think there are a number of factors that are impacting on the flooding, such as deforestation and of course, climate change.
“We don’t employ climate scientists, but do work closely with the excellent team at Defra and the Environment Agency to support our long-term resource planning and deployment strategies.”
Adler & Allan has a strong heritage of research and development, thanks largely to its experiences of front-line emergency response, that is backed up by long-term partnerships with utilities, government departments and other organisations.
“Where we see problems that aren’t being adequately solved we try to develop products and new technologies that can do the job where no other is available,” says Mr Calvert.
“For example, in our work on forecourts, we identified that traditional separators that stop spilled fuel from being released into the watercourse were ineffective on the new biofuels due to their chemical make-up.
“These biofuels include some nasty BTEX [benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene] elements that threaten the environment, so we developed and patented a new filter design. This ethanol coalescing filter removes more than 90 per cent of the BTEX from passing into the environment.”
He adds: “Some of our patented products, including the ethanol filter, have been fast-tracked through the patent process because of their green credentials.”
Working so closely with the environment means that the company naturally has a focus on being eco-friendly.
Mr Calvert adds: “Our job is to not just to ensure that our company is green, but that our products and services are environmentally responsible and that we help companies across the UK become greener.”