Edward Joseph Klaas, II, owner of Southern Sprinkler Systems LLC in Roswell, Georgia, has made an effort to assist in every major hurricane in the Southeast since 2005 when his company’s assistance with Hurricane Katrina left a lasting impact. After Hurricane Dorian left parts of the Bahamas devastated, Klaas teamed up with a local business owner who owned a fleet of private jets to get supplies where they were needed most to provide hurricane help.
Hurricane Help: Dealing with Dorian
Klaas says it all came together rather serendipitously. He and this business owner had never met before. But he had the planes and Klaas had the ability to organize effective collection events—having done it so many times before. In fact, the community has come to know that after a major hurricane, this is simply what Klaas does.
“A member of the school board here in Atlanta reached out to me and said there was a businessman who had five planes and some land in the Bahamas who was going to be making trips with supplies,” Klaas shares. “That just connected the dots. I helped organize collecting the supplies and getting them to the airport. It was a no-brainer.”
Klaas says that supplies for Dorian have included tarps, backpacks, tents, shoes, blankets, cleaning supplies, First Aid supplies, baby supplies, food, and water—among other things. The local Boy and Girl Scouts are incredibly involved in the effort, says Klaas.
Hurricane Help: Supportive Clients
Sometimes, being offering hurricane help has meant that Klaas can’t give his irrigation business the full attention that it deserves. But he says that his clients are incredibly understanding. When its known that a hurricane is going to strike, Klaas starts rallying help. That includes his own workers, who help drive supplies where necessary.
“I pay my workers for their time because it’s not fair to expect them to help me—they have families to take care of, too,” Klaas says. “But oftentimes they’re very generous with their time. They’ll take payment for an eight-hour day even though it might have been more like a 15-hour day. They donate their time and that’s huge in making this happen.”
Hurricane Help: Katrina and Harvey
For past events, Klaas has used the company vehicles to drive supplies where they need to go. After Hurricane Katrina, he collected as many supplies as he possibly could and just started driving. He says he got as far as Mississippi before the was told he couldn’t go any further—so he dropped the supplies there, headed back, and started another collection. Over the next few weeks he made multiple trips. It was an experience that Klaas says will never leave him. On one of the trips he saw a deceased victim, still lying by the road. It was heart-wrenching.
“Since then, we’ve assisted in whatever way we could,” Klaas says. “Our biggest trip was for Harvey where we brought emergency supplies to Texas. We counted 38,500 bottles of water. We also brought canoes and rafts and know that we saved lives with those.”
Hurricane Help: Full Circle of Help
While Klaas says everyone is called to serve in different ways, he adds that he would invite other landscaper professionals to think about how they can help when needs like this arise.
“If you think about it, we really have the perfect set-up to be able to host donation drives,” Klaas says. “We have the staging area to accept donations and we have the trucks and the equipment to get those donations where they need to go.”
Klaas says that he recently had a full-circle moment come to fruition while collecting for Dorian (which he was still doing at press time).
“There had been this family that we were helping when Harvey hit—they had been moved out of their flooded home to a shelter, and then moved again when that shelter flooded,” Klaas shares. “I’ve kept in touch with them on social media. When I started sharing that I was collecting for Dorian, this family shared my post online and said that we were the group that had helped them and now it was their turn to help. Amazon donations started pouring in. That’s what it’s all about. We’re all here to help one another.”