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Staff members of eMax Exhibits, a firm that designs and fabricates exhibits, returned to their Oakland, Calif., office from Natural Products Expo West 2015, held March 5-7 at Anaheim Convention Center, to a complete loss of power. eMax Exhibits Director Guy Miller recalled the chaos and confusion costing one week and thousands of dollars before it was back to business as usual.

25-foot feed cables were stolen from outside the eMax Exhibits facility.

25-foot feed cables were stolen from outside the eMax Exhibits facility.

On March 3, staff members attempted to reset breakers when no power was coming into the building. Upon further inspection, the team discovered that large feed cables as long as 25 feet outside the building had been cut and removed.

After reporting the incident to local police, building owners, property managers and utility companies, and having to request an emergency shutoff of power, all pitched in to help get eMax back on its feet. A small generator was brought in the following day to provisionally power phones and computers for continued client communication.

City of Oakland officials helped to speed up a permit approval to repair the power lines.

“We had to get permits from the city of Oakland to do the repairs. They were super helpful and sensitive to the situation – they expedited the process and got us approved,” Miller commented.

Power and service were temporarily restored on March 9 by connecting to a larger generator while the utility company began repairs, costing approximately $25,000. eMax spent an additional $5,000 for security modifications to the building to prevent future theft.

Following an approval from city inspectors, the exhibit firm was finally reconnected on March 12. The utility company informed eMax that cutting live power cables to steal cooper wires was a common occurrence that caused 16 deaths in the Oakland area last year.

Thieves target copper wires inside large feed cables.

Thieves target copper wires inside large feed cables.

eMax received compassion from its customers during a difficult time.

“All our clients were very understanding and, for the most part, really didn’t know what had happened – phones were a little funky for a few days, but cell phones kept us moving,” shared Miller. “[The] guys in the shop had hardly anything to do without power, and thankfully we were in a good spot project-wise when this happened.”

Other industry firms have also fallen victim to copper wire theft.

Chicago-based Stevens Exhibits & Displays Inc., owned by the McKernin family, suffered from theft of its power lines as well as a transformer nearly four years ago. Along with the loss of power to the offices for three days, security systems at its 100,000 square-foot facility, where client materials are stored, were also at jeopardy.

Occurring during a particularly hot summer, some staff sat in their own air-conditioned cars to make phone calls to customers while a borrowed generator was used to power the office. Executive Vice President and Director of Sales/Marketing Julie McKernin attempted to flag down passing utility trucks in order to hasten the restoration of power at Stevens Exhibits.

Although the culprits were never caught, they had risked electrocution when taking the transformer from the facility.

To report copper wire thefts, visit scraptheftalert.com/Home/Home.aspx.


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