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Now, a place for what remains after disaster

Pinellas Park residents can use a portable storage unit for free for a month, and PODS will deliver it. The plan is to expand the program to the rest of Pinellas County.

Published May 11, 2005

PINELLAS PARK - Imagine this: Fire breaks out in your home. The Fire Department is able to save most of it, but one wall is gone. Amid the shock over your loss, you have to find some way to secure the property that survived the fire.

If you live in Pinellas Park, you won't have to worry. PODS will automatically deliver one of its storage units to your home - free for one month. It's all part of a new program developed by the Pinellas Park Fire Department and Portable On Demand Storage, the company that developed the PODS container.

The program is called PERA, for PODS Emergency Response Assistance. It is designed to help folks after any disaster, not just fires.

"We were looking for something of this nature in the event we do have an emergency, what type of customer service could we have for our citizens?" said District Chief Sandy Sullivan, who helped develop the program.

"We've been working on it for a few months now," Sullivan said.

Once the bugs are worked out, he said, the program will be expanded to the rest of Pinellas County.

The department and representatives from PODS are scheduled to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday to discuss the program details. The news conference at Fire Station 33, 5000 82nd Ave. N, is open to the public.

Having PODS participate in a fire project is a natural thing, Sullivan said. The company's creator, Pete Warhurst, is a retired Largo firefighter. And the company is well known for partnering with other fire department projects, including toy runs.

"Pete is probably one of the most charitable people I know," said Susan Green, the PODS marketing director. "We maintain pretty close ties with the Fire Department."

The company also provided some free containers after hurricanes hit various areas of Florida last year.

"Many were customers that paid the normal fee. We did do a lot of donations though," Green said. Among the recipients of loaned storage units were the National Guard and various sheriffs' offices.

In many cases, the loaner containers were full of ice and water,

"That's what we used for Sarasota," Green said. "The things they needed most were water and ice."

Those are also the storage units the company sends to fire departments and sheriffs' offices when they are facing long-term situations, such as forest fires. Half of the 8- by 8- by 16-foot container is a cooler and can be stocked with such things as Gatorade. The other half has chairs bolted to the floor.

"If there is a fire, they could go in, sit down, grab a bottle of water or Gatorade. We fill it with all kinds of things," Green said. "We call them Icey one, Icey two."

They're also used for marathons as first-aid stations.

PODS was founded in 1998. Its first office was on 49th Street in Pinellas Park. The main office moved to Clearwater a couple of years ago and the company has expanded so much - it now has more than 700 employees and is in 45 states - it is looking for additional space.

PODS also has five manufacturers across the country making its storage units, one about every three minutes. But the company's first storage facility on 62nd Avenue N in Pinellas Park is still operational. Not only does the company store containers there, it uses the location to refurbish them.

[Last modified May 11, 2005, 00:46:18]

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