Irony was in hyper drive at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center this week when a boiler explosion disrupted conventions for sheriffs and disaster recovery construction firms.
No one is believed to have been hurt in the Tuesday nigh explosion, but Paul Plouffe, owner of Servicemaster of Greater Bridgeport, with his wife Mary Jane, were eyewitness to the aftermath. The couple, whose business is based in Stratford, were there to attend a convention of Contractor Connection, for disaster recovery firms like Plouffe’s and for builders who come in to rebuild after fires and other disasters strike.
“We were at the Grand Ole Opry next door,” Paul said via cell phone Friday. “One of the guys that was with me, we carry 24-hour pagers, said the hotel we’re staying at just had an explosion.”
Paul said he thought it was a bit of inappropriate humor, after all they’re all in disaster recover. But when the group got back to the hotel they were greeted by a scene right out of a movie, with everything cordoned off with police tape, emergency workers all over the place and helicopter flying overhead.
“There are 1,000 rooms there. Everyone was out on the lawn,” Plouffe said. “We were out and about until 3 a.m.”
The early morning hours were spent walking down streets and alleys, past dumpsters trying to find a room. He said they finally secured lodging at the Fiddler’s Inn.
People weren’t allowed back in that night until structural engineers checked the building for stability. The Opryland Hotel is under a dome, he said, and there was a worry glass would come down.
The event was a bit of a shock to the system, he said, as one moment you’re in this beautiful place with no worries and the next, you’re confronted by the scene of emergency responders and people milling about.
“What a marvelous place,” he said. “You had that feeling of bullet-proofness then,..”
They did get back into their hotel and the convention went on he said, with everyone getting free breakfast. There was a big hole in the middle of where the sheriffs convention was, he said.
You had about 4,000 contractors giving out their cards to the hotel manager,” he said, after the explosion.
Plouffe said the hotel did a good job overall.
His takeaway from the event is that it is important for people to be prepared for events like this. To have systems in place to deal with it before it happens.
“It was interesting to be at a disaster convention and having a disaster hit here,” he said. “I think, the corny phrase, and bad joke going around was, ‘How’d the convention go? We had a blast.”