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Wednesday, May 22, 2024


On a Saturday evening last February, Steve Knapp received a phone call from the operator of his business’s security system. The executive vice president of Audience Response Systems heard bad news: There had been a fire at his company, a provider of interactive, data-gathering technology. His employees were away for the weekend, but Knapp drove to the office immediately. He watched the blaze, which the Evansville Fire Department later determined was caused by an accidental electrical malfunction, wipe out the 6,000-square-foot, East Side business. It was the company’s Evansville location for 15 years, and in one night, computers, keypads, and furniture were gone. “It was a total loss,” Knapp says. Yet, he committed that night to press on.

One year later in a new, smaller location, that commitment continues. Four days after the fire, employees worked from their home computers until Knapp found temporary warehouse space, and officials from the Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville, an economic development organization, offered temporary office space in their Main Street building. “That was a terrific boon to us,” says Knapp, but the new location was much smaller: “We were operating out of a one-room schoolhouse.”

At times, it wasn’t business as usual, and Knapp and his employees searched through debris. “We were looking for anything we could use,” says Debby Velders, the sales and marketing manager at ARS. “Almost everything was water-soaked.” Of the 10,000 keypads used for gathering data for client meetings, 2,000 remained. A portion of those keypads was old technology. “That part of our history has gone away,” Knapp says, “and it will never come back.”

What did come back was data. ARS used portable external hard drives to back up all data such as financial records and client information. Now operating from a 3,000-square-foot space, Knapp looks for the silver lining. “I don’t want to say the fire was a good thing,” he says, “but it did force us to reorganize. We are now more efficient and certainly more compact. There’s still a legacy out there.”

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