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EP #2 – Preparing for Hurricane Season

Hurricane Wind at BeachPreparing for Hurricane Season  – 2017 Update.

** SPECIAL NOTE:  This information has been updated based on May 25, 2017, predictions from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Planning and preparing your hotel for hurricane season each year can be a daunting task.  But with a solid plan in place and an early start to your preparations, you will make the task of preparing for the hurricane season much easier.  

This episode addresses some of the critical planning that every hotel that sits along a hurricane threat coastline should be undertaking as we head into this year’s hurricane season.  June 1, marks the official start of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season. The season will last through the end of November.  On average, the bulk of the season ramps up in August, reaches a peak in September, then begins to slow down in October. Of course, individual seasons may not follow this timeline. 

NOTE:  The original podcast was recorded in 2015, however, the information provided remains just as important today.

What you will learn in this episode:

  • Steps you should be taking now to prepare.
  • Considerations prior to a storm threatening your area.

There is a consensus among agencies that make seasonal hurricane forecasts that the 2017 season will be above normal.  This is due to a weak or non-existent El Nino effect and near -or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

If you’re located in any hurricane-vulnerable city along the coast, preparations should be well underway as the hurricane season approaches. Now is the time to prepare, not when a storm threatens.  You are considered to be at risk of hurricanes if you are located anywhere within 100 miles of the coastline from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, TX,  or along the eastern Atlantic coastline as far north as Massachusetts and anywhere in the state of Florida.

This year, NOAA – one of the leading forecasting agencies, predicts that 11-17 named storms will form.  5-9 actual hurricanes are predicted with 2-4 of them being Major Hurricanes, which is classified as a category 3-4-5 storm. Regardless of how many storms develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt lives and business.  And, any amount of probability is enough to require thorough planning. 

So what does that planning entail?  Well, for starters, you should have a thorough and well thought out checklist to guide you through your preparations.  That checklist should identify who is responsible for what tasks and when those tasks need to be completed. And, you should have an extensive checklist of supplies on hand.  That supply list should be broken down to include how much of a particular supply you need, when to have it and where you will store the items.  Not all supplies should be purchased too far in advance since the shelf life of the product, and storage space needs to be considered.  Some supplies will need to be purchased as the probability of a storm affecting your area increases.  You should, however, have a plan in place well in advance for what those supplies will be, and where and when you will purchase them in order to reduce the chaos as the storm approaches.  

Another pre-storm preparation needs to include a review of your hotel policies – what policies might you relax during a time of emergency.  For example, what will your hotel cancellation policy be?  And what about your policy on pets  – maybe you don’t accept pets under normal circumstances, but will you during a storm?  What will your staffing policies look like? Who will be required to be on the property?  Will employees be able to bring family members to stay at the hotel?  You’ll also need to determine what your hours of operations will be for your restaurant if you have one, and have a limited menu thought out and available well in advance so when the time comes… it is just a matter of putting it into place. These are all important things to make decisions about well in advance because once you’re in the middle of a storm – or in the chaotic days leading up to a storm, you don’t want to have to make those decisions then.  So, be sure you clearly outline what your policies will include,  and ensure everybody is informed.

Communication will be key during your preparation stages as well as during an actual storm.  And, speaking of communication, do you have an updated contact list for each of your employees? Be sure that you know how to reach them and have a secondary number on file for each employee.  With so many things to think about when planning for hurricane season it really is critical that you follow an extensive preparations checklist. Like the one, you can download from this page. 

Another important thing to think about in advance of an imminent storm would be:  if you were required to evacuate your hotel, where would you send your displaced guests to?  Do you have any mutual aid agreements in place with other hotels or restaurants in the area?   

It is also a good idea to contact your insurance provider who should also be able to provide you with a checklist of things that they would suggest you do to be prepared for a hurricane.  It’s  obviously in their best interest help you minimize the risk of damage property or loss of any kind.

Regardless of the predictions for hurricanes forming, it is never a good idea to gamble on the probability of one hitting your area.   It only takes one to do some considerable damage    both in terms of your property and your reputation.

Remember hotels are a safe haven during times of crisis.  Employees and guests view hotels as a shelter from the storm and it’s always best to be over-prepared.  So don’t allow yourself to get complacent.  Preparations don’t have to be overwhelming if you do a little at a time, stay organized and delegate responsibilities…. hurricane season will be a breeze  (pun intended.) 

 

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