2017 was a historic year for weather and climate-related disasters in the United States, tying 2011 for the highest number of billion-dollar disasters in a single year.  In total, there were 16 separate billion-dollar disaster events, including three tropical cyclones, eight severe storms, two inland floods, a crop freeze, drought and a series of historically large wildfires, according to Climate.gov. Regardless of where geographically these disasters may hit, hotels undoubtedly feel the impact, whether by direct damage or when serving as safe havens for others in the community who have been directly impacted.

Bill Scanlon, CEO of Strategic Solution Partners, along with a select number of hotel partners, offer their insight into how hotels can weather the storm, as well as share key learnings gleaned from personal involvement in such crises.

Disaster preparedness: Top ways hotels can prepare in the advance for a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, hurricane or wildfire

  • As the hotel is being built, consider if it is designed for the environment it is operating in, and have the designers/architects take into account the potential scenarios the hotel may encounter – Bill Scanlon, SSP
  • For evacuation planning, consider where the guests are coming from and how you will get them home; ensure you have secured private carriers available as part of your contingency plan – Bill Scanlon, SSP
  • Have a satellite phone so you can communicate with the outside world – EOS Investors
  • Have a healthy stock of supplies (food, water, flashlights, batteries, sand bags, etc.) on hand – The Resort at Pedregal
  • Establish a comprehensive public relations and communications plan – Isla Bella Beach Resort

Disaster recovery: Top things a hotel must do in the aftermath of a natural disaster in order to recover quickly

  • Preliminary dialogue should begin with insurers, brand resources and contingency planning to ensure a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities – Bill Scanlon, SSP
  • Be able to communicate with your teams in order to get back up and operational post-storm. We have since engaged a company for emergency communication that allows us to communicate if cell phones, wireless, and internet are down – EOS Investors
  • Assess the damage immediately and get organized, dividing the tasks amongst your team – The Resort at Pedregal
  • If budget allows, hire at “Disaster and Restoration” company to help with the recovery; and use a third party to help you negotiate terms with your insurance company – The Resort at Pedregal
  • Restore all services as soon as possible and endeavor to support the local community with offers of housing and assistance – Isla Bella Beach Resort

Formalizing procedures: How to effectively use a disaster crisis manual

  • Have your safety manuals updated every year and educate all employees on safety procedures – The Resort at Pedregal
  • We have an explicit plan that breaks down protocol for hurricanes based on time of impact and level of storm, with duties clearly outlined – EOS Investors

First-hand experience: Key learnings

  • It is critical that your initial statement/assessment of damage be accurate. When in doubt, ensure that you have empathized with the situation and those involved, and that you’re working to gain a better understanding of the situation. DO NOT project, guess, or quote until you know for sure – Bill Scanlon, SSP
  • Whatever you are told the recovery time is, add three months – Bill Scanlon, SSP
  • Communicate effectively with your team post-storm – EOS Investors
  • NEVER underestimate a possible threat, and ALWAYS follow the emergency manual and protocols.– The Resort at Pedregal

Weathering the storm: Tips for keeping staff and hotel guest calm

  • Knowledge allows confidence, confidence allows control, control allows for guest and associate safety in times of concern – Bill Scanlon, SSP
  • Set expectations early. Many people are afraid of what they don’t know. We had associates who were terrified and left their positions three days early due to nervousness of getting caught in the storm. If hoteliers can explain what to expect leading up to a hurricane or other climate occurrence, what the employees should expect, and how they should plan, such incidents can be avoided. For most guests, like the associates, it is all about communicating what is happening, day by day and what options are available to the guest – EOS Investors
  • Safety comes first, so don’t expose guests or employees to any risky situations. Also, when you are communicating with both parties, remain calm yourself, paying attention to your body language and tone of voice., so that they feel you are in control of the situation. – The Resort at Pedregal
  • Use a remote PR company to continually communicate updates on the status of the property – Isla Bella Beach Resort

With some advance planning, consistent and ongoing communication, and a little heart, hoteliers can weather these natural disasters and recover in a timely fashion.

If you are a hotelier in need of hospitality consulting, please contact us here.