Hurricanes Harvey and Irma tested many organizations’ emergency strategies and proved just how very important it is to have a disaster and recovery plan in place. Hurricane preparedness plans must be ready to deploy at the first mention of the potential impact on associates, guests, and properties. Creating a disaster and recovery plan is a three-step approach.
Step One: Prepare
Specify central points of contact. Before a disaster is in effect, it is vital to make guests and associates alike aware of who they can contact in the event of an emergency. In the case of the recent hurricanes, for example, Concord Hospitality’s regional vice presidents in Texas and Florida were named the main points of contact for the properties in the hurricanes’ paths, and they were responsible for coordinating calls and supporting hotel team members.
Review and update current disaster preparedness plans. Take time with associates to review your company’s or hotel’s current emergency plans and procedures, and update accordingly. Making sure all contact information is correct and up-to-date should be done ahead of time to ensure that there is no confusion when, and if, disaster strikes.
Streamline communications. Clear, concise, and streamlined avenues of communication are never more important than in times of disaster. Define a reliable channel of communication to keep associates and guests informed of local law enforcement updates like weather changes, road closures, curfews, and evacuation plans, in addition to internal updates. For example, Concord Hospitality established a group message system that allowed general managers to report any weather and law enforcement updates to all property managers, which ensured everyone had the most current information about the hurricanes.
Step Two: Execute
Execute on the operational strategies put in place. From maintaining security and ensuring associates and guests are safe to executing sales and revenue strategy plans, utilize the plans and communications previously created. Before disaster strikes, companies and property managers should hold regular calls or meetings to review top line strategies, front-office procedures, and how to execute against its disaster plans.
Maintain the guest experience. Even during times of emergency or diasaster, ensuring customer satisfaction is still required. By keeping an open line of communication between property managers and other team leaders, a hospitality organization will be able to minimize losses by addressing cancellations and communicating inventory changes due to storm damage while still remaining sensitive to the needs of guests.
Provide support. Once the emergency has passed or lessened, lending a helping hand to those in need is highly encouraged. Whether through the company’s channels of communication or elsewhere, inform the public of how to remain safe and the ways in which the hotel’s teams are available to support them. For example, many of Concord Hospitality’s properties in Texas, Florida, and Georgia opened their doors to provide shelter for stranded associates, displaced residents, and hotel guests after hurricanes Harvey and Irma passed through. Even when supplies and electricity are scarce, showing compassion during this time of need is the most important factor.
Step Three: Recover
Communicate recovery efforts internally and externally. After a disaster strikes, it is important to advise associates and guests of the steps in the recovery process. For example, options like a 24/7 hotline where guests and associates can speak to a professional consultant about how they were impacted by the disaster are often well received.
Continue to provide support for those in need. Showing loyalty and care for those impacted by the disaster is non-negotiable. For example, Concord Hospitality provided financial assistance from its charitable funds to help several associates who lost their homes or means of transportation, and the company plans to collect other necessary items from associates across the country to help the families who are trying to rebuild their lives. No matter how big or small, every bit helps!
Recent events have shown us all how important it is to be prepared for any emergency situation. By creating a solid disaster and recovery strategy upon which hotel associates can execute, both hoteliers and customers will be better served. Standing together as one is the key to pushing through any disaster and maintaining the service elements that make a hotel unforgettable.
About the Author
Debra Punke joined Concord Hospitality in 1994 and now serves as its senior vice president of human capital, where she oversees the company’s culture and organizational growth strategies as well as champions human resource initiatives in the areas of technology, talent acquisition, training, benefits, risk, and compliance. Punke has an extensive and successful background in operations, including serving as vice president of operations from 2002-2007. During that time, she opened 17 hotels, including leading the charge of Concord’s entry into Canada by opening five hotels in seven weeks.