Hurricane Season: Is Your Organization Prepared?

As those in Caribbean island countries and Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas in the United States continue to feel the effects and deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, it is important to revisit emergency and disaster recovery procedures within your organization. Some important items to address in advance of a disaster include: developing a disaster planning team, developing brief instructions for staff on how to deal with each disaster, preparing a detailed evacuation plan, evaluating your current insurance policy and identifying other facilities that can provide for your guests. For more detail, visit the “Preparing for Emergency: Disaster planning and recovery checklist for a comprehensive checklist.

Once a disaster strikes, the disaster planning you performed will become invaluable. Set your plans in motion to assess and contain the disaster. Once the property has been evaluated and everyone, both employees and guests, have been confirmed safe you may begin documenting the disaster for insurance purposes. Check out the “Your Insurance Toolbelt article which provides a checklist of items to document for the insurance company.

Individuals working in hotels have a unique responsibility. When a hurricane strikes, lodging establishments often become a refuge for those in need. Please take a moment to read the article “Stories from the Storm.” This article profiles how two managers from New Orleans, Louisiana USA; handled disaster recovery and their insights on experiences dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The article also profiles two club managers in Florida who offer advice on lessons they learned while going through the disaster recovery process.

Clubs are often a place for members to turn to in order to gain a sense of normalcy after a storm has disrupted their lives. As a catering manager at Houston Country Club in 2001, I witnessed this first-hand. Tropical Storm Allison, the deadliest and most costly tropical storm on record in the United States, delivered a one-two punch to the Houston, Texas USA area dropping nearly 40 inches of rain, 30 of which fell in a 12-hour period on Friday evening. On Saturday, Houston woke to streets that looked more like canals and I woke to the reality that a thousand guests were due to arrive for a wedding reception that evening. Thankfully, the clubhouse was safe, and as the flood waters began to subside, the hope of delivering an extravagant wedding came to fruition. For many, this was a great respite to the dreadful weather outside.

Hurricanes may be the top priority on the minds of many at this time, but they are not the only natural disasters that may impact your property. Hospitality businesses must be prepared to handle any kind of natural or man-made disaster: biological threats, cyber-attacks, explosions, power outages, and wildfires are only a few of the possibilities. If you visit the website you will find basic guidelines on how to prepare for nearly any type of emergency situation. These guidelines can be used to enhance the current procedures you have on file or to develop new ones for the ever-present dangers of the modern world.

The current hurricane season runs until November 30, so those living along the gulf coast and eastern seaboard in the United States must remain vigilant and prepared for what may lie ahead during this active hurricane season. Please read the following articles from The Bottomline for further guidance on business continuity and disaster recovery:


Venegas_Tanya_blogTanya Venegas, MBA, MHM, CHIA is the executive director at the HFTP Americas Research Center at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. Contact Tanya via email at or via phone at 713-743-1839.

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About the Author: Tanya Venegas