Proactive hurricane preparedness is key for hotel owners to protect their property, guests, and profitability.
by STEFAN BURKEY
Storm surges, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, and wind damage are just some of the hazards caused by a hurricane that pose a significant threat to hotels and other businesses. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a 30% chance of above-normal activity for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, estimating that five-to-nine hurricanes will occur, including one-to-four major ones.
The unpredictable nature of the Atlantic hurricane season highlights the importance of storm preparation. As a hotel owner, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive hurricane preparedness plan in place to ensure the safety of your guests, protect your property, and minimize financial losses. By establishing a robust disaster-management strategy, you can better navigate the challenges posed by hurricanes and safeguard your property.
7 WAYS TO PREPARE BEFORE A STORM
It’s vitally important to develop an emergency response-and-communication plan that outlines responsibilities, includes contact information for hotel employees, and identifies when to activate the plan. The following are critical aspects of such a plan:
Conduct regular training sessions to familiarize your workers with emergency response procedures before, during, and after a hurricane. These steps ensure effective communication and coordination among your staff, even in challenging circumstances.
Stay informed of weather forecasts by signing up for emergency alerts to stay updated on potential threats to your hotel. This will help you notify your staff and guests well in advance if a hurricane is headed your way.
Ensure essential equipment such as emergency generators and boilers are fueled and functional. Reinforce windows and doors. Strap down, or move indoors, any outdoor equipment if there’s an impending hurricane.
Compile a preparedness kit with necessary supplies, including flashlights, batteries, tarp, plastic sheeting, plywood and screws, radios and cell phones, first aid kits, bottled water, and non-perishable food items. In addition, establish a relationship with a restoration contractor ahead of time, as their resources may be committed to existing clients after a hurricane.
Regularly back up critical records and data to the cloud to safeguard them from potential equipment damage. Prioritize the protection of computers, electronics, and important business documents by covering or relocating them to safe areas if a storm is imminent.
Remove flammable materials, or those that could pose a hazard, and consider turning off the gas line.
Understanding your insurance coverage is paramount. Review your policy annually with your broker to ensure that limits are adequate for hurricanes. Conduct a risk assessment of your hotel building and evaluate potential disruptions to your operations. A regular appraisal of your property – including taking reference photos – can help determine replacement costs. Keeping your hotel well-maintained and building systems up-to-date is also recommended.
MANAGING YOUR HOTEL DURING A CRISIS
During a hurricane, the safety and well-being of both your guests and employees should be your top priority. Implement your emergency response plan and remain indoors in a secure location. Maintain communication with staff and guests and comply immediately if an evacuation is ordered.
Monitor weather forecasts and emergency alerts to stay informed about the hurricane’s progress. If it’s safe to do so, check your property for any signs of structural damage, pipe breaks, or fire.
RESUMING NORMAL OPERATIONS QUICKLY
To facilitate a swift recovery, every hotel should have detailed plans in place for restoring IT systems and facilities. Having the right contacts and a clear plan can help you streamline the recovery process and minimize downtime.
Meticulously record any extraordinary expenses incurred during and after the storm. By maintaining proper documentation, you can expedite the claims process and ensure you receive the appropriate coverage for your losses. Consult with insurance professionals before hiring outside agencies or signing contracts to ensure cost coverage by your plan.
Effective hurricane preparedness is essential for hotel owners to protect their property, guests, and profitability. By implementing a comprehensive disaster-management plan, prioritizing safety, documenting expenses, and working closely with insurance professionals and restoration experts, hotel owners can minimize the impact of hurricanes. Remember, planning and preparedness are the keys to safeguarding your hotel and ensuring its resilience in the face of potential storms.
Stefan Burkey is the hospitality practice leader for HUB International Florida. In this role, he oversees insurance placement solutions for owners, developers, and operators from limited-service hotels to full-scale resorts. Stefan and his team clearly understand the financial needs and exposures associated with the hospitality industry, and their singular focus has generated profound market knowledge and significant buying power for HUB clients throughout Florida and the U.S. He won Risk & Insurance’s 2023 Hospitality Power Broker of the Year.