Smart Planning: Planning for Hospitality Disasters
The hospitality industry is built on customer service and guest experience; both are integral parts of planning for a hospitality disaster. Every facet of the industry should have a plan ready for when a disaster strikes. Small boutique hotels and large hotel chains, hotel management companies, and asset holders need to think differently based on their risk and resources available.
Most importantly, guest safety needs to be addressed.
From small children, to business travelers, to the elderly, the safety of all guests should be addressed. Each hotel establishment is responsible for ensuring that guests not only feel safe and at ease during their stay, but also know where to turn in the event of an emergency.
Keep in mind that international hotels and resorts have different regulations and environments that need to be considered, especially in areas where local governments are less stable or do not have the infrastructure to help during a disaster.
Well-informed staff is a critical component.
During a time of panic and frustration, a confident employee can alleviate the concerns of guests. Most important is a good understanding of the hotel layout and the emergency exits at different levels of the hotel. Guests will look to hotel staff for safety and guidance, and a plan of action should be in place for staff to use during a disaster.
Establishing roles and responsibilities for hotel staff during a disaster means a more coordinated approach. Identifying crisis managers, customer service staff, managers and other core staff members before a disaster means you're working as a team during an event.
Communication during a disruptive event can save guest experience.
Lines of communication between hotel staff, management, and owners need to be wide-open during a disaster. When hotel staff doesn't have communication lines available, hotel guests may feel helpless and unsafe. An alternative plan should be in place for helping guests find a hotel room during a disaster – and a pre-emergency plan should be detailed with other local hotels or other lodging options to allow guests a seamless transition to another hotel room if your hotel is full.
Leave fires alone, and evacuate.
Many of the most deadly hospitality disasters are fires – in fact many risk managers cite fires within a hotel as some of the most deadly and riskiest events that folks in the hospitality industry deal with. If there is a fire, sound the alarm and leave the building as quickly and as safely as possible.
Practice creates a well-tuned team.
Many hotels and resorts practice emergency and disaster procedures a few times a year. Omni Hotels practice their plans twice per year and provide reporting across the company of the effectiveness of their plan. This allows the hotel group to understand areas of improvement and learn what works best in different hotel locations.
Post-event planning is important.
Once an event has happened, hotel staff need to elevate all concerns and disaster reporting as quickly as possible. Hotel staff should use the technology available such as mobile phones to send photos to management – management should then send photos to their disaster planning or response team. Interstate Restoration has an immediate response team that will take this information and respond accordingly.
Evaluation of safety should always be a top of mind element during post event assessment – do not put yourself or guests at risk of being harmed and let emergency professionals do their job.
Temporary repairs that can mitigate further damage should be made. Most critical are power and water supplies. If it all possible, these should be shut-off to reduce fire and flooding damage.
Preparedness and Disaster Relief Resources:
The American Hotel & Lodging Association lists the below resources:
- FEMA regional offices
- FEMA preparedness widget
- FEMA hurricane preparedness webpage
- Lessons From Past Hurricanes (see what hoteliers would have done differently and learn how you can be prepared)
- Ready.gov offers an emergency supply kit for travelers and hotels.
In addtion, feel free to learn more about Interstate Restoration's response during a fire that caused $1 Million in damage at the Ritz-Carlton in Florida.