Downburst Aftermath

I darn near cried as I called our building’s owner to tell her a downburst took off a third of our roof and ensuing rains damaged 10 of our 13 offices/rooms. Calls to my Board chair and staff were more composed but difficult to share that our office was completely ruined.

What do you do? BBAs, MBAs, CDMEs, CSEEs and countless state tourism conferences don’t prepare you for this. You’re a marketing or sales person. Not a disaster specialist. While Steve Perry and Butch Spyridon could probably share much more as a result of Katrina hitting New Orleans and flood waters overtaking Nashville, these simple thoughts on dealing with a disaster are this month’s Five at 5:

You won’t do anything… meaning you won’t do any regular things for at least two weeks ’cause you’re dealing with insurance, adjusters, disaster specialists, landlords, and board members. Then there’s the interested parties that drop by that you be kind to and give tours. (Maybe I was just too kind.)

That being said…

Get up and running… nothing will help “ease the pain” better than getting back to work. I had personal emails for all the staff (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) so I was able to communicate longer messages than text would allow. We had updated our computers to laptops with wireless capabilities. Now they didn’t need an office. And having recently switched our CRM to iDSS, sales was able to access everything since iDSS is a web based program. Cell phone and laptop, you’re in business!

Document everything… you can’t take enough pictures. I bought an SD card specifically for this disaster so as to not loose a picture. One appraiser appreciated the ease of transferring the pics that way instead of me emailing dozens of pictures. And receipts are your best friend! Anything you purchase and remotely hope to get reimbursed for needs to have a receipt.

Move once… I heard this over and over and over again as we considered our options of a temporary space vs. a permanent move. If you serve as a welcome center especially, the last thing you want to do is say, “We’ve moved to 123 Elm” and then six to nine months later direct visitors to yet another address.

Keep your Board up to date… I’ve received compliments from Board members about how much information I’ve shared. Regular emails detailing the damage, what insurance is doing, where I’ve looked for new space, pros and cons of one space over the other, the fact that staff is still working, etc. While they may not respond, they do what to know what is going on and I believe it’s brought one or two members closer to the DMO and staff.

Naturally the best hope is you never have to go through something like this but if you do, this might have sparked a few thoughts to help navigate through a similar experience. You get through it and it’s a great learning experience. Not one I wanted to learn in the midst of launching a website, staff changes, preparing for our annual luncheon, launching a hospitality training program and…

Feel free to leave your suggestions or comments below. Thanks for reading!

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