Managing in a Crisis During Hurricane Sandy
By Edward Reagoso General Manager, The Wilshire Grand Hotel | March 31, 2013
Insuring guests feel welcome, comfortable, and safe while taking care of basic needs sounds so simple. Heck, it's what GM's do. I've been managing hotels for twenty plus years yet little did I know what my guests, team, partners, neighbors, and frankly myself and my own family would be in for late October 2012 when Hurricane Sandy swept through our region wreaking havoc, destruction, and even death.
The news was terrifying. The experience was as well, yet I can look back with empathy, pride, and resilience in while working along with my staff around the clock- literally to insure our many guests were being fed three squares while every restaurant, including our own was closed with no power and trees down everywhere.
At 5:00p.m. Monday, October 29th the hotel went dark. Our power was lost, yet Super Storm Sandy was just beginning to make her presence known to North Jersey. The devastation threatened by the constant news report s was about to become a reality. Though we have reserve power and a back-up generator, it does not keep our entire hotel and banquet center up and running. What it does do is keeps corridors, some kitchen equipment, administrative offices, telephones, TV, and internet up and running. We were as prepared as possible.
By 8 p.m. many hotels in North Jersey had either shut their doors with no power at all or stopped taking guests because their guestrooms had no power. We remained open and ready to serve, yet with the telephones ringing off the hook, we had absolutely no more rooms available for clients or neighbors seeking a roof over their heads and some warmth with the hope of some food. In an attempt to meet the needs of every person who called seeking refuge, my team made a myriad of calls to other hotels all over the tri state area. Unfortunately, all we could do was take care of our own guests at this point.
All guests were given bright new LED flashlights and glow sticks to insure some lighting inside their guestrooms. We have 89 guestrooms and suites and though we were to open Tuesday at only 35% occupancy, we were sold out by 6 p.m. on Monday the 29th when many began losing power and fearing for their families and pets. Yes, don't forget about the beloved pets. At any one given time we had approximately twenty five best friends --dogs, cats, hamsters, etc. to ride out the storm with us as well.
Though a bit challenging even for our pet-friendly hotel, you can only imagine the happiness and relief many of our guests felt when learning their beloved furry (and scaly) friends were welcome. I recall one child who was crying because his father thought it inappropriate to bring their dog to the lobby. When I suggested that Dad go bring the dog to the lobby, all three (Dad, child, and Dog) were as happy as they could be. How great it was for all of them to be with their beloved dog(s) and not have to leave them home alone during this scary time.