Recovery and Restoration in the Days of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Kent Stemper

Sitting at his desk in his modest office in Centennial, Colorado, Kent Stemper, chief executive officer of BluSky Restoration Contractors, LLC, has just finished a conference call with his national catastrophe team concerning Irma, which as of this interview, was a Category 5 hurricane threatening the coastal regions of the entire Florida peninsula.Sitting at his desk in his modest office in Centennial, Colorado, Kent Stemper, chief executive officer of BluSky Restoration Contractors, LLC, has just finished a conference call with his national catastrophe team concerning Irma, which as of this interview, was a Category 5 hurricane threatening the coastal regions of the entire Florida peninsula.

“This has the potential to be a very destructive storm,’ Stemper says with a look of concern. “With the incredible destruction of Harvey in Houston, which has virtually every restoration construction company in the country fully engaged, Irma could be a test for us all,” added Stemper.

ALL-HANDS-ON-DECK

 

According to Stemper, when it comes to massively destructive weather events, “It’s all-hands-on-deck, for not only our firm and network of trade partners, but for every company out there that does what we do. No one company can take on all the recovery and restoration work,” he said.

“I can only speak for our firm, but in these circumstances, it’s always about the people who are personally and tragically affected by these events. From the day we arrive, to the day we leave, we want to lead with compassion,” says Stemper.

Stemper describes what he means by ‘lead with compassion’ as following fundamental principles where customers are cared for as individuals who “deserve our upmost compassion and decency in their time of enormous stress.”

HAVE A PLAN AND FOLLOW IT

Stemper says, in addition to compassion, companies that repair the damage, as well as owners and managers of commercial and resort properties, must have a formal disaster recovery plan and framework in place before the unthinkable happens.

Stemper points to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) as an excellent guide for developing a solid plan for any resort owner or management team.

Stemper cautions that when it comes to catastrophic weather events, such as hurricanes, the local state and municipalities are in charge. “We can’t rely on the federal government to plan for every possible outcome. So, as resort property owners/managers and restoration companies, we must have well thought out plans, policies and procedures.” As an example of what not to do, Stemper points to the poor recovery outcomes in response to Hurricane Katrina.

“Clearly, the federal response wasn’t stellar, but we now know that FEMA inherited a terrible mess from the local government in New Orleans and the feds were incredibly behind by the time they showed up on the scene,” says Stemper.

For example, according to the late NBC News anchor, Tim Russert, who read from the city’s emergency response plan live on the air, the city had a solid plan in place that, if implemented, would have saved lives. The plan called for the deployment of the city’s school buses to evacuate citizens.

“The city’s plan apparently wasn’t followed, or not fully,” says Stemper. “We all remember the pictures of hundreds of school buses sitting idlily in parking lots under several feet of water. After we write these plans, we can’t let them sit on a shelf, never to be looked at again,” Stemper added.

The follow 10 points for emergency preparedness come from www.ready.gov, and much more detail on the subject can be found there. If you are starting from scratch, there is a fill in the blanks template to help you develop your customized emergency response plan.

10 STEPS FOR DEVELOPING THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLAN

  1. Review performance objectives for the program.
  2. Review hazard or threat scenarios identified during the risk assessment.
  3. Assess the availability and capabilities of of resourcesr incident stabilization including  people, systems and equipment available within  your business and from external sources.
  4. Talk with public emergency services (e.g., fire,  police and emergency medical services) to  determine their response time to your facility,  knowledge of your facility and its hazards and  their capabilities to stabilize an emergency at your  facility.
  5. Determine if there are any regulations pertaining  to emergency planning at your facility; address  applicable regulations in the plan.
  6. Develop protective actions for life safety  (evacuation, shelter, shelter-in-place, lockdown).
  7. Develop hazard and threat-specific emergency  procedures
  8. Coordinate emergency planning with public  emergency services to stabilize incidents involving the hazards at your facility.
  9. Train personnel so they can fulfill their roles and  responsibilities.
  10. Facilitate exercises to practice your plan.

TAKEAWAY

The big takeaway advice from Stemper to owners and managers of resort properties, when it comes to weather, fire or other large-scale property-damaging events is, to create a disaster recovery plan, continually reinforce the plan and include a reputable restoration contractor.

“You will be well-served by a firm that has put in the time and attention to detail to know your property well in advance of an event. Whether its BluSky or one of our competitors, we’re here to help get your property back in use compassionately, quickly, safely and without construction defects. It’s what we do,” says Stemper.

Dan Lawrence National Marketing Manager BluSky Restoration Contractors, LLC