Hurricane Survival

It’s Important to Remember the Little Things

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In photo: Kendaree Burgess 

Story by Tim Smith

It might seem trivial compared with all the important tasks on your hurricane to-do list, but don’t forget to grind those coffee beans. 

As CEO of Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, Kendaree Burgess reminds business owners that if the rest of their world is ravaged by chaos in the wake of a hurricane, they will be thankful they can at least kick their day off with a cup of coffee, electricity or no electricity. 

Burgess says it’s often the small things in life that we appreciate the most in the time of crisis. “Grind the coffee beans in advance of the storm! People remember to replace their flashlights and all that stuff, but if you wake up the morning after a hurricane and you can’t have your coffee, the day isn’t going to start very well,” she says. 

That is just one piece of survival advice the Chamber provides its members in the run-up to a storm to ensure their staff and business premises, as well as everyone’s families and homes, are fully prepared. 

Businesses may have a fair number of new employees to the island who may have no experience with hurricanes. Small business owners have additional worries. “If you are a small business, it’s a challenge getting everything you need to do that’s professional and personal. That’s boarding up your home and securing your premises and then doing that same thing if you are a shopkeeper, getting all those things prepared in time for the arriving storm,” says Burgess. 

Before hurricane season begins, businesses should develop a comprehensive hurricane response plan, describing the procedures which will keep staff safe and ensure business continuity. All staff should be familiar with the plan, which should cover: 

Who will perform the various emergency functions, such as boarding up or securing outdoor equipment. 

Evacuation procedures and a list of any necessary equipment. 

Review of insurance policies to ensure there is adequate coverage. 

Contingency plans if the equipment or building becomes damaged. 

As the storm approaches, you should secure doors, windows and other openings, bring outdoor furniture inside, store important documents in a safe place, disconnect and cover electronic equipment, block gutters with clean rags and turn off gas, electricity and other utility services. 

Staff should be released from work if the Causeway or other main roads are about to close, and according to advice from the Bermuda Government. Employers should make sure their staff have enough time to make their own preparations at home. 

Burgess says: “Covid has helped us prepare for hurricanes. For a lot of people, they can afford to be more generous on the work-life balance side of things. At one stage, you would have worked right up to X o’clock on the day before the storm and then gone home to prepare your property. A great number of us now work from home. You can get your work done and prepare for the storm.” 

Other items on the Chambers’ list include: 

Do all laundry and iron clothes before the storm, so that you don’t run out of work clothes if you lose power. 

Get cash from bank machines. 

Charge all electronic equipment you may need for work, such as iPads and laptops. 

“People have to take hurricanes seriously,” Burgess says. “We live on an island where we could be without power for three or four days. It’s basic preparation. You have to make sure you have a way to feed yourself if you will be without electricity. You have to make sure you have some clean clothes and that your transportation has enough petrol in it so you are not running on empty and find out that the gas station close to you isn’t functioning.” 

“And look out for those who may be experiencing a hurricane for the first time. The first hurricane for someone may create a level of anxiety. 

Phil Barnett, President of Island Restaurant Group and a veteran of numerous storms, has learned to juggle the need to protect his business premises and his family at home. Barnett stresses the importance of communication. 

“Make sure that there are clear lines of connection between the managers who are on duty as well as their direct reports,” he says. “WhatsApp services have made it immeasurably easier because we can send out a message to multiple people who can disseminate that to multiple other people.” 

He also says businesses need to trust their staff to make good decisions. “You have to communicate that staff need to have the ability to independently think in regard to how they can make it in after a storm, if they can make it in,” says Barnett. “Plan for the worst and, if you don’t get it, you are in a much better position than what you plan for.” 

He lives on a property with a lot of trees. “Depending on the storm, oftentimes I have to cut my way out, so I’m not the first person onsite at my business. That’s why it’s really important that you allow your staff to independently assess and recognize what’s best for the business.” 

He takes time to ensure new staff from overseas are aware of potential problems, such as being without running water after a storm, and the need to keep enough ice to stop food from spoiling. 

On that note, the Chamber provides members with an extensive shopping list and general to-dos. Burgess concludes, “If you don’t have major damage after a storm, the only thing that’s really upsetting is the list of regrets. Why didn’t I grind those coffee beans?” 

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