Three steps to follow before and after disaster strikes

Belfor Property Restoration tackles damage restoration of hotels and other properties, including fire damage. (Experts in the hotel industry discuss the best ways to return to operation after a disaster. )

When disaster strikes, hotels are susceptible to damage as any commercial property or residence. Whether these disasters are major or minor, the impact can be deleterious to a hotel’s performance and ability to cater to guests. While prepping for all potential damage is impossible, hoteliers must try to cover all their bases beforehand and act quickly during the fallout.

That’s sage advice, according to Sheldon Yellen, CEO of Belfor Property Restoration, a disaster recovery service provider. He warned: “You’ve got to stay away from the ‘it’s not going to happen to me’ mentality, because it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”

Whether the damage is a toilet overflowing on a regular day or severe flooding during a massive storm, further issues can arise when hoteliers don’t take the damage seriously. “Don’t take this ‘it’s not a big deal’ attitude,” Yellen said. “It is a big deal. You’re serving people that are counting on your facility to be 100 percent on their A-game all the time. Customer service is so critical in the hotel industry, and that should be top of mind.”

Hoteliers have numerous recovery resources at their disposal, but they can too easily slip up in the wake of a disaster. Here are three steps to speed up recovery 

1. Grab a Notepad 

Assessing the damage should be at the top of a hotelier’s agenda. Once the initial disaster is over—and it’s safe to get a closer look—take note of all damage to the property to inform the cleanup strategy. If this is a large-scale disaster, send out a team to scour the hotel for any damage. With more eyes working during this process, the clean-up can begin sooner.

For example, the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club in Florida luckily only saw minor damage and “laborious work” after Hurricane Irma hit in September 2017. The recovery process began as soon as Irma passed with staff taking detailed notes about every area of the property. “My entire engineering department and chief engineer were here on all the roofs checking everything. So, within about three to four days after the hurricane, we knew exactly where the damage was, what it was and how we were going to handle it moving forward,” said Jason Parsons, the hotel’s GM.

Clean-up was conducted alongside the assessment, allowing the hotel to reopen just a few days following the storm. 

Calling a professional, like Belfor, can get water damage restoration completed quickly.

2. Hire Experts

In terms of insurance, hiring an insurance agent ensures all recoverable costs are earned after all claims are submitted. “We encourage our clients to engage us as their broker as well as forensic accountants to help with putting together the business income loss, coverage attorneys to answer coverage questions, designated adjustors who understand the actual policy form, reclamation companies so that they can start mitigation and get the hotel open as quickly as possible and also prevent further damage, and, then, other professionals as well, engineers, hygienists, etc.,” said Jackie Collins, VP and senior director at insurance and risk management consultant Arthur J. Gallagher.

The combined expertise of these professionals, especially of those who understand the hotel business, will help companies earn the biggest payout. If hotels already have a complex insurance policy for all property assets— including the interior and exterior facilities and utilities, and business loss—hotels will gain coverage for all types of disasters on a replacement cost basis.

During the actual cleanup work, hiring a damage recovery professional will ensure the process is completed correctly, quickly and safely.

Ron Beauregard, head of U.S. E&S property at insurer Beazley Group, suggested hoteliers hire a restoration contractor to arrive on the property as soon as possible. “Some of the stuff they’re doing today is having contractors and subcontractors already on notice if a event happens,” he said. “They’ve paid a little bit of extra money to get them to their sites first, to have roof contractors to fix roofs, having generator companies to have generators on standby, having the proper personnel in the building at the time of the event.”

A professional service will bring in the proper equipment for the cleanup.

3. Inform Your Right Hand

Communication is key during any type of disaster. Throughout the recovery process, this communication will not only get damage repaired quickly and reduce any further damage, but it will also keep the staff and guests safe.

Yellen said that hoteliers should have a disaster plan in place that they should immediately communicate to staff and guests to make sure that safety is the No. 1 priority. “The theme has to be safety, safety, safety, and the more that that is communicated to both your employees and guests and any and all professionals that come to help, the more safe the environment stays and remains throughout the whole entire process,” he said.