This is not a drill: Don’t underestimate nature’s power

Having lived in eco-fragile environments and low-lying islands, such as the Maldives, various places within the “Ring of Fire,” such as Indonesia, earthquake-prone California, as well as places such as Hawaii with its distinct hurricane season, one truly can’t ever be prepared enough to ensure the safety of guests, employees and property.

The recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and Florida, and floods in Houston, and the subsequent devastation on a massive scale, has led me to reflect on the times whereby, as the head honcho of a hotel or resort, you are alerted – or not – about potential severe weather. You and the team react to be as prepared as possible, and then you have to wait it out. It is an eerie feeling, once all preparations are completed and you are as prepared as you will ever be, you stand still and realize nature’s power and how insignificant we really are.

Puerto Rico, the day after Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 21 (via Getty Images)
Puerto Rico, the day after Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 21 (via Getty Images)

Fast yet resolute action is key, once alerted, especially as you gather the team and implement what you train for yet now is real life. As you gather information and each team member jumps into gear, you realize that this is not a drill, and you see what all the training and partnership among all the departments and team members is worth.

No matter how difficult the situation, it brings out the best in people and shows the leadership skills of your team members. Often I have been humbled by the many, in some cases heroic, acts of our team and how they took care of our guests and local residents in an extraordinary way, despite the fact that their own home may have been destroyed or their family in danger.

Having had to evacuate a hotel that flooded and was subsequently closed for almost two years, having evacuated islands 3 to 5 feet above sea level due to tsunami warnings, both during construction as well as in an operating resort, having had to evacuate a district of a private island in Hawaii due to severe and large-scale fires, threatening the lives of many guests, employees and residents, having had to deal with regular evacuations and earthquakes, you realize that no matter how much you and the team prepare, you can never, never underestimate the power of nature and its elements, earth, water, air and fire.

My thoughts are with the many people and communities who have been affected by these recent natural disasters, and I am grateful for everyone who is contributing, in any which way, to assist those in need, especially those in remote areas of our globe.