5 Ways to Better Prepare for a Disaster

August 23, 2018 | 2119 Views

5 Ways to Better Prepare for a Disaster

Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT

Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training | Ivar's & Kidd Valley Restaurants

Even though it was more than 17 years ago, I remember almost everything about the morning of February 28, 2001. It was Ash Wednesday, a big sales day for seafood restaurants, and I was working as the manager-in-charge of our quick-service location in Everett, Washington. I remember my team on that day consisted of Barbara, a 15-year Ivar’s veteran, and Jordan, who had only been with the company for a few months, and we all worked very hard to prepare for the many guests we were expecting. I remember that we were so happy to get everything finished 10 minutes before opening at 11:00am, and I remember Barbara excused herself to the ladies’ room to freshen up before her upcoming stint on the register.

And then, at 10:54am, I remember that Jordan asked me why the overhead lights were swaying. It took me a few seconds to come up with an answer, thinking at first a large truck was driving by, but it quickly dawned on me that the movement was more than something a truck could cause; it turned out to be a magnitude 6.8 earthquake, the largest the region had experienced in 55 years.

We were in the doorway between the kitchen and the front line, and although there was a nearby kitchen table we could have gotten under, I noted the rattling fryers (all of which were full of hot oil) and pulled Jordan with me toward the dining room. We got under a table and held on to the legs as the floor rocked and rolled and slipped and swayed, and we were extremely thankful when it finally subsided after about 40 seconds. Barbara came out of the ladies’ room a few minutes later laughing, as she had initially thought Jordan and I were pulling some sort of prank and causing her stall to shake before she, too, realized it was an earthquake.

Although this event caused approximately $300 million in insured losses and $2 billion worth of damage across Washington, we at Ivar’s didn’t really suffer that much.  There were some cracks in the walls of our corporate office, some ceramic dishes broke in our full-service restaurants, and several fryers full of oil did tip over, but we experienced no serious injuries of employees or guests and didn’t have to spend time on a massive cleanup effort.

The earthquake did make us rethink our company emergency plan, however, especially since even after this relatively minor incident, it was almost impossible to make a phone call for several hours afterward and all our follow-up steps were phone-based at the time. What would have happened if we had faced an even bigger quake that tore apart the waterfront, collapsed the viaduct (an elevated roadway next to our office), and prevented our restaurants from re-opening. Or a tsunami? Or an active shooter? If we weren’t ready for something small, how would we deal with something catastrophic? Changes were definitely needed, so we began working with a local consultant to become better prepared.

Fortunately, today, some 17 years later, there are many resources to help hospitality companies and their staff members deal with these types of events. Whether it’s hurricane or tornadoes or floods in your area, here are 5 possibilities that you should consider:

Preparing for emergencies can be time-consuming and challenging, especially as our teams are often busy dealing with innumerable other more urgent projects with short-term deadlines.  But it’s critical that you find the time to take care of it now, because time is one thing you and your employees definitely won’t have much of when a disaster does strike.

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