References You Can Use
Disaster Recovery Planning: Strategies for Protecting
Introduction to Emergency Management
If your club isn’t in a zone especially prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, forest fires, mudslides or floods, it’s easy to think you don’t have to worry about how a “disaster” could disrupt your normal club operations.
Think again. And this time, think about everything from overturned chemical tankers to outbreaks of disease to crime sprees, too.
Satisfying local legal requirements to protect against “natural” disasters might make you comfortable now. But just think how uncomfortable you’ll be when something happens that threatens to shut down any part of your operations for a prolonged period of time. Shouldn’t you be prepared to deal with the situation?
Disaster comes in many forms, says Bob Mellinger, President of Attainium Corporation, a business continuity, disaster management and crisis recovery company. But the essentials of disaster planning come down to five key steps: awareness, preparation, mitigation, response and recovery. At the 2005 Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) conference in New Orleans (see show report on page 52), Mellinger took attendees through a disaster exercise, to show how cutting corners in any one of these areas will have nothing short of disastrous consequences.
Covering All Contingencies
Before you can put together a plan, you have to know your risk levels for various types of emergencies. Take the time to pull together the troops and brainstorm various scenarios, from the mundane (floods or hail) to the extraordinary (suicide bombers or SARS). Beyond the obvious questions, such as whether your property lies on any flood plains, look into whether there are any nearby sources (or regular shipping routes) of hazardous chemicals. Also assign someone to monitor local and national events so threats, such as mad-cow disease, product recalls, local crime waves or terrorist acts, don’t catch you by surprise.
With all the possibilities in hand, assign a level of risk to each. Many state and local authorities already have this information on hand, so check there first. Also contact your insurance adjustor. Know what you are up against and be sure that those footing the bill—your members and Board—are also aware.
|Nature “renovated” Florida’s John’s Island Club golf course by relocating the sand traps, but strong relationships with local suppliers helped put everything back together again.|
|Do you still have to stop if the sign isn’t upright? After sustaining damage to all of its various structures, John’s Island Club made sure to help its employees find the housing, food and water they needed, too.|
|No, this is not a modern yard sculpture. This battered piece of metal used to be the dome on the club house cupola at John’s Island Club.|
|John’s Island Club’s restrooms took a beating, and safety, not just appearance, became a concern in the ensuing cleanup efforts.|
|Falling into Oblivion
The Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, Calif. experienced flooding and mudslides this past January that resulted in “a couple million dollars worth of damage,” according to Jay Colliatie, the club’s Director of Golf.
Most of the bridges, including the one above, had to be replaced because the pilings were no longer properly supported. The club is now looking into the possibility of building free-span concrete bridges as a precaution against future flooding or forest fires.
|There was also damage to the course itself. Much of the fourth tee fell away, and a few fairways needed attention.|
Preparation: No Time to Look It Up
“Consultants tend to write phone books for you (as disaster manuals). But when the emergency happens, you just don’t have time to start looking through the phonebook,” says Alan Lennon, Director of Operations at the Union League Club of Chicago.
It’s nearly impossible to prepare for every possible disaster or incident, and you shouldn’t waste time trying. Think in general terms that can be applied to a wide breadth of situations.
Start with a chain of command and decide how everyone will communicate within this structure. These two simple steps can go a long way toward minimizing chaos and panic. Lennon has a great idea: Give every person or department a checklist of responsibilities. This way, when something happens, each person can calmly go about his business without having to wait for orders from a superior. It’s a good way to ensure, for example, that the gas is quickly switched off in the event of a fire, or that windows are opened to brace for a tornado.
At Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., site of many prestigious tournaments including this August’s 87th PGA Championship, a “war room” is set up for every tournament hosted. It serves as home base, reports Executive Assistant Clubhouse Manager Dan McHugh, CCM, for key staffers who stay in constant communication with the starter’s desk, the greens department and the pro shop (which handles nearly all incoming calls during such events).
Mitigation: Picking Your Spots
If you’re aware and prepared, you’ve already taken big strides toward lessening the impact of a disaster. But what about when there is an imminent threat? You can’t redirect the path of a raging hurricane or decide that you won’t let an earthquake tear up your property, but you can take steps to lessen the damage.
This is where routine maintenance and high-quality construction step into the spotlight. Make sure all plumbing, electrical and gas systems are in tip-top shape. Hire an outside inspector if necessary. For flood-prone areas, elevate utility meters and cutoffs. If earthquakes are an issue, strap bookshelves and water heaters to the wall. The water heater is especially important; if it tips over, it could rupture the gas line and start a fire. For hurricane and tornado zones
, install storm shutters and ensure that the buildings—especially the roofs—can withstand high winds. Taking measures to correct any of these problems ahead of time can greatly reduce damage and prevent injuries.
Response: Follow the Drill
When danger is imminent, the operative rule is protect people first, and property second. Decide if evacuation is necessary, and alert local authorities at the first sign of trouble. Good planning, training and drilling habits will make this stage run smoothly. This is not the time to worry about how much it’s all going to cost; it’s the time to protect lives and stabilize the situation.
Recovery: More Than Money
Proper insurance is clearly a key component of recovery (in the May issue of Club & Resort Business, we’ll take a closer look at disaster-related insurance issues). But aside from prompt filing of claims, what should be tops on your to-do list, once the dust has settled? The primary focus throughout this phase should be on getting back to normal operations in a quick and orderly fashion.
Keep a record of all costs and activities associated with the recovery. Members will want an explanation of where their money went; insurance adjustors will require it. It’s also a good idea to keep close track of the people who get involved with recovery efforts, and what each of them do, by appointing a “Clerk of the Works” who checks everyone in and out from the site.
That is one thing that Brian Kroh, CCM, General Manager of John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Fla., wishes he had done in the process of resurrecting his club from hurricanes Frances and Jean last September. “There are a lot of unknown people coming in, and you lose a lot of control,” he says. The club did make a speedy recovery, however, thanks to the strong relationships Kroh had built in advance with the builders, architects, suppliers and other critical contributors to the rebuilding and cleanup process.
One last word of advice: Be reasonable about how you much you expect your employees to help. Remember that if the club was hit by a hurricane, forest fire, flood, tornado or earthquake, they may have been hit at home, too. Be sensitive to this and find time and ways to help them with their personal recovery needs. Crises can be the most successful teambuilding events.
Always Be Prepared
Use this checklist to ensure that you’ve done as much as possible to prevent and limit damage before any imminent danger arrives. This is by no means a complete list and absolutely no club should treat it as such. Use common sense and be open to additional work if needed.
Congrats if your club has already taken these or other measures, but don’t stop there. There are new threat possibilities every day and they don’t all revolve around acts of nature. You can never be too prepared.
• Check that all plumbing and electrical work is up to code and in good condition
• Ensure all fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are in full working order
• Seal all potential water entry points
• Set up all club phones to dial outside lines without having to go through the switchboard first
• Label all areas of the irrigation system and ensure it is working correctly
• Pinpoint all sources of water for use in a fire fight
• Plant succulent plants near buildings and keep all landscaping well watered
• Be sure the course and grounds drain properly
• Take care of needed upkeep right away
• Inform members of the best places to go in the event of tornados, fires and earthquakes
• Even if you never run a drill, be sure all escape routes and places of refuge are well marked
• Devise an evacuation plan that can be enacted at a moment’s notice
• Give employees a checklist of responsibilities to default to in the event of a crisis
• Train employees in your disaster procedures
• Post a list of emergency contacts by each phone
• Create a system to call additional employees to the club if needed
• Evaluate insurance coverage to ensure it is adequate to cover worst-case scenarios
• Build up a financial cushion to handle extra burdens incurred during disaster recovery
• Prioritize expenses in preparation for cash flow crises
• Set up off-site computer system backup
• Keep that backup well organized so that you find specific files quickly
• Have a paper-based system in place to fall back on if computers fall out of commission
Ideas for Today’s Manager
If your walls could speak…they might be able to help you do a better job of conveying the full value of your club’s membership. Michael McCarthy, GM/COO of Ballen Isles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, took a similar approach to effectively “respond” to a group of regular bridge players who had a persistent habit of griping about dues and other issues whenever he came through the room. To remedy the situation, McCarthy created some flip charts that broke down club costs on a per-member basis, marched them into the room, and walked right back out of the room. The members who weren’t responding to his previous explanations had a better picture of all that they were getting for their dues, leading to much more appreciative exchanges with club staff.
Got a great management idea you’d like to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org