Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, have a way of bringing everything in an 80 percent occupied hotel to a life-changing halt. Disrupting schedules, and lowering moods in the process.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast on October 29, 2012, one hotel’s painter and engineering techs stepped up to the plate. Here’s a version of their story. . .
Torrential rain engulfed the hotel. Sustained winds of 80 miles per hour, with gusts of 100 miles per hour, whipped and slashed at the triple-thick windows and barricaded doors. Three hundred eighty-two guests and sixty-seven staff huddled together in a large meeting room, located in the middle of the conference center.
As everyone waited out the Category One hurricane, a man in “painter’s whites” appeared. He wore a pair of protective goggles on his eyes. And, he carried two, white five gallon paint buckets. Stuffed into each were brushes, rollers, sandpaper and sanding blocks, filled caulking guns, screw drivers, hammers, etc.
“We’re taking reservations,” he announced cheerfully, “for our first hurricane repair and repaint workshop. It’s free, and includes refreshments. It starts in fifteen minutes in the Lighthouse Room (not real name). First door to your right.” The man shook a few hands, then exited the room.
Out of nowhere, a second man appeared, wearing a chef’s white hat and coat.. His face was smeared with white whipped cream. A tomato was stuck onto the tip of his nose. The crowd roared!
He carried two more plastic five gallon paint buckets. One was filled with kernels of un-popped corn. The other held packages of Styrofoam cups.
“Follow me, please,” he called, pointing to an open door nearby.
Four “elves” filed behind him. Each pushed a large serving cart. One was loaded with a popcorn machine, baskets full of wrapped candy, and bags of small plastic cups. Another cart carried gallon containers of tea and fruity beverages. A third carried boxes of games, decks of cards, Crayolas and washable markers, packages of copy paper, stacks of activity books, etc. The fourth cart carried books, magazines, boxes of hotel logo pens, boxes of note pads, envelopes, etc.
Every guest followed the two men in “whites” and the “elves” to the adjoining meeting room.
Some adults participated in the workshops. Some played cards and board games. Some gathered in smaller clusters, read books and magazines, and wrote letters.
Others helped entertain the children. They played games with them. They colored, cut, stickered, and worked puzzles in activity books. They got down on the floor and played blocks, cars, dinosaur, and “dolls” with younger children. They held “story time” with tots. A few took over “baby care” duties from newer parents.
Some helped pop the corn, and serve it in the Styrofoam cups. Some poured and served the beverages. A few others passed around the baskets of candy, and snack foods.
What could have been an even worse crisis was averted. What could have been a very fearful, traumatic event for a large group of confined adults and children was turned into a bearable experience. An adventure!
Hotel staffs, like airplane flight and cruise ship crews, are trained to serve and to protect guests in every type of situation. Some team members tend to respond – instinctively – in crisis situations with phenomenal speed, skill, tact, creativity, and empathy.
How would your hotel occupy hundreds of stranded adults and children of all ages?