The Calm Before The Storm

“The next time you make travel plans,” a colleague told me, “you need to post your schedule on The Weather Channel so everyone can brace for disaster.”

Although she said this facetiously, there’s a certain déjà vu element in the fact that two of our getaways in the past 14 months have been cut short by a pair of hurricanes – Irene last August and Sandy just this past week. On both occasions, it seemed unfathomable that our best laid plans for R&R would get derailed by Mother Nature, especially in light of cloudless blue skies when we first arrived.

Had we not been judiciously watching the news throughout our cross-country flight to New York last summer, we’d have been none the wiser that Mother Nature was planning to wreak major havoc.  “I think when we get to the airport,” my husband suggested, “we should see about making a return flight for tomorrow evening.”

“Do you really think it’s going to be that bad?” I replied. Although we’d been following Bloomberg’s dire predictions about the MTA being shut down, bridges and tunnels being closed, Broadway cancelling shows, Con-Edison turning off power, and apartment residents being advised to move to higher floors, it all had a surrealistic feel to it.

There was a 6:30 p.m. flight available on Saturday. “We can pretend we’re rock stars just jetting in for a day of fun,” Mark said. As skeptical as I was – coupled with the fact that there are worse places than The London to be hunkered down during a storm – his intuition is something I’ve always trusted.

We went off to a wonderful dinner at Il Gattopardo, returning just in time to catch a newscast that both JFK and LaGuardia would start moving all their planes off the tarmac the next morning due to a flood watch. “Uh, sweetheart,” I said, “how are we supposed to leave at 6:30 if the airport is closing at noon?”

For the next three hours, my beloved was on the phone with the airline trying to book us on a flight to virtually anywhere on the west coast, just to escape the impending mayhem. As it turned out, we ended up on one of the last planes allowed to leave. Though there was still nary a raindrop in sight, ignoring our instincts would have grounded us for much longer than the original stretch of vacation we had planned.

Is it any wonder, then, that we experienced a “been there/done that” scenario as Hurricane Sandy swirled her wicked way up the coast? In every shop and restaurant in Alexandria, owners were laying in a supply of sandbags and making preparations to move merchandise upstairs. “What is it about us that attracts calamity?” I asked my husband, but he was already on the phone switching our Monday afternoon reservations to a crack-of-dawn flight on Sunday morning. As with New York, we would likely still be on the Eastern seaboard if he hadn’t acted quickly…and before the online booking system crashed.

If there’s a takeaway value to these misadventures insofar as your company’s marketing and public relations components, it’s that there’s no such thing as being “too prepared” for emergencies. How often have you said, “Oh, the odds of that happening are really remote” or “It won’t take us that long to grab what we need” or “Those things always happen to someone else”?

The reality is that it’s better to heed warnings, trust instincts and prepare for the worst rather than do nothing, hope for the best, and then be caught off-guard without any of the resources and contingency plans you need to weather the storm…as well as recover from its brutal aftermath.

My colleagues and I send our thoughts and prayers to all of our readers and their families on the East coast during this unsettling and cataclysmic tragedy. May your lives – and livelihoods – return to normal as soon as possible.

******

Here’s the lineup of this month’s blogs by my guest contributors:

It’s Not How You Look. It’s How You See – by Lori Bumgarner

How to Recruit Volunteers – A Volunteer’s Perspective – by Amandah Tayler Blackwell

A Smorgasbord of Affordable PR – by Melody Friberg

Webinars: Both a Marketing and Sales Solution –  by Leanne Hoagland-Smith

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