Though summertime brings sunshine, beach days and barbecues, it also marks the beginning of what can be a dangerous time in the state of Florida: Hurricane Season.
Our destination was fortunate in 2017, but the arrival of Irma did serve as an important reminder to all who reside here that an emergency can happen at any time and we all must be prepared.
As a community servant, it is my job to make sure our staff and our industry partners have plans in place should disaster strike – first and foremost to keep residents and visitor safe, but also to ensure that recovery efforts can begin as quickly as possible following an emergency.
Research shows that 74 percent of unprepared businesses never recover after a major adverse occurrence.
In the months since Irma, the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has been hard at work fine tuning its own Emergency Communications Plan to ensure that our staff is fully prepared to assist as county employees and carry on our obligation of communicating with potential visitors about conditions in the destination.
Once a threat is perceived, our staff is assigned Emergency Operations Center roles and duties during the extent of the event. At this point in time, the team also launches the destination’s emergency communications plan designed to ensure the BACVB maintains communication with industry partners, visitors and the public.
The plan outlines action items for multiple scenarios, including a county-wide evacuation or in the event evacuees are sent to the Bradenton area. It also places heightened focuses on post-event communications which are essential for any destination facing an emergency.
Our plan includes on-going communication to our accommodation, restaurant and additional industry partners to ensure each is armed with the information it needs to prepare ahead of an event and take part in destination-wide recovery efforts.
Partners are requested to contact the BACVB to make sure our team has the most up-to-date emergency contact information on file. An in-depth external communications plan outlining the BACVB’s strategy is available for any tourism industry partners interested in reviewing the plan the destination has in place.
Disaster preparedness should extend beyond the tourism and hospitality industries and I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for all Bradenton area businesses to have a plan in place.
To help its partners, the BACVB hosts annual events to review plans and help businesses establish their own. However, many of these tips can be implemented across all industries.
To start, all businesses should:
- Make an easy-to-follow emergency response plan. Design a map outlining escape routes, evacuation routes and nearby shelters and keep a list of emergency phone numbers available.
- Keep a disaster prepared kit ready. This kit should include flashlights, provisions, a first-aid kit and a camera to take photos of any damage sustained.
- Review and consider their insurance policy. There are many policy options for businesses small and large which can be vital should a disaster cause damage or a prolong interruption in business.
- Back-up all electronic data. All files and data should be backed up and saved somewhere safe. A business may not be able to re-establish itself without important tax, financial and client information.
- Determine a communication strategy. Communication to employees, clients and customers should begin as soon as possible after the threat has passed to communicate status to the public.
Need more assistance setting up an emergency plan? Manatee County has one of the best emergency management teams in Florida.
As a division of the Public Safety Department, emergency management provides protection for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Manatee County through effective contingency planning, disaster training and more. They can be reached at (941) 749-3500.
It is easy to ignore a threat until it is real, but during the calm is when we must look ahead and prepare of the worst.
Please take the time to plan.
Elliott Falcione is the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and can be reached at Elliott.Falcione@BACVB.com or 941-729-9177, ext. 3940.