Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fire Drill

When I was a young girl, growing up in the small town of Loxley Alabama, my elementary education occurred in a quaint building that housed grades 1-9. In the third grade I remember a fire drill that was very frightening. Of course the plan was to calmly exit the classroom but my focus was saving my desk, so I was frantically trying to get help throwing it out of the ground floor window. My teacher quickly corrected my ambitious attempts and refocused my attention on the critical issue of practicing how to save my life. To this day I don't know why I wanted to save my desk but I do have an antique school desk in my home, so there must be some odd connection that I feel to this piece of furniture.

Recently our gulf coast experienced a sort of fire drill in the form of the first Tropical Storm of the 2005 Hurricane Season. There we were the first week of June faced with a weather system targeted to make landfall on our coast and faced with the media storm of interest in the first named storm - Arlene.

I have never been more proud of our Property Management and Service teams who are understandably weary from 9 months of Hurricane Ivan storm recovery. As they assembled to review the newly revised Storm preparedness and Recovery Plan somehow they found the energy to devote to this approaching weather system.

All customers scheduled to arrive for vacations on the day "Arlene" was predicted to make landfall were notified of the weather conditions. These vacationers were given the opportunity to arrive a day later and receive a one-night refund. A small percentage decided to delay their arrival, although no one felt there would be danger or property damage.

So the day dawned for Tropical Storm Arlene to arrive and other than a small amount of wind, moderate rain and some flooding in low lying areas, the weather system was little more than a summer thunderstorm. Our arriving customers were treated to a beautiful Sunday as the weather system quickly moved north of the coast followed by sunny skies for the balance of the week.

So we survived our first weather system of the season and utilized this as a fire drill to examine once again our processes and procedures. We found a few areas that need more attention during times of high property occupancy. This is a rare situation since most tropical systems do not make landfall until after Labor Day. As always we are striving for continuous improvement, so this situation was a learning experience. It was also a bonding experience as our teams worked cooperatively to accomplish our mission of providing STAR Treatment.