Struck by Sandy: keeping staff safe in a hurricane

Marketing staff from Yachting Pages, a world-leading superyacht directory, were severely affected by Hurricane Sandy last week whilst at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) 2012. 

Yachting Pages sent nine staff members to the show, including two women planning to conduct face-to-face market research with superyacht captains and crew aboard their boats.

Kerry O’Neill, marketing executive said, “Our whole trip and personal safety were thrown into jeopardy by the weather. Fierce rain and winds as Sandy gathered strength made completing our work almost impossible – not to mention dangerous – with unsecured items flying around and crews working to secure their multi-million pound yachts.

“A man was injured by flying debris and a lamp fell from the swaying Yacht Designers’ tent. Electrical cables were submerged and rain poured through the roof, we were gathered in doorways ready to escape if it collapsed. I’ve amended our FLIBS kit list to replace summer shirts with sou’westers, sunglasses with umbrellas and clipboards with windshields!” 

Having employees caught in such conditions raises serious questions for employers from a human resource perspective. At which juncture can employees refuse to work or to travel to work, will they be penalised or docked pay accordingly and who decides when such measures should come into play?

Steve Crowe, managing director at Yachting Pages, said, “No employer wants their staff in the path of a super storm. Though the show is of course a significant investment for Yachting Pages, staff safety is always my first concern. Ramifications for time spent not working didn’t enter the equation.

“They forged ahead despite the storm, a hotel blackout and overnight delays due to Hurricane Sandy.  Amazingly, the sales team smashed their targets and arrived home – if a bit bedraggled – with new information and contacts to make next year’s Yachting Pages USA better than ever.”

Whether FLIBS management should reschedule the show is not a new topic, as it attracts thousands of visitors and hundreds of superyachts to a vulnerable destination in the middle

of Florida’s hurricane season (1st June to 30th November). This year is currently tied with three others as the third most active hurricane season since records began.

Regarding the show’s timing, Efrem ‘Skip’ Zimbalist III, CEO of the event’s organiser Show Management, explained that it was essential for superyachts returning from Europe and bound for the Caribbean to be given the chance to attend the show. He said this was the only window in which to stage the show if that goal is to be achieved.

To see a video of the storm in action at the Fort Lauderdale Show, visit the company’s Facebook page

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