Among lessons that local businesses have learned and are putting into practice are:
Get a plan. Officials with several Midstate companies that do business along the coast say they are offering training and providing educational materials for employees in hurricane-prone areas.
HCA, for example, has held disaster drills and rolled out a program called Code Ready to keep disaster preparedness on the minds of employees. Lebanon-based CBRL Group Inc., owner of the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurant chain, has prepared diagrams that show its managers how to pack store freezers to better preserve food in case the power goes out as a result of a storm.
Stock up. O’Charley’s has begun stockpiling plywood in Mobile, Ala., so the company can protect windows in threatened areas. Before, plywood was brought from about 260 miles farther inland, and that caused delays.
HCA, meanwhile, has purchased 17 generators for its East Florida region. Hospitals also have access to 6,500-gallon water trucks. HCA also has purchased above-ground gasoline tanks for 20 hospitals across Florida, and several HCA hospitals in Florida have arrangements with gas stations where employees can fill their cars’ gas tanks after a storm, he added.
Stay in touch. O’Charley’s biggest problem after Katrina was communications, Biller said, so the company purchased three satellite phones, costing $700 each, for key managers.
HCA, which scrambled to set up a network of amateur radio operators after Katrina, also is using satellite phones.
Don’t forget the customers. Once a storm clears, Tractor Supply Co. figuratively stocks its stores in affected areas with essential products such as generators, chainsaws and rooftop tarps. They’re kept at distribution centers in Texas, Georgia and Maryland, with easy access to coastal areas.
Colonial Pipeline Co., which delivers gas and diesel fuel to the Nashville area, has bought 10 large generators or transformers that can be moved after a storm. The generators will help ensure that gasoline from Gulf Coast refineries gets to Atlanta, where the fuel can be put into tanks and pumped to Tennessee, said a spokesman.
Take care of employees. After Katrina, O’Charley’s executive Hunter recalls filling a humanitarian role. He contacted employees in his region and provided supplies, including ice to one worker whose diabetic husband needed to have his insulin refrigerated.
“What to do after the hurricane is equally as important as what to do before the hurricane,” Hunter said. “You have no power (for) two weeks, you can’t get gas, can’t take a hot shower, the water might be tainted because the filtration system is down. It’s like living in a Third-World country.”