Don’t Be Caught Unprepared in an Emergency

One service provider's takeaways from Hurricane Sandy

Don’t Be Caught Unprepared in an Emergency

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At a meeting with our new insurance company, the agent asked if we had practiced fire or tornado drills with our staff at A Royal Flush. Yes to the first, but no to the second because this isn’t Kansas — right? However, after that meeting we started thinking of all the ways we were unprepared should a storm like Hurricane Sandy happen again. 

Almost six years ago, Hurricane Sandy rocked the Northeast. As someone who has lived almost her entire life in the Northeast, I was completely unprepared for the storm. A common joke in my family is that in a zombie apocalypse, I would be one of the first to go. I never have cash on hand, my refrigerator is almost always bare and my car rarely has more than a half tank of gas. To put it lightly, I am really unprepared for an emergency.

Hurricane Sandy was one of the first natural disasters to really hit where I live, and I was incredibly lucky to have minimal damage to my home, especially because I had a newborn at the time. I wish I could say that experience pushed me to plan more, but unfortunately no. A Royal Flush was also incredibly lucky to weather the storm with minimal damage. But that was entirely due to good planning, though clearly not on my part!

Obviously, in a storm of that magnitude, there is going to be the loss of some equipment. During Hurricane Sandy, MetLife Stadium clocked speeds of around 90 mph. Our portable restrooms were virtually flying through the air during the storm. We also had portable restrooms crushed by trees and toilets destroyed in the floodwaters. Without portable restrooms, we really don’t have a business; so insurance on your portable restrooms would be the first item on a preparedness checklist.

Flooding was our next big concern. A few of our offices and yards in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Newark, New Jersey, lay in flood zones. During Hurricane Sandy, our former owner, William Malone, had the foresight to drive all of our trucks to higher ground. We parked them at a grocery store parking lot that was outside of the flood plain and spared them from the storm. Knowing the layout of the flood plains is another huge step in being prepared.

From a business perspective, the biggest hit to us during the storm was four days of lost business. When the stormwaters came into Bridgeport, they shut down the power in our neighborhood. At the time, all of our servers were housed in our building, not on the cloud. So for four days, we had no power, which meant no work, no phone calls, no emails, etc. After this experience, we spent a lot of time reworking our infrastructure so hopefully I am never working from the front seat of a Honda Accord again.

In the end, the most valuable asset of our business is our staff. Many of the drivers have been with the company since I was a child. The safety of our staff is my highest concern at all times. This storm caused us to look closer at the weather and decide when the trucks need to stay in versus go out. The city of Bridgeport has a series of email alerts before any big storm, rain or snow. These alerts are much more accurate than the weather app on my iPhone, and they allow us to plan accordingly. 

I don’t know that you can ever really be prepared for a huge storm or the destruction that comes with it. But you can take steps so you are in a better position when it hits. Our insurance company has been a huge help in making us aware of areas that need more planning, and we are actively using their resources to be better prepared. You should take some time and do the same!

About the author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.

This article was originally posted September 2018.


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