Business Monday

Good storm planning can stave off disruptions, CEOs find

Coral Gables streets were lined with downed trees after Hurricane Irma passed.
Coral Gables streets were lined with downed trees after Hurricane Irma passed.

This week’s question to the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: How does your company handle employee schedule disruptions during a natural disaster?


We communicate our plans to our affected employees well ahead of time and provide regular updates throughout, so that everyone is well informed. We make it very clear that the well-being of our employees and their families is our top priority and give everyone ample time to prepare so they don’t feel guilty for missing work or concerned about their job security. To maintain business continuity, we redirect mission critical work to our remote employees so that customers are not impacted.

Ron Antevy, president and CEO, e-Builder


Special needs children are particularly vulnerable during stressful moments like hurricanes, and so we do everything we can to make sure we are there to support our families. At the same time, however, Progressive Behavior’s therapists have their own families and needs. Anything else, like pre-made schedules, does not matter.

Maria Arizmendi, behavior analyst and president, Progressive Behavioral Science

We use are best efforts to handle these situations with compassion and care. The plan is always to make provisions for the unaffected team members to provide professionally and personally support to the team members most impacted. While it is our goal to get up-and-running promptly, we understand some of our employees will need additional time off to take care of their families when in distress.

Noah Breakstone, founder and managing partner, BTI Partners


Shutts & Bowen has an excellent natural disaster preparedness protocol, which served us well during Hurricane Irma. First and foremost, we make sure our employees have ample paid time-off to prepare their families and homes when we have forewarning of a possible natural disaster. To keep our firm functioning during a natural disaster such as Irma, we have put in place a state-of-the-art, secure backup system to allow staff to stay connected and to work from home during a natural disaster. We move staff members that are essential to keeping our firm functioning to one or more of our eight Florida offices that we expect to function throughout the natural disaster.

Bowman Brown, partner and chairman of the Executive Committee and the Financial Services Practice Group of Shutts & Bowen


Our policies and procedures manuals cover exactly who is expected to work from home and who is not. It also covers whether the employees will be paid for missed days at work. This saved me, as the owner, a lot of time. The policy decisions were already made. We simply had to follow the procedures!

Patricia Elizee, managing partner, Elizee Law Firm


Since our operations are global, most continue without any impact. One priority is to ensure that our central management team can continue to oversee those operations during and after the storm. We do that by setting up remote operating centers far from the storm’s path. Another priority is to ensure that our people here are safe and supported. We can’t get back to normal if our South Florida employees don’t have the necessities of life. We were fortunate to be able to provide some support to them during this difficult period. Our people come through for us every day; times like these call for us to come through for them. We were also fortunate at how quickly our local infrastructure has been addressed. The roadways were cleared and needs were handled aggressively and efficiently. And FPL brought us back online in record time. Clearly, all their preparations paid off.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.


Ours is a dedicated team that performed at a high level before, during, and after Hurricane Irma. As an organization that provides around-the-clock care to the elderly, it’s critical for Miami Jewish Health to retain normal staff levels at all times. More than numbers, we must ensure the right mix of all medical specialties are in place. Therefore, we augment the staff when a storm is anticipated. During this time period, staff rotates from being on duty to resting and eating. Employees who work during a storm receive time in advance to tend to personal needs at home. To ease the stress of preparations, we serve meals at our campus to employees on storm duty.

Jeffrey Freimark, president and CEO, Miami Jewish Health


The Children’s Trust maintains a deliberately mobile workforce, which allows us to continue to address essential tasks and day-to-day operations even in the event of an emergency. Every staff member is equipped with a laptop, so – as long as they have access to Wi-Fi and are able to – they can work off-site. That provided an enormous advantage post-Irma, while our office was closed.

James Haj, president and CEO, The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County


We clearly emphasize to our employees that our priority is for his or her family’s welfare and safety. Coupled with this we are generous with paid time off, understanding that circumstances well beyond our employees’ control may not allow them to come to work. We also encourage employees to work remotely, if they are able, but always keeping their safety at the forefront.

Bob Hohenstein, president and CEO, Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition


During Hurricane Irma, we assigned specific employees to be responsible for certain clients, projects and tasks, while others tended to their personal issues – and then rotating on a per project, per department level.

David Martin, president and co-founder, Terra


Safeguarding life and property is our first priority at the marina when we’re in hurricane prep mode. We are all hands on deck — engaging all of our employees in storm preparation while scaling back on our less essential and concierge services. Our team works around the clock in shifts, allowing everyone ample time to prepare their homes and care for their families. We evacuated our property when given the mandate and kept in close contact with local officials so that we were back on site as soon as the Rickenbacker Causeway reopened. My management team and I were at the marina on the Monday morning following the storm and we were fully operational within 48 hours.

Aabad Melwani, president, Rickenbacker Marina, and managing principal, Marina PARC


We handle employee concerns on an individual basis recognizing each situation is different. We are certainly sensitive to individuals who may have had extensive damages and/or personal injuries. We also recognized the need to focus on the disruption from the student perspective and worked to implement academic continuity planning with our faculty and staff. As a result, we adjusted our academic calendar to ensure we continue to uphold the integrity of our curriculum so students receive the instruction they need to be successful in their future coursework.

Avis Proctor, vice president of academic affairs and president, North Campus at Broward College


We have a very family-oriented culture, so our first priority is always to make sure our employees and their families are safe and out of harm’s way. Since we are a technology-driven company, we use multiple means of communication for redundancy before, during and after a natural disaster or crisis event. Our main corporate office in Coconut Grove was closed for about a week following Hurricane Irma, since we didn't have power and had several broken windows which allowed water intrusion. Nevertheless, as soon as it was reasonably safe to be on the roads, we had staff delivering supplies to residents living in our communities, and essential staff met off-site, in a large hotel conference room, so that we could complete time-sensitive business.

Matthew Rieger, president and CEO, Housing Trust Group



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