Recovery and Preparedness After COVID-19

    By Patrick Hardy, President, Hytropy Disaster Management

    The unique circumstances of COVID-19 have forced properties to respond in unprecedented ways. When the lockdowns are lifted, your property will face customer service challenges unlike any they have experienced before. Even properties who may have survived the blackouts or wildfires will find that COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge to their property’s long-term order and management. However, there are a few best practices that can help your property recover from the unique threat that COVID-19 represents.

    After-Action Report

    The first thing your property needs to do when the lockdowns are lifted post-pandemic is to hold a property-wide meeting with every staff member and do a full debriefing. This debriefing should cover both the strengths and weaknesses of the property’s emergency response, and should follow three rules:

    Rule #1

    Hold it within 7 days of the recovery. Memories will fade quickly as staff goes back into their routine, and valuable lessons-learned could be lost.

    Rule #2

    Require participation of 100% of staff. Every housekeeper, front desk staff (even part-time), maintenance crew, and even those who did not work at the property for the duration of your COVID-19 response should be contacted because they can give you feedback on each element of your response.

    Rule #3

    Conduct the meeting with a person not associated with your property. It is critical that you receive honest, forthright feedback about the management and operations of your disaster plan. When management is running the meeting, employees become extremely reluctant to say anything perceived as a critique of their superiors.

    Update Customer Service Training

    Customer service will undoubtedly be one of the preeminent challenges during the COVID-19 recovery. One of the first indications that tensions are rising is vocal hostility during even routine interactions with guests. Vented frustrations about restrictive rules and the closure of communal areas can make staff easy targets for hostility. Staff needs to be trained on effectively working with angry and frustrated guests to deescalate the situation constructively.

    Long-Term Pandemic Preparedness

    There is little doubt that the long-term threat of COVID-19 to your property is not going to evaporate once the lockdown orders are lifted. In fact, your property needs to prepare for the potential for periodic spikes in cases, as well as longer seasonal fluctuations such as what occurs with the flu or colds.

    Don’t Forget Other Disasters

    The overwhelming saturation of news regarding COVID-19 has overshadowed the other risks that properties will face. Therefore, your disaster plan needs to also consider how you will deal with a second emergency simultaneously such as a wildfire, earthquake, or even widespread blackouts experienced in California in late 2019/early 2020. It should be updated and readied for other disasters unrelated to COVID-19.

    Even when the lockdowns are lifted, your property will continue to encounter multiple challenges and situations related to COVID-19. However, if your property implements a few basic procedures, it will be in a much better place to recover not only from COVID-19, but from future pandemics that might lurk around the corner.