Hotels: Turn a Power Outage into an Opportunity
Posted by Kristopher Schwind
Unexpected power outages can be disastrous for hoteliers and hotel guests.
When hotels aren’t thoroughly prepared for emergencies, it can result in costly damage, negative reviews, and business lost. Providing quality hotel service requires more than just extraordinary personnel efforts when there is a prolonged power outage.
Outages are a prime opportunity to deliver exemplary guest service and support. Many hoteliers don’t realize the importance of being prepared for unexpected emergencies and inclement weather until it’s too late.
The reality is a power outage can happen at any moment.
Left in the Dark
New York City suffered a blackout on July 13, 2019 that lasted five hours and affected more than 72,000 Con Edison customers.
The blackout resulted in thousands of hotel guests, concert-goers, locals, and tourists fleeing to the streets because the temperature indoors was unbearable without functional air conditioning. Many restaurants even attempted to serve customers using flashlights to avoid losing business during the outage.
The cause of NYC’s 2019 blackout? Power grid protection system failure.
NYC’s July 2019 blackout may be the most recent outage, but it certainly isn’t the worst one the Northeast has endured.
In 2003, the historic Northeast Blackout affected roughly 45 million people and cost New York state around $3 billion in damages. Hotels during the 2003 outage reported power outages lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to as long as 52 hours.
The cause of the historic 2003 blackout? Overgrown trees came into contact with a powerline in Ohio, causing a series of chain reaction outages.
In addition to unexpected power outages, hotels in the Northeast have experienced power outages and damage brought on by the Atlantic Hurricane season over the years.
In 2017, the U.S. suffered $202 billion in damages from the Atlantic Hurricane season. Years earlier, 2012’s Hurricane Sandy resulted in the forced closings of 3,000 hotel rooms in Manhattan and majority of Atlantic City’s 119 hotels were forced to evacuate guests.
Turning a Power Outage into Opportunity
So, what is the lesson hoteliers took away from these outages? Preparation is key when turning a power outage into an opportunity to provide exemplary guest service.
Outages can present a crucial opportunity to deliver outstanding guest service and support. If you’re one of the only hotels prepared for a power outage, you’re bound to stand out from your competition.
Many hoteliers found that guests expected them to have a standby generator in the event of an emergency. Without a generator on the premises, opportunities to provide top-level guest service and hospitality were lost.
A hotel manager from a Cornell University study found his guests expected the hotel to be more thoroughly prepared than they were for the 2003 blackout:
A lot of the guests did expect us to have a generator for backup, but we do not. We explained we have never felt the need to have a generator.
Similarly, Bob Holesko, Vice President of Facilities at HEI Hotels & Resorts, recalls lessons learned from the catastrophic Hurricane Sandy:
The No. 1 takeaway was emergency power; the No. 2 takeaway was to make sure you had emergency supplies to sustain a longer period of a loss of power.
In fact, many hotels found that having a standby generator for emergencies would have presented them with a competitive advantage:
I found it interesting that many local people looked at this hotel as an oasis. Some people honestly did not understand why we had no power. Some came in asking what they should do. I guess the interesting part to me was that these individuals did not go to their neighbors or relatives—they came to the hotel. I will take it as a compliment that we are so highly considered during an emergency.
So, how can you turn a potential outage into an opportunity? Here’s an 11-step plan to prepare your hotel for a potential power outage:
- 1. Update your Emergency Response Plan (ERP) and review it with staff.
2. Stock up on light sticks for affordable, consistent back-up lighting.
3. Purchase heavy-duty flashlights and batteries for staff use.
4. Have a manual set of room keys on the premises.
5. Create a list of areas you want your backup power source to keep running during an outage.
6. Create an action plan in case guests are trapped in elevators.
7. Ensure that the fire alarm system is live and will work during an outage.
8. Come up with a plan to prevent food spoilage. (See our recent blog: How Food & Beverage Industry Leaders Can Prepare for Power Outages)
9. Train the appropriate staff to “power down” the hotel during an outage to prevent surges.
10. Create a master sheet of every staff member’s cell phone numbers (text messaging is typically the only form of communication available in the event of an outage).
11. Install a new standby generator that will keep your hotel up and running.
We’ve got the last one covered. Ensure your guests stay comfortable, safe, and satisfied in the event of an emergency outage with a trusted standby generator.
National Standby Repair is happy to conduct a free on-site assessment to explore what standby generator works best for your hotel. Get in touch today to schedule your free consultation.
Kristopher Schwind is the proud owner of National Standby Repair.