In 2017, Hurricane Irma roared through Florida just as September began. With the force Irma brought, it was the most intense Atlantic hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina in 2005, and the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005. Irma caused widespread, catastrophic damage, and 7shifts customer, Bonita Bay Club, located in Bonita Springs, FL, was right in the path of the storm.
Mid September, we received a message from Bill MacPherson, Senior Food & Beverage Manager at Bonita Bay Club, sending thanks to the entire 7shifts team. As it turns out, during the storm, the in-app chat functionality within 7shifts allowed him to keep in touch with his staff in spite of power outages caused by the powerful hurricane.
Here at 7shifts, we’re passionate about helping restaurants save time and money, so hearing news that our app could also be a helpful resource in an emergency situation was fascinating. Our Content Strategist, Kim Warner, reached out to Bill in hopes of learning more. Read on for the interview:
Kim: Let’s start by having you walk me through the timeline of events as Irma descended upon Bonita Springs in early September. How much notice did you have in the lead-up to the storm?
Bill: As usual, we keep a close eye on the weather during hurricane season. We were aware of Irma more than a week out.
Kim: What did your restaurant do to prepare for the storm?
Bill: To prepare for the storm, we have a hurricane committee comprised of individuals from each department. They ultimately organize the preparations.
We have a master plan that we implement according to the forecast and possible strength of the storm, which ranges from simply securing outside furniture for a small storm to completely securing the building, installing Kevlar screens around the perimeter of the building, and preparing the backup emergency generators to insure that they will kick on in the event of the power going out.
Kim: What was Hurricane Irma like by the time it reached Bonita Bay Club and area?
Bill: Irma was a very large storm encompassing the entire State of Florida. It was a 400-mile-wide storm with winds up to 140 mph.
The storm approached us slowly, moving north at 14 mph. Being so big, the intense winds lasted about 20 hours from early Sunday to late Sunday night. The storm brought about a lot of landscape damage and massive amounts of rain.
In the area around Bonita Bay Club, older homes seemed to receive the majority of structural damage, while newer homes seemed to come out mostly unscathed with the minority sustaining minimal damage.
Kim: From what I’ve learned, much of Florida was without power during Irma. And, as per the message you sent to our team, Bonita Bay Club was no exception. What prompted you to try communicating via the 7shifts app?
Bill: With over 4 million homes and businesses losing power, along with our server at work being shut down as a preventative measure, Wi-Fi and internet were unavailable.
The only way to communicate was through text message, and fortunately for me, I was able to communicate with my entire staff at once with messaging through the 7shifts app. This was super convenient and meant I didn’t have to try to send out a massive group text.
Using 7shifts as a communication method allowed me to reach any employees who were willing to help clean up and reopen the club after the storm went through.
Kim: What kind of messages did you share/receive during the storm?
Bill: I sent a group message out on Tuesday after the storm to inform staff that I was looking for anyone interested in coming to help clean up the clubhouse. I was able to assemble a group of over 30 employees to assist on Wednesday and get the club cleaned and ready to open for business on Friday for lunch, which was way ahead of most—if not all—clubs in Southwest Florida.
Kim: How long were you and your team without reliable power for?
Bill: We were very fortunate to only be without power for just over two full days. On the other hand, at home, I was out of power for a total of 15 days.
Kim: For how long did you use 7shifts as your communication method?
Bill: I exclusively used the 7shifts app for 3-4 days to communicate with the staff. After that, the club’s server was restored, which enabled us to communicate over email. To this day, 7shifts is my preferred method to send out group messages to the staff.
Kim: Is there anything you’d do differently to prepare for a future storm situation? What advice would you give to others for things to do (or not do) to prepare for storms/emergency situations?
Bill: To answer the question, if I would do anything different, I could go on forever! That being said, the club’s emergency preparedness plan is rock solid. Personally, I would be more proactive to have my own important documents and irreplaceable items prepared more efficiently to speed up the evacuation process. I would also insure that I have at least 20 gallons of back-up fuel in addition to having both of my vehicles fully gassed up.
Kim: Do you see yourself adding the 7shifts app communication channel as part of your emergency-preparedness plan for your business?
Bill: Yes. In fact, I have already added the 7shifts app communication procedures to our official emergency preparedness plan.
Bonita Bay Club created a video that documents before, during, and after Hurricane Irma. Check out the video below to learn more: