Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Displaced Pondering

Coming from a georgraphy background, displacement as a result of a disaster is an important field of study as it has a ton of policy implications.  I have been lucky that I have never have had to evacuate because of various phenomena.  I have however, have entensive experience working in the recovery phase post disaster. I have sadly extensive experience managing recovery strategies (most related to tourism granted) and know that how recovery is managed (or mismanaged as it may be) can alter the course of thousands of people's lives.  Beyond significant human costs, the effects of Sandy are already estimated to be in the $50 billion dollar range. 
How we as a socity manage the recovery strategy will tell us a lot about what our values we hold.  This was particularly in evidence post-Katrina.  Recovery strategies are often based on cost-benefit analysis (a necessity based on scale and resources available) but that often does not necessarily assist individuals in their plight to return to normalcy.  From a recovery strategy perspective, the most difficult part is managing the balance between humanity and resources.  For instance, I once proposed in a recovery situation that every hotel not lay off their staff but we bring all of them in for a customer service training until the tourism recovery could happen.  Hotel owners were then had to consider whether it was worth it to them to incur some short term costs for potentially long term gain.  For instance, the hotels that did agree did not have to incur the expenses of having to hire and train a large work force once the recovery did occur.  Also, many employees showed a great deal of loyalty to the properties for not laying them off when times were tough.  Their staff remembered that and their retention rates afterwards were strong.  Also employee morale was high which lead to greater productivity.  Further, when recovery did occur these properties were ready to handle volumes of guests at a high level versus a hotel who had a brand new staff team to try and do so with.  It was however, a tough call for owners and general managers as it required a large investment over what seemed to be an uncertain timeframe.  One more incident and it could have lead to a significant loss.
All told, I have always felt that recovery from these occurances are something we all wished would be better prepared for when times were good but by then it is a little too late.  The lesson as always, prepare for the worst while being open to accept the best.

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