On Aug. 20, 2004, a week after Hurricane Charley struck Southwest Florida, the newspaper I was working for at the time dispatched me to Punta Gorda to assess the recovery.
One of the first things I noticed was the clock on the town square had stopped at 4:27 p.m., the moment the storm hit. Across the street, I found a bookstore owner cradling an original, leather-bound copy of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, which, like a quarter of his inventory, was destroyed. The toll from mold and other elements was growing by the hour, but the store owner seemed paralyzed, unable even to reach his landlord.
Nearby, however, signs of commerce were flickering. Doors at the River City Grill were open—air-conditioning had yet to be restored—and the restaurant was operating with a generator, even with damaged sections closed off. Charley knocked the community down, but the tenacity of business owners and residents helped it get back on its feet.
Nearly 13 years later, Hurricane Charley is a fading memory for many who never felt its wrath. But businesses cannot afford to be complacent.
If you have a disaster preparedness plan and want to see how it compares with expert recommendations, or if your business is behind the curve and you don’t know where to start, reporter Kevin Allen’s cover story “Surviving the Storm” is essential reading. It includes advice on preparing for a disaster, sustaining communication during a calamity and moving forward during the aftermath.
Florida has been riding a lucky streak with hurricanes. Businesses have too much at stake to bank on it continuing.