09 Jan

Perspectives From the Other Side

Seven Ways to Prepare Your Club for Disaster

The New Year is officially underway. After the dust settles from the holidays, I find January is a good time for reflection on the year prior, and planning for the year ahead. As I look back on 2017, I’m reminded of many exciting things that occurred, but can’t help but notice it was a particularly difficult year as well with regard to natural disasters.

From Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, to the fires blazing in California, to the frigid, well-below-average temperatures most of the country has been experiencing so far this winter,  it seems like every part of North America has been affected by nature’s wrath. Mother nature is pulling no punches…

As you watch these events play out on your television screen — or maybe even right in your own backyard — it’s important to ask yourself: How is my club preparing for a potential disaster? Are we ready? Remember, not all disasters come in the form of storms and blazes. Sometimes your club may experience a sudden loss of life or other traumatic event that can have consequences for everyone — from club members to the staff.

Regardless of whether your club’s “disaster” is a harrowing event or simply a small hiccup, it’s important to be as prepared as possible for the unexpected. Disaster planning should be a priority for every club. Here are seven ways you can prepare.  After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.


1. Understand the State of Your Facilities
Will your facilities be up-to-snuff when the next big storm comes around? Is a potential fire hazard remaining unaddressed? When it comes to repairing or replacing club systems, what should you prioritize? Having an up-to-date Facilities Condition Report allows you to answer these questions. The Facilities Condition Report details the fitness of your boilers, heaters, HVAC, and other essential facilities – letting you know when these systems need to be replaced. This report can provide a comprehensive view of where your club stands.

Paired with a Capital Reserve Study, it can also help you monitor the club’s ongoing capital expenditure, budget more carefully, and prioritize repairs. Reserve Advisors, the nation’s largest provider of reserve studies, can help you accomplish this. Even if you don’t have the resources to hire a company that specializes in facility or reserve reports, be sure to tap into your other resources like your club’s plumbing, electric, and mechanical firms, or long-tenured facilities and maintenance staff.


2. Examine Your Insurance Policies
Surveying your facilities is essential to prepare for future hardship, but it’s equally important to inventory your insurance policies. When I was a club manager, I routinely had GAB Robins – insurance appraisal and reserve study specialists – come to the club to perform insurance appraisals. This process helped me better understand the replacement costs versus insured cost for various facilities, systems, and valuable items in the club. Ideally, I would have GAB Robins come to the club every year to walk around, take photographs of club assets, and more. On years where they could not physically come to the club, I would send them a comprehensive list of capital purchases that they could review and add to the club’s inventory.

Why dedicate time to this every year? Because after performing an insurance appraisal, I was left with a complete report of what we had, what we needed, and how to break down the numbers. This enabled me to make better decisions about how much insurance coverage the club really needed and where I should allocate that coverage. This is especially important for budgeting, as many club insurance policies tend to have overlapping areas of coverage.


3. Secure Club Information
Information is valuable. Now, more than ever, securing digital information is critical. Private clubs house tons of sensitive data, from invoices and receivables to member and employee information. It’s essential that all of your club’s data is backed up in a secure, off-site location. Even if your club has a fireproof cabinet or other “protected” areas, these specialized storage units usually don’t offer well-rounded protection against the elements or security breaches.

Too often we store backup data in insecure or inaccessible locations like someone’s personal vehicle or home. I have seen clubs store all of their data on a thumb drive that gets thrown in a desk drawer, only to have the building burn down and the thumb drive disappear with it. Whether you’re storing this data in the cloud or in a neutral off-site location, it’s essential that you incorporate redundancies into your club’s data storage.


4. Train Your Staff
A club is only as good as the people who run it. During times of crisis, your staff needs to know what to do and how to conduct themselves. Alan Achatz — owner of Club Safety Solutions — offers emergency planning and OSHA training to employees so they know exactly what to do if something goes awry. Ultimately, training club employees on how to handle emergencies doesn’t just benefit the club, but also the employees themselves. OSHA training and other disaster preparedness education will professionally enrich staff and boost their resume for any future endeavors they may pursue.


5. Create a Communication Plan
Transparency should always be a club priority, but disastrous events make transparent communications even more important. Before any event occurs, be sure to clearly communicate any plans to members so they know exactly what to do in the event of an emergency. This is especially important for older members who may not always be able to exit the club without assistance. If a disaster does occur during an event, it’s important to keep members and staff abreast of the situation, telling them what to do, where to go, and what exactly is occurring.

Once a disaster has passed, you may not only need to communicate internally with club staff and members, but also with the community and the media. Consult your trusted staff members and the club’s legal representation to determine how the club would want to communicate externally post-disaster. Larger clubs would be well-advised to hire a professional communications company to aid these efforts.


6. Build a Crisis Management Team
All of the steps above look great on paper, but they will only be helpful if you have the right team to implement them. Assembling a crisis management team ensures stability during emergencies. Your crisis management team should be a group of individuals that can make the right decisions quickly without receiving authorization from the Board. This will establish an emergency chain of command that’s built into the overall governance of the club.

To supplement your internal team, be sure to compile a network of resources to help you prevent future problems, tackle issues as they arise, and provide support afterward. Aside from the resources above, Laurie M. Martin of Life Interrupted, Inc. and other counseling services should be incorporated into your crisis management team. We are not necessarily qualified as club managers to help our members and our staff cope with traumatic experiences, but we should have a plan in place to help them if things go wrong.


7. Practice Your Disaster Plan
Having a disaster plan is essential, but it’s equally important to practice your plan. Does your club staff and members know where to exit if a fire breaks out? Where should people go in the event of an active shooter? If there’s a tornado or hurricane and people are stranded at the club, how are you going to accommodate multiple people for a long-term stay? Once you answer these questions, you need to test your answers. This will ensure that club management, staff, and members are all on the same page and that the plan will actually be effective when executed.

Keep in mind – this is certainly not a comprehensive list of ways you can prepare for bumps in the road. But hopefully, it at least helps get you thinking in the right direction.

Do you have a disaster plan? Do you have processes in place that will help you cope and move forward?

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