Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project
Implemented by the Organization of American States
Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment
for the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Caribbean Regional Program


Hurricane Procedures Manual

Link to sections I, II and III or section IV

Section V: Communications Plan

Crisis Communication Procedures:

How To Deal With The Media

The best way to prepare for a crisis is when there isn't one. Being prepared also means prepared to communicate. When a hurricane strikes you will want the different people to whom you relate to see you as being confident and in control under emergency conditions. This perception will enhance your credibility and establish trust and confidence in your operation.

Special Note!!!
In order to be perceived as being in control,
you must be prepared to communicate effectively.

This component of the Hurricane Procedures Manual focuses on one essential aspect of your overall communication needs during a crisis — Dealing effectively with the media, tour operators, CTO (B’dos, New York, London)

Some properties may already have their own public relations guidelines, and it is naturally expected that the procedures outlined here will be adapted where necessary to suit individual cases.

A Hurricane event is the first disaster; how reports are carried in the media can be the second! Experience has shown that greater and more-lasting damage to a property or destination can arise from the way in which a disaster is reported in the media. This influences your image in the marketplace which, in turn, determines client decisions and the flow of future business.

Media reports can often result in greater economic fallout to your property than the effects of the disaster itself!!

The Phases of Communication Preparedness

Several activities must be carried out and the necessary measures put in place long before a hurricane has emerged or is anywhere near. These include the following:

1. Conduct a Communications Risk Analysis.

Identify areas or features of your property which may attract bad press if placed under the media microscope.

Encourage management to correct the areas in which the property may be vulnerable to bad press.

Ensure the availability of an up-dated press kit on your property. The kit should include items such as fact sheet, photographs of key personnel, guest and operating policy statements, data such as occupancy levels, and other features of the property, etc.

2. Develop a Crisis Communications Policy.

Your Crisis Communications Policy should include statements such as:

Our top priority at all times is to protect human life. We always attend to the well-being of our guests, our employees, and the general public first and foremost.

We will cooperate with the press during a crisis and we will make special arrangements to ensure that media representatives are treated/served properly.

Information and details of the crisis and of its effects will be disseminated as soon as possible.

The management will be forthright at all times, and will not seek to withhold significant facts from the media or from any of its publics.

The appointed spokesperson or deputy will be the only ones authorized to make statements to the media.

3. Designate a room or area in your property which can serve as a CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS CENTRE.

This centre should have a tracking map, computer with web site linkage if available, television and radio.

4. Appoint a Spokesperson.

Determine who your spokesperson will be. Such a person must have full knowledge – or access to full knowledge – of the situation, and full authority to decide what and how much to say.

He/she must be a senior executive, familiar with the business and marketing needs of the property, and conversant with its policies. All inquiries should be referred to him/her.

Avoid having more than one spokesperson. This will ensure that what you say – the information you give to the public – remains consistent. However, it may be necessary and practical to assign a deputy; in case of the unavailability of the designated spokesperson.

Accessibility and Availability: the spokesperson should be both available and accessible to the media, and be prepared to give timely responses to enquiries.

5. Brief Your Staff

As soon as a spokesperson has been appointed, he/she should meet with staff. Staff should be informed that all enquiries from the media, government agencies, tour operators, CTO/CHA or members of the public regarding a hurricane event should be referred to the spokesperson. Impress on staff the importance of not giving out information other than through this channel. Describe to them the dangers of rumour and unsubstantiated reports, and the damage this can do.

6. Train Key Staff.

Hold a special training session for staff in certain key positions – specifically your telephone operators and front desk personnel. These persons are your front-line to the public, and will have to field a lot of enquiries.

One recommended response might be: "Let me refer you to Mr. or Ms. X, who will be able to give you up-to-date information on this."

7. Get The Staff On Your Side

Advise the staff on how work shifts will be managed, and what arrangements there will be for them to secure their homes and families before a hurricane strikes. Even with the "only one spokesperson" rule, staff will talk. You will want them to say that you are a caring establishment.

8. Coordinate Communication Procedures With Your Overseas Representative(s)

In particular, they should be advised of the following:

Whom should they contact? - Name of in-house spokesperson, contact at CHO B’dos, New York or London

Who will verify information? - Name of spokesperson

Who will approve/authorize releases to the media in the market? - Name of spokesperson

When and how often will situation reports be sent to them?

If telephones are down, how will communication with the hotel be effected — by Telex? By Radio?

9. Prepare A Press List

Prepare a list of key local media personnel including weather reporters.

Prepare a list of key overseas reporters as available from CTO.

Post on an appropriate notice board a list of relevant web sites.

10. Develop/Update Your Emergency Contact List

The list should include contact telephone numbers and procedures for members of the Emergency Coordinating Committee, as well as for other key personnel and relevant organisations within the government and elsewhere.

The Hurricane

Phase A - Hurricane ALERT (Storm entering the Caribbean)

This means that a hurricane is in the general vicinity. It may be several hundred miles away, and, while it may appear to be heading towards your area, it may also change course and go elsewhere.

During an Alert, among other things, you should:

Review or update all points made in the preparedness phase.

Confirm your contact list of media and CTO persons

Open dialogue with local media persons and National Disaster Coordinators

Phase B - Hurricane WATCH (36 Hours)

At this stage, a hurricane is now about thirty-six hours away and headed in your direction -- it may still, however, dissipate or go elsewhere.

During a Watch, among other things, you should:

Continue preparatory activities as for the Alert.

Holding a Guest Information Session whereby guests are able to ask questions and have them answered.

Phase C - Hurricane WARNING (24 Hours)

This means that the hurricane is expected to strike your area in about twenty-four hours.

During a Warning, among other things, you should:

Conduct dry runs of all crisis communications procedures.

Begin preparation of news bulletin or statements for dissemination to media and other relevant agencies as listed. These would include information on steps being taken to minimize personal injury and to manage the effects of the hurricane.

During The Hurricane

The safety of everyone is the principal concern here. However, public relations or Crisis Communications Personnel should be particularly sensitive and alert to the likely emergence of symptoms of CRISIS STRESS among guests as well as among hotel personnel. In other words, be alert to the human factor.

Ensure that the log is being maintained. This will assist you greatly when you start preparing releases subsequently.

Restoration and Recovery

After the Hurricane

After the hurricane, all hands will be fully engaged carrying out various requirements for conducting DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, CLEAN-UP, SALVAGE, and BUSINESS RESTORATION. This is also the time when the public relations or Communications Team will be the busiest. Before you thought it possible, representatives of both the local and the international media will be upon you. Brief your overseas public relations people as soon as possible -- that is, immediately after a preliminary assessment of the situation has been ascertained. Be pro-active. Don't wait to be called. Develop a simple statement to release to the local press indicating the status of your guests and property. Transmit its contents as soon as possible to your overseas public relations people, bearing in mind that whatever is published or aired locally will inevitably be picked up overseas. Afterwards, provide a more detailed statement which should include:

A general account of any damage sustained.

How you are coping.

Recommended Protocol For Handling The Media

When dealing with the media people, your spokesman should:

Never lie to the press.

Provide full and accurate information. If you don't have all the information, or if you need to delay or verify, make specific arrangements for any follow-up contact necessary — and keep your word.


It is important to note here that guests, returning home from a hurricane-hit destination, will be targeted by the press in their hometowns for comments and interviews. It will be a good idea for hotels to arrange, in conjunction with their Tourist Board's sales representative and overseas public relations personnel, follow-up contact with returnees, including perhaps, a letter from the hotel manager, or Tourism Director, or Minister. Returning tour groups might be greeted at planeside.

Section VI: Managing your Insurance Coverage

When a disaster strikes, specialist insurance adjuster are sent in to the affected territory to evaluate losses and claims. You must ensure that you have the coverage you need.

Insurance Coverage Considerations

Ensure that description of premises is correct (e.g. number of rooms, number of floors, boundary lines, etc).

Be certain that property values are realistic in order to avoid coinsurance penalty if you have a big loss. Coinsurance requires that you, the insured, pay a portion of the loss.

Be certain that you cover all you intend to cover, i.e. , in addition to structures, remember pots and pans, artwork, signs, fences, trees, shrubbery (inside and outside), tennis courts, swimming pools, awning, seawalls, piers, docks, etc. Policy descriptions should be as broad as possible.

For computers, list all hardware and software.
Also consider Boiler and Machinery Coverage (if applicable).

Ensure that the policy includes coverage for debris removal and flooding, and confirm in writing.

Consider coverage for loss of utility service due to off-premises equipment failure (light, telephone, water).

Business Interruption (loss of earnings) insurance is important coverage, but the policy must be carefully executed. Complete a business interruption worksheet with your insurance agent or broker to determine value to be insured. State exact period (e.g, three months, six months, twelve months) for which loss of earnings coverage is required. Cover those costs needed during the restoration phase, such as payroll, trucking or purchasing water, transportation, and other unbudgeted or extra expenses. Business interruption coverage normally ends thirty (30) days after physical damage has been repaired unless endorsement states otherwise. It is more realistic to include additional time, because business to hotels is not usually restored immediately following repairs.

Special Note:
Beaches and land are not insurable,
nor is loss of market, but damage to
these will affect business.
Consider these factors when you are
negotiating interruption policies.

All policies have a "due diligence" clause which means that in order to claim for business interruption, you must do everything possible to get back in business as quickly as possible.

Keep insurance policy in a safe place,
but readily available.

In order for the business interruption clause to apply, you must have direct physical damage to the plant, unless the policy carries an endorsement to cover interruption due to factors off-premises.

Determine LIABILITY LEVELS and ascertain whether you need local or international jurisdiction clauses. If you have no property or financial exposure in the United States/Canada, you may opt for local jurisdiction. If however, you have such property or exposure, you must take international jurisdiction. A suit can be brought against you, and your policy can only stand if it has international jurisdiction.

Keep records in a safe place, and have readily available the name, and telephone numbers of the insurance agent, broker, and company. Find out from the broker the name and location of the person to be contacted when there is a claim.

If you have any questions concerning coverage, contact your agent, broker, or company and get a WRITTEN REPLY.

PICTURES ARE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS! In case of a major loss, take photographs; if possible, take a video recording as well.

Insure only with a
reputable, secure company.

In preparation of your claim, work closely with the accountant to ensure that all items are included. Present as much information as possible.

Maintain close interaction with your agent or broker.

Develop a comfort level with the adjustor
and be pro-active --
get your insurance company
fully involved with your claim.

Example of "Description of Premises" Wording

Description and Location of the Property Covered

On all real and personal property of every kind and description including any kind of signs and fences, including Paths, Roads, Foundations, Seawalls, Docks and Piers, Tress and Shrubbery (Inside and Outside), Landscaping including Palm Trees, Tennis Courts and Swimming Pools, whether loaned, leased, owned and/or controlled by, or in which the insured may have insurable interest or be liable for, and which is used in the operations of the insured, and their various facilities, including property in trust or on commission or which they may have attached as creditors, all while located at: (Name and Physical Address of your Hotel).

(Courtesy of : Joseph Murray, The Murray Group, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico)

Section VII: Forms


(Where a problem-condition exists, fill out details on FORM 1B)




When a problem-condition exists, describe on FORM B.


________ 1. Reading shows low pressure, discharged, or damaged.
________ 2. Type not labeled.
________ 3. Not accessible.
________ 4. Missing.
________ 5. (other) _______________
________ 6. (other) _______________

________ 7. Blocked.
________ 8. Signs not visible.
________ 9. Warped or sticking doors.
________ 10. Locked doors.
________ 11. (other) _______________
________ 12. (other) _______________

_______ 13. Inoperative.
_______ 14. Weak battery.
_______ 15. Fire hoses inaccessible or blocked.
_______ 16. (other) _______________

_______ 17. Worn or exposed wiring
_______ 18. Electrical equipment not grounded.
_______ 19. Open light sockets.
_______ 20. Burned out lights
_______ 21. Defective equipment not tagged, "Do Not Use."
_______ 22. Circuit boxes "Hot" to the touch.
_______ 23. Overloaded sockets.
_______ 24. Heavy grease buildup.
_______ 25. (other) _______________
_______ 26. (other) _______________

_______ 27. Missing identifications labels.
_______ 28. Improper storage.
_______ 29. Storage location.

_______ 30. Unstable furniture.
_______ 31. Books or boxes dangerously piled.
_______ 32. Bookshelves and other shelving units on wall are unanchored at floor or ceiling.
_______ 33. Other unsecured appliances.
_______ 34. Heavy hanging objects over doors, above windows, etc.
_______ 35. Windows with weak latches.
_______ 36. Breakables, or other heavy objects on high or open shelves.

_______ 37. Electrical cords in dangerous position.
_______ 38. Floor tiles need replacement.
_______ 39. Steps, carpeting, worn or frayed.

_______ 40. Insufficient emergency lighting.
_______ 41. Water pipes leaking.
_______ 42. Chipped or broken glass.
_______ 43. No First-Aid Kit.
_______ 44. First-Aid Kit supplies insufficient.
_______ 45. In-house emergency supplies.
_______ 46. Trees require trimming.

_______ 47. Security or perimeter fence broken.
_______ 48. Unattended critical areas unlocked or improperly secured.


(from Form 1A)


  Bull Horn  
  Chain Saws  
  Rain Cloaks  
  All-Purpose Gloves  
  Rubber Gloves  
  Suction Machine  
  Ropes 3/4"  
  Ropes 1/2"  
  Masking Tape  
  Flashlight Bulbs  
  Battery Lanterns  
  Battery Operated Radio  
  Wide Brooms  
  Large Mops/Sticks  
  Wringer Pails  
  Crocus Bags  
  Load of Sand  
  Water Boots  
  Water Scrapers  
  Plastic Buckets  
  Plastic Sheeting  
  Ply Board  
  7-Day's Gas, Diesel Oil (Minimum)  
  7-Day's Potable Water  
  Disposable Sanitary Ware  
  Garbage Bags  
  Chlorinating Tablets  
  Guy Wire (To secure critical areas post-hurricane)  
  Duct Tape  
Food Supplies
  Tinned Protein  
  Canned Sodas  
  Canned Fruit Drinks  
  Bottled Water  
  Powered Milk  
  Corned Beef  
  Tinned Vegetables  


  Crepe Bandages  
  Sterile Gauze Squares  
  Eye Wash  
  Eye Drops  
  Painkillers (e.g.Panadol)  
  Sanitary Napkins  
  Baby's Pampers  
  Safety Pins  
  Calamine Lotion  
  Rubbing Alcohol  
  Plastic Bags  


Welcome to (Name of Hotel).

Your have chosen one of the most beautiful places on earth to spend your holiday. We have calm, beautiful seas, lovely beaches, and sunny skies; most of the time.

But as you know, during some months of the year, usually between July and September, hurricanes can occur in this part of the world.

We have taken every precaution to ensure your safety, should a hurricane occur while you are here. Knowing what to do is one of the most important precautions YOU can take.

Please take a few minutes and read this brochure carefully. Then relax and enjoy all the good things we have to offer.


Let's begin with things you should know about a hurricane itself. A hurricane is an intense storm with winds of over 75 miles per hour. It is usually accompanied by heavy rain, and sometimes high seas. It should be treated with respect.

When a hurricane is in the area, there are three phases in which it is brought to our attention. These are:

Phase A — Hurricane Alert: This means that a hurricane is in the general vicinity and, though it may be several hundred miles away, appears to be heading towards us. During this Phase, it may change course and go somewhere else.

What to do in a Hurricane Alert: You will be advised what to do by our __________ when a Hurricane Alert is announced. You may contact the Front Desk for updates on the situation.

Phase B — Hurricane Watch: A Hurricane Watch is announced when a hurricane is about 36 hours or so away.

What to do during a Hurricane Watch: You will be advised by our _________ as soon as the Hurricane Watch is announced. At this time, you should read this brochure again and make sure that, if you are traveling with your family, everyone is fully briefed. It is advisable to check now and then with the Front Desk/Hurricane Information Desk for the latest information. Also, ensure that your home address, telephone numbers, and contacts are on file at the front desk (if these were not recorded when you registered).

Phase C — Hurricane Warning: A Hurricane Warning is announced when a hurricane is expected to strike our location in 24 hours.

What to do when a Hurricane Warning is announced: You will be advised of a Hurricane Warning through our Public Address System, or our Telephone Operator, or by members of the Staff.

As soon as a Hurricane Warning is confirmed, you should:

1. Secure your passport, or other travel documents, in the hotel safe, along with any other important papers you may have with you. You must also make sure to put money, jewelry, and other valuables, in the hotel safe. Please note that the Hotel cannot be held liable for valuables not deposited in its safe.

2. You may find it convenient to settle your bill at this time; it will make it much simpler and easier for you later, in case there are any disruption after the hurricane.

3. Pack a small bag with essential personal items such as medication, towels, contact lenses, toilet articles, and one change of clothing. If you have small children with you, remember to pack baby food, diapers, etc., and a change of clothing for each child.

4 Pack away all your clothes and non-essential personal items in your suitcases, and put the suitcases in plastic garbage bags-the housekeeper till supply these for you. Seal the plastic bags with masking tape provided, and then put them in the cupboard in your room. Lock your room and take the key with you.

5. Go to the designated Hurricane Shelter as soon as you are told to do so. The Hurricane Shelter in this Hotel is located here (diagram of description). Remain in the shelter, and at all times stay away from glass windows and doors. Do not go out until you are told to do so. (Described evacuation procedure if Hurricane Shelter is not on the property).

6. Our Trained staff members will be assigned to help you find the Shelter and manage safely during the hurricane. You should follow their instructions.

7. Our Hotel is equipped with a number of emergency features. These include:

a) Emergency power supply, sufficient to light hallways, designated elevators, the Hurricane Shelter, etc. as applies.

b) Other, e.g. Radio Communications.

8. A first-Aid Centre will be set up adjacent to the Hurricane Shelter. It is located here (diagram, if possible). A trained nurse/doctor (?) will be in attendance.

9. An Emergency Telephone Number will be activated when a Hurricane is announced. Our Hurricane Emergency Number is ____________.

10. Our Front Desk/Hurricane Information Desk will help you with arrangements to contact your family and friends before and after the hurricane.

11. For your safety, alcoholic beverages will not be served while a Hurricane Warning is in force, and until the hurricane has passed over.

12. Stay calm. Hurricanes give us a fair amount of warning. If you follow these simple steps, and whatever other instructions you are given by our staff, you will be fine.

(Suggested wording for prototype brochure--to be adjusted
according to specifics of individual property)


Information reported for (check one or more and list appropriate names):

_____________ Location:

_____________ Unit / Floor# / Room#:

_____________ Owner / Occupier of Condominium:

Area of Property / Unit / Floor Function Description of Damage Primary Damage (S) or Secondary Damage (S) Total Estimated $ Loss Estimated Uninsured $ Loss
    Electrical Installation:      


Information reported for (check one or more and list appropriate names):

_____________ Location:

_____________ Unit / Floor# / Room#:

_____________ Owner / Occupier of Condominium:

Area of Property / Unit / Floor Function Description of Damage Primary Damage (S) or Secondary Damage (S) Total Estimated $ Loss Estimated Uninsured $ Loss


Alternative Room        
Storage Space        
Generator Capacity (Ice, Food, etc.)        
Computer Processing Facilities        
Communication System        
Off-Site Storage for Vital Records        
Manpower for Cleanup and Salvage        


To: Hotel Manager/Assistant Manager

Report of the Maintenance Division for the month of:___________________

Submitted by:___________________________ Date: ___________________

Trade Area or Room Work done Materials cost Labour cost Remarks





Other trades          


Appendix I

Damaging Post-Columbian Hurricanes in the Caribbean (Since 1492)

Country Number of known significant events since 1492 Country Number of known significant events since 1492
Anguilla 9 Haiti 30
Antigua/Barbuda 44 Jamaica 65
Bahamas 72 Martinique 41
Barbados 52 Montserrat 13
Belize 27 Puerto Rico 94
Bermuda 44 St. Eustatius 16
Virgin Islands 31 St. Kitts/Nevis 104
Cayman Islands 17 St. Lucia 16
Cuba 150 Saint Marten and Saba 14
Dominica 43 St. Vincent 9
Dominican Republic 62 Tobago 8
Grenada 10 Trinidad 14
Guadeloupe 49 Turks and Caicos 13

Appendix II

Figure 1: Gable Roof Construction

Orientation of Purlins:


Figure 2: Plan Shapes of Buildings

Desirable Plans:

Long, Undesirable Plans:

Use of Separation to Improve Resistance:

Figure 3: Considerations in Building to Resist Wind-induced Forces
(From Wind Resistant Design Concepts for Residences, Defence Civil Preparedness Agency)

Resistance to Translation

Resistance to Racking

Resistance to Overturning

Component Strength

Connections and Anchorage:

Wall to Foundation

Figure 4: Rafter/Ring Beam Connection

Appendix III: Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project (CDMP)

The CDMP is a coordinated effort to promote the adoption of natural disaster mitigation and preparedness practices by both the public and private sectors in the Caribbean region through a series of activities carried out over a five-year period. The CDMP is funded by the USAID office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and implemented by the Organization of American States/Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment (OAS/USDE) for USAID/OFDA.

The CDMP provides a framework for collaboration with the Caribbean region to establish sustainable public sector mechanisms for natural disaster mitigation that will measurably lessen loss of life, reduce the potential for physical and economic damage, and shorten the disaster recovery period over the long run. Project activities vary according to location, contents and implementation strategy, but all contribute to attainment of overall CDMP goal: a more disaster-resistant environment for the people who live, work and invest in this hazard-prone region.

Project activities include:

onatural hazard risk audits for electrical utilities and other infrastructure systems and key lifeline facilities;

ohazard mapping to support improved planning and location of physical development;

opromotion of loss reduction incentives and hazard mitigation in the property insurance industry;

oassisting countries to adopt improved building standards and practices and training of builders, architects and artisans in their use;

ostimulating community-based disaster and preparedness and mitigation efforts with support of the private sector, and

opost disaster mitigation planning and program design.

The CDMP will build on past and ongoing regional initiatives in disaster preparedness and mitigation, and will promote technology transfer and institutional capacity building through direct involvement of professional associations, bankers, insurance companies and reinsurers, PVOs, NGOs, community groups and government organizations in project activities.

CDMP home page: Project Contacts Page Last Updated: 20 April 2001