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Submitted by Daniel Dunne, APR, Director of Communications, Erickson Living Corporate Affairs

On October 4, I started paying closer attention to the tracking of Hurricane Matthew as it worked its way closer to Florida. Why? Because West Palm Beach was projected to get hit with the storm’s full force (110 – 165 mile per hour winds). This meant that Devonshire, an Erickson Living retirement community, would be significantly impacted. The seriousness of the situation for those living in South Florida was highlighted during a Florida Governor press conference when he declared to Florida residents, “This storm is a monster and will kill you.” In addition, the destruction caused by Matthew in the Caribbean further proved to me and other company leadership that being fully prepared for the enormity of the storm’s impact was essential.

Fortunately, in the end, Hurricane Matthew’s path only brushed the South Florida shores, veering farther north up the coast. In addition to being grateful for this reprieve, it was rewarding to work with such a dedicated and talented team of community-based and corporate professionals who fully supported every aspect of the company’s execution of its critical incident communication plan. As a result, swift actions could be taken to establish increased communication capability. Some of the many factors helping to bring about this level of communication preparedness included:

Enterprise Emergency and Business Continuity Team Integration
Erickson Living’s Enterprise Emergency and Business Continuity (EEBC) plan outlines how strategic partnering and support will be provided to affected retirement community(ies) during a major event or emergency. As a member of the company’s EEBC Team, I was able to directly network with the internal stakeholders most involved in providing incident operational support. This level of staff engagement helped me target the use of specific communication platforms (e.g., social media, company website, etc.).

Command Center Integration
The opportunity to participate in the company’s command center operations and be at the nexus for all communications among operations and support team members was invaluable. In addition to gaining a firsthand knowledge of the company’s evolving response strategies, I was able to share details regarding all aspects of the company’s communication preparedness.

Sales and Marketing Team Integration
The company’s media emergency plan guidelines include provisions for the launch of a critical incident pre-built website (often called “Dark Website”) – which occurred just prior to the storm impacting South Florida. Shortly after activating this website, company updates were posted and comments received via Devonshire’s Facebook (which included the incident website link). This tool proved especially helpful for the family members of residents seeking updates regarding the storm’s impact on Devonshire.

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