Hermine rocked Tallahassee in a big way.
Florida’s capital city is still reeling with thousands of businesses and homes without power. I awoke Friday morning at 6 a.m. to a scene from the set of “The Walking Dead.” My home had no power.
As I attempted to leave, several downed trees were blocking the driveway. So tree removal became Chore 1 of the day. Next, on to the office.
I drove down Sixth Street avoiding trees and power lines and pulled into our debris-ridden lot. I grabbed my flashlight and made a to-do list; we forwarded all phones to emergency lines and began checking on staff.
Everyone reported back (with one member MIA), as we went about trying to get some work done.
Then I decided to walk down to Whataburger for breakfast for staff members at the office; It was my third indication that it was going to be a long next few days.
Now that it was light outside, I returned to my house to assess the damage.
Everywhere in the yard, limbs were down, some missing the home by only a few feet; others were rocketed a foot into the ground — like King Arthur’s legendary Sword in the Stone.
Then I saw my neighbor’s house, where a huge tree landed right down the middle. Yikes. Destruction was everywhere.
I received a call from the MIA staff member, who was a little freaked out. He told me a tree crashed into his home. I said I would be there in a minute to check on him.
A tree had ripped through his bedroom as he slept, tearing a massive hole in the roof. Amazingly, he was not injured. He was extremely fortunate, as one of the tree branches crashed into his bed right by his head. As we stood in his yard to discuss the events of the evening, you began to see neighbors and strangers helping each other clean up and offer assistance.
The staff member whose house was destroyed even shared a funny story.
“Yes, sir,” he replied.
We all had a good laugh at that one. But no insult was intended to anyone during this time. First responders were on the scene all over town checking on the well-being of our citizens.
As I returned to the house, the neighborhood was out in force, cleaning up yards and streets.
I have not visited with my neighbors much over the years. Everyone was asking if others were OK, and if anyone needed any help.
It was pretty cool, among all the chaos, to see the good side of human nature and the power of the human spirit. The staff member I mentioned earlier — whose home was destroyed the night before — stopped by my house with an extra case of water. What a heart of gold.
Tragedy can bring out the best in people; in this instance, that is exactly what happened. Thank goodness, we did not hear many stories of looting or other troubles.
I think the only negative story I heard during that time is the feud between the governor and the mayor (save the anger and bickering guys, we need you on the same page during a crisis, not pointing fingers in public. Keep it behind closed doors).
Technology really helped us make it through the storm with our clients. With only a few tablets and mobile phones, we were able to keep several balls in the air simultaneously Friday for those needing technical support.
Beer distributors (beer must flow), insurance, roofers; businesses that needed to be open, stayed open. Then came Saturday, and the power was back. We continued to provide service for those needing help.
On the homefront, I was able to hitch my smartphone to the TV, watching in full high-definition our local football hero John Burt and the Texas Longhorns whoop up on Notre Dame. What a game.
And, of course, with limited tech at home, we had endless amounts of family bonding. Now, we are all caught up on everything in each other’s lives. For anyone with teenagers, you know this kind of opportunity is rare. And we all worked together all weekend, hand-in-hand, to clean up the debris covering the yard and roof.
Back to the business world.
Sunday, I spoke with Paul Watts, whose company, Electronet, provides internet. He was checking in on some mutual clients, and let me know they had been running a generator for three days. By burning a lot of diesel, they kept our customers (and his) up and running. Nice job, sir.
When preparing for the next crisis that could face our community, make sure disaster recovery plans are clear.
In the case of damage to your office, establish a rallying point. And, depending on your line of work, get a generator. Have call-forwarding protocols ready, and set up redundant backups of your data — both local and in the cloud.
Disaster will strike again, so make sure you are ready.
In closing, I would like to offer huge thanks to all of those who spent the holiday weekend helping others.
This Instagram post — from my friend Heather — sums it up nicely:
Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His columns are publishing by several organizations. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org