Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and the second costliest in U.S. history, wreaked havoc on New Jersey and New York. The storm struck just two weeks before two major trade shows — the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show and Boutique Design New York — were set to begin.
After careful consideration, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the Hotel Association of New York City, Inc., and the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association made the decision that IHMRS and BDNY must go on.
But there was no power in the partially flooded Javits Center. Many pre-shipped exhibits had incurred major damage or were totally destroyed. The National Guard was using the loading docks as a distribution center for relief supplies. Freeman’s primary support warehouse for the New York branch was under water and contaminated. Any one of these obstacles could have seemed insurmountable. We would have to pull off two of the most significant shows in the hospitality industry while dealing with all of them at once.
Working together to make it happen
After the storm, our customer support and exhibitor service teams sprang into action. Team members at a dedicated call center in Dallas contacted vendors, exhibitors, and attendees to let them know the shows were still taking place and to ask what they could do to help. Team members from other branches swooped in to assist the hard-hit New York branch and support their efforts. Throughout the next two weeks, team members across the country were in constant contact with each other to coordinate equipment, personnel, and logistical needs.
Many of the booths that had been shipped to the warehouse ahead of time were destroyed by floodwaters, so shipments of secondary booths were coordinated. For companies that didn’t have an option B, we provided and shipped booth structures from our branches in Boston, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, and our central distribution center.
Without electricity, it would have been impossible to set up for shows of this size. Generators were brought in, but fuel for them ran out after the first day of freight move-in as a gasoline shortage affected the entire region. So in addition to the large quantity of diesel and gasoline obtained from our disaster recovery provider, team members in D.C. made daily round-trip drives to New York for over a week to transport gas. The bottom floor of the Javits Center had been underwater and was contaminated. After the floor was cleaned and dried, new carpet was quickly laid to allow seminars to be held on that level without a hitch.
A miraculous recovery
The shows did go on. According to IHMRS, the end result was “literally a miracle.” But what seemed like a miracle was actually the result of careful disaster planning and the preparedness of our risk management teams. Out of the 650 exhibitors scheduled to be at the two shows, only thirteen were unable to make it.
Post-show exhibitor surveys were packed with praise for the preparedness for the shows and the commitment to making sure things went smoothly. Many attendees commented that if they hadn’t experienced it themselves or seen it on the news, they wouldn’t even have been able to tell that a major hurricane had affected the shows.
It all boils down to professionalism and training. Freeman was with us every step of the way. There was no doubt in our minds that they were doing everything they could to help… Freeman was instrumental in making sure the event was run successfully.