How Hilton’s Risk & Resilience Team Delivers In the Eye of the Storm
November 30 marks the official end of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season, allowing Hilton’s Risk & Resilience team a brief moment of reflection before they turn full attention to preparing for the 2019 season.
While Hurricanes Florence and Michael dominated headlines, a total of 9 hurricanes and tropical storms formed in the Atlantic between August and the end of November. Hilton’s Risk & Resilience team’s cutting-edge preparation and response efforts, designed to protect Hilton’s assets, guests, and Team Members, ensured impact to business was minimal, without faltering on delivering the hospitality that has become synonymous with the Hilton name.
Risk & Resilience takes an integrated approach to storm preparedness, response, and recovery globally that includes developing systematic processes, engaging cross-functional departments, deploying innovative technologies, and implementing lessons learned as future best practices.
Joe Doa, one of Hilton’s Directors of Regional Safety and Security for the Americas, described 2018 as a pivotal transitional period for the company’s hurricane response. “The way we approached hurricanes this year was vastly different from what it was last year,” said Doa. “A lot of that is due to technology.”
After the 2017 hurricane season, which included hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the team realized Hilton’s impact could be enhanced by predictive technologies that encourage collaboration. Enter the Visual Command Center – an advanced threat analysis and mapping platform that shows storms’ proximities to properties – and a business continuity portal that collates data from multiple customized tools to serve as a one-stop-shop for all storm-related information.
“Our tools really led to an effective and streamlined approach to supporting pre- and post-storm efforts,” said Dawn Turton, Senior Director, Business Continuity Management. “Having a single source for information was a big win for us this year.”
For the first time, during Hurricane Florence, Hilton’s Area Crisis Team members accessed and shared crisis plans, communications and media guidance, hotel status reports, and Corporate Responsibility efforts, among other information, all in one location. The data, recorded almost in real-time, allowed communications between Area Crisis Team members to be more holistic, improving the support the team could provide across Hilton’s global portfolio of more than 5,500 properties.
But it takes more than technology to protect our hotels, guests and brand; it takes people.
“Risk & Resilience is the foundation, the hub,” said Turton. “But it takes the Hilton village, in a very coordinated and formal fashion to come together to support hotels, guests, Team Members and communities affected by hurricanes.”
In addition to the cross-functional Area Crisis Teams, there are Go Teams – a select group of Team Members deployed to impacted areas to support first responders and get properties up and running.
The Go Team, otherwise known as Hilton’s Incident Response Team (IRT), includes about 20 security directors from across the Americas who can step in when backup is needed. Each member was selected for his or her skills and experience.
“They clearly have a niche and can be very beneficial for us on the ground,” said Doa, who oversees Go Team deployments. This year one team deployed to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The team included an engineer who focused on restoring power, while security Team Members conducted assessments the property’s otherwise limited crew would have been unable to complete quickly.
For Go Teams, emotional intelligence is just as valued as hard skills. Doa selected one member, a director of security at one of Hilton’s Puerto Rico-based properties, based on his composure during 2017’s Hurricane Maria.
“He was coming to work every single day with a great attitude, communicating things, making sure his team and his family at the hotel was taken care of.” In October 2018, Doa learned this director had been doing all this without power at his own home for almost a year.
“That left an impact on me,” Doa said. “The guy got up every day and came to work. Nothing in his performance changed. This attitude and experience will be invaluable for future response teams.”
With strong people, processes and technology now in place, what is next for Risk & Resilience? Practice.
“2017 into 2018 was the gamechanger for us,” Doa said. “Now it is about continuing to build on the great connectivity we have with every department that supports our properties during these natural disasters.”
Hilton (NYSE: HLT) is a leading global hospitality company with a portfolio of 18 world-class brands comprising more than 6,200 properties with more than 983,000 rooms, in 118 countries and territories. Dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world’s most hospitable company, Hilton welcomed more than 3 billion guests in its 100-year history, earned a top spot on the 2019 World’s Best Workplaces list, and was named the 2019 Global Industry Leader on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices. In 2020, Hilton CleanStay was introduced, bringing an industry-defining standard of cleanliness and disinfection to hotels worldwide. Through the award-winning guest loyalty program Hilton Honors, the 108 million members who book directly with Hilton can earn Points for hotel stays and experiences money can’t buy, plus enjoy instant benefits, including digital check-in with room selection, Digital Key, and Connected Room. Visit newsroom.hilton.com for more information, and connect with Hilton on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.