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Businesses Prepare for Irma and Its Expected Record-Breaking Damage

By Published on .

Hurricane Irma approaches Anguilla.
Hurricane Irma approaches Anguilla. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via NOAA Satellites via Twitter

As Houston reels from the aftermath of Harvey, brands and businesses in the southeast prepare for Hurricane Irma, which forecasters say could be the biggest Atlantic storm in a century—one that does even more damage than has Harvey, which dropped more than 50 inches of rain, resulted in mass flooding and drove more than 30,000 people into shelters.

While Harvey was expected to cost about $1 billion in lost sales for retailers and restaurants, Irma, a Category 5 storm expected to make landfall in Miami on Sunday before traveling up the coast, could cost the retail sector some $1.5 billion in lost revenue, according to Planalytics, which provides weather analytics for businesses.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has announced a statewide emergency, and consumers have been stocking up on essentials in grocery stores, warehouse clubs, gas stations and convenience stores, a Planalytics report said. Meanwhile, Florida-based agencies have been preparing for the worst.

"This is Mother Nature at its angriest," says Anselmo Ramos, chief creative officer and founder of Miami-based David. "We can't play with it, so we're closing the agency today at 1 p.m. and no one is working until Irma goes away—not even remotely."

Ramos says David has even asked some clients to postpone projects. "I think it's a good time to stop and reflect a bit on how small and fragile we are," he adds.

At Zimmerman, which is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, employees spent the last storm churning out some 2,200 pieces of advance content to carry clients through in the event the agency had to close its doors. "Obviously the situation is very fluid, however having been through this multiple times, the agency has a robust disaster recovery process that includes safety measures, a communication process and business continuity strategies," says Michael Goldberg, chief executive.

McDonald's is on the mind of Alma, which handles Hispanic creative for the fast-food giant.

"At this point our main focus is to make sure we make an airdate for McDonald's on Monday—we might have to send people to Chicago and we're rushing the edit—and we have two big productions next week for Sprint, so we might send the team early, just to avoid any travel complications," says Luis Miguel Messianu, creative chairman-CEO of the Miami shop.

He adds that Alma will also allow staffers to take days off to prepare for Irma, and all can work remotely to make sure business is not affected.

The Community, headquartered in Miami, began preparing for the storm on Tuesday and will close the office Thursday and Friday. Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, the agency sent employees home in shifts to prepare their homes or to leave town. Staffers will be asked to work remotely, conditions permitting, says Luis Montero, president of The Community.

In addition to the usual storm prep—shuttering the office and backing-up servers on the cloud—The Community has a text alert system in place to communicate with staff and send updates as the storm progresses. Montero says the leadership team has its own chat group to stay connected and "collaboratively manage through potential issues."

"For many of us, it's not our first rodeo, but this one appears to be a big one so we're doing everything we can to be safe and stay safe," he says.

Cross-cultural independent agency Republica, based in Miami, is closing its offices Thursday and Friday. "We are continuously sending updates to all Republica employees regarding hurricane safety and readiness," says a Republica spokeswoman, who adds that the building has a generator.

Harvey flooded dealerships and damaged oil refineries, so Ft. Lauderdale-based AutoNation Inc., the largest dealer group in the country, is watching Irma closely with twice-daily meetings, according to a report in Automotive News.

As the industry preps for Irma, the NFL is coming out in support of Harvey victims with a new ad airing Thursday. The NFL worked with Visa on a 30-second spot to air before the NFL Kickoff game on NBC. Featuring athletes including Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, Drew Brees of New Orleans and Eli Manning of the New York Giants, the spot pledges the NFL's help in recovery efforts.

After each player introduces himself, a voiceover from Morgan Freeman explains, "When it comes to helping the people of Texas and the Gulf Coast, we're all on the same team." Visa has donated $1 million to the American Red Cross.

Contributing: Laurel Wentz

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