Hurricane Ida has ravaged New Orleans and left nearly one million Louisiana residents without power, yet a number of ad agencies in the city have managed to stay operational, largely due to lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina 16 years earlier, and also due to the fact that many of their employees have already been working remotely due to COVID-19.
New Orleans shops Zehnder Communications, Trumpet Advertising, Firmidable, and Hoffman Miller said they took early safety precautions before the storm bore down upon them on Sunday August 29. Henry Chaissaignac, president of Zehnder, an agency with 55 employees across three locations including 35 employees based in New Orleans, says most of its employees in that city evacuated a day earlier except for about seven people.
“My first priority of business [Monday] was 'I need a roll call to find out where everybody is,'” Chassaignac told Ad Age. "In one case we had to reach out to someone’s mother that lives in Minnesota and was on the emergency contact list. She confirmed they're okay that their cell phone was not working. They got in touch with their mom through a friend of a friend.”
The power outage has caused Zehnder employees still in the city to be resourceful, such as charging their phones in their cars or just hoping texts sneak through somehow, Chassaignac says. The agency, which has offices in Nashville and Baton Rouge, will be looking to make temporary accommodations for the employees who didn’t evacuate, as the city recovers.
“Our next order of business will be helping them find some temporary shelter because you can only live that way [without power] a couple of days,” Chaissaignac says. “We have several people here [in Nashville] that have extra rooms. So we're talking about maybe letting them stay in some of our houses. In other cases it might be better to have short-term rental options; our director of operations is looking right now about that. And then we have our Nashville office, which is open, of course, we're working remotely. So worst comes to worst, we could have a couple of people in there. That's not the first choice and I don't think it'll come to that, but we worked down the list of possibilities.”