Gearing up for hurricane season

Meteorologists are predicting a mean hurricane season for 2000, and catalogers that weathered September 1999’s Hurricane Floyd are battening down the hatches.

It’s wise to have an effective contingency plan in place, says Eric Hook, vice president of marketing for marine products catalog Overton’s. The Greenville, NC-based mailer should know: Floyd caused such severe flooding that Overton’s had to stop shipping orders for three days. The company typically ships all orders within 24 hours, Hook says, so customer service representatives had to explain the delay to customers when they placed orders.

Fortunately, as a marketer of water sports equipment, Overton’s had watercraft available in its warehouse, so clean-up crews were able to “sail” the flooded streets between the company’s warehouse and corporate offices. Although there wasn’t any flooding in the warehouse itself, Hook says that vendors cooperated with requests to hold orders until flood waters receded and trucks were able to make deliveries again.

Prior to Floyd, Overton’s plan included an offsite back-up call center and outside computer hosting. For this year, the company beefed up its Internet back-up procedures and staff communications chain, instructing employees to listen to specific radio stations for announcements should telephone service be suspended.

Although Hillsborough, NC-based cataloger Adam and Eve, which sells adult entertainment products, is in an area that does not flood easily, it still feels the effects of strong winds. Hurricane Floyd, for instance, had cut off the cataloger’s power, forcing it to close for about 72 hours, says Wayne Zell, contact center director. This inspired the company to invest in a diesel generator that will enable computers, phones, and lights to continue running even if there is an outage.

Adam and Eve also has “inclement weather safety zones” within its facility. During hurricane warnings, staff are moved into the warehouse or toward the center of the building, away from the windows, which could break from high winds.

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