Posted on September 27, 2017 by Jesse Hazel
Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 storm, bringing with it unprecedented amounts of rain and flooding in Texas and surrounding areas. Two weeks later, Hurricane Irma caused widespread destruction to the Caribbean and the Florida peninsula. And, Hurricane Maria recently devastated the Caribbean.
With nearly 200 communities across the U.S. and Canada, Atria operates in nearly every region of North America. That means we’re exposed to just about every type of weather scenario imaginable. No matter the circumstances, we’re committed to the safety, comfort and well-being of our residents – which means we have a robust natural disaster response plan.
Our emergency preparedness protocols pay off when it really matters. During Hurricane Harvey, we safely evacuated three of our Houston-area communities to area hotels on higher ground. While still navigating the aftermath of Harvey, Atria spent a week preparing for Hurricane Irma. We relocated 633 residents – and more than 50 pets, including a rabbit – from six of our communities across Florida.
Having faced similar storms in the past, we have a sheltering agreement with the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan Resort. We chose this location as a safe haven because it is 80 feet above sea level and its electricity and other vital services are installed underground, preventing loss of power. The structures are designed to meet the stringent Miami-Dade building codes established after 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.
Beyond providing a safe temporary home, we ensured the health and happiness of our residents by flying in more than 80 Atria team members from across the country to join more than 200 members of our Florida staff at the resort. We also invited employees to bring their families with them. While our employees tended to the needs and wishes of our residents, we set up an on-site day care center for their children – with a full schedule of daily activities to keep the little ones busy. Our team set up a supervisory command center on the premises to coordinate meals, programs and events to keep all of our residents active, relaxed and entertained.
Atria residents were not the only ones sheltering at the Disney property. Actress Kristen Bell was in Orlando filming a comedy and was also evacuated to the hotel. We were thrilled that she decided to “make lemonade outta Irma,” as she humorously posted on Instagram. She asked to lead programs and spread joy to our residents in the process, joining them for meals, giving out hugs, participating in wheelchair races and calling bingo games. She even posted her delightful duet with John Z., a resident at Atria Park of St. Joseph’s, on Instagram. The recording went viral, and the two crooning buddies, along with other Atria residents, made a heartwarming Skype appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Actor Seth Rogen was also staying at the resort, and he was gracious and generous with his time. He even cast an Atria resident in his upcoming movie. Another couple sheltering at the resort got into the giving spirit, donating 100 10-minute massage sessions for our residents.
But the real heroes are the Atria employees who attended to the needs and wishes of our residents, and are now busy helping residents resettle in their communities. The frontline Houston- and Florida-based employees exercised their disaster response training to keep our residents safe and happy while facing the burdens that Harvey and Irma imposed in their own lives. Fundraising through Atria CaresSM, our nonprofit organization, is helping employees who are experiencing hardships caused by the hurricanes.
Atria founded Atria Cares in 2004, after that year’s hurricanes in Florida, to provide financial assistance to our staff. To date, Atria Cares has raised more than $200,000 to benefit our employees affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
We’re proud of our employees and pleased that our residents can always count on Atria when skies are gray.