We all know it is not uncommon for weather to affect operations no matter what region of the country; however, the impact can be enormous for your patrons and staff. As many are aware, the southeast was hit recently not once, but twice, both resulting in the cancellation of events that had either capacity or near-capacity audiences. Certainly there is always a learning curve in the messaging and communication in any emergency situation, and we became experts by the second storm. However, I feel that the biggest lesson we learned at the Fox Theatre was from our “on the ground emergency response team.”
The first storm resulted in the cancellation of two performances of The Book of Mormon. While upper management worked feverishly with Broadway Across America and the show’s producers, it was really the hourly employees who were the glue that kept it all together. Many slept on the floor on areas of the theatre overnight so that they could be “first responders” to the thousands of calls and emails from ticket-holders. Foregoing family, these front line folks stayed for up to 36 hours in order to return calls, facilitate exchanges, and pacify our panicked patrons. Staff members were using packing blankets for bedding and raiding lost and found. All were thrilled to return home after their extended “shift” and get out of clothes that had been worn for longer than I care to share! It was truly the Foxified version Survivor, except no one left the island.
Round two of winter weather was predicted to be worse than the first; however, we were prepared and had a much better accommodation situation (storm No. 1 took place during the Poultry Convention, so there was not a feather pillow to be found on which to rest a weary head). The troops were corralled, overnight bags were packed, and management fully supported the use of the hotel across the street.
We started early communication with the management team for Ailey, and together a game plan was prepared in advance. The Ailey team was very receptive to our recommendations and consensus regarding the plan. The messaging was so effective that not a single patron showed up for the canceled performance—an almost unheard of thing.
Through all of this, I was truly amazed at the tireless efforts of our all staff who willingly dedicated their time to the Fox over family and home. While management certainly supported these efforts by providing bed and board (and an occasional adult beverage), it was the hourly staff that kept the machine moving, remaining late in the evening to respond to calls and even making a game of it in that they created a competition to see who could call the most people in a defined period of time.
I, for one, see all of my colleagues, both full-time and part-time, in a new and re-energized light. We became cooks, cheerleaders, and the cleaning crew for each other. I am inspired by the dedication, humor, and ability of everyone to adapt and react during trying times (the most of which was my inability to properly bake a frozen pizza). Success is not owned by any one person, and our team certainly sustained the success we all enjoy when the sun shines.
[Editor’s note: Since this is story about weather, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there’s still time to apply for and attend our upcoming AVSS Severe Weather Planning and Preparedness course, March 4-5, in Norman, Oklahoma.]