Hurricane Irene track
Just what you want to see on your computer screen on a monday morning, your course is in the cone of death. That’s right a hurricane might be headed your way. After a look at the computer models and a peak at the ocean water temps map, you have to start to make some decisions. Living in South Florida, you have to become some what of a meteorologist and keep your day job as a golf course superintendent. I have gone through at least five major hurricanes and over a dozen tropical storms in the last eighteen years. I have put together a plan and procedure booklet that lays out what to do to protect the course and employees while a hurricane is headed your way.
High ocean water temps feed hurricanes
Phase 1 – Hurricane Watch means a disturbance is approximately 24 hours away. This is used with the understanding that hurricanes are quite unpredictable and forward movement can drastically change.
– The superintendent must commence the collection and place indoors all lose objects such as trash cans, benches, flags, tee markers, etc.
– Check trees and shrubbery and remove limbs which may damage utility wires or other property.
– Remove coconuts from trees.
– Top off main fuel storage tanks.
– Fill all mowers and carts with fuel.
– Turn off all power supplies to pump stations.
– Back up the irrigation programs from your computer and take it with you.
– Go over generators and start them.
– Update your employee contact information and explain that you will call them when to report to work. Let them take care of their families and homes and you will have a better chance of them coming to work when you need them. Send them home early.
– Assist the clubhouse staff with the installation of shutters over the windows.
– Take a video of your maintenance building and each hole of the golf course. I did this at Doral, when we had hurricanes Wilma and Katrina headed our way, and the videos turned out to be worth a few million dollars. Doral lost thousands of trees and the videos showed what we lost.
– Check your chainsaws and have extra blades.
– Have your outside tree crews on stand by and expect them charge full price. They have been waiting for this storm all year.
– Make sure you have a cell phone charger for your car or truck. Cell phone towers work 8 hours on batteries, so if the storm is that bad you only have a few hours to call staff and tell loved ones that you are alive. Even if you phone is charged, it will not work them those towers shut down.
Phase 2 – Go home and take care of your family and home. If a Cat 3 or more is coming your way, send the wife and kids out of town. You will lose power for days or even weeks. They don’t need to deal with that and your attitude that the golf course is being blown apart.
Phase 3 – Comunicate with staff and members during the storm and after the storm moves through. Your clubhouse will become a safe haven for members and staff to get there life together and take a warm shower. Use Twitter to do this and get the word out if you can open the clubhouse.
Phase 4 – After the storm, take video, count the trees down, and don’t turn on your pump station. You will burn it up because the power supply will be dirty. Wait a few days to turn it on. Review the course and reach out to staff and start the clean up.

Good luck and let’s hope you don’t need to use my plan in your career.

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Would you be ready if a fire hit your golf operation?

Eric J. von Hofen
A fire can happen in the blink of an eye and when you least expect it. Here are some tips that you might want to follow before your golf course is faced with the worst day in it’s history. I would have the following information stored two ways, one a external drive and the other on a flash drive. Leave one copy at home and the other in your clubhouse. Remember that when a fire strikes, everything is gone. You will not have access to your office, computer, phones, irrigation system or building. I remember coming to work the next day and the only thing I could get out of the building was three rakes and two carts. I lost everything including my college diploma. See my office below.
Eric J. von Hofen

Information that needs to be backed up and stored off site:
-Have an updated equipment list with serial numbers, hour meters and pictures. Include the purchase date and cost at that time.
-Employee contact numbers.
-Irrigation programs and pump totals.
-Chemical and fertilizer records with the current inventory list.
-Gas and diesel inventory list.
-Vendor contact numbers.
-Member and club officials contact and email information.
-The clubs insurance contact information.
-Local and state fire marshall contact information.

The day after the fire has to be a controlled media event. Golfers, owners, staff, and insurance companies are the only people you need to worry about. At that time you probably will not know what caused the fire so you will only be able to confirm that “yes we had a fire” and that is it. Your burned up building will be jumping with local fire officials and the state fire marshall. These guys worked together and in about one hour they had it narrowed down to a five foot area where my fire started. Ten minutes later they found the cause and pulled out the remains of a electric golf cart charger. The fire marshall said “you might want to lock this up, it’s going to be worth a million dollars”. I took his advice and hide the charger until the insurance team showed up. He was right the fire was a $1.2 million dollar loss.
Eric J. von Hofen

Over the next month you will have every fire clean up company and insurance adjustor show up wanting to help you and offer to review your insurance policy. They have a great scam telling you that they can put together claim so you don’t have to worry about. Sounds great but they will take 30% of the insurance payout. Not a good deal at all. This is when your records will be worth gold. These records will also be very important if your equipment is leased. The lease company now has nothing to pick at the end of the lease and you have nothing to maintain your course with. Now what do you do? The insurance company will have to settle with the lease company and you will have to put together a new equipment package.

Keep a clean maintenance building, back up your information and look for any fire hazards on a daily basis. Make proper equipment repairs and train your staff on fire protection. Sounds petty but it sure pays off.

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