During the Georgetown Blackout
Manhole fires and power outages in historic
Georgetown, the city's
|June, 18, 2001 - The day is progressing normally.
The house is full, with guests coming and going. Dinner reservations
are being confirmed for the evening, and the weekend's wedding plans are
being finalized. When, without warning: another explosion...another
flying manhole cover....and once again, the Four Seasons the capital's
most prestigious hotel address is plunged into darkness.
Unlike the last time the lights went out in Georgetown, this was a sweltering June day turning quickly into night. The resulting challenges brought about by the duration of this outage were immense. Several have asked how we managed during those four days that Georgetown was "out of business."
The hotel's entire staff, including 50 managers, quickly mobilized. There we determined the situation, then set out to mitigate the impact on our guests. As always, our first and most important priority was the safety and well-being of our guests. And as always, there was one thing we refused to do: drop our standards of service (except to don polo shirts when work days were stretching to more than 20 hours).
"I was totally impressed with how well the Four Seasons managed such
a bad situation," said Barry Toth, president of Automotive Events, which
was overseeing a huge, three-week rollout of the new Lexus convertible
to press from 10 European countries. "They saved our event," he added.
And fix it, they did. Within 24 hours of the initial explosion, the Four Seasons was back to full normal operations, thanks to two of the largest generators we could commandeer.
Until it was fixed, however, the hotel improvised like never before, trying to provide a "Four Seasons" experience for our guests. When day turned into night, the lobby emitted a welcoming, romantic glow from hundreds of candles. Champagne was served. A generator-powered television aired the NBA playoff game in the Lounge where an elaborate cold buffet and live jazz entertainment were provided.
Despite the obstacles, closing our doors was never an option. During these four days, we found the way to host a 250 wedding, several corporate meetings, and three large dinner parties. In fact, we were the only affected business in Georgetown that remained open throughout the ordeal.
We did this with a little help from our friends. Vendors and clients flooded our switchboard with offers of help, including a complimentary refrigerated truck from Keany Produce, and an unbelievably quick delivery of a mega-generator from Aggreko. We also managed to hire our own fuel truck to keep the generators humming.
All the while we remained a focal point of life in Georgetown. Hundreds of neighbors unable to get information from Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco) called our Concierge, knowing that we were being kept apprised. We reached out with some relief to our neighbors, offering a very special rate on rooms. And although we secured enough rooms elsewhere for all 260 guests, only a very few took us up on the offer. In fact, most guests refused to leave, believing they were still in better hands with us even with the power situation. Said neighbor Edna Wolf, who checked into the hotel with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel when her home became unbearable, "If the experience is this exquisite while on generator, I can't even imagine how good it is with the lights on!"
When the weekend was over, Four Seasons had used:
Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC
2800 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.,
|Also See||IHRA Advice - Move Safety and Security Issues Up the Management Agenda / Sept 1999|