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A Look Back: Advisors Reflect on the Hurricane

A Look Back: Advisors Reflect on the Hurricane

Us East Coast-ers all remember where we were and what we were doing when Hurricane Sandy—the perfect storm, so to speak—hit. It turned out to be much stronger than anyone anticipated, leaving devastation in its path. But before it  becomes a distant memory, and we start to forget the events of early last week, I wanted to share some advisors’ experiences during the storm, and, in particular, their efforts to help clients—physically and emotionally—through the storm.

Rocco Carriero, a Southampton, N.Y.-based advisor with Carriero and Associates, was at the epicenter of the hurricane himself, dealing with his own problems, but he managed to focus on his clients. One thing that struck me was he invited clients who were affected to come to his own home because he had power power, phone, heat and full internet access. He also took clients out locally for a nice dinner. “They were just so excited about not having a candlelight dinner,” Carriero said. “They were removed from the idea of, ‘We have no phone; we have no power;we have no heat; we’re sitting next to a fireplace at nighttime; we’re going to bed at 6 p.m.’”

Here’s more of Carriero’s experience:

On Sunday night before the storm we set up a team call where everybody dialed in and went over plans of what we were going to do to ensure that our client service experience would be seamless during and after hurricane Sandy. On the Saturday before the storm we sent out a mass e-mail to the client members we serve with steps to be taking before the storm which included financial and non-financial related action and preparation steps.  This list included many things on top of having a full tank of gas for your vehicles and making sure all important printed financial information would be in a dry safe area. We explained to our client-member base that due to our proximity to the ocean, our Southampton office location would be closed but the team from our office would be working safely remotely from their homes and that our clients should continue to call us as they needed us for anything.
Our office calls were forwarded to cell phones, we had wireless internet access and we had battery backs ups for the phones and the computers that would be good for up to 30 hours, and after that we had car battery chargers should those batteries run out.  If that all went down our home office in Minneapolis stood ready and prepared for the calls being forward to them if we could not be reached.  Before the storm we advised clients to have cash ready in the event that ATM’s and banks were down.  Our home office of Ameriprise waived all ATM fees until November 5th.    
After the storm, our office remained closed on Tuesday where we continued with the same process of working safely from home and having team conference calls with updates.  On Wednesday we re-opened our Southampton office to see clients but we had no office phones and no internet access.  This meant we would continue with our phone and internet systems that we were using away from the office but now in the office.  This continued till Friday when we became fully back to normal again.  
Starting on Wednesday, we reached out to clients with post-storm information, with phone numbers to call with outage info and public adjuster information plus general information on what was happening, including why we were seeing the gas shortage lines.  This was the next challenge our clients faced where some gas stations had gas others did not, many were closed due to the loss of power and were not able to pump the gas.  The lines were over a mile long where there was power and gas.  Line up to 4 hours to fuel up…  
Throughout the after effects of the storm we have tried to remain a resource for those clients that had been removed from their homes and had experienced a loss of power, via texting and calls about radio programs that I thought would be of interest with experts on what people should do after the storm.  
Our office is putting together a nice care package with some special treats for those people to enjoy while they are still staying with family and friends and our office plans to be there for them until their life normalizes again.

Louis Scatigna, a Certified Financial Planner, experienced the storm from Jackson, N.J. He talks about the destruction in his area, and how he and his family prepared for the storm. His biggest piece of advice? Get a generator. I think it provides a more personal perspective, one not seen in the media images of the hurricane:

High winds brought down thousands of trees, taking out power lines and crashing into homes. The destruction here is something I never imagined I would see.
The Mantoloking Bridge, where the sea came into the bay, is where I crab all summer. It's now crumpled in the water, surrounded by flooded homes. It’s heartbreaking to see images of the place you love destroyed…

People are starting to lose it by the day; they’ve never gone so long without power. People in New York are eating from Dumpsters. The lines for gas, if you can find it, are miles long. A few more days like this and I worry civilization will start to break down.
Thankfully, my family is OK. I'm nutty about preparation, so we have everything we need. It is so important to be prepared for disaster.

Since I had a generator and plenty of fuel, the loss of power was tolerable. I was able to run my refrigerator and freezer, charge my cell phone and iPad, light my house and watch DVDs on the flat screen. The biggest complaint from those without generators has been boredom…

Water is worth its weight in gold during a crisis, you can never have too much. Canned food, candles, flashlights and batteries are other must-have prep items…

Why did so many people have so little gas that they would line up for hours to fill their tank? Because they did not prepare for the major disaster that had been forecast for the greater part of a week. My three cars are all full because I filled up BEFORE the storm.

The Jersey Shore will come back, but it will take a very long time. I feel a profound sadness seeing the beautiful shore destroyed and witnessing the suffering of those who have lost everything.

Please use this tragedy to prepare your family for disaster natural or man made. The best investment you can make is a generator. Buy one BEFORE a crisis hits.

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