joanne-qbi-wilmaVanda North and I have been teaching certification workshops in Palm Beach, FL for years.We typically target the October time frame, and have never had any hurricane threats. In 2004 there was a hurricane three weeks prior to the workshop, but fortunately the broken windows in the room we use were replaced in time. That should have been my first warning!

In 2005 I was teaching a 5-day certification followed by a weekend break, then another 4-day advanced certification. The 20 participants for the first week flew in from eight different countries. The eight people coming for the advanced class were flying in from five different countries and would be arriving over the upcoming weekend. After the second day of the first class (Tuesday), we heard that a hurricane could be heading towards Florida.

The Dilemma

If in fact the storm stayed on track, it was estimated to most likely be a Level 1 storm because it would lose momentum as it came across land and we weren’t in the direct path.But with the possibility of airports closing, the team needed to make some decisions. We saw the options as:

Stop the workshop and send everyone home now

Finish the week and hope that everyone can catch their flights before the storm

Cancel the Advanced Certification for the following week

Move forward with the Advanced Certification

We didn’t know what to do.

The Team Creates a Plan

The team consisted of myself, Vanda North, the hotel staff, a few participants from the current workshop, and eventually a church in West Palm Beach.We gathered as much information as we possibly could and began to create an idea map so we could get our arms around the details and make some decisions. By this time it was primarily myself and another gentleman from the class named Matt who were pulling together all of the data we received from the rest of the team.

It ended up as a very simple map.I don’t have the original, so I’ve done my best to recreate what we had and then added more data to tell the bigger story.

The plan ended up as follows: We would finish out the week and hold the Advanced Certification as planned. If the island ended up being evacuated, those flying in for the second week would find us at a church in West Palm (I don’t remember the name anymore) and they had the address and phone contact. We did this for several reasons. The storm wasn’t coming in until Monday and was not expected to be strong, the island was not going to be evacuated, we had a back-up plan with the church, all flights should get in just fine, and we would stock up on plenty of food, water, and other supplies.

By creating the map, the decision came easily and the team was able to move from “panicked” to “comfortable.”

The End of the Story

Two participants from the first week had trouble getting out of town and remained for several more days. One incoming person couldn’t get a connecting flight in. As you may remember, Wilma ended up being a strong storm and Palm Beach was the direct path. The storm came in on Monday morning during the beginning of the Advanced Workshop. We lost phone service for a few days and power and running water for the remainder of our time there. All of the windows in my hotel room (not the teaching room) were blown out by the hurricane winds.

Despite all the the challenges, it was one of the most exciting and memorable weeks. The creativity and calmness of all involved was something I admire in all who shared in this experience. Click here to see an aftermath photo of those who braved the storm.

Needless to say, workshops are now held in the Palm Beach location during the first week of December. Check out the course information and join us this year for another terrific time of learning!