As the WordSouth team was hard at work on the last-minute details of our annual conference, Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the continental U.S. By the weekend, we knew we had to make a decision. Our management team huddled throughout the day Sunday, monitoring weather updates and running scenarios. By that evening we came to a difficult yet necessary decision — to postpone StoryConnect 2017.
There was much to consider, but ultimately these are the thoughts that led to our decision:
- Beyond Hurricane Irma itself, tropical storm watches and warnings were in effect for a good chunk of Alabama, including the northern region where the conference was to be held. Widespread service outages were possible.
- Some attendees had already contacted us to say they would not be able to attend due to Hurricane Irma’s impact on their systems.
- Others had contacted us with questions, expressing concern about travel (people were registered from several states).
- With employees spread across several regions, we had travel concerns for our own team members as well.
- StoryConnect is a conference for utilities, and utilities provide the most critical services that allow communities to function. They are also the hardest hit in times of weather disaster.
- Widespread service outages demand the attention of all departments. While communicators are not in the field directly restoring service, they are very much involved in the restoration process. Keeping customers informed about outages, updates and overall plans is a critical function of any utility.
We realized there was a chance the storm system could weaken and have minimal impact outside of the Gulf region. Unfortunately, there was no way to know for sure, and we had to make a decision in order to do the logistical work necessary to postpone a multiday conference.
We are working on setting new dates for our conference. A quick turnaround would have been practically impossible. Looking into October reveals a calendar filled with many conferences and meetings, then we quickly move into the holiday season with its community events and vacation days. With that in mind, we are looking at mid-March 2018. As soon as we confirm these dates, we will begin notifying everyone.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with those utilities who saw significant damage from the storms. Let us know if we can help.
Thanks to all those registered for the event, and to our sponsors. We look forward to seeing everyone on the new date!