As many are aware, our office operates out of New Orleans, LA, which was hit by Hurricane Ida a couple weeks ago on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Most of our employees were without power for a week, while several remain in the dark 10 days after the storm and have temporarily found new homes because their damage was so significant they had to move out.
For better or worse, International Sureties is experienced with working remotely (Covid aside), and we remained at full capacity despite the Category 4 hurricane. The Friday before Sunday’s landfall, we went through our usual protocols to take home necessary documents and equipment, and went through our out-of-office procedures. Because of other hurricanes in years past, we were prepared for the exercise, and then prepared to act while we were away.
After closing the office down early Friday, most people left town either that afternoon or Saturday morning after preparing their homes. Before a hurricane, it’s always a good idea to bring in anything you have outside such as plants, patio furniture, wind chimes, etc. Securing trash cans is also vital if you want to have trashcans when you return home. For Category 4 hurricanes and stronger, many choose to board up their windows. By Saturday, our company was suddenly spread everywhere from Texas to Florida and up to Tennessee. Safe and away from the storm, all eyes turned to news stations Sunday to watch Ida barrel ashore at Port Fourchon, LA.
The storm started to pick up around the middle of Sunday morning, and by the early afternoon began to get intense. By Sunday early evening, winds gusts approaching 100 mph in the city of New Orleans. Unfortunately, our friends only miles to the west in rural parishes (called “counties” outside of Louisiana) were not as lucky and suffered devastating damages from sustained winds well in excess of 100 mph. Please consider them with any assistance being offered.
The winds and rain settled down early Monday morning. At dawn, I was able to assess the damage at my house, which thankfully was relatively minimal. By 8:30am that morning, I had been in contact with all except one of my teammates. While safely far off the coast, she had lost power and cell service temporarily, but we were able to verify her safety later that day.
Then the second storm came – Monday morning work. Despite the entire city losing power, our storm preparations allowed for everyone to maintain adequate response times to clients. We prioritized focusing on client needs and waited to revisit internal, back-burner items upon our return. That morning, our Logistics team responded to a potential new client who was unsure about working with a new agency for his FMCSA bond. We were able to assure him that we were safe to work with because, despite the major hurricane merely hours before, we were still responsive in the time of distress. He went with our bond program, and we look forward to a long-lasting relationship. Great stuff!
The Court department issued appeal, injunction, replevin and other bonds in the following week. Many of those are needed immediately, and we are proud to have produced those bonds without most principals realizing that we were working in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The License & Permit department continued to issue and send out hard copies of bonds in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Most states require original, wet signatures, but the L&P section plans for this by bringing necessary equipment and enlisting critical partners to help in a time of crisis. Bankruptcy bonds continue to flow conveniently because we already have personnel living outside of New Orleans. This allows for fluid transfer of bond servicing without anybody noticing.
Ultimately, it was a frustrating time as we learned that we rely on WiFi more than we already gave it significant credit for, and it is almost as critical as having power (nothing is more important than air conditioning!). But the resilient team at International Sureties continued to produce bonds because of the can-do spirit and determination to make Surety Bonds easy!