On January 12, Taal Volcano exploded in a steam-blast eruption that brought ash fall to the immediate surroundings of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and Metro Manila. It caused the evacuation of thousands of residents surrounding Taal Lake. Properties, equipment, and livestock were left, and it would take many days before the first batch of people could return and get a glimpse of their homes.

One of the Philippines’ most popular tourist destinations — Tagaytay City — was a ghost town for days as thick mud covered the area. The eruption is estimated to cause P8.2 million in lost revenue from 159 tourism establishments if closure were to remain for 15 days after the eruption.

Natural calamities have a lot of implications for professionals in the housekeeping industry, especially since they will bear the brunt of the work in bringing back their hotels to business. When a calamity strikes, daily operations and upkeep of tourism establishments are put to a stop to support other essential activities. This leaves soiled linen unwashed, raw food materials to spoil, garbage uncollected, and microorganisms to cause a sanitation problem for the property.

For the most part, housekeeping professionals will many of these risks.

Food spoilage. In affected cities and municipalities (especially Tagaytay) of the Taal Volcano eruption, electricity and water were major challenges. An immediate effect of a natural calamity would be the spoilage of food stored in these establishments. Freezers and other equipment that support and prepare food will fail, leading to spoilage. Public services (such as garbage collection) would be interrupted, and garbage left uncollected would cause foul odor, proliferation of pests, and an unsanitary environment.

Odor. Guest rooms and kitchen need to cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis. When calamities interrupt the daily upkeep, bacteria and algae will multiply and cause foul smells across the room. Carpets are particularly very susceptible to the growth of bacteria and will cause unpleasant odor if not cleaned immediately.

Even linen rooms can be at risk. Linen rooms need good ventilation. Without electricity that circulate air, bacteria will grow and cause unpleasant smell on linens.

Stains. Hotels relying on laundry service providers will be unable to wash their soiled linen if their suppliers are also affected by natural calamity. As the hotel industry increasingly rely on outsourcing their laundry requirements, this even becomes a bigger risk.

Clogged drains. Drains can clog and smell due to lack of flowing water. Yet this is not only the risk associated with drainage; in the case of the Taal Volcano eruption, the subsequent ash fall posed a risk to pipes that could potentially clog as ash comes into contact with water.

A hotel’s housekeeping team should keep these in mind as part of its disaster preparedness plans. Linens, equipment, and raw food materials are costly, and having a plan in mind to mitigate damages would protect the business from further suffering.

For questions on disaster mitigation and post-calamity solutions, email rhapolega@yahoo.com