Businesses close early and prepare for Gonzalo
Bermuda’s business world will today batten down the hatches as Hurricane Gonzalo heads for the Island.
Three banks — HSBC, Butterfield and Clarien — will all close at 1pm and remain closed on Friday, while major firms like Ace, XL and the Gibbons Company will also shut down early.
And telecoms firms Digicel and CellOne also announced they were gearing up with hurricane contingency plans.
A spokeswoman for HSBC said the firm had also implemented the bank’s business continuity plan to minimise disruption.
A spokeswoman for HSBC said: “The requisite hurricane preparations are in place to ensure minimal disruption to our business and the safety of all our employees.”
She added: “The bank will reopen when it is deemed safe for our employees and customers to resume normal activity.”
The spokeswoman said that ATMs at the Harbourview Centre on Hamilton’s Reid Street, and Rural Hill Plaza in Paget will — barring power or telecommunications interruption — remain in service.
HSBC ATMs in gas stations and shops will also be available, depending on business opening hours, while client transaction deadlines on Thursday will be brought forward.
But the spokeswoman said: “Customers are encouraged to have cash on hand before conditions worsen.”
A spokesman for the Bank of Butterfield said branches will also be closed on Saturday and that some ATMs exposed to the weather will be taken offline starting from yesterday, while some transaction processing will be delayed from noon tomorrow until the bank reopens.
Digicel Bermuda chief executive Alistair Beak said that Digicel was working closely with the emergency services and critical response agencies to ensure priority access to communications and that the firm would work with the Emergency Measures Organisation (EMO) to offer updates on the storm situation to customers.
Mr Beak added the network was up to 99 percent restored after Tropical Storm Fay and extra equipment and staff overseas were on standby to assist.
“We have done everything possible to prepare for Gonzalo — our cell sites are checked, stocked and ready and our technical team and field engineers will be mobilised across the Island,” Mr Beak said. “We’ve even flown in an additional engineer to help in our preparation.”
Digicel will close its stores at 3pm today and it is hoped they will reopen on Monday.
CellOne said most services were back at 100 percent after Fay and that its stores would close at noon today.
CEO Frank Amaral said: “This is a stressful time for Bermuda and the safety of everyone is the number one concern. We will support customers to the best of our ability through it all.”
He added that his firm would also provide public safety updates over its website and on social media.
The Gibbons Company said its main store on Reid Street would close at 1pm today and on Friday due to the closure of Washington Mall, while its Dockyard outlet shut up shop at 5pm yesterday.
A spokeswoman added: “A post-hurricane assessment will be conducted to ensure the safety of its valued clients and employees prior to making a decision on Saturday business hours.”
The international business sector and financial firms were also bracing themselves for a major hit, with companies closing early and implementing disaster and business continuity plans.
Top international insurance firms Ace and XL both said they would be closing early.
An XL spokeswoman said its Bermuda crisis management team had met and decided staff do not have to report for work today, although “business critical” operations would continue until noon and the Bermudiana Road offices would stay closed until further notice.
She added that staff had been given advice and hurricane safety booklets.
And she said: “We do have a business continuity plan which will kick in if we aren’t able to operate from here.”
An Ace spokeswoman said her firm would also be open for critical business until noon and would remain closed on Friday.
She added: “We will just keep monitoring the situation and hopefully be able to post messages for our employees and hopefully be open again on Monday. We will see how the storm goes.”
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