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Hotel rolls out red carpet for evacuees

Deal between hotels, Red Cross gives place to stay for those in need

Posted: May 13, 2009 8:15 p.m.
Updated: May 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

From the ashes of November’s Sayre Fire in Sylmar, the Courtyard by Marriott in Valencia and the Red Cross hatched a plan to house evacuees. The plan was put to the test when the Jesusita Fire ripped through Santa Barbara, and may be tested again as fire season heats up, a Red Cross official said Wednesday.

The Courtyard by Marriott in Valencia and the Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles entered into an agreement under which disaster evacuees could be lodged at the Courtyard by Marriott, or at any of the four hotels owned by the Dimension Development Group, a Marriott franchisee based in Santa Clarita. The other Dimension Development Group hotels are located in Stevenson Ranch.

“In return, the Marriott automatically bills back the Red Cross, at a discounted rate, for the evacuees that we (the hotel) house,” said Felisa Richards, Courtyard by Marriott sales manager.

“We have relationships between many L.A. County hotels and they serve a vital need in housing evacuees,” said Alex Rose, facility agreements coordinator for the Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles.

The Sayre fire was the spark that brought the corporation and the charitable organization together. During the Sayre Fire, the Marriott housed 10 families evacuated from the disaster area for stays extending beyond two weeks, including one family that stayed more than a month.

The hotel’s role in disaster planning is a matter of common sense, Richards said.

“We’re in California. We’re prone to disaster, whether it’s earthquakes or fire,” she said.

Knowing that California’s vulnerability to disaster, Richards began working with the Red Cross and its Disaster Awareness Team, which assessed the Marriott’s ability to provide for evacuees, Rose said.

“One of the things the Red Cross does during a disaster is feed people. Something as simple as their (Courtyard by Marriott’s) dishwasher makes it easier to get the job done,” Rose said.

The Courtyard’s kitchen facility can feed up to 2,000 meals a day, Richards said.

The Marriott’s large parking capacity also added to the hotel’s value in a disaster, Rose added. “If we need we to, we could park one of our Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles in the parking lot,” he said. The vehicle is the size of an ambulance and is equipped with kitchen facilities to serve food in disaster areas.   

The arrangement between the Red Cross and the Courtyard by Marriott was tested when the Jesusita Fire barreled down on Santa Barbara on May 5 and caused massive evacuations, Richards said. Again, 10 families called the Courtyard by Marriott home after being evacuated, she said.

Rose said an active fire season might mean more evacuations, and might mean that hotels such as the Courtyard by Marriott are pressed into service.

Having the Santa Clarita hotel group as a partner is a good feeling as fire season approaches, he said.

“Going into fire season, it’s very comforting that businesses like the Courtyard by Marriott lend their support and realize Southern California is one large community.”



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