CETW braces for Hurricane Sandy

Organizers of next week's Customer Engagement Technology World trade show say they won't be left high and dry by Hurricane Sandy.

The digital signage and self-service kiosk industries are preparing to descend on New York City for next week's CETW, shortly after Hurricane Sandy is set to batter the East Coast this week.

Executives from JD Events, which puts on CETW, said they're not expecting any trouble or lasting effects from the storm — "Sandy should not affect CETW," said show manager Lawrence Dvorchik in an email today, later adding that he still expects a record turnout for the show. He also said that executives at the Javits Center, home to CETW in New York, have reassured him that next week's show should be unscathed by Sandy.

"As for Sandy's impact, we are monitoring the situation closely with the Jacob Javits Convention Center, which includes periodic updates and discussions about any possible impact on future events," he said in an email. "The Javits does not expect any significant damage to the facility. They are confident that any damage received would be resolved immediately ... well before next week. We are confident that the show next week will be unaffected."

Still, Hurricane Sandy appears to be gearing up for the long haul over New York City. Top winds are expected to increase to 90 mph with wind gusts reaching 60 mph in the city. The battery could go on for days as the storm lingers in the region, pounding residents with damaging rain and the potential for severe flooding in some areas.

The National Weather Service issued a warning for the area saying conditions are expected to worsen today and into tonight, adding that power outages are likely across all areas in the Sandy's path. Warnings for evacuation have been harsh as meteorologists plead with residents to err on the side of caution.

The Javits Center's incoming phone message today said that the Center is located in the zone that New York City has ordered evacuated due to severe weather conditions — so the Center was closed on Monday, and several events scheduled to take place there this week have been canceled or postponed. The message will be updated with more information as the situation develops, it said.

But, with the storm hitting this week, there is "more than enough time to get everything back to normal completely," as far as services in the city and travel to and from the city, Dvorchik said.

Dvorchik is talking to Javits personnel regularly, he said, and state and federal officials are "taking all possible precautions so that by the time (Sandy) blows through they're able to pick up and clean up quickly" and get things back to normal, he said. And with a week to clean up afterward, for New Yorkers who are used to this kind of thing and "about as prepared as you can be for this and what wil come afterward"? Fuhgeddaboutit.

"Luckily it's not this week," he said. "This is going to be annoying ... (but) we absolutely anticipate no problems."

The Digital Screenmedia Association, for which CETW is the trade show of record, also appears confident the show will go on — but DSA Executive Director David Drain said he will be in contact today with JD Events and with the yacht company hosting the "DSA Party @ CETW NYC." The DSA party is scheduled to take place during a cruise around Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty aboard the Duchess Yacht on the first night of CETW.

"We're concerned, certainly," Drain said in a telephone interview today. "These storms pop up rather quickly, so we're monitoring it. But I've spoken with the yacht company and they're taking all the precautions. They do not expect any damage and are confident our event will happen as planned."

A spokesman for a large public relations firm that specializes in technology companies said he hasn't heard of any concerns from his clients planning to attend CETW next week, but has seen the effects of Sandy dampening attendance at a trade show he's attending this week — in Dallas. A significant number of attendees from the East Coast ended up skipping the show over concerns about being able to get back east for meetings scheduled later for Wednesday, he said.

And count Olea Kiosks Inc. among those standing firm in the face of the storm.

"Our booth ships today, and we are going along as planned," said Olea Kiosks CEO Frank Olea, in an email today. "We're hoping for the best and that the show can continue as planned. Our thoughts and prayers are with those that are being affected by the storm."

Executives from digital signage firm ComQi also said they expect the storm should "blow over" by Wednesday, and are not aware of any issues regarding next week's show. "Everything is moving along according to schedule," said ComQi spokesperson Sharon Shonesh.

It's also important to keep in mind that the Javits is a "pretty solid structure," said the DSA's Drain, who added that he was not aware of any damage the Center suffered as a result of the last hurricane to blow into town, last year's Hurricane Irene.

"So we'll just have to keep monitoring it and see what would be possible as far as backup plans if we need to," Drain said. "We're hoping everything is okay and glad the storm is this week instead of next week. We're hoping and praying for safety for everyone involved and hoping the damage will be minimal."

(KioskMarketplace.com Editor Natalie Gagliordi also contributed to this article.)

Hurricane image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team.

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