Optical Companies Assess Irma’s Damage as Industry Launches Relief Efforts

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LAS VEGAS—As optical retailers, eyecare practitioners and suppliers throughout Florida and surrounding states began to clean up damage caused by Hurricane Irma and assess its impact, the optical industry rallied in widespread support of them with a multi-tiered outreach to storm victims.

Edward Beiner, CEO of Miami-based Edward Beiner Purveyor of Fine Eyewear, which has 11 stores throughout southern Florida, told Vision Monday that all of his employees are safe and he was planning to open eight of them by Tuesday. “Even though, we’ll have a few challenging weeks ahead, the future looks bright,” Beiner said.

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, who has two Bright Eyes Family Vision locations in Tampa, Fla., posted to patients that he’d closed both offices over the weekend. After the storm moved north and hit there on Sunday night, Bonilla-Warford said, “All our staff and buildings are fine and without problems. We were hoping to open both offices Tuesday, but so many staff evacuated that we won’t be able to open until Wednesday. We’d packed up really well, plastic sheeting, sandbags, moving the few paper records and frame inventory home. Now it just has to be put back. Our mantra has been ‘prepare for the worst, hope for the best.’’’

Hoya Vision Care reported that all of its sales representatives in the path of Hurricane Irma are safe and accounted for and most of its laboratory staff checked in as well. A Hoya spokesperson said there was no notable damage its lab in Largo, Fla., which had closed Sept. 8 in preparation for Hurricane Irma.

“Our disaster preparedness team executed the plans we have in place, our customers were informed along the way, and there are no anticipated service disruptions,” the spokesperson said, adding that customers were advised to ship frames to alternative lab locations. Hoya plans to reopen the Largo lab on the afternoon of Sept. 14, provided that utilities are restored to the area.

“We have more than 30 laboratory facilities nationwide including our state-of-the-art Intercompany Manufacturing Center in Dallas that has the capacity to handle these types of situations,” said Michael Dougher, vice president of operations, Hoya Vision Care, North America.

Aaron See, vice president of marketing for ABB Optical Group reported that its Coral Springs, Fla. facility was closed Friday and Saturday, but was able to continue near-full operations throughout the storm by leveraging personnel and inventories in its facilities in California, Ohio, New York and Massachusetts. “Clearly, the storm had some impact to operations, but I think we were able to minimize disruptions to practices,” said See, adding “Our hearts are with employees and customers who have been impacted.”

PSI (Practical Systems Inc.) reported that all of its employees are fine as well as their homes and the PSI headquarters in Odessa, Fla. The company was closed Monday and Tuesday but was up and running on Wednesday. “Some of our employees are still without power but are back at work,” said Karen Gillen, head of marketing for PSI. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to our fellow Floridians and people in the Southeast that suffered damages.”

Frame supplier Mad Vision in Sunrise, Fla., shut down last Thursday as Hurricane Irma approached. Although the company’s office was undamaged, it lost internet and phone service during the storm but was back in operation Tuesday. “With VEW coming, we were able to ship out last week all our new samples and collections before closing,” said Mad Vision president Guillaume Pottecher.

Sunglass maker Costa, based in Daytona Beach, was closed from Friday through Tuesday. Many members of the Costa team, including CEO Holly Rush, have remained in Florida this week to assess the impact of the storm as well as assist with relief efforts for employees, hundreds of their customers and the community they call home. “We are committed to our community and coastal areas everywhere,” said Rush. “We want to assist people in the affected areas get back up and running as quickly as possible and are proud of the part we are playing at a critical time.”

Costa said it will contribute 100 percent of the profits from orders placed during International Vision Expo West this week to the Red Cross relief efforts for Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. The Costa team assembled hundreds of first responder gear packs and donating over 20,000 T-shirts to area shelters for those in need following Hurricane Harvey, and plans to make a similar donation to help Irma's victims.

Essilor has committed over $200,000 as well as other goods and services to relief for both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey. The company has made four separate donations of $25,000 each to the Florida Optometric Association, Vision Source and PERC/IVA and Opti-Port, respectively, to help those impacted by Hurricane Irma.

Vision Source member optometrists have donated more than $310,000 to the Vision Source Foundation, which will aid in recovery efforts for any eyecare practice impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to Essilor. Over the past few days, the Foundation has issued checks totaling more than $25,000 to affected practices with more to come as new reports of damage are received.

“Vision Source members should never feel alone. By its very existence, the Vision Source Foundation reminds our members that they belong to a family of independent optometrists ready to support them in times of need,” stated John McCall, OD, president of the Vision Source Foundation and Vision Source senior vice president - Vendor Relations. “The Foundation is a testament to the power of Vision Source membership and showcases the selfless hearts of our members.”

Additionally, Essilor Labs is offering to redo any lens orders damaged due to either Hurricanes Irma or Harvey, and the company is allowing anyone impacted by the storms to defer payment on their lab bill up to 60 days.

Through the Essilor Vision Foundation and other channels, the company has donated thousands of lenses to citizens in the affected regions and has offered lens and lab services, portable equipment, and access to frames with local partner organizations. EVF is assessing the need in Florida and will donate lenses and lab services to local partner organizations in the coming days and weeks.

Essilor is collecting corporate employee donations to aid in hurricane relief and will match those donations dollar for dollar.

VSP Global, which has provided aid to Hurricane Harvey victims through one of its Eyes of Hope mobile eyecare clinics, said it is monitoring Hurricane Irma’s impact to assess what support is needed. VSP employees have provided support through donations to the Red Cross. VSP has more than doubled its original employee contribution match for an expected total of $50,000. More information on how to help hurricane victims will be available at the VSP Global booth #16115 at Vision Expo and on VSP Global’s disaster outreach webpage.

Kristina Gross, director of communications for National Vision, said that the retail chain is still assessing the full impact of Hurricane Irma in Florida and Georgia, and will continue to explore the best ways to support team members and the communities that are affected. “We look forward to continuing to provide people with the eyecare and eyewear they need so they can continue the business of recovery from these storms,” she said.

The American Optometric Association is reaching out to doctors and students affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey, offering messages of unity and support, while encouraging all members to help our colleagues in need. Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief, a program of Optometry Cares-The AOA Foundation, is optometry's exclusive financial support program that provides immediate assistance to those in need in the wake of natural disasters.

At Vision Expo, The Vision Council has set up a communication hub in the front of the show floor at the Exhibitor Recommendations Booth #14024 to connect attendees with exhibitors who are unable to participate in the show because of the hurricanes. Attendees can leave a business card or message there for delivery to these exhibitors after the show, when their operations are back up and running. The full list of affected exhibitors can be found on the show website at VisionExpoVegas.com/relief.
 
For an update on industry-backed relief efforts happening this week at Vision Expo West, click here to read the Show Daily.