josh reynolds for the boston globe
Clinical director of operations Daniel Nadworny (center) helped convert a conference room into makeshift sleeping quarters for workers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Businesses across Massachusetts scrambled to shut their operations Monday ahead of the blizzard barrelling into the Northeast, with an unusual ban on travel prompting some companies to find hotel rooms or onsite sleeping arrangements for critical staff.
Many retail stores, including supermarkets, closed after experiencing a surge of business on Monday, while others weighed using a skeletal staff to remain open. Contingency plans that were beefed up following Hurricane Sandy were put in force, with workers deployed to keep essential functions running and to respond to emergencies, such as potential flooding or power outages.
Boston-area hospitals and other health care facilities assembled makeshift sleeping quarters so doctors, nurses, and other staffers could stay overnight to treat patients, stocked additional medications, and tested backup generators.
“We’ve done this before — our staff has hunkered down in the past,” said Lisa Bessaoud, director of nursing at Lighthouse Nursing Care Center in Revere. “The residents here can’t go home. They need to be taken care of.”
Bessaoud, who usually commutes an hour into work during the week, is staying at a hotel within walking distance of Lighthouse, while other nurses who live near each other have made plans to commute together.
At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, critical electrical equipment was moved to the top floors to protect it from flooding and conference rooms were filled with air mattresses to allow essential staff to stay overnight, said spokesman Jerry Berger.
Lahey Clinic is closing outpatient services at its hospitals in Burlington and Peabody and canceled day surgeries, day clinics, and other scheduled services for Tuesday, spokesman Andrew Mastrangelo said.
Lahey’s inpatient wards and emergency rooms will continue to be open and staffed.
“We will have the appropriate amount of staff and emergency generators to keep patients’ care going,” Mastrangelo said. “But following Governor Baker’s travel ban, we decided to cancel everything else.”
Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe
Clinical director of operations Daniel Nadworny helped convert a conference room into makeshift sleeping quarters for workers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Drug maker Shire PLC, with its local operations based in Lexington, has a team of essential personnel reporting for duty, including mechanics and electricians. Those employees will be housed at the nearby Westin Hotel on Route 128 in Waltham, and Shire has hired four-wheel- drive vehicles to ferry them between the hotel and its facilities, spokeswoman Stephanie Fagan said.
Fagan said Shire employees were busy making food for the essential personnel Monday afternoon, testing all generators and topping them off with fuel, and checking backup refrigeration systems.
“With the buildings closed tomorrow, our employees are our first priority,” Fagan said. “They have to be taken care of.”
Hotels across the region were flooded with requests for rooms for stranded workers and were trying to find space so their own employees can remain onsite and serve guests.
“It’s all hands on deck,” said Jennifer Kavanagh, sales director at the Revere Hotel Boston Common. “I won’t be doing my regular job. I’ll probably be cleaning rooms or waiting tables.”
Craig Cunningham, vice president of marketing for the Seaport Boston Hotel, said the hotel was expected to be nearly full Monday night, as nearby businesses quickly snatched up rooms.
“We’re really just focused on taking care of the guests,” Cunningham said. “Unless it’s really a prolonged type of storm, we’re able to handle it.”
Stock and bond markets were expected to remain open Tuesday, with backup plans in case of power outages or other storm-related problems. And most employees in Boston’s sprawling financial industry were planning to work remotely Tuesday.
Eaton Vance Investment Managers, with 1,200 employees in downtown Boston, planned to keep a “small contingent” of workers in the city “to provide onsite coverage of critical, time-sensitive functions,” spokeswoman Colleen Lavery said. That crew of 30 to 50 will have hotel rooms Monday night.
The company issued mobile kits to its critical staff to make sure they could work remotely, arming them with battery-operated laptops, cellphones, wireless Internet hot spots, and car adapters so they can recharge batteries. The kits are an addition to Eaton Vance’s continuity plan, Lavery said, adopted after Hurricane Sandy.
Fidelity Investments expected that some of its help centers for investors in the Northeast would be closed during the storm, but phone services should be running as usual and numerous other locations around the country are available, spokesman Adam Banker said.
The company’s fund management, brokerage, and other businesses will be “in full operation,’’ he said, with some employees staying in Boston hotels in order to be at their desks Tuesday.
Although workers in many industries planned to work from home, potential disruptions in online services could undermine productivity. Jeff Young, a spokesman for Akamai Technologies Inc. in Cambridge, one of the nation’s biggest managers of Internet traffic, said downed power or data lines could cause service disruptions, depending on the storm’s severity.
But Young said Akamai’s own network can bypass damaged portions of the Internet, ensuring that Akamai’s corporate and government customers will remain connected.
Comcast Corp. and RCN Corp. said their repair technicians are on standby throughout the storm zone. Those workers will start fixing damaged cable and internet connections as soon as the storm passes, working in sync with local electrical utilities because power must be restored before cable and internet service can resume.
The blizzard was expected to shutter most retail businesses in Eastern and Central Massachusetts, including many supermarkets. Due to the travel ban, neither employees nor customers would be able to make their way to stores. Still, some retailers were making efforts Monday to continue operating.
Walmart spokesman Bill Wertz said the company shipped extra truckloads of rock salt, shovels, batteries, water, canned goods, and food to stores in New England in preparation for the storm.
“We try to stay open as much as we can because we know people need the things we sell,” Wertz said. “At the same time, we want to be sure our associates are safe and wouldn’t ask anybody to try to come in if conditions were hazardous. That will determine to some extent whether we have to close stores.”
Market Basket planned to close all of its stores on Tuesday, although operations manager David McLean said the company would deploy skeleton crews to try to help public safety personnel or customers who walk to stores in need of supplies.
“We’re closed for normal business, but sometimes people show up in emergency circumstances and we’re there to help them,” McLean said.
Meanwhile on Monday, many construction companies rushed to button down work sites before the arrival of heavy snow and high winds.
“One of the biggest issues for us is where we’re going to put all the snow,” said Kelly Saito, president of the development company Gerding Edlen, which is building an apartment complex in Boston’s South End. “It’s not like you can just push it out on the street. We’re going to have to take it out in trucks.”
Callum Borchers, Beth Healy, Hiawatha Bray, and Robert Weisman, and correspondent Stefanie Friedhoff contributed to this story. Casey Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.
Taryn Luna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TarynLuna.
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