Update on Hurricane Maria

Date:

October 11, 2017

NAAEE Plans Virtual Events to Bring Highlights of Conference to You!

Conference Registration Refunds
October 11, 2017: We expect most registration refunds to be processed within the next two weeks. Refunds will be made in the same manner as the original payment; check payments and wire transfers may take a little longer to process than credit card refunds.

Read Message from NAAEE Executive Director, Judy Braus, October 3 >> 

Updated: October 5, 2017, 5:20 PM ET

UPDATE ON HOTEL REFUNDS

Everyone who booked a hotel room with the Caribe Hilton or Condado Hilton will automatically receive a refund of their one night deposit. Refunds are made in the same method as the original payment.

The Hilton processed all refunds on September 28, 2017. These transactions normally take 3 to 9 business days to appear on credit card statements, but may take longer because banks in Puerto Rico are working more slowly than usual due to the impacts of Hurricane Maria.

 

Updated: October 4, 2017, 4:30 PM ET

UPDATE ON AIRLINE REFUNDS

Dear Conference Participants, 

We've received a number of questions about airfare refunds, so wanted to make sure you have received the information we sent earlier and to provide further insights. While NAAEE is not able to provide refunds on airfare, we truly want to do all we can to assist as you negotiate with your airlines. 

Information on conference-related refunds is posted on our website, https://naaee.org/conference/2017-conference-refund-info

On this page, you'll find a downloadable letter confirming cancellation of the conference due to Hurricane Maria, which some airlines require. 

We have heard from quite a few people, including many of our staff members, who have successfully received full refunds on airfare on pretty much every airline flying into San Juan. However, it is also common for people to meet with resistance when they first make their request, and getting a refund will likely require dogged persistence. 

If offered a credit rather than a refund, we encourage you to call the airline directly. If need be, ask to speak with a supervisor, and to continue to push up the line insisting on a refund. Be sure to stress that it was the hotel's determination that they could not house us or provide a safe venue for the conference. Let them know you're aware of other people in the same situation who have received refunds on your airline, and on other major airlines. 

Most airlines have extended the cancellation/change fee waiver period originally listed on their websites. We are trying to keep this information current on our website. Also note that some airlines are allowing rebooking credit for up to a year, so if you are getting a credit rather than a refund, you may at least be able to negotiate a longer window of opportunity. 

We encourage you to continue to work on getting refunds from your airlines, and let us know if there is something we can do to assist. 

The NAAEE Team

 

Updated: September 26, 2017, 5:25 PM ET

Dear Friends –

We are overwhelmed with gratitude for all the kind words, patience, and understanding as we deal with the cancellation of the conference—one of the hardest things we’ve had to do as an organization. We know that everyone is disappointed and that all of you ache for the people of Puerto Rico. So thank you for your spirit of giving, collaboration, and support for our partners. It reminds all of us why the conference is such a high point of our year—it brings all of us together to discuss, brainstorm, learn from each other, and get inspired about the work we’re trying to do to create a more sustainable future.  

We will continue to post updates, as we have more information, including information on the Together for Puerto Rico fund and the virtual presentations that will be held the week of October 16.

To manage the process of securing refunds, cancellations, and all that goes into travel plans, please visit our website for information and resources we’ve put together to help you. It is difficult to cover every possibility, but as always, please reach out to us with any questions; we will do our best to support you!

-The NAAEE Team

Conference & Research Symposium Registration Fees

Registration fees will be fully refunded to all who registered for one or both events. We are still working with our insurance company to properly handle this, so please continue to be patient.

If you need an immediate refund (such as for grant requirements or due to the end of the fiscal year), please contact Regina Fong for assistance (regina@naaee.org).

Hotel Reservations/Accommodations

If you reserved a room at one of our partner hotels, The Caribe Hilton, or Condado Plaza Hilton, you likely received or will soon receive an email about canceling your reservation with no penalties. Refunds for the first night’s deposit will be processed in the coming weeks.

If you reserved lodging elsewhere, please refer to those providers’ respective sites/policies regarding natural disasters.

Useful links:  

AirBnB: https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/1320/what-is-airbnb-s-extenuating-circumstances-policy

VRBO: https://help.vrbo.com/articles/What-should-I-do-if-my-reservation-is-affected-by-a-natural-disaster

Flights

If you purchased travel insurance with your reservation, please refer to your policy for next steps. A number of airlines are offering refunds and waiving fees due to the impact of the recent hurricanes. Below are links to the travel advisories of a number of major airlines that fly to Puerto Rico, please see them for next steps you can take:

As you might notice, a number of these airlines currently are not offering refunds or rebookings within the time frame of our conference. However, we have found that if you call and speak to a representative or supervisor and explain the situation, they are often able to offer credits or a full refund. You may be asked to go through their online refund process and provide an official cancellation notice to your carrier. You can download one here: Official Notice to Airlines - CancellatioN oF NAAEE 2017

If you need some other form of documentation, please contact Sai Muddasani (sai@naaee.org).

This page will be updated as we receive new information.

Thank you!

-The NAAEE Conference Team

 

Updated: September 25, 2017, 4:25 PM ET

Dear Conference and Research Symposium Registrants:

I know you’ve been waiting to hear news about the NAAEE conference. We are incredibly disappointed to announce that, after consultation with our on-the-ground partners, and much gut-wrenching deliberation, we find that we must cancel this year’s NAAEE conference. As you know, Puerto Rico has suffered devastating high winds and flooding from Hurricane Maria, and much of the country remains without power, clean water, and food. Homes and businesses have been destroyed, and families haven’t been able to get in touch with relatives in the parts of the country that have been hardest hit.

Although the airport is open and San Juan is trying to get up and running, we have just learned that the Caribe Hilton, our planned conference venue, will not be reopening until October 30. With so many infrastructure concerns (power, communication, water, health care, etc.), NAAEE, in consultation with our partners, felt that we couldn’t guarantee a positive conference experience. And the last thing we wanted to do is hinder recovery efforts or put more of a burden on our hosts and the people of Puerto Rico. We also would never want to put any of you in any kind of jeopardy.

As you can imagine, we are heartbroken to send this note. We had such a wonderful event planned, with so many of you helping to make it one of our best yet. We also can’t thank you enough for sticking with us as we have watched the island grapple with the most serious hurricane to hit in 80 years—your comments, support, and heartfelt commitment to helping the people of Puerto Rico make us want to personally reach out and thank each of you! We are so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of people.

Although we are very sad to cancel the conference for the first time in NAAEE’s more than 46-year history, we want to announce a few things that we hope will give our partners in Puerto Rico a boost and give us all a few things to look forward to:

1) Together for Puerto Rico Fund: We are launching a fund to support Para La Naturaleza, our conference co-host in Puerto Rico. We will also be asking our friends and colleagues to donate what they can so that we can present our partners at Para La Naturaleza with funds to support their efforts throughout the country to educate people about the very issues that are impacting the island today, to protect the biodiversity of Puerto Rico, and to help with repairs and other support they need. We are working with our board, sponsors, and partners to collect initial matching contributions and will have more within the week about how you can donate and learn more about the important work that Para La Naturaleza is doing throughout Puerto Rico.

2) Future Conference: We will work with our partners to explore options for holding a future conference in Puerto Rico, so that they know how much we support them. We will have more information about this in the weeks ahead, but we want them to know that we are here to support them. (And remember that next year, we will be in Spokane, and we hope you will join us for a great 2018 conference!)

3) Online Conference Highlights: One of the hardest parts about cancelling a conference of this size is not being able to hear about all the inspiring, important work that all of you are doing. And there couldn’t be a more important time to do this. We are working with partners to see if we can share some highlights of the conference virtually and sponsor several webinars and other online events with some of our conference speakers and presenters during the week the conference would have been held. We are putting a schedule together and will be reaching out to a number of you to see if you can help. We know it won’t be the same, but it will allow us to share a few highlights, thank our incredible sponsors, and give everyone a chance to interact and contribute online. (Please know that this will be a limited online initiative, given the timing and what we need to do in the next few weeks with regard to cancelling the conference.)

4) Award Winners and EE30 Under 30: As part of our online sessions, we will highlight this year’s amazing award winners (who are listed in the conference program, which we will be making available as a PDF). 

The Nitty Gritty

We know you are all concerned about registration-related refunds, the hotel cancellation policy, and flight changes. Here’s what we know so far:

Refunds: We know that we will owe a refund to everyone who has registered. We hope you can bear with us as we work with our insurance company to figure out how all this will work. If you need an immediate refund, please let us know. We will be doing our best to sort this out as quickly as possible.  

Hotel Cancellations: We are working with the hotels on their cancellation policy. We will send out more information shortly and are working to ensure that everyone will get refunds.

Flight Cancellations: We are calling the major airlines to get a sense of how they will handle hurricane-related cancellations. Though some might charge a change fee, we hope and anticipate that they will be understanding and waive any and all fees, granting each of you a full refund. We will also be happy to provide an official letter that you can use to verify that the conference was cancelled. (We will have more on this as soon as we check with each airline.)

Thank you all so much for your support throughout this catastrophic event. The intensity and severity of Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria clearly demonstrate the need to continue the important role that all of you are playing in helping people understand how rising sea levels affect weather patterns and storm severity, including the increased risk of storm surges. It’s so important that we continue to educate people about how they can get involved in reducing the threats, creating more resilient communities, influencing policy, and motivating people to be a part of the change.

Please keep checking back for updates, and know that we will do all we can to help with the issues that arise related to this cancellation. We have never been through this before, so we appreciate your continued patience as we figure it out together.

 Warmly,

JB
Judy Braus
Executive Director
NAAEE

 

Updated: September 21, 2017, 5:00 PM ET

Letter to conference and Research Symposium registrants:

Thank you for registering for NAAEE's Annual Conference and/or Research Symposium. Like you, we are greatly concerned about Hurricane Maria's impact on Puerto Rico, as well as what it means regarding our conference plans. Until we are able to communicate with our partners on the island, we are unable to make a final decision as to whether the conference will be held. As you may know, the island is without power, and there is still danger from flash flooding. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of everyone on the island, including our colleagues, and their families and homes.

If our partners believe the conference will aid in the island's recovery, through the economic and volunteer support we can bring, then we will honor our commitments to them and to you, our attendees. If they think that our presence will hinder recovery efforts in any way, we will cancel. It is critical that our partners, who have worked so hard with us on every aspect of the conference, weigh in before we make a final decision.

We ask that you continue to be patient and understand that we need to allow them time to assess the situation and the best path moving forward. We do remain hopeful as news organizations are already reporting that San Juan's airport will reopen for commercial flights by the end of the week.

We hope to have another update for you as soon as we can next week. We promise to give everyone enough time and information to adjust plans if needed.

We will do our very best to keep you informed through all of our channels, including emails like this one to all registered participants, as well as on our Facebook page, and other social media, and our online newsroom.

In the meantime, we are providing suggestions for how people can help and will keep everyone updated as we hear more. If you are able to donate, here are a few options:

  • Maria & Irma: Puerto Rico Real-time Recovery Fund (100% of dollars raised will go towards relief for Hurricane Irma and Maria on the island of Puerto Rico)
  • GlobalGiving Caribbean Hurricane Maria & Irma Relief Fund (100% of dollars raised will go towards relief for Hurricane Irma and Maria to ALL islands impacted)
  • Ambulantes: A list of various organizations working with local residents on the ground

More than anything, we are doing all we can to support Puerto Rico and all areas that have been hit by flooding and hurricane damage.

Thank you again for your support and understanding!

The NAAEE Conference Team

 

Updated: September 21, 2017, 2:00 PM ET

Thank you for your continued concern for Puerto Rico. Thankfully, we have heard from some of our colleagues who are safe and are starting to move forward with recovery efforts. We’ve been sharing your heartfelt comments with them, and we are all truly grateful for your support. NAAEE is hopeful that the conference will go on as planned with the understanding that our partners will need time to assess the situation and decide the best course of action moving forward. We will update you again as soon as we know more. Thank you again for your patience and understanding.

If you are able to support immediate relief efforts – here are two great organizations:

 

September 19, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

We appreciate your care and concern for the people in Puerto Rico and surrounding regions.

The NAAEE team has been in constant contact with our partners on the ground. They are doing all they can to prepare for the storm, while maintaining an overall positive spirit. They are truly an amazing group of people, and we are so grateful to call them our partners. Our thoughts are with them every step of the way.

In terms of the NAAEE conference, we will assess the situation after Hurricane Maria passes through the region. After speaking with our partners, the collective hope is that the conference will move forward so that we can bring our support to the island–and to recognize the incredible work that is taking place in Puerto Rico. Our conference can bring a coalition of volunteers ready to help on the ground and bring needed supplies.

Our partners will help us gauge the next best steps and we will keep you informed. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates.

The most important thing is that the people in the region are safe. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,
The NAAEE Team

 

September 18, 2017

Thank you all for expressing your concern about Hurricane Maria. We hope the storm steers clear for the sake of all in Puerto Rico and the nearby islands as they continue recovery efforts. We are in touch with our local partners in Puerto Rico, and we will pass along any information that may affect conference plans.