(Boy Scout Motto, Boy Scout Handbook, page 54)
2011 has been a year of global natural disasters. Record flooding, hurricane and tsunami damage, volcanic ash disruptions, wildfires and earthquakes in areas not typically prone were some of the attention grabbing headlines. Localized disasters also took their toll. Couple these with the torrent of man-made disasters, including acts of terrorism, and you can become overwhelmed and paralyzed, uncertain how to cope.
Your business and personal lives can be devastatingly impacted when these disasters hit close to home. One way to overcome the inertia of inaction is to heed the Boy Scout Motto and “Be Prepared”.
While the founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Baden-Powell was not just referring to disasters when he coined the motto (From usscouts.org: Be prepared for life – to live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best. That’s what the Scout motto means.), the phrase has become synonymous with disaster preparedness.
Here are some tips to assert some element of control when disaster strikes.
Business continuity and crisis management can be complex issues no matter the particular industry, size or scope of your business. However, having a plan and a being willing to set it in motion will improve the likelihood that your company will survive and recover from a disaster.
• Meet with your insurance provider to review current coverage. Consider additional insurance such as business interruption, flood or earthquake.
• Create procedures to quickly evacuate or shelter-in-place. Practice the plans. Decide in advance what you will do if your building is unusable.
• Talk to your team about the company’s disaster plans. Two-way communication is the key before, during and after a disaster.
• Create an emergency contact list including employee emergency contact information. Set up a telephone call tree, password-protected page on the company website, email alert or call-in voice recording to communicate with employees in an emergency. Consider a paper copy as well as electronic files so that you have access to the information even if your systems are down.
• Create a list of critical business contractors and others whom you will use in an emergency.
• Create a list of inventory and equipment, including computer hardware, software and peripherals, for insurance purposes. Use and keep up-to-date computer anti-virus software and firewalls. Back up your records and critical data. Keep a copy offsite. Test your backup periodically to ensure that it is working.
• Talk to utility service providers about potential alternatives and identify back-up options.
• Promote family and individual preparedness among your co-workers. Include emergency preparedness information during staff meetings, in newsletters, on company intranet, periodic employee emails and other internal communications tools.
• Provide first aid and CPR training to key co-workers.
• Elevate valuable inventory and electric machinery off the floor in case of flooding.
• If applicable, make sure your building’s HVAC system is working properly and well-maintained. Purchase, install and pre-wire a generator to the building’s essential electrical circuits. Provide for other utility alternatives and back-up options. Install automatic sprinkler systems, fire hoses and fire-resistant doors and walls.
• Make sure your building meets standards and codes. Consider a professional engineer to evaluate the wind, fire or seismic resistance of your building. Consider a security professional to evaluate and/or create your disaster preparedness and business continuity plan.
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance. You will need to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together, and what you will do in different situations.
• Identify an out-of town contact. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
• Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone.
• Teach family members how to use text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
• Subscribe to alert services. Many communities now have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local emergency management center or local chapter of the Red Cross.
Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, the first important decision is whether you stay where you are or evacuate. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information to determine if there is an immediate danger. In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for information or official instruction as it becomes available.
You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time, for instance work, daycare and school. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance.
Pets are part of the family, too, but they may require some additional measures. Here are some supplemental tips to keep our four-legged family members safe.
Rescue Alert Sticker
This easy-to-use sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers, and that it includes 1) the types and number of pets in your household; 2) the name of your veterinarian; and 3) your veterinarian’s phone number. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers.
Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. Remember, if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. Note that not all disaster shelters accept pets, so it is imperative that you have determined where you will bring your pets ahead of time, whether at a boarding facility, hotel or with friends and relatives outside of your immediate area.
Emergency Supplies and Traveling Kits
Keep an emergency kit and supplies handy for your pets. This kit should be clearly labeled and easy to carry. Items to consider keeping in or near your pack include:
Pet first-aid kit and medications, a week’s worth of food, disposable litter trays, paper toweling, liquid soap and disinfectant, bottled water (7 day supply for each person and pet), traveling bed or carrier, flashlight, chew toys
If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. Even if you think you may be gone for only a day, assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks. When recommendations for evacuation have been announced, follow the instructions of local and state officials. To minimize evacuation time, take these simple steps:
• Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. Microchipping your pet is highly recommended.
• Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away during a crisis.
• Consider your evacuation route and call ahead to make arrangements for boarding your pet outside of the danger zone at the first sign of disaster.
Here are some helpful links to get started on your plans for your family and your business.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
The Official Web Portal of the US Federal Government
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response
Federal Citizen Information Center
Federal Emergency Management Agency
FirstGov for Consumers
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The Ad Council
The country’s leading producer of public service advertisements (PSAs) since 1942. www.adcouncil.org
American Red Cross
Boy Scouts of America
Girl Scouts of the USA
Home Safety Council
National Fire Protection Association
National Safety Council
By heeding the Boy Scout Motto, you can go a long way to ensure that your business, family and pets survive the unavoidable disaster.