Our Fearless Leader and Eagle Scout Ed Schipul was invited to participate in a hurricane and disaster preparedness Webinar with (client) Firestorm and the distinguished Lt. General Honore. Here are some of the points discussed during the ‘Plan. Predict. Perform’ discussion:
Families trump business – you must have a plan in place to make sure all of your employees are covered at home. More than 95% of polled employees do not have a plan for their families, or just focus on a single risk and do not take into account more than one potential disaster or occurrence.
Almost 2/3 of companies that have gone through a disaster have lost business. 40% of those businesses never re-open and 25% fail within 2 years after a disaster.
Regular points of failure seen in businesses:
- Failure to control supply chains
- Failure to train employees to work from home
- Failure to identify and monitor all threats and risks
- Failure to conduct exercises and plan
- Failure to develop crisis communications plan
Jim Satterfield of Firestorm told an eye opening anecdote from a previous employer on 9/11. After a company meeting deciding the next course of action, the HR director sent out a company-wide email saying: ‘If you want to live, leave’ instead of ‘If you want to leave, leave’.
Morale of the story, you MUST have a disaster plan in place before the crisis happens and have the messaging ready to go BEFORE it happens, to avoid missteps and panic-induced mistakes that could cause chaos or massive confusion internally and externally.
Some homework for the listeners: think about your critical suppliers, employees and their functions during a time of crisis. Conduct ‘what if’ exercises, what will you do if this or that occurs – actually perform real world drills to get your brain used to going through the motions. How will you monitor breaking events and keep up with events as they happen? How do you communicate in the heat of it with employees, vendors and clients?
Things never return to ‘normal’, rather they return to a ‘new normal’. Your company must make it back there (the ‘new normal’) and through the difficult times.
Predict – Plan – Perform
Lessons from Katrina – See first, understand first, act first. People still haven’t incorporated disaster response into their business plans. A little bit of planning and a well executed response strategy by leadership will make a huge difference.
Spend $1 on preparedness and save $9 on response.
Business owners have absolute responsibility for their business, their employees and their Community. Few businesses you can think about that would not be eligible for this responsibility — look at your business and think how can we help this Community in the event of disaster and decide what you can do.
Preparedness must be of equal in importance in your business as other elements that keep you running. Luck is not a strategic plan.
Alerts / Communication
How do you know what information is real and what is not during a crisis? From a rumor vs. fact perspective, the Web makes it easy to access information, but it’s not all reliable, especially in a crisis situation. There is less and less vetting in the Social Media world. Only the minority is getting their information from the government – leading to confusion in response.
One solution – buy a weather radio that will give you early warning of disaster striking in Community – however, you must have it on in your home and in your office. If you lose power in your house or office, it will set back the way you live 80 years. Having a durable weather radio will keep you informed – without that information, you are operating off of rumors.
All handheld devices (like phones, iPhones, etc.) can be programmed to get automatic updates from the government to get early warnings and breaking news. Set those up in advance so you aren’t caught scrambling when seconds matter.
On the Schipul team, Emergency response is first under the Communications department and under Operations department second. By planning ahead, many issues that will arise are Communication-based and you can easily take care of this with preparatory remarks, sample press releases and other material. Be sure your managers have all of their direct reports programmed in their phone – text messages are the only thing that will work, most likely.
You and your employees must practice and actually physically go through the motions to be sure that your corporate communications will work. Have an evacuation policy and collection of complete contact information for key personnel in accessible areas.
Create appropriate check lists NOW that will help you ensure all of your contacts, vendors and physical assets will all be taken care of and accounted for. Do you have special needs employees? Where will your employees go when they leave town? Also, technology has made great strides since Y2K, but you must continue to stay smart. Backup servers – are they in the same power grid your office?
Don’t plan on being a victim, plan on being a survivor. You do this by planning ahead, acting ahead and acting as pro-actively as possible with your Community’s best interest at heart.
When to stay and when to go
What are your triggers? Police notification, receive phone call, advised by television. However, at the end of the day the decision to evacuate is up to you. If you wait until the rest of your Community gets word to evacuate, you will be stuck in gridlock which can be potentially deadly.
Shelter-in-place if the event is in your immediate vicinity, if your area is safe or if there are specific storm conditions present. Be aware of your surroundings and act accordingly. Also must judge your evacuation plan according to your family, if you have elderly or very young family members that means you need to just get out before the area has a mass exodus.
Your business needs to not only plan on when to leave, but when and how to return to help others get their businesses up and running.
Some disaster preparedness resources to check out:
Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America:
Firestorm founders Harry Rhulen and Jim Satterfield wrote Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America specifically to address this need, and the book has become a cornerstone of many personal and corporate preparedness programs. “Remember: you are your own first responder,” the book reminds readers as it guides them through a comprehensive program of readiness.
Survival – How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family from Disasters:
Encourage your friends in government to develop plans to take care of the elderly, disabled and poor. They will be the hardest hit in times of major disaster, they will be less likely to be able to afford to prepare. Is your business in a poor area? Check on your neighborhood before you leave and take them with you. Be aware of the human toll (not just financial impact) of a disaster.
Ed Schipul’s Blog (www.eschipul.com):
Technology is important, but be aware of the human factor. Does your emergency response team have someone that panics easily, lives far away? Take them off the team and focus on your real disaster assets.
Look at your employees – what are your work from home/wherever options? Have an employee with young children that will evacuate quickly? Perhaps they are perfect to get out of town and set up operations elsewhere. Must plan for this prior to the event.
When you dial up a number for a phone call, cell carriers can only handle 2/3 of calls. Texts take up MUCH less bandwidth. Rely only on texts and be aware that some employees and contacts may have to use other numbers if their phones die.
Every crisis is a human crisis. The responsibility rests with you, not the local or federal government. Make a difference in your employees’ lives and in your area.