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Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?

If I go there will be trouble…and if I stay it will be double…” Is it possible that The Clash was talking about disaster preparedness and the decisions that businesses face with staying open or closing during a weather event or emergency?

Nah… they were definitely talking about something else.

But the question “should I stay or should I go?” is one that has popped up several times during natural disasters or even just severe weather. How many times have businesses tried to stay open to the last possible minute only to cause issues for their team members and community?

Often, these late decisions end up leaving team members stranded and venerable on the roadways or away from family that needs them for support during an event.

For those of in Atlanta, the ice/snow storm of 2014 is a constant reminder of the dangers of staying in the office too long. Heck, it was so bad that Atlanta became the star of the Saturday Night Live news update. (It is one of their better update skits…Click here to see it.) To be fair to those of us in Atlanta, it wasn’t the snow that was the problem,  as much as it was the ice that came with the storm.

Do you have an “If-Then” plan?

For smaller business, I think that some of the hesitation to respond quickly to a weather event is due to not having a disaster or weather plan in place. Most of the time the business owner or team lead is the one making decisions on the fly when it comes to responding to weather or other types of disruptive events.

Although organizations like SCORE and Small Business Administration have disaster response materials, I have found that they focus on topics such as emergency loans, data retention and recovery and what I regard as the higher-level disaster planning and recovery. What I want to do is give you a lower level immediate list of items to plan for when an event is occurring.

Event action guide

By taking the disaster planning down to the very tactical level, I hope that this list will help you to start your planning process if you do not have a disaster plan for your business or team.

Data and technology backup and recovery – I know I just mentioned that data is a higher-level activity but it is worth keeping at the event level as well. Every business, regardless if you are a one-person show or a small team, should have invested in a data backup and recovery plan. You never know when your work area might get hit with a flood, fire, or something else that could destroy or interrupt the physical location of your business.

Having an off-site data backup will enable you to recover your data if you must set up an alternate work location. Most importantly, it becomes one less item to think about in a time of a crisis.

Have a stay or go decision point – Having a rule in place takes the decision out of your hands. Each geographic area is different when it comes to how much weather it can take safely and still allow you and your team members to move with minimal exposure to danger.

A good rule of thumb would be to find out at what point your local Sheriff of Fire Department starts to issue travel advisories and incorporate that information into your plan. It could be as easy as when the travel advisories start that you begin closing down your location.

If you are in an area with a Waffle House and they are closed but you are open…you are not making a smart decision.

Have a communication plan for team members – As a business owner or team leader, have a communication plan to reach your team members and keep them updated to closings or openings.

Your communication plan needs to include mobile numbers, landlines (if possible) and email. Be pro-active in your communication. If you are going to close at 2 pm, let the entire team know. If you are going to open late, let the entire team know. If you are running a business that using part-time or teenagers as team members there is often a lot of shift swapping during a weather event. It is important that you reduce the confusion by updating everyone and not just tomorrow’s shift.

I also recommend that you ask your team to shoot a short text on their status during and after an event. You could have team members that must take care of property damage or have some other issue that would prevent them from working immediately after an event. By finding out ahead of time if someone has to take care of a downed tree on their car, you will reduce your own stress when they don’t show up for work because you know what is going on.

Create a disaster kit for each location –  In the event of a sudden disaster or weather event such as an earthquake or tornado, you and/or your team may need to shelter in place for several hours or overnight. Having some food, water, a deck of cards, and supplies in place could make all the difference between being inconvenienced and being miserable.

Your disaster kit does not need to be an elaborate setup. A couple of totes with some blankets, water, first aid kit, etc. will work. If you need help with ideas or building a kit, click here.

Take a CERT Class – I highly recommend taking a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) class and would strongly suggest that if you have multiple team leads that you rotate the team leads through the program. This program was developed out of the LA earthquakes of the early 1990s. The focus is to take participants through a course where they can prepare and help themselves during a disaster as well as being a resource to their community.

Through the CERT program, you will learn how your community and state governments plan and prepare for disruptive events. During the course, there will be opportunities to discuss how businesses can and should prepare for events.

Coach’s round up

Having a disaster plan for what happens after a weather event is important but just as important is having a plan to manage through an event. A team leader must have a robust communication plan with other team members so that the team knows what to expect.

Disasters become worse when individuals lack information and decision-making becomes paralyzed.

If you could use help in reviewing or developing a disaster plan, contact me and we can build up a plan that is best suited to you and your team’s need.

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