Be Prepared for Disasters – It’s Good Business


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When we look back at 2011, three events will likely be remembered most: blizzards, tornadoes and flooding.

The February blizzard through much of Missouri, the EF5 tornado that devastated Joplin on May 22 and the summer flooding along the Missouri River serve as reminders that response plans must be in place to save lives, property and business viability.

Disasters come in many forms. Whether it’s a fire, earthquake, tornado or severe thunderstorm, the key to being prepared is to know what to do before, during and after an event.

September is National Preparedness Month, the perfect time to review the Department of Homeland Security’s recommended steps for businesses to prepare for a disaster:

  • Create and practice procedures to quickly evacuate, and have a shelter in place.
  • Back up your records and critical data. Keep a copy offsite for business continuity.
  • Meet with your insurance provider to review current coverage and create a list of your inventory and equipment, including computer hardware, software and peripherals.
  • Create an emergency contact list including employee emergency contact information.
  • Create a list of critical business contractors and others whom you will use in an emergency.
  • Buy smoke alarms and fire extinguishers (and know how to use them).
  • Know what kinds of emergencies might affect your company both internally and externally.
  • Decide in advance what you will do if your building is unusable.
  • Talk to utility service providers about potential alternatives, and identify backup options.
  • Promote family and individual preparedness.
  • Talk to your employees about the company’s disaster plans. Include emergency preparedness information during staff meetings, in newsletters, on the company intranet, in periodic employee emails and in other internal communications tools.
  • Decide which emergency supplies the company can feasibly provide, if any. Discuss what supplies individuals might want to consider keeping in a personal and portable supply kit.
  • 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.
  • Provide first aid and CPR training.
  • Properly attach equipment and cabinets to walls or other stable equipment. Place heavy or breakable objects on low shelves.
  • Elevate valuable inventory and electric machinery off the floor in case of flooding.
  • Make sure your building’s HVAC system is working properly and is well-maintained.

One of the most important investments for a business is a NOAA weather radio. NOAA weather radios broadcast official National Weather Service watches, warnings, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The radios can be programmed to give county-specific information. Basic weather radios cost about $30 at most retailers.

Knowing where your staff and customers can gather in an emergency is critical. Afterward, make sure that everyone is accounted for and assist anyone who might be injured. Don’t try to move anyone seriously injured unless he or she is in immediate danger of further injury. Call 9-1-1, and let emergency officials know your situation as well as the number and extent of injuries. Leave the building in an orderly fashion if you smell gas or chemical fumes.

Speaking of 9-1-1, don’t forget to take advantage of our newly launched Smart911 service. Free to citizens of Columbia and Boone County, Smart911 allows you to enter information you choose to make available to 9-1-1 emergency operators through a secure website. By entering information about the layout of your home or business, medical conditions, family members and pets, alternate contact information and more, you can help emergency responders access critical information when it’s needed the most. Details are available at Smart911.com.

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