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September 8, 2010 / Dave Gorham

National Preparedness Month: Where's Your Sandwich?

Business continuity expert and ImpactReady Business Continuity Program Manager Ed Schlichtenmyer guest-posts today.

Ed Schlichtenmyer, ImpactReady

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, I was deployed to serve on the damage assessment team for the international energy exploration and production company I worked for at the time. The storm had battered the Houston area for more than 24 hours and no one knew what we were about to discover or if the route we were taking was even passable. Fortunately, my apprehension was tempered with the knowledge that I had adhered to the principles of Make a Family Plan, Get an Emergency Kit and Stay Informed.

September is National Preparedness Month. This past decade has Americans thinking about being prepared more than ever. Following 9/11, the commission charged with reviewing what led to that disaster and how to prevent a similar one delivered a series of recommendations to Congress. Those recommendations, which include Private Sector Preparedness standards (PS-Prep), became law in August of 2007. FEMA learned many lessons from Katrina, including the need for updates to the National Response Plan which recommend substantially greater self-reliance in the early hours and days following an incident. That self-reliance includes the principles of Make a Family Plan, Get an Emergency Kit and Stay Informed.

Companies are beginning to embrace these principles in an organizational form. ImpactWeather is prepared to assist our clients in assessing their readiness with respect to PS-Prep. We also encourage organizations, as part of that compliance, to recognize that the foundation of readiness rests with their personnel.

When my company activated me, I could respond because I had a family plan. I knew that my family was safe and our home secure. My family had discussed and practiced responding to various scenarios. As a result, my wife and I knew what we needed to do and what we needed to have in order to get by so that I could answer my company’s call.

Planning what we needed to get by resulted in the contents of our emergency kit. Traditionally, 3 days of food and water had been the basic recommendation. Today we’re seeing that at least 5 days is desirable. But your kit is more than food and water. It’s medicine, batteries, protective gear, critical documents, cleaning supplies for your return and even something for entertainment to help pass the time. I’ve found that we’re best served by a home kit and also a subset of gear in kits for our vehicles. I’ll not soon forget the look on my colleague’s face when I whipped out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during our damage assessment assignment.

Why did I have a sandwich? I was informed that services would not be available and that we would be deployed for at least 8 hours. Of course, staying informed is more than having a sandwich handy. It’s knowing when to hunker down and when to evacuate. There are several strategies for staying informed and the ones that you choose should be based on your plan. Your plan needs to include at the very least enough cash so that you’re comfortable in the event you can’t use ATMs for several days, a full tank of gas in your car, a radio with fresh batteries and replacement batteries, a phone charger for your car and several redundant backups for internet access (location of nearest three public libraries, etc.) should you lose both electricity and cell service.

American recovery fuel: a PBJ. (Note: this is not the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich that Ed consumed while responding to Ike.)

And whereas September has been designated National Preparedness Month, we need to consider our preparedness all year long:

  • September for hurricanes
  • December for ice storms
  • January for blizzards
  • May for tornados
  • June for floods
  • August for heat waves
  • Fire season . . . just about anywhere
  • Earthquakes on the West Coast
  • Non-weather power outages, like flying barracuda
  • Swine flu, bird flu, the next flu
  • Close calls
  • Manmade disruptions
  • The unknown?

As our companies work to comply with PS-Prep, I encourage all of us to be responsible for our own preparedness.  Make a Family Plan, Get an Emergency Kit and Stay Informed.  And don’t forget the PBJ.

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