Ready for recovery

Tools to prepare for emergency response

From Family Features
Organizations often send out an all-staff email if bad weather is predicted, but would you know what to do in a serious emergency if you or family members were at school, a house of wor­ship or work? Where would you take cover? What is the safest route to get there? And what is the plan should you be forced to shelter in place, separated from family during a time of duress?

A Red Cross volunteer carries a child through the Astrodome in Houston on Sept. 8, 2005. The child was a Hurricane Katrina evacuee.(JIM MACMILLAN/PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS/TNS)
A Red Cross volunteer carries a child through the Astrodome in Houston on Sept. 8, 2005. The child was a Hurricane Katrina evacuee.
(JIM MACMILLAN/PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS/TNS)

All organizations, not only businesses, need to think about these issues, and they also must consider how to carry on some level of business operations if a weather event disrupts power, water, office operations or other services.

“Emergencies can hit without warning, and the after-math can affect small businesses and schools the most,” said Dominick Tolli, vice president of prepar­edness and health and safety services for the American Red Cross.

The good news is that pre-planning tools exist to enable businesses and organizations to measure how ready they are to deal with emergencies. The self-paced Red Cross Ready Rating program (www.readyrating.org), for example, begins with a self-assessment that meas­ures an organ­ization’s ability to handle a dis­aster and gives instant customized feedback on how to improve.

The first assessment provides a score on how prepared an organization is and pro­vides steps and resources needed to improve disaster and emergency preparedness. The assess­­ment covers items from hazard vulnerability to conti­nuity of operations and employee readiness. More than 12,000 Ready Rating Members have joined the program to improve their preparedness level.

150904_metro04bThe program, which the Red Cross offers at no cost thanks to sponsor participation, encourages members to recognize five essential components of preparedness. Though geared toward businesses, schools and other organizations, the guidance applies to individuals as well:

1. Commit to preparing.
Increasing your ability to be ready when an emergency strikes involves several steps. Among the most impor­tant are: making preparedness a priority, engaging senior leadership and appointing someone to assess your readiness level.

2. Understand threats to your place of work.
Gather information about possible emergencies that could impact you or your business, and understand your ability to respond to and recover from a disaster or other emer­gency. This means knowing the types of disasters you are most likely to encounter in your location and workplace environment and having plans to address them.

150904_metro04c3. Ensure you have the right equipment and your facility is ready.
An emergency response plan describes, in writing, the steps you will take to protect your business, employees and cus­tomers before, during and after an emergency. You’ll need to make sure that you have supplies, equipment and other resources on hand to support your emergency plan.

4. Practice your plan.
The key to implementing your plan is to make prepar­edness a way of life. By con­ducting drills (at home or at work), you can test your plans and make sure everyone knows what to do, and where to find and safely use equipment and emer­gency sup­plies. An emphasis on preparedness ensures you are better equipped to respond to and recover from an emergency.

5. Help your community get prepared
Preparedness cannot be done in a vacuum.

“In order to be a truly resilient community, all its parts (households, businesses, schools, non-profits and the government) rely on each other in many ways,” Tolli said. “If everyone is prepared, that positively influ­ences how well the community bounces back from a disaster situation.”

Hosting blood drives, contributing supplies or services to emergency response efforts, and adopting a local school or school district in support of its disaster and emergency preparedness programs are all examples of how you can help.

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