Disaster Plan Update

January 15, 2014

The Ball is in Your Court
Katharine M. Nohr, J.D.

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, where estimates at this writing are 10,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands of people misplaced, it is time to consider whether your organization is prepared for a significant weather disaster.

1. Disaster Plan Notebook
In response to the question— “what is your organization’s disaster plan?”— did you pull up a folder on your computer marked, “Disaster Plan”? You’re right, it was a trick question. What you should be doing is looking for that Disaster Plan in a notebook form. Yes, trees will have to be sacrificed so that you can print your plan on paper. Otherwise, the disaster that knocks out your electricity could also take your plan with it.
2. Disaster Plan Personnel
With downsizing and normal staff turn-over, are the people that are charged with implementing the disaster plan still with your company? A disaster plan is only as good as the screen that it is illuminated on if no one is familiar with it or able to execute critical tasks in the event of an emergency. It’s time to reassess job assignments and as people leave your organization, make sure that their disaster plan tasks are not only passed on to current staff, but that such personnel receive a copy of the plan, specific assignment of tasks and sufficient training and practice so that they can carry out their duties.

3. Update Insurance Policies
Did you know that hurricane and flood policies that are currently in effect for your organization may not be up-do-date, reflecting changes to your facility? It’s a good time to go over your insurance policies with you broker or agent. Ask questions about what is covered and what is excluded. If there are exclusions in coverage that you feel should be covered and you are not willing to self insure those risks, it’s good to purchase additional and comprehensive coverage well before disaster strikes.

4. Freshen Up Your Supplies
Has it been years since your organization purchased an emergency supply of food, water, fresh batteries, flashlights, weather radios, and other items on the must have in a disaster list? Those batteries are probably no longer fresh, the flashlights may be corroded and whatever has been growing in those ancient food cans is probably best used in Botox injections. If your organization may be charged with caring for people during a weather disaster, make sure that your supplies are fresh and workable.

5. Download Disaster Notification Apps
While you’ve been busy with the day-to-day operations of your organizations, smart phone applications have been proliferating at such a rate that you might not have noticed all the modern ways you can be notified the minute something bad might happen. If you want to be given alerts on your phone by local news stations or other disaster alert agencies, download the apps now—before the disaster strikes.

6. Consider Cell Phone Alternatives
While we’re on the subject of smart phones, make sure you come up with a strategy to charge your phone once the electricity is out. You may not have cell phone service, but in the event you do, dead phones will completely shut you off from the world. Consider land lines, two-way radios and walkie talkies as alternatives to cell phones. Purchase an inexpensive hand-cranked radio which gives you access to news broadcasts — and also has the capability of charging your cell phone.

Hopefully, you won’t have to ever utilize your disaster plan, but if you take some time to keep yours updated, your organization will be in a better position to survive and thrive.

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