Preparing Your Organization for Disasters, by N.C.L.

Where will you be when the earthquake happens? The tornado? The riot? The terrorist strike? The (fill in the blank). If you work or go to school, you spend about 40 hours every week in a non-home environment. Probably more if you count commute time, shopping, recreation, library time, extra-curricular activity time, and so forth. Even if you are a serious prepper, that means about 25% or more of your time each week is spent in environments away from your primary support systems. That also means that there is about 1 chance in four that a disaster will happen while you are in one of these other environments. You will have access to what you have with you and what someone (employer, school, etc.) has put in place for you in such emergencies. Having been employed for 40 years and a student for 20+ years before that I can tell you these other environments have virtually nothing in place to provide for the survival, let alone comfort, of those on premises.

Other posts on SurvivalBlog have addressed the issue of what you should have with you (in a car, backpack, etc.) while away from home. I encourage you to read them and prepare accordingly. I will not re-visit those recommendations here. Rather, I will address the preparedness issue from the point of view of employers, employees, and students. These are environments where significant time is spent, but few resources are in place to deal with even minor inconveniences, let alone full-blown disasters.

For the Enlightened Employer:

Ask the average employer about “emergencies” on the job and they think no further than a first aid kit “somewhere in the cabinet over there”, a fire extinguisher on the wall, and maybe an evacuation plan. And none of these may have been looked at for years. Their thinking is one-dimensional: a cut requiring a band-aid; a slip-and-fall causing a sprain; a bad headache. Anything more serious – call the ambulance!
But what if the ambulance doesn’t come? Or the phones won’t work to even call the ambulance? And what if not just one person is injured, but several? And lots more are injured for as far as you can see in any direction? It’s time to enlighten organizations to possibilities not previously on their radar screen.

In a disaster, employees may not be able to leave a work site to get home, even if they live rather close. Employers need to face the possibility that a large number of their employees may need to shelter in place at the work site for at least a day or two. Normal transportation may be impossible, prohibited by authorities, or just plain too dangerous to attempt. Large numbers of injuries may be encountered, from minor to extremely serious. Everyday resources such as water, heat, and electricity, taken for granted under normal circumstances, likely will not work.

What should an enlightened employer do to provide some protection to employees following a disaster?
First, recognize you have a moral duty beyond the one-dimensional level of a normal workday to provide some extended level of support to those who work for you. Provisions do not have to be elaborate or expensive. Start thinking outside the box. You do not have to drop everything and put all the resources in place at once. As a starting place, consider the following:

  1. Let your employees know you are interested in putting some disaster resources in place, and why. Many of the employees will get on board with the idea, and will help identify ideas. Be honest. If you have a limited budget, say so. Maybe provide a specific amount each month to devote to the plan. You can tell them implementation may take several months, maybe a couple of years, but be prepared to implement at least some of the good ideas. If employees don’t see progress, the philosophical “buy-in” will disappear.
  2. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Assess the skills and resources already in place. Review the backgrounds of current employees. Identify those who have genuine first aid training, fire fighting skills, law enforcement background, etc. Existing, but unused water storage capability? Electrical generating capacity? You may well find significant assets already available and waiting to be recognized.
  3. If adequate skills are not present, consider providing one, or a few employees the chance to take an appropriate course (which you will pay for) at a local community college or other facility. The cost of the course is minimal, and sometimes free. You can reward employees who acquire these skills through recognition, and maybe something tangible like a gift certificate or ball game tickets. Think of this as a type of insurance policy. By the way, it’s deductible.
  4. Form an employee committee. Ask them to discuss the preparedness issue among themselves and as many other employees as feasible. Perhaps once a month (or whatever works) publish a work site preparedness news letter. It can be as simple as a typed sheet in simple outline form. Communicate ideas and decisions. If some are left out of the information loop make sure it’s their choice and not your fault.
  5. Talk to other employers. At least a few may have already addressed the issue. Some of the work may have been done for you by other businesses, at least identifying what works and what doesn’t. Civic clubs (Rotary, Lions, etc.) are a good place to start.

For the Enlightened Employee:

If you are already a prepper and/or read this blog, chances are you don’t have to be convinced of the necessity of preparedness. There is a chance though that you have never thought extensively, about the possibility of being caught by surprise in a disaster while you are away from and unable to get to your primary support systems, which is probably your home. Without some serious planning on your part you are going to be at the mercy of what other people have, or more likely haven’t done, to provide for your safety and survival. Realize you may have to remain at a work site for an extended period of time. Injury, legal restrictions, or plain common sense may keep you from leaving for a more desirable location.

So what should an enlightened employee do help themselves and others who may never have thought of disaster prep even at home, let alone their work site?

First, think the problem through – thoroughly. Start slow. Don’t rush to your employer and suggest in a frenzied fashion what you think they should be doing. There are some things you need in your corner before you “go public”.

  1. If possible, and very delicately, find one or more co-workers with the same mindset as yours. Unless you are certain of a positive outcome, do not approach your employer about this yet. Remember, your employer may be oblivious to the issue and dismiss you as some kind of nut case. Consider getting one or two pieces of the Survivalblog gear (coffee mug, hat, etc.) and let it be seen casually around the work site. You may find friends you didn’t know were there.
  2. If you are convinced there are no like-minded co-workers available consider finding prepper friends who work in other businesses. Find out if any of their employers have established a disaster prep plan. Compare notes. Employers are always impressed by what works at other employers, especially their competitors.
  3. Write it down. Put all your ideas in writing. Your first draft will be very rough. Don’t worry. You don’t have to show it to anybody. Over time, revise and improve it. Revise it again. If you are not a good writer, admit it to yourself and get some help. A well written plan will impress an employer much more than a sloppy one.
  4. Enlist the aid of a trusted co-worker. Preferably someone that other employees like, look up to, and consider professional. Ask their advice and share your ideas. Don’t push. Let your ideas simmer a while.
  5. Get the ball rolling. Consider forming a casual group of co-workers outside of work to discuss preparedness issues . Start by addressing home and family settings. After a few discussions chances are school/work site issues will surface. If they don’t, introduce the possibilities yourself.

For The Enlightened Student:

If you are a student in Junior High School or High School, your approach will be similar, but not quite the same, as that of an employee. You also face a different environment. Schools can be “locked down” by municipal or school authorities. In instances where this has happened the lock down has been for a few hours at most and municipal services (water, heat, light, etc) were not interrupted. That’s a real advantage in maintaining the morale of those on site. Now imagine the same location but with multiple, maybe hundreds, of injuries, no municipal services, and no ready help.

So what should an enlightened student do?

First, realize that you are going to have to enlist adult support. No matter how many fellow students you have on your side, if that’s all you have, you will get no more than brief attention from school authorities, and even less action. Take it from one who has “been there – done that!” Consider the following course of action.

  1. Don’t despair. You can win this battle if you approach it in a professional manner and realize you have to win small battles one at a time to win the war. It won’t happen all at once.
  2. Draw up a written plan. It need not be elaborate, and in fact it’s better if it isn’t. You are going to need adult and official buy-in. Let them think a lot of the plan is their idea. If your school has a PTA, look for support there.
  3. Look for an elected municipal or county official willing to listen and help you. A mayor, county Sheriff, city councilman, or state representative are all good choices. Ask for their opinions – and listen! They will be skeptical at first. After all, you are 16 years old and they figure that by next Saturday night your attention span will have faded to a hundred other things. Through repeated, (and I must add, very professional contacts – don’t storm their office with a dozen students) they will begin to see you and others are serious. Each time you contact them, show them you have in some way acted on their suggestions from the previous meeting; it strokes their ego. They also realize that in 1 or 2 years all of you will be voters. But do not mention this. They will interpret it as a threat. Believe me, they already know it.
  4. Once an elected official (preferably more than one) is in your corner, arrange a meeting with your school officials. Do your best to include at least one of the elected officials. Elected officials are scared of voters and school officials are scared of elected officials. School officials may still not believe in your cause, but they will be faced with the fact that you, and some powerful allies, do.
  5. Contact other schools that have made some progress on this. Ask an English or Journalism teacher to help your group write a series of short news stories on the subject and your school’s progress (even if minimal) for the local paper. Keep it positive and praise the school officials for “seeing the need”. Principals, teachers, school boards , and especially parents love that kind of stuff.
  6. As long as you keep it professional, you are on the road to prepping your school site. Remember, don’t set out to win big victories. Build the fort one block at a time. Keep the contacts going and expand them.
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