Posts Tagged ‘emergency preparedness’


Emergency Preparedness Vocabulary to Add to Your Skill Set

Friday, February 2nd, 2018
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New Words

New words for 2017

Did you know that the big dictionaries (Merriam Webster, Oxford English, etc.) routinely add hundreds and sometimes even thousands of words every year?

In 2017 a lot of the new words were what I’ll call “social terms” – words like froyo, troll, mic drop, and dog-whistle. Don’t overlook the word conlang, referring to a “constructed language” like Elvish or Klingon.

I certainly don’t USE these words every day. But I try not to look dumb if someone uses them in my hearing!

But let’s move on for a light-hearted tour of  . . .

Words for emergency preparedness

New words emerge in the narrower world of emergency planning, too. Plus, of course, there are “old” words that resurface for one reason or another.

Here’s a list of words that have reappeared and that I’m likely to hear or even use at any time. How familiar are YOU with them?

Some commonly abbreviated expressions

. . . useful in emergency planning and also in everyday situations.

NSFW – I thought I’d start with this one because if you see it, you may be in trouble. It stands for Not Suitable For Work and refers to internet content (most likely nudity, profanity, etc.) not appropriate for the workplace. Compare to SFW (Safe For Work).

ICS – Emergency professionals throw this around, pronouncing just the letters. They stand for Incident Command System and refer to the standardized way official groups (First Responders, FEMA, etc.) respond to an emergency, or “the incident.”

IoT – OK, we’ve written about this a lot lately so it should be familiar as the Internet of Things, for example, the automated devices that you’re using to control your house — door locks, air conditioning, etc.

SOP – A favorite business expression that is used in emergency response, too. If people know the Standard Operating Procedure they will be able to work effectively together.

EOC – If you take your neighborhood emergency response group on a tour of your city’s Emergency Operations Center you may be disappointed. The EOC is only activated when there’s an emergency.

BIA – So just how much of an emergency would a power outage represent? What about a direct hit from a tornado? Your Business Impact Analysis should give you some perspective.

HVAC – Pronounced “H-Vac” or “HVAC”. I have to include this because some of my friends are Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning experts!

MTBF, MTTR, MTBU – Some of my favorites, these expressions always invoke a sense of urgency. (I don’t use them, but people in the world of manufacturing sure do!) Mean Time Between Failures, Mean Time To Repair, and Maximum Time to Belly Up.

Hint: If you use any of these words in a written document, it’s always a good idea to write them out fully “at first use.” It’s awfully distracting to read a report filled with abbreviations you don’t recognize.

Frequently-used but confusing industry jargon

. . . heard on the news and sometimes misunderstood or mispronounced by newscasters.

Cache – This French word refers to a collection of things (like emergency or military supplies) that are hidden away for later use. It’s pronounced “cash” but often is mispronounced by adding a syllable at the end so it sounds like “cashay.” (Cachet, pronounced “cashay,” is a totally different word that marks someone or something as having status or prestige.)

Failover – I have always been confused by this word but I’m trying to conquer that confusion! Failover refers to a process whereby (for example) a computer system, in the event of a failure, automatically switches to a backup or standby system. (Fail -> switch over)

Pandemic – We are all pretty familiar with the word epidemic, referring to the outbreak of a disease that spreads quickly in a community or region. Pandemic also refers to the spread of disease, but is used when the outbreak spreads across a whole continent or even the world.

OK, now we can tuck these words into our own vocabularies!

A brand new word for 2017

Here’s one I’ve never heard or said, but maybe you could use it in a Scrabble game because yes, it’s now in the dictionary.

Listicle – This is one for writers and bloggers. It refers to a published article that is made up of . . . you guessed it, a list! (Why, this Advisory, with some strategic editing, could become a listicle!)

Whew! That’s it for this week. Hope you have found these words as interesting or amusing or puzzling as I have. (Remember, learning new words is recommended for keeping your brain fresh . . .)

Send me your favorite words and I’ll include them next time!  In the meanwhile, if you want more on vocabulary, check out our earlier Advisories, listed below.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

Reliable Sources for Disaster Preparedness

Thursday, June 29th, 2017
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Car in flood

Keeping up with the latest — whether political news, phone technology, business trends or emergency preparedness — takes some effort.

It’s made easier when I find reliable sources that I can return to again and again. It’s made even easier when people take the time to send me the good stuff!

So today I’m sharing some preparedness and disaster recovery tips that I have recently received from favorite sources. Thanks to you all! (Please follow the links in each paragraph to get more on that topic.)

1-For Business Owners from Business Owners

Focus on Crisis Communications

I attended another  online webinar this morning, hosted by Agility Recovery: www.agilityrecovery.com  Today’s webinar was on Building a Crisis Communications Plan for business. I’ll be drafting a full Advisory based on my notes, but if you know you need this part of your plan, go grab this earlier version of their worksheet right now – https://www.agilityrecovery.com/assets/SBA/crisiscomms.pdf– and watch for my upcoming, updated  Advisory on this topic!

In the meanwhile, get to know this business preparedness and recovery service. I’ve found everything they do to be first rate. Over the past several years I’ve shared a number of things from their resource library. At their website, you’ll find:

  • Tips: Their “52-week Disaster Recovery” series.
  • Checklists: One of the best: Checklist for Power Outages and Back-up Generators. (Read the whole Advisory before you request the checklist. The questions in the Advisory are critical! http://emergencyplanguide.org/power-outage-in-the-workplace/.
  • Case studies. There’s likely to be a story about a business similar to yours since Agility has responded to thousands of emergencies. I was particularly captured by the story of Western Financial Group’s 2015 flooding and recovery.

I really can recommend Agility Recovery as a “reliable resource.”

2-For Homeowners from a Homeowner

Focus on Flooding – Wells and Septic Tank Systems

I live in one of the most well-planned communities in the country. (Some neighbors complain that it’s overly planned. That’s another story for another day.) In any case, all utilities here are underground; I had to look up images of “telephone poles” for my recent Advisory about power lines because I couldn’t just look out the window and see one!

As a kid, though, we lived a lot further out in the country, and we managed our own well and septic tank. We even strung our own phone and electric lines (probably without a permit).

So when I got an email this month from one of our readers, I was interested!  Jim McKinley –  www.moneywithjim.org   — offers smart money management advice.

The resource he sent for us is about preparing your family and home for a flood – in particular, preparing to protect your water supply and sewage treatment system. And the link takes you to a pdf published by the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan. The general info is likely to be review for most Emergency Plan Guide readers, but I found these aspects of the article to be particularly valuable:

  • Protecting your wellhead
  • Decommissioning well pits
  • Coping with groundwater flooding (lots of info on setting up drains)
  • Pumping out a septic tank or holding tank BEFORE flooding
  • Managing the soil of your private wastewater system AFTER a flood

You may not live in Saskatchewan, of course. And the property where I grew up, and maybe where you live, has long since been “connected to the city system.”

But it’s likely that someone you know lives further “off the grid” than you do. Or maybe you know someone whose vacation home has wells and/or a private wastewater system. Share this link!

https://www.wsask.ca/Global/Lakes%20and%20Rivers/Flood%20Watch/Preparing-for-a-flood.pdf

3-Finally, for anyone whose car has been caught in a flood.

From time to time over the years I’ve watched with concern and even horror as water crept up through the floorboards. But my cars have never been fully flooded.  How about you?

Once in North Carolina I rented a car for the day. We noted right away that something was amiss, and as the day warmed up – and we got farther and farther away from the rental shop – it became clear that the car had a real problem! It had been flooded!

Peeeee-yewwww! The smell was awful! Talk about car body odor!

If a car has been flooded, it’s usually considered a total loss by the insurance company. And it will be completely replaced. But, if you don’t have the right insurance, or the car wasn’t totaled, then you may find yourself trying to save it.

Once again, our friend Jim has directed us to an excellent online resource:

https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/how-to-reduce-the-damage-to-a-flooded-car-by-jason-unrau

And I’ll add to this article, part of which deals with eliminating odors. Yes, have and use plenty of baking soda. But in addition, consider this under-$10 specialty product:

This “sponge” doesn’t attempt to overpower the odor with another smell; it absorbs all odor.

If only we had had one of these in that rental car!

OK, that’s three tips for today. Maybe only one applies directly to you. But perhaps you have been inspired to think about other tips that you might share here. We welcome your suggestions!

 Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Got an idea for a tip or for a full Advisory?  For a family, for a group, for a business? Just let me know and we’ll figure out how to get it published!  You can write to me directly at Virginia@EmergencyPlanGuide.org.

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions and Emotional Intelligence

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016
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Do you fall into that 45% of Americans (or 32% of Britons) who routinely make New Year’s Resolutions? And how about your success rate? Is it around the average 8%?

“Getting prepared for emergencies” — not typically one of the top 10 resolutions.

But ask anyone if they have done some preparing for emergencies and you’ll invariably get this answer:

“No, I haven’t got around to that, but I really should!”

This year, as we approach Resolution Time, I’m trying to come up with ways to help people get started on what they clearly think is important! And I decided to see if I could use the concepts of Emotional Intelligence to help.

You’ve heard about EI. It was “discovered” in the 90s and continues to be an important business topic three decades later. From what I can tell, EI boils down to “Know thyself, ” and in so doing, you’ll be able to understand others better, too.

Four Emotional Intelligence questions.

Ask yourself these questions, and then ask others.

1-What’s your motivation for putting together a cache of supplies?

We have asked many, many people this first question. There are four or five common answers:

  1. My wife keeps nagging me
  2. I know it just makes sense
  3. Some sort of emergency is inevitable
  4. Better safe than sorry

What’s your motivation? What’s the motivation of the people you’re trying to convince?

2-How do you respond if you get criticism, resistance, or ridicule?

EVEN WHEN THEY’VE ALREADY AGREED THAT PREPARING MAKES SENSE, most people quit as soon as they get criticism or resistance. It stops ‘em in their tracks!

They then come out with excuses like these:

  1. If it is my time, then it is meant to be.
  2. Nothing has happened so far. Why think it could happen in the future?
  3. There are too many eventualities to prepare for.
  4. We can’t afford the cost associated with preparing.
  5. The government will take care of us.

If you’ve spent time on this at all, you know that these “excuses” are just that. But here’s where EI comes in to play.

3-Can you understand the emotions behind the criticism?

Many friends and even family members may discourage you because of their OWN emotions: Do any of them fit you, too?

  1. They’re guilty they haven’t done any preparing themselves.
  2. They are embarrassed to admit they wouldn’t know what to do in an emergency.
  3. They are afraid to think about destruction, pain or death.

If you can identify these emotions, then you will find answers to these emotional barriers. So, the last question.

4-Do you have the skills to manage the situation and inspire support?

Sometimes answering fears and emotions is as simple as first, listening to the person. Then, depending on the situation and the person, you communicate the value of a change in behavior (i.e., taking steps toward emergency preparedness).

Here are some EO inspired approaches about emergency preparedness that may work for you.

  • (Show confidence.) You have already made it through some tough situations because you already have basic good sense and resilience. There’s nothing magic about emergency preparedness.
  • (Acknowledge conflict) Emergencies happen – but they don’t have to become disasters. You’re likely to live through an emergency. It will be a lot safer and more comfortable is you have some basic supplies and tools.
  • (Articulate a simple vision) Maybe you can’t prepare for every single emergency that could arise, but “general preparedness” will help in every situation. Start with a survival kit; you probably already have a number of the items that belong in it.
  • (Lead by action) Preparing doesn’t mean making one huge investment in stores of dried food. I started with water and a few food staples – things I already knew and liked – and then added a piece every month or so. Flashlights, glow sticks, rain gear, an emergency radio – they fit my budget and began to fill my kit!
  • (Collaboration and team building) As for the government coming to help . . .Katrina, Sandi and more recent floods and storms have shown that in an emergency we can expect to be on our own for at least several days. Neighbors will be our First Responders – and we’ll be theirs. So the better prepared we all are, the safer we all will be.

So to get back to the New Year’s Resolution that started this article,

People who “know themselves” best get the best results with ANY resolution.

Share this article with friends and neighbors. Add to the list of “excuses,”“fears” and “criticisms.” Think what emotions they really represent. ‘With every step, you’ll be understanding yourself better, and be strengthening your Emotional Intelligence.

And you may find that the “Resolution to Get Prepared” will become a reality in 2017!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

Holiday Security Mistakes

Thursday, December 1st, 2016
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Tempting Christmas window All ready for the holidays?

Here are 3 security mistakes people tend to make at this time of year. Take 2 minutes to check them out. It would be wonderful if you and your family could avoid them all.

  1. Packages are SOOOO tempting!

Sure, you know better than to allow packages to be delivered to an empty house.

Just a week ago I was stopped on the street by a patrolman who showed me a picture of a kid taking a package from a front porch. (The picture had been taken by a home security camera. More on those later.)

And when you’re shopping, take the time to put gift purchases into the trunk of your car. If they won’t FIT in the trunk, at least cover the back seat pile with a dark and preferably dingy looking blanket. Better yet, make an extra trip rather than let packages sit unattended in a parking lot in full view.

And at home, don’t position your tree and all the lovely presents right in front of a window as in the picture above. Someone could break the window, grab the presents and run.

Packages are so tempting — to thieves!

  1. “We’re so proud of our emergency preparations.”

The holiday season often means more visitors to your house. The guy to string the lights on the roof. UPS and Amazon delivery people. All the invitees to your Christmas party!

Every person who comes onto your premises has the chance to take a good look at what you have – and that includes some of your emergency preparedness items.

Your gardener sees the locks, the security cameras and lights you’ve installed. The delivery guy walking past your open garage door sees your tools and the cupboards and shelves packed with food and water. The computer guy you bring in to troubleshoot your new network sees your ham radio set-up, not to mention your laptop and printers.

It’s natural for a visitor to tuck this sort of information away. And in a big emergency, your house might become a target for one of those visitors, now turned desperate.

What can you do to cover or camouflage emergency supplies? Yes, be proud of the sensible steps you’ve taken. But with a bit of creativity you’ll get more of them out of sight. You can be just as satisfied and maybe a whole lot safer.

  1. Take out the trash!

We’ve all read the novels where the criminal is identified because of stuff he puts in the trash. (Harrison Ford left orange peels and fake ID photos in the wastebasket in The Fugitive, remember?)

If you’re making a lot of purchases and getting a lot of gifts, you are going to have more trash than usual. And it may attract the wrong kind of attention.

Save and/or shred receipts or statements that have account numbers. Some receipts for online purchases may show up in your email. Protect them from casual view. Don’t stuff empty cardboard boxes (with pictures of TVs and electronic games and security cameras and drones!) into the trash; break them down and recycle anonymously at the recycling place.

And if you’re traveling during the holidays, make sure newspapers, leaves or other trash doesn’t build up outside while you are gone. That trash, plus a dark and empty house, is a real invitation to trouble. (Ask a neighbor for help, and invest in some timers for lights and/or radios.)

Oh, and for heaven’s sake, don’t you or your kids announce via social media or on a phone message that “We’re away skiing for a week!” Ouch!

We wish you the pleasure of giving, and the excitement of receiving. But we sure hope it’s not spoiled because you overlooked taking these sensible precautions.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We’re writing an Advisory about “Hiding valuables in plain sight.” Sign up for all our Advisories to be sure you get it.

 

 

How Small Business Owners React to Questions about Emergency Preparedness

Thursday, March 24th, 2016
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Who do you think you're kiddingLast week we attended a business expo: 1,000+ people talking, laughing, and sharing their business ideas. Energy and American ingenuity on display!

We figured these people wanted their business to succeed, so we offered a couple of quizzes to get a conversation started about Emergency Preparedness. As you can imagine, results were mixed.

  • Some people (10%) took one look at us, saw the word “Emergency,” and shouldered their way past. Not interested, or threatened.
  • A few (5%) grabbed the quiz and proceeded to show off how well they and their businesses were prepared. They were enthusiastic!
  • Most (85%) came out with a version of the same thing: “Oh, I know I should be doing something, but . . .” (They usually said this with a shrug and a weak smile.)

Do these reactions sound familiar?

They should. As we’ve reported before, more than 60% of small businesses have no plan for emergency preparedness or response. In this crowd of very small businesses – many being operated out of home offices – apparently things were even worse.

Familiar doesn’t mean good. The impact of an emergency on a business with no plan is just plain dreadful. Historically, in nearly half the cases,

  1. The business shuts down and never reopens.
  2. Employees lose their income.
  3. The owner loses his or her income and the entire investment.

Here’s our answer – and our commitment.

At Emergency Plan Guide we research and write about all aspects of preparedness, focusing on three main groups of people: families, neighborhoods and business.

Naturally, there is overlap. A family that is prepared can be an inspiration to neighbors. A neighborhood response group can attract resources to benefit many. A prepared business can stay afloat and support its families and the wider economy.

So, our Advisories and our articles and books strive to meet the needs of each of these groups. But . . .

We think the small business community is most often overlooked.

Resources for the small business seem to fall into two categories – free government websites and programs, and commercial business continuity services including insurance.

All of these have plenty of excellent information, in fact, page after page of it.

And there’s the problem. The typical small business owner is already overwhelmed!

So, here at Emergency Plan Guide . . .

We present basic business continuation information in small, easily digestible bites.

Emergency Preparedness PosterOne of our favorite business tools is a simple, one-page flyer that lists 7 things you can do at work to improve preparedness. The list could be used to develop a full-blown preparedness plan, or it could be used, just one question at a time, to start informal conversations around the lunch table or at a staff meeting.

However you want to use it at your business, feel free. You can get your copy of the flyer here and take a look at how you want to proceed.

Disclosure: Yes, we know this one-pager is awfully lean. We’ll take a look at each item in more detail in coming months. The main thing is for you and your business to get started!

Planning for emergencies will save lives and jobs. There’s no time for planning or training once a disaster strikes.

 

Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Small business owners sometimes confuse emergency preparedness with workplace safety as required by OSHA. Click to get our Advisory that gives more info on OSHA and its limitations.

 

East Coast Handles Blizzard.

Monday, January 25th, 2016
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Were authorities crying “Wolf?”

Snow Plow, emergency preparednessTragically, there were deaths as a result of the weekend’s blizzard – mostly from car wrecks, some from heart attack. And the flooding in New Jersey apparently took some people by surprise.

The clean-up is just starting. According to the Wall Street Journal, it costs $1.8 million per inch for snow removal alone!

But by and large, it sounds as though millions of people (60 million under blizzard, winter storm or freezing rain warnings Saturday!) did a pretty good job of getting through. Here’s what it looked like from my desk, here in California.

What worked well?

  • The weather reports were accurate and timely. And they were updated. Maybe reporters learned something a year ago when they forecast the Mighty Blizzard of 2015. That one fizzled!We have all now learned that there are different weather models. The European model looks at the big, long-range picture. The National Weather Service uses its own, short-range models. Not one model is perfect, but taking input from each, and being willing to make a change as things develop, seems to have added credibility to this forecast.
  • Authorities took prompt action. In at least 11 states, Governors declared states of emergency. This helped position resources (over 2,200 members of the National Guard) before the snow actually hit. Schools closed in New York as of Thursday. City government offices closed as of Friday noon. Travel bans were declared – and enforced – up and down the whole Eastern Corridor.
  • Political leaders repeatedly got on T.V. to emphasize city actions and the need for citizen responsibility. Whatever the party, political leaders’ words and actions draw attention. NY Mayor De Blasio was warning people of the storm as early as Wednesday morning. By Saturday, Chris Christie had cut short his campaigning in New Hampshire to return to New Jersey because of the blizzard. People noticed.
  • Citizens got the message and were smart. On Thursday evening I got a call from my friend Teri in Maryland. She was laughing– weakly–as she reported how hard it had been to get home and that “There was absolutely no meat left in the grocery store!” People either had what they needed or got it by Thursday. Then they prepared to hunker down.

Did preparedness pay off?

Cities and politicians are pretty much required to promote preparedness. You and I promote preparedness because we believe in it as a lifestyle.

Nowhere, however, have we found a formula that shows just how much our investment is worth.

But the Boston Consulting Group’s 2015 study for Unicef and the World Food Programme (WFP) added more understanding to why to prepare.

Their study of 49 activities aimed at cutting costs and reducing response times during emergencies showed that an investment of $5.6 million is expected to deliver $12 million in savings.

To be clear, the study analyzed actions in the countries of Chad, Pakistan and Madagascar. I’m not sure what the ROI would be for actions taken in the U.S. – but it surely wouldn’t be worse!

If you want to read the whole report, here’s the link: https://www.bcgperspectives.com/content/articles/development-business-social-sector-big-payback-emergency-preparedness/

What next for Storm Jonas?

It will be interesting to watch for the follow-up reports on the East Coast Blizzard/Storm Jonas – on its costs and hopefully on the value of everything that went into getting ready for it.

I’ll let you know what I find out. In the meanwhile, if you are in the blizzard area, let us know what you experienced and how well you fared. For example, are you among the thousands without power right now? (Which means you are reading this on some portable battery-driven device!?)

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. As you know, we’re waiting here in California for the next storm to roll in from El Nino . We’ve had only one. Do you think OUR weather forecasters have cried wolf?

 

Hang On To That Swiss Army Knife

Monday, January 11th, 2016
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A Gift for a Lifetime

I got my first Swiss Army knife when I was about 8 years old, a gift from a friend of my mother’s. (A boyfriend? We’ll never know!) I don’t think I’ve been without one in my pocket since.

When I say without “one” I should really be saying “without several” since there are so many different models, each with some special feature, that you want to own one of each! (Well, maybe not every one. Read on . . .)

Real Swiss Army knives, brand name Victorinox, last nearly forever if you don’t lose them.

If a part breaks or goes missing, you can fix it!

Replace scissors spring on Swiss Army Knife

Replace scissors spring on Swiss Army knife

Here’s what got me started on this Advisory. I had to . . .

Replace the broken scissors spring

in one of my favorite small knives.

I use these scissors a LOT, for cutting everything from paper to fingernails to packaging tape.

(Once I even used the scissors to give myself a quick haircut when a posh restaurant thought my hair was too long to let me in.)

Where to find the spring

In years past I have found the scissors spring at hardware or sporting goods stores, but for the last three years I’ve had no luck. (Maybe people prefer to sell a whole new knife rather than a $2 set of springs!) I( knew I could get them from Victorinox, but that involved more shipping that I wanted to fool with.)

This time, I went to Amazon to get what I needed. Here’s the link to the purchase, for a grand total of $2.95. Victorinox Scissor Spring, Small

How to replace the spring

Replacing the spring takes four things: a new spring (image 1 shows the package), some sort of round file or punch (image 2) , a pair of needle-nose pliers (3) and a little dexterity.

And here are the steps to replacement.

  • Open the knife so that the scissors extend at a 90% angle.
  • See the round hole near the base of the scissors? One side of the hole has sharp edges; on the other side, the edges have been rounded.
  • Use the pliers or a punch to push/pull the old spring out so it comes out the rounded side of the hole. I found that the tip of a small round file worked perfectly for me.
  • Use the pliers to press the new spring into place from the rounded side of the hole.
  • Be patient and persistent. You may need to flex the spring slightly to get it into the hole.

Knife like new, back in my pocket for another day!

What about other models of the Swiss Army knife?

Victorinox (and competitor, now partner Wenger) has produced many different models since the company started in the late 1800s. All have a main blade plus various auxiliary tools – as many as 30 in various combinations! Most also have the familiar red handle with white cross logo.

Most practical multi-tool

While it’s great to have different tools all in one, the largest Swiss Army Knife that I find practical is the Swiss Champ. It costs $73.49, and its holster adds another $8.34.  (Yes, I own both.)
Victorinox Swiss Army Swiss Champ Pocket Knife (Red)

If you want more tools, of course, you can get more. In 2006 Guinness World Records recognized a knife (made by Wenger) that had 87 tools and 141 different functions and that cost upwards of $1,000!

Best for everyday use

And for everyday use, I carry the “Midnight MiniChamp” version with built-in ball point pen and flashlight . . .

Victorinox Swiss Army Midnite Minichamp, Sapphire

(This picture shows the knife in blue, but of course, it comes in red, too.)

If you’re shopping for yourself or for a gift, take the time to review all the different models to get the exact knife you need. Again, a small convenient pocket knife is one thing, and a versatile multi-tool for your survival kit and/or emergency kit for the car serves a completely different purpose.

Either way you can rest assured that this will be something to treasure.

And one final note, just for fun. It turns out that the name “Victorinox” is a combination of the original owner’s mother’s name – Victoria – and the French word for stainless steel, “inoxydable“, shortened to Inox. (Stainless steel was invented by an Englishman in 1913.) Oh, and the clever family that named the company still owns it, four generations later.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. I’ll bet you have a favorite Swiss Army knife. Which one and why? Your comments may help others decide which one(s) to get!

 

Power Outage At Work

Sunday, December 20th, 2015
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Some statistics for small business.

No Business PlanYou’ve seen the stats here before. Check out numbers from a June 2015 Nationwide Insurance survey:

  • 75% of small business owners say they don’t have a disaster plan. (This is UP from the 72% we’ve quoted before!)
  • 38% don’t even think a disaster plan is important.
  • Unfortunately, a business without a plan has a poor chance of recovery after a disaster. FEMA reports that 43% of them will never reopen, and another 25% will close their doors after one year. That means that after a disaster, nearly three-quarters of businesses without a plan will be gone.

Who knows what the numbers will tell us after the recent one-two-three punch from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria!

No matter what the exact numbers are, operating without a plan leaves your customers in the cold, your employees without a job, and your investment down the tubes.

If you don’t already have a plan, what might spur you to action? Consider this . . .

Let’s take a look at just one risk that you are surely familiar with.

One company we follow is Agility Recovery. As its name suggests the company offers recovery solutions – four main ones (office space, power, communications, computer systems).

In its 25 years of business, Agility has responded to one type of emergency more than twice as often as any other —

Loss of power!

Further, according to Agility Recovery,

  • Nearly 70% of businesses will lose power sometime in the next 12 months.

So, where does your company stand on being ready to withstand a power outage?

“Well, I think we have a back-up generator on premises!”

That’s a start. Again, thanks to some resources offered by Agility Recovery, Popular Mechanics and The Home Depot, here are

Ten questions for your next conversation about power outages at work.

  1. Do employees have emergency kits with flashlights? Are the batteries fresh? Are the flashlights hand-crank?
  2. Do you have emergency radios so you can get the news and weather? Again, fresh batteries, hand-crank or solar?
  3. Are electronics protected by a power strip surge protector?
  4. Do employees know what should be turned off in a power outage, and what should be left on?
  5. Are desktop electronics connected to a functioning UPS device so they can be powered down in a controlled fashion?
  6. Do you have a back-up generator for essential equipment?
  7. Do you know what equipment is considered “essential” and are you confident the generator can both START and RUN that equipment? (It takes 3 to 5 times more power to start up a motor than to run it.)
  8. Have you trained on where to place the generator when it is needed?
  9. Do you have the appropriate electrical cords and plugs for your needs? How long do cables need to be?
  10. Do you have fuel for the generator? How long will it last, and what are the plans for getting more?

Get the rest of the questions and answers.

These ten questions are really just a start. Any business other than a home office needs more information in order to do a good job of managing a power outage. You can get a more detailed checklist, plus see some of the case histories offered by Agility Recovery, at their resource library: https://www.agilityrecovery.com/resource-library/

Power outages are on the horizon, it’s just a matter of when.

Good luck!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Special Terrorism Report, Part Two, now available.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
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Part Two of Joe’s Terrorism Series is now out. It focuses on workplace violence.

“How can we possibly anticipate an attack by a terrorist or by a co-worker who suddenly snaps?”

Workplace violence warning signsThe truth is, there are warning signs for nearly all these acts of violence. When we look back, we almost always find a trail of anti-social or illogical behavior.

In the past, only law enforcement and some human resources professionals received training in identifying  these warning signs.

Today, with incidents happening more frequently, it’s time for all of us to know more.

Here’s the link to the article:

  Part Two of the Special Report  

And here are links to earlier Advisories from Emergency Plan Guide, in case you missed them.

Plus an article on workplace security: Security at the Front Door

 

Be aware. Take action.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team
Joe and Virginia

 

More Live Shooter or Terrorist Attacks?

Thursday, August 27th, 2015
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When statistics show an increase in just about anything, we always have to question whether the numbers are higher because they truly are, or because reporting has gotten better.

In the case of live shooter or terrorist attacks, it seems that both are at play. That is, there are more incidents. And the reporting, almost instantaneous, is now “enhanced” by graphic video taken by security cameras or by people at the scene and shown over and over again on television and other media.

Here at Emergency Plan Guide, we can’t ignore this trend. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2013 study clearly shows it.

Active Shooter EventsAccording to this FBI study, in 2000-2013 there was one live shooter event every three weeks.

How many incidents need to be added to this chart for 2014 and so far in 2015??

Special Report: Live Shooter and Terrorist Attacks

Emergency Plan Guide Co-Author Joe Krueger has written a special report on this topic. Part One, published today, is entitled:

“What are the chances of you being involved?”

Part Two will be appearing in a week or so. It will focus on Workplace Violence. With over 2 million incidents a year, this is something that many more of us run the chance of being involved in.

But that’s next week. While we wait for Part Two, please take the time to read Part One of the Special Report.

It starts with some observations about the recent heroic actions taken by the Americans on the train headed to Paris.

They were certainly inspiring, but before you think that they could easily be replicated, read Joe’s perspective on the event. (You may not realize that he was trained in counter-terrorism, and although it hasn’t been his career, that’s not information or sensitivity that you lose.)

What can you do to protect yourself?

As always, Emergency Plan Guide is looking for sensible, do-able actions we can all take to improve our chances of surviving a disaster, whether natural or man-made.

We do not advocate arming more citizens; the thought of having untrained, aggressive or worse, terrified, gun-toters anywhere near us is repugnant.

But we do believe that taking time to mentally prepare before anything happens will give you a much better chance of making the right snap decision if it becomes necessary.

To that end, the report recommends two inexpensive books that we think make sense for our readers.

Head over to Joe’s report and read it. Here’s the link again: Special Report: Live Shooter and Terrorist Attacks

Thanks.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

 

Business Owner – Are You Personally Liable?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015
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The Prudent Man Rule is well established in the investment world. It requires that an advisor make decisions that a “prudent” person would make, a prudent person being defined as someone in similar circumstances, with similar training and similar responsibilities.

Does the Prudent Man rule extend to business owners? 

ResponsibilityPicture this scenario. An owner never gets around to putting together a business continuation plan, all the while knowing that having a plan is common practice for other owners in the neighborhood or in the industry.

Disaster strikes.

Could that owner be personally liable if proper planning might have prevented or mitigated that disaster?

It’s possible!

Certainly, there have been cases after disasters when corporate heads were sued . . .

  • by employees or their survivors
  • by stockholders for not properly protecting their investment
  • by customers for data loss
  • by suppliers for supply chain disruption or breach of contract
  • by neighbors because a business didn’t protect them from “spillover.”

We’re not lawyers.

But by now, if you don’t have a Business Continuity Plan for your business, you must realize you may be running the additional risk associated with the Prudent Man rule.

Travelers Institute Findings

We recently attended a luncheon meeting sponsored by the Travelers Institute. Among the topics: business continuation planning. It was presented as a necessity and also as a competitive advantage.

Some of the highlights from the presentation:

  1. Business is getting riskier.

Over half the businesses in a 2014 Hart Research survey commissioned by Travelers felt that risks were increasing for business. Only 14% thought they were decreasing.

Are you with the majority on this?

  1. Businesses fail to deal with risk.

In the survey, something like 65% of small businesses claim they have an emergency exit plan, but just 30% have created a Business Continuity or Business Recovery Plan or even consulted with an insurance agency about insurance to protect against loss.

Again, are you with the majority – you AGREE times are riskier but aren’t doing anything to reduce risk?

An emergency exit plan may save lives, but, the lack of Business Continuity and/or Disaster Recovery Plan means that there may not be a company to come back to. In that case, everybody loses . . . employees and their families, owners, investors, creditors and customers.

  1. Yet no-cost or low-cost mitigation services are readily available.

Many cities, in conjunction with FEMA and other local organizations, offer the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training to residents, businesses and employees of businesses to help save lives and property in a disaster. Most classes are free and some actually issue equipment to aid in light search & rescue, triage, etc.

Other resources are also readily available nearly everywhere.

Taking advantage of these services should be the logical first step for the “prudent” business owner.

Procrastination can be costly.

While we have no accurate data on why small businesses are so lax about taking even these inexpensive actions to protect their businesses, we suspect it is because they are simply procrastinating. There have been too many disasters in the news for anyone to pretend they “didn’t know about the importance of emergency preparedness.”

If you own or work for a small business that does not have either a Business Continuity or a Disaster Recovery Plan, you would be well advised to take the initiative. Check the guide we’ve put together; it’s three steps to a simple plan. Take a look at the online resources listed above. Check with your city to see if CERT training is available.

These may not cover everything the business needs, but you will have made a solid start. Going back to the Prudent Man rule, it says that a person making decisions for others can’t simply rely on what he or she knows, but will be held accountable for what he SHOULD know.

Don’t get caught on this one.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

Whew, I’m alive! Now what?!

Sunday, October 26th, 2014
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Questions for SurvivalI admit, the word “preparedness” is pretty dull. Besides, it has too many syllables.

On the other hand, “alive” is exciting! Easy to say, easy to grasp!

How do we convert “dull and boring” into “interesting” if not actually into “fun and exciting?”

The answer: “Questions for Survival!”

If you’ve been reading our Advisories, you know that for the past dozen years Joe and I have worked closely with our community emergency response team.

And for 12 years, we’ve done our best to convert staid old “preparedness,” and its cousins “advance planning” and “disaster prevention” into bits and pieces of information that will help keep people interested – and alive.

I just counted: we’ve published 109 Advisories on these topics!

  1. We’ve tried guilt. “How will you feel when your children turn to you and ask why you don’t have any food for them?”
  2. We’ve used cynicism. “Oh sure, the authorities will come to rescue us . . .some day!”
  3. We’ve appealed to the universal love of gadgetry. “The best single tool you have ever balanced in your hand!”
  4. Competition works sometimes. “Don’t let someone else take credit for the work you’ve put in.”
  5. Then there’s plain old fear. “Buried under a pile of rubble, will you be able to signal where you are? Will people even be looking for you there?”

All these approaches work to a certain extent. When we see that people have been looking at our equipment reviews, or commenting on our blog posts, or actually buying emergency supplies, we know it’s all worth it!

But, of course, we can’t stop.

Awareness is a perpetual mindset.

If preparedness is important to you, YOU can’t stop reminding other people about its importance, either.

So here’s another tool for you to use to turn a preparedness conversation from something boring into something that could be really interesting!

Questions for Survival – Series One

Whew2This is a series of simple “problems” that you are likely to face if, for example, the electrical power goes out.  Some ways to use the list:

  • At home.

Bring up one or a group of related problems at the dinner table. Spend 5 minutes, or twice that, coming up with solutions. You’ll be amazed at what family members will come up with (or maybe WON’T come up with) – and having once talked about it, they’ll be ready to respond when the problem really occurs.

  • In a group.

Use a few of the questions to stimulate discussion at work, or in a group setting at your church, your child care center, your AA meeting, wherever. You may uncover some things that people have completely overlooked BECAUSE IT WASN’T THEIR JOB! Interesting how disasters don’t discriminate . . .!

  • Forward to others.

Our goal is simple: to make people aware of potential risks, give them a sense of confidence that they will know what to do and thus have the best possible chance of surviving whatever emergency arises!

Click here to get your free copy of “Whew. I’m alive! Now what?! — Questions for Survival”

And share it!  Simply forward this email to friends, or via Facebook. We’re busy putting the finishing touches on Series Two, and will have it out soon.

Don’t miss any of them!

Joe and Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

How secure is your job?

Saturday, September 6th, 2014
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Small business no emergency planGot a flyer in the mail, today. On the front, this statistic:

  • 94% of small business owners believe a disaster could seriously disrupt their business within the next two years!

And then, reading on a bit further:

  • 74% of small businesses do not have a disaster recovery plan.
  • An estimated 40% of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster.

So if you own or work for a small business, let me ask you,

Just how secure do you think your job is?!

The chances that you DO work for a small business are pretty good. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2011 99.7 percent of all businesses had fewer than 500 workers, and 89.8 percent of them had fewer than 20 workers!

So combine the statistics from the flyer with the statistics from the government, and you can see why I am addressing this message to the small business owners and employees in the big bucket.

Disaster Preparedness Academy

But back to the flyer that started this off. It is a promotion for a 2-day conference being held in October in Anaheim, California (home of Disneyland – one of the sponsors).

The DPA has been in business for some 30 years; this year’s Academy presents 23 workshops in eight tracks.  Two of the tracks are specifically for business: Workplace Preparedness and Workplace Recovery. 

Some of the sessions for business:

  • Communicating the Unexpected “through the chaos”
  • Maximizing Your Disaster Cost Recovery; Lessons from Joplin, MO. (“Cost recovery can last years . . .”)
  • Where Do Your Emergency Management Professional Skills Stack Up? (“Are you beginning, intermediate or advanced?”)

Other tracks include Seismic Safety, Terrorism/Active Shooter and School/University Preparedness.

Now, I would certainly attend this conference if they offered a “trade show floor only” ticket.  (That’s often the most valuable part of any conference, in my opinion!) The list of presenters – 27 of them – is impressive, and the cost is reasonable: under $250 for the two days.

Getting out of the big bucket

But the question I have for you today is . . .

What is YOUR business doing to get out of the big bucket that is NOT prepared, and into the smaller bucket – that is, the bucket of businesses that have emergency plans, have invested in emergency supplies, and practice emergency training on a regular basis?

If you think you’re still in the big bucket, there’s a lot you can do, even if you don’t own the business. For example, you can . . .

  • Find out about conferences being held in your local area and ask if someone from the company is attending. If not, ask if you can attend.
  • Sign up on your own for Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training either with a local group or online. If you can get a whole team interested, they may put on a course just for your company!
  • Download our Emergency Plan Guide Seven-Steps poster, talk it up and post it up in the coffee room. http://emergencyplanguide.org/work/seven-steps/

Something’s going to happen one of these days.

At the risk of being too blunt, I can say that you will feel pretty dumb if you have done nothing to prepare your company to survive an emergency.  And you’ll feel even worse when you and your family discover you are out of a job.

Let’s work on creating awareness and action together. Let us know what YOU are doing this week to raise the issue of emergency preparedness at work by leaving a comment in the box!

We are ALL looking forward to what you have to say!

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

 

 

Survival Kit Stories

Friday, July 4th, 2014
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Real life emergency stories, from real people.

Thumbs down Survival Kit StoriesSetting: In the rental office, talking to the woman behind the desk.

“Do you have some food for if you were trapped here in the office in an emergency?”
“Well, no. I thought that was the job of the Red Cross.”

Setting: Talking to a featured speaker at my recent Las Vegas conference.

“You’re living on the beach in North Carolina, right? Do you have emergency food set aside for when the next hurricane hits?”
“Well, not exactly. But I did unplug the freezer so I don’t have to throw all the spoiled food out, like I did last time. That cost me $300!”
“But what about food supplies for after the storm?”
“We eat only healthy, fresh food, so there’s no way I can store anything . . .”

Setting: Video snippet from a recent training held here in our neighborhood. The TV camera is trained on a hysterical woman in New Jersey, after Sandy:

“Where’s the government!? We’ve been waiting three whole days . . .!”

What’s your survival kit story?

If you and I were to meet on the street, and I posed these questions to you, how would you respond?

  • How many 3-day survival kits do you need for your family?
  • Where does each kit need to be? At your home, in the car, at the office?
  • How many kits have you actually put together?

As I’ve mentioned before, our local fire department has told us flat out:
“When the big one hits, you’re going to be way down on our list.”

All this points to our having to manage by ourselves for the first 72 hours.

You know that we have done a lot of research on pre-made kits, and generally find them lacking when it comes to quality and quantity.

Worse, having a pre-made kit may give you a false sense of security.

So our recommendation has been, and remains:

Build your own customized 3-day survival kit.

Here’s a link to an updated list of our favorite starter items : Top 10 Survival Kit Items

It may take you a few days to a week to assemble all the items for your kits. Turn kit-making into a family “pick and pack” activity!

Three days.

Easy enough to get through when you’ve got the basics: food, water, light, communications.

Really tough when you have nothing . . .

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Commuter’s Go Bag — Will the road home get you there?

Thursday, June 12th, 2014
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My daughter’s long commute by car.

Commuter's Go Bag MapOne of my daughters is an executive and works in Beverly Hills, California. With no real public transit available she is forced to drive over 100 miles to and from work, spending a total of almost four hours on the road every day. Every morning she sets out in her executive clothing and footwear and with a list of business phone calls to make along the way.

With two children in separate schools and on different schedules, her chances of a speedy reunion with family following a major earthquake are slim. Roads and freeways could be restricted for use by emergency vehicles responding to calls . . . or even possibly blocked by collapsed bridges and overpasses. At the very least, if the earthquake happens during the workday, roads will be massively congested with people trying to reach home.

If she had to walk to get home . . .

. . . she could. But 50 miles could conceivably take days.

Fortunately, she is conscientious and, of course, has me to help keep her on track!

What’s in her personal Commuter’s Go Bag?

In the trunk of her car she carries a Commuter’s Go Bag that we put together just for her. It has the usual Survival Kit items that you’d expect: walking clothes including comfortable shoes, a jacket, some energy bars and water, a portable radio, and a flashlight with extra batteries. There’s a notebook and pen. And because this is California, she has a space blanket AND an extra pair of sunglasses.

In addition, she carries extra prescriptions for a medical condition, and some cash (coins and small bills).

And because she is competent to deal with it, she has pepper spray.

Perhaps most important, she has paperwork: a list of contact numbers including some for family out of state, and maps that show her route and alternate ways to get home. (GPS may well be out.) She has teamed up with other employees who live in the same general area so they could travel in groups, and they have made note of “safe house” locations along the way where she — and any companions – can stop and rest.

She is good about keeping her car’s gas tank at least ¾ full at all times. If there is a general power outage that could last for days, neither ATMS, Credit Card Processors nor gas station pumps are likely to be operating, of course. I have suggested to her that a small, plastic, fuel canister and siphon hose that could siphon gas out of other stranded commuters’ cars may come in handy along the way! (She gets the concept, but hasn’t been ready to practice siphoning yet . . .!)

Finally, my grandchildren also have emergency supplies at home and know where to go and whom to call following a major emergency because neither mother nor dad is likely to get home any time soon.

Doesn’t it make sense for the commuters you know to have such a kit?

Putting together all the items mentioned above would cost about the same as a tank of gas. Naturally, you’ll have to complete your kit with more personal stuff.

Let us know how it goes!

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We added an emergency kit to our granddaughter’s car too. Here’s the story!

Fire in a High-Rise – How to Avoid, How to Survive

Sunday, November 24th, 2013
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I think we all can bring up an image of flames shooting out of an apartment or hotel room in a high-rise, with smoke billowing. It’s so that when I travel, I request a room on a lower floor, and near the stairs – all because of those images!

high-rise apartment building

Where are the exits?

The recent fire in West LA got me to look into the realities of emergency preparedness for people living in high-rises, however, and the results weren’t exactly what I was expecting.

Here’s some of what I learned.

The danger of fire in a high-rise is LESS than in other structures!

The National Fire Protection Agency, excellent resource for all things fire-related, reports that only 3% of structural fires are in high-rise buildings. (They define high-rise as 7 stories or taller. There are other definitions; I’m defining high-rise as anything above the height of the local fire department’s highest ladder.)

A fire in a high-rise results in statistically less damage.

Modern hotels and apartment buildings, where about half the high-rise fires occur, are far more likely than other structures to have:

* Construction that resists fire. Steel with spray-on coatings or encased with concrete resists fire far longer than wood construction. If you’re familiar with fire insurance, you know that buildings are rated for how resistive their construction methods are.

* Systems to protect against fire. Depending on size the building, it may have fire alarms and automatic sprinklers. Larger buildings may have camera surveillance, controlled access and even 24-hour monitoring.

OK, that’s great for statistics. But what about me?

If you actually plan to live in a high-rise apartment, what should you find out about the building?

Take a tour of the building with management, and get answers to these five questions:

  1. What fire safety systems does the building have, and who maintains them? Don’t assume anything! The LA fire happened in a building with no sprinklers.
  2. Are exits clearly marked? In an emergency, elevators won’t be available.
  3. Are the fire exits unlocked? Are fire doors kept closed, not propped open?
  4. Does the building have a fire evacuation plan? What about fire drills?
  5. Does the fire alarm system have a public announcement capability?

And if a fire breaks out, what should you do?

The U.S. Fire Administration, part of FEMA, offers guidelines for how to protect yourself and how to save yourself. Here are highlights:

  • Call the fire department yourself to report a fire. Nobody else may have called!
  • When you hear a fire alarm, feel the exit door of the apartment with the back of your hand.

a. If it’s cool, open the door carefully. Do you see smoke or flames? If all clear, head for the nearest exit. If you encounter smoke, turn back! According to FEMA, smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do.

b. If the door is warm, or you see smoke, do not go out! Stay in your apartment. Stuff the cracks around the door with towels or bedding. Turn off the air conditioning. Keep smoke from coming into the apartment. To quote again from FEMA, “Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.”

  • Call the fire department to let them know where you are. Signal from a window. Don’t leave it open if smoke is coming in.
  • Listen for instructions from the fire department.
  • Be patient. It may take hours for a high-rise to be fully evacuated.

Do you live now in a high-rise apartment? If not, who do you know that does?

Since nearly 40% of Americans are renters, and the majority of them live in apartments, you are bound to have friends or family in this category.

Action Item:  Please share this information. You can simply forward the blog post, or copy and paste it into an email or onto an attachment or link to it on your own Facebook page.

Thank you.  Your action may save lives.

 

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

“But, I’m Too Busy!”

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
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Excuses simply don’t cut it!  Your survival is at stake.

What’s your excuse?

Let’s fast forward here and assume you own or manage a business and have completed the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.  You now know more about emergency planning than you ever wanted to know.  But now you do and there is no going back.

So in addition to having gained insight into the risks to your employees, coworkers and those of adjacent businesses, you can’t help but think about the consequences to their unprepared families . . . including your family and neighbors.  Here’s where your leadership comes into play.

The “Prudent Man Rule” applies at your business.

Developing a Disaster Response Plan and organizing a team in your business is one thing.  The stakes are high.  Statistics show that some 50% of businesses closed by a disaster never reopen.  The “Prudent Man Rule” dictates that you take steps
to protect your employees and your business.  (In fact, you may be liable if you don’t have a plan.)

Your leadership is required to motivate your neighborhood.

The next logical step is disaster planning for the home front and that means convincing neighbors that preparing for a possible disaster is a worthwhile endeavor.  You encounter excuses like: “I’m too busy,” or “Of cou

e I’ll help in an emergency, but I just don’t have time to play games” or some such.

The reality is that people who haven’t prepared and trained will most likely be unable to respond effectively and, in fact, they are more likely to become part of the problem rather than the solution.  How do you motivate people to get serious about planning for their own survival with only a vague idea of a possible disaster sometime in the future?

We don’t have all the answers, but we do have a lot of tools.  With the stakes being so high, we are committed to putting them all on the table for you . . . from emergency preparedness and first aid to communications and triage.

Please stick around. You can sign up to get all our Advisories by filling in the info below.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team