Tag: threats

A Tsunami of Threats


Too many threatsThe number of threats can be overwhelming.

In just the past 2 weeks we have been bombarded with stories of threats that turned into disasters and near disasters.  I’m sure you’ll remember these:

October 10, 2018Michael makes landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in the Florida panhandle. 50 people dead, billions in losses.

October 15, 2018 – 60,000 without power as PG&E shuts down lines over more wildfire fears.

October 24, 2018– Police intercepted suspected pipe bombs sent to high-profile Democrats, in what New York officials described as an act of terrorism.

October 29, 2018Eleven people were killed and six others were injured on Saturday when a gunman opened fire in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

October 29, 2018 –Boeing jetliner crashes after take-off in Indonesia, all 189 aboard presumed lost.

This is just a short list. There were more. And throughout the country people suffered from local tragedies that didn’t make the national news.

How can we do a realistic job of preparing for so many threats?

Consider a systematic approach.

1-Start with a written list of threats.

In writing our Neighborhood Disaster Survival Series we found ourselves assembling multiple lists of potential threats. Ultimately we put together one list for homes and a different and considerably longer list for businesses.

You can build your own list. Get your team together in front of a BIG white board or easel (plenty of pages of paper) and brainstorm all the threats that you could possibly face. We have done this a number of times in our group, and we usually come up with 20-40 threats. (This is a great exercise to get people engaged. )

2-Narrow it down to threats that are realistic for you and your community.

Go back over your massive list (!) and start paring it down by removing threats that may be POSSIBLE but really aren’t PROBABLE.

Usually it’s simply a matter of replacing emotional response with common sense and some history.

For example, here’s a short list of threats with some thoughts that can get you started on the paring down process.

  • Every day challenges like power outages – the most frequent disaster in the U.S. (and increasing in frequency). In our local neighborhood we have to include water main breaks and gas line breaks and/or shut-offs, because of the age and quality of our infrastructure.
  • Potential localized dangers to your neighborhood, like transportation accidents – particularly high risk in industrial areas. If you live or work near an airport or beside train tracks, near chemical plants or certain industrial processing installations, threats of accident might be high; otherwise, you could probably take these threats off your list.
  • Natural disasters like floods or storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires – likely tied to your geographic location. These are always first on everybody’s list, and their likelihood is pretty easy to evaluate.
  • Mass shootings and workplace violence – nearly always the result of personal motives and/or mental illness issues. Very difficult to anticipate or prepare for, but you could be blamed for negligence if you ignore the possibility.
  • Attacks with weapons of mass destruction – suddenly appearing on our list after decades of being absent. We’re talking here about the threat of nuclear explosion or biological or chemical attacks. If you live and work in a major metropolitan area, particularly a government center, your risk would be higher.
  • Cyber attacks – almost 3.25 billion data records were compromised in the U.S. during the first half of 2018; new vulnerabilities are being exploited as data moves to the cloud. As you read this, attacks ranging from simple virus infections to ransom claims are happening to individuals and businesses around the world.
  • Lawsuits – becoming more frequent but one of the easiest threats to protect against.
  • Terrorism – Whether international or domestic, terrorism results in dramatic news coverage. It is still relatively rare in the U.S., but the number of incidents has been rising.

3-Begin preparing for these selected threats.

Pick the most likely threats and start with those. What can you do to find out about the threat in advance? Can you mitigate (lessen) the impact by making changes NOW? What processes, tools and people might you need to recover once the threat has materialized? What’s the plan for assembling these resources, training, etc.?

Warning: Don’t let your emotional reaction prejudice your efforts.

During the “threat analysis” exercise you may find that people’s individual biases and emotional reactions are likely to emerge. Their experiences may make it tough for them to think dispassionately about a given threat.

Moreover, research has shown that most people seem to find man-made disasters more frightening and rate them as more severe than natural disasters. Terrorism tops the list for emotional reaction, even though it is very low on the probability list.

Try not to let these biases get in the way of making good decisions as to which disasters you actually prepare for!

Reminder: Plan to repeat.

Analyzing threats is something you’ll want to do more than once, because circumstances change. Build a repeat look at threats into your plan!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. We were hit this week by another of those “local” disasters. It had to do with a Windows 10 update. Our entire network just threw up its hands and quit.  So while I would normally have offered you our list of over 80 threats to business, I just haven’t been able to make it happen!  If you can’t wait, please just buy a copy of Emergency Preparedness for Small Business and you’ll find that list in the Appendix, along with a multi-page Risk Analysis Worksheet that can help you set priorities!  I’ll report in later about how we recover!

No Valid Excuse for Negligence


Lawsuit for negligence

If you are prepared for emergencies at home, and have a survival kit at work and at least one in the car – Congratulations!

(I don’t think you’d be reading this if you didn’t have at least some of those kits!)

Now, if you are a business owner, manager, or business board member, I don’t make the same preparedness assumptions. In fact, my assumption based on national statistics is that you are NOT prepared for a workplace emergency!

Today, having no plan might be considered negligence!

The word for the unprepared business owner is — Watch out!

Joe and I just finished putting finishing touches on the fourth book of our Disaster Survival Guide Series. This book is aimed at owners and employees in small businesses (or larger ones, for that matter).

One thing that pops out of is that the list of threats for family preparedness is nowhere near as long as the list of threats for business. Our list of threats for families has something like 59 items on it. Our current list of threats for businesses has reached 83!

And as I added a couple more items to the business list, I knew I wanted to get some information out to you today. It can’t wait until the book is published!

This Advisory isn’t the whole story, of course, but I hope it will at least start you thinking about the . . .

You run the risk of being sued for not having a plan.

One thing we have found out about small business owners — they know their businesses better than anyone. They also are often short on money and time and suspicious of “experts” telling them what to do.

These may be some of the reasons that many new businesses delay getting valuable accounting and legal advice. And they postpone planning for emergencies, too. For new businesses, perhaps that’s understandable. But what we know is that the majority of even mature small businesses postpone planning for emergencies!

If an emergency DOES hit, even a new or an established company that survives the disaster could be destroyed by a lawsuit brought after the fact.

Some examples of legal risks associated with preparedness.

You’ll recognize these examples of not-so-rare situations where owners could be sued. Picture yourself . . .

  • You know that an ex-employee has threatened retaliation, but you don’t warn current employees or make any changes to the way people can get into your building. The ex-employee shows up and shoots 3 people before killing himself.
  • It’s common knowledge that the back-up generators for your business are essential – but unreliable. When disaster hits, all equipment shuts down, and a number of employees and customers are injured.
  • Your emergency plan recognizes the risk of flooding at your location, but doesn’t include plans for how to keep dangerous chemicals from contaminating the neighborhood. Hurricane Harvey hits with historic levels of rain and the neighborhood is inundated with contamination from your plant.

All three of these “examples” are taken from actual news reports. I found others describing similar circumstances. (See the P.S. for the outcomes.)

Here’s the negligence argument that applies in all these cases.

“Employers can be considered negligent if they do not take reasonable steps to eliminate or diminish known or reasonably foreseeable risks that could cause harm.”

From our standpoint, this definition has three key concepts:

  1. The employer is liable. As the owner of the business, you are that employer. Senior managers and Board Members could be caught up in this, too.
  2. To protect the company, you need to be aware of known or reasonably foreseeable risks. And,
  3. You must have taken reasonable steps to eliminate or diminish those risks.

Ask yourself: Does your company have an emergency plan? Even with a plan, how well are you positioned right now to protect your business from lawsuits that involve preparedness?

Our book is designed to give you sources to help you determine your potential vulnerabilities and thereby help you avoid them. You can wait to get a copy as soon as it come out (maybe next month?) but I couldn’t wait until then to share some of this vital information with you.

And you shouldn’t wait, either, to make a commitment to emergency preparedness for your business. You can start right now by reviewing a couple of our earlier Advisories.

As always, seek qualified legal advice for your particular questions. We are NOT licensed legal professionals.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. In the three legal “examples” above, each business lost the lawsuit brought against it.

UPDATE as of JULY, 2018 — the book is now available at Amazon. Here’s the direct link: Emergency Preparedness for Small Business.


April – Who’s the Fool?

Girl embarrassed


British Columbia recently completed a poll to gauge the extent of personal preparedness throughout the province.

Now you may not live in BC, or even in Canada. But Canada’s history of developing a culture of preparedness pretty much mirrors ours in the U.S., with some of the same ups and downs.

And Canada has experienced many of the same kinds of disasters: floods, fires and terrorist attacks.

So, their surveys are worth looking at.

Unfortunately, this survey led me to this “April Fools Day” theme.

Pretend these are answers YOU are giving to survey questions.

“Sure, I know the threats we face.”

The British Columbians identified their top hazards as earthquakes, wildfires, extended power outages and severe weather. And they distinguished between these based on where they lived: residents living in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island (on the coast) listed tsunamis and earthquakes as hazards; people living in the interior and the north cited wildfires and floods.

So far, so good. But let’s take a closer look in the mirror.

Take me as an example. Here in Southern California even I think first about the risk of earthquake. But as we have reported repeatedly, the most LIKELY emergency is power outage. (Already 3 this year.) Second could be a railroad car accident, since tracks run right behind our neighborhood. Third, a gas line break since there is major construction planned right across the street!

Drive just 2 miles east, and you’ll be in a wildfire area and you’ll face the possibility of flash flooding – even though we get less than 15 inches of rain a year!

Turn around and head 5 miles west, and the list of hazards changes again. First, you’ll be in a liquefaction zone, so if the earthquake hits, damage will be different, and greater. Second, you’d be within the reach of a tsunami.

The point of all this? A simple answer may be TOO simple. You may be fooling yourself if you think your first fast answers are sufficient.

“I know who will be there to help out.”

Most people make some poor assumptions, here, because they are used to one-off emergencies, where police and fire respond, often within minutes.

In a major emergency, First Responders will NOT be able to come by to give you a hand! They will be stretched out serving the entire community – often, with fewer than a half dozen First Responders per 1,000 residents!

In a real disaster, it will take hours, maybe days, for the first wave of organized assistance to arrive. Then, it will take days and maybe weeks for real support — food, water, utility repair crews, etc. – to show up. Yes, Puerto Rico breaks all records for non-response in the U.S. But some people in Texas and Florida are still in short-term housing. . .

The correct answer to the question of assistance is actually two-fold. First YOU are responsible for helping yourself. Second, you and your neighbors may be able to help each other.

And that takes planning in advance!

“Of course I’ve got a personal emergency plan.”

In the Canadian survey, 54% of respondents said they had an emergency plan. . . but only 13% said it was complete. Most households had emergency supplies for up to 3 days, but often with some important items still missing. As for emergency kits in the car, at work, or for evacuation, only about 30% had them.

When it came to insurance for the likely hazards (flood, earthquake) only about half the Canadian respondents had any.

How well do you compare?

“I admit I’m not fully prepared. You wanna know why not?”

The Canadians said they weren’t prepared because of “personal laziness” and “apathy.” And before we point derisively at the Canadians, let’s look at the reasons Americans give for not being prepared. (Thanks to Lucas Gregson for some of these.) Do any apply to you?

• There’s no real threat of the world ending. Maybe not, but what about “minor” disasters, like being laid off your job? Construction that tears up your street? A wreck that takes down the power grid? It doesn’t take total annihilation to mess up your plans for life.
Too complicated — I can’t prepare for everything. I’ll just deal with it when it comes. Hm. Well, a 72-hour survival kit will address the majority of issues that you’ll encounter. Kits will give family members a chance, too.
I have faith in the government. Talk about April Fool!
My sister is prepared; we’ll just go there. What if the disaster hits her, too? How will you get there if roads are impassible? And how welcome will you really be?
I was a boy scout (alternative: I was in the military). I know how to survive. Starting from scratch, with no tool or supplies? And what about your family if something happens to take you out of the picture?
I don’t want to be one of those weirdo preppers. Well, you probably buy insurance. Does that make you a weirdo home or car owner? Same concept . . .!

“I’d find it easier to build a survival kit if . . .”

These answers come from the Canadians and from my neighbors, over the years.

If I knew how to get started.. That’s why we publish so many lists! Survival kit items, step-by-step preparation for a hurricane, etc. If you haven’t yet found a list that works for you, I think that may lead back to the first excuse above, that is, “personal laziness.”
If I had money to spare. No one has all the cash available for an instant, complete survival set-up. But everyone can add one or two survival items to the stash every month. Start slow – just start!

“What would really get me started on disaster preparedness would be . . .”

• If I had experienced a disaster myself.

Do you detect the problem here?!?  (We do regularly start our meetings by hoping for just a small earthquake!)

OK, back to April Fools’ Day.

Wikipedia defines it this way: “ . . . an annual celebration commemorated on April 1 by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. The jokes and their victims are called April fools.”

This Advisory shares some long-standing hoaxes — not to mention some delusions — about the topic of preparedness. Most aren’t really jokes, although I tried to give them a touch of humor. The problem? You could be a victim of any of them!

I hope you’ll treat this seriously so you don’t become one of those April fools.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We regularly involve members of our HOA in discussions like this one. Here’s a true story about emergency supplies from about 6 months ago:

“Raise your hand if you have emergency water supplies at home.”  (Just about everyone raises their hand.)

“Raise your hand if you would be willing to share your water with a neighbor who runs out.” (Every hand goes down.)

Makes you think, eh?