Somebody Call 9-1-1! Emergency Preparedness Strategies

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Today, it seems like you have to be prepared for everything; natural disasters, chemical emergencies, psychotic gunmen, terrorist attacks, the list goes on and on… but how many of us really have an Emergency plan? How many companies have one of these plans?  I am sure that prior to 9/11/2001, many New Yorkers and New York based companies did not have any such plan, yet they probably all do now.

I cannot think of any specific plans that my company had, aside from the semi-frequent fire drills and safety meetings that were held 1x per month from January – April.  Although we had some capability to work off-site as project managers, it was extremely time consuming and relatively inefficient.  The project management can be done off-site, but the production artists cannot.  Without face to face interaction, it is quite difficult to convey ideas and give specific detail.  In one instance, a mudslide occurred and knocked out power to the entire building. Information was not readily prepared or provided to employees.  Many came from many miles away into work only to find out that they couldn’t do so.   At another time, the building did not have any running water.  We were told to use the bathrooms at a hotel a couple miles away if we needed to use the lavatory.  To me, this is not ideal for handing any emergency.  It made me think even harder about my company when classmates mentioned how high-tech their company computer systems were and how they were able to work off-site with ease or that other companies had clearly defined emergency plans that were conveyed to all employees.

Examples of Government inefficiencies that come to my mind are FEMA and the Hurricane Katrina disaster and all of the complaining that occurred after that. Aside from natural disasters, most people are familiar with the SARS scare – the CDC communicated information out, but in my situation, I only really heard about it on the news & never really saw any information.

The University of Pittsburgh (and probably most Universities today) have a great way of communicating information out to students and employees – text and voice messages that are sent out to everyone.

While doing some internet research, I came upon a website called “Ready.gov” – the site gives ideas for emergency kits and how to be prepared.  A skill that many people may not be familiar with.  It also provides suggestions to research potential disasters in your area and to have an emergency destination or relative to go to in case of an emergency.  I always think about heading straight home to my parents, but 600 miles is quite a trek to make in an emergency situation!  I honestly fall into the category of people without a plan.

My Information Systems class had some great lectures about discussing technology security breaches – these ranged from cases to actual news situations.  It seems to me that the ideal situation always involves having a plan.  The company comes across as being prepared and trustworthy, even if a hacker breaks into a system – the back-up plan, clear and honest communications, and additional security measures allow the customer to feel slightly more at ease.

We really need to do a better job of expecting the unexpected in today’s society.  Something that may seem like a relatively small security or health breach can always develop into something much greater than expected.  In my opinion, if you make a plan for several scenarios, you will be better prepared for the unexpected as those plans will probably be applicable to the unexpected situation.

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