Disaster can strike promptly and without warning-forcing you and your co-workers to evacuate your workplace in a hurry. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve witnessed destructive tornadoes in Virginia, a devastating cyclone in Myanmar and a tragic earthquake in China. It’s never too soon to prepare for unforeseen emergencies and natural disasters.
With hurricane season fast approaching, this is a good time to evaluate your company’s preparedness plan. The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has declared the week of May 25 to May 31 “Hurricane Preparedness Week.” Whether you work in a hurricane zone, a flood zone or near a fault line, below are nine disaster preparedness tips you should take to heart now.
Tip No. 1: Ensure That the Police Can Contact You
Research the Reverse 911 program for your area and register your cell phone, voice over IP number or pager. Your land line may already be registered for the service, but be sure to verify this. In an emergency situation, Reverse 911 enables emergency officials to send out an automated call to everyone registered in a specific area with important information.
Reverse 911 programs vary across the country. In some areas, a county or city may run the program. In other parts of the country, the state may run the program. Call your local police or sheriff’s office to check.
Tip No. 2: Program Numbers into Your Cell Phone
Save emergency phone numbers for local police and fire departments into your cell phone. Also, save the phone numbers of your family members, friends, colleagues, child’s school, doctors and your insurance companies.
Tip No. 3: Create a Company Phone Tree
Each office should have a plan for contacting employees during emergencies through a designated phone tree. Designated staff should have copies of the phone tree and be trained on who they should call.
Management should review and update the phone tree quarterly and conduct regular training sessions. Management should also have back-up copies of employee phone numbers and their emergency contacts. This information should be regularly updated.
Tip No. 4: Register Your Cell Phone Number
Individual employees should make sure family, friends and co-workers have their mobile or BlackBerry numbers. However, in the event of an emergency, each person should register their cell phone on http://www.WhitePages.com/. This will give colleagues and family members the ability to quickly find the information should they not have it on hand.
Tip No. 5: Remember that Texting is a Good Alternative
Sometimes cell phone signals can become congested during emergencies, and it can be difficult to make or receive calls. Short text messages might be easier to get through. Plus, texting helps to conserve battery power.
Tip No. 6: Have Emergency “Grab Kits” Accessible
Companies should organize and maintain emergency “grab kits” in several places throughout the office. There should be designated staff responsible for grabbing these in the event of an emergency. Make sure it contains a minimum of provisions for at least three days. Include fresh water, non-perishable food, a manual can opener, blankets, extra clothing, a first-aid kit, matches, a flashlight, a battery-operated radio and extra batteries. Test or replace the batteries at least once a year, especially for smoke alarms.
Tip No. 7: Create Back-up Copies of Documents
At work, keep back-up copies of your important personal and financial statements, and health and property records. Be sure to store important original paperwork (such as birth and marriage certificates, wills, tax returns, insurance policies and credit card numbers) in a safe and secure location. This way, you can grab it all quickly in the event of an emergency.
Tip No. 8: Keep a Separate Emergency Fund
Set aside an emergency fund of cash or traveler’s checks or both. Keep them in a safe, accessible spot in case of the need for evacuation. Banks and ATMs are often inaccessible during catastrophes.
Tip No. 9: Register with the American Red Cross
Register with the Red Cross’s Safe and Well Web site. If you have been affected by a disaster, this Web site provides a way for you to register yourself as “safe and well.” From a list of standard messages, you can select those that you want to communicate to your family members-letting them know of your well-being.
Bardon is a passionate advocate about emergency preparedness to ensure that consumers understand the steps they need to take to best protect themselves. He can be reached at [email protected].