Walk the walk, talk the talk
We all know it is crucial to be ready for emergencies. Below are my top three personal preparedness tips for crisis managers as we continue to respond to COVID-19 and other hazards. In reality, most of the ideas are things anyone can implement. However, as crisis managers, it is increasingly vital that we remain effective in our roles. To do that, we need to walk the walk and talk the talk. Meaning, we need to practice what we advocate our businesses to do on a personal level. We need our crisis response and recovery planning in place. Too often we fail at taking care of ourselves while we focus on our companies.
Years ago, I joked with my husband when I worked for the state government that I did not need to prepare for disaster because I would be with the emergency management team in the MEMA bunker. Today, I am part of a corporate crisis team and am serious about the value of self-care and disaster readiness. Throughout this piece, I recognize that we must all do what we can within our scope of resources. What follows are the most crucial things each of us can do to prepare ourselves to be more effective in our jobs in crisis management. The guidance below is by no means comprehensive but hopefully a good start or refresher for anticipating long-tail events.
#1 - Home preparedness
Cultivate a disaster preparedness mindset. It was a wake-up call for me when I realized I had influenced my husband so well that he would start to prepare for events ahead of me. My mind was so focused on work that I neglected to think about our family emergency preparedness. Home readiness makes my list of three personal preparedness tips for crisis managers because today, more than ever, it needs to be our office.
With case counts rising in the U.S., it appears we are in for a longer haul for this event than experts predicted last Spring. The ongoing COVID-19 response, along with my increasing concerns about long-tail events, suggests the best things we can do as crisis managers is shoring up our emergency readiness. Along with the practicalities of keeping disaster kits and emergency supplies on hand, do not forget to stock entertainment. Books, games, and playing cards can all come in handy during downtime or occupy others at home
#2 - Power sources
I started seriously contemplating this after the Texas power crisis last February. Two of the top 2021 trending risks are power and network outages, primarily as more office employees work from home. The Allianz Risk Barometer rates business interruption, with 41% of the three thousand respondents rating it as the number one concern. With the decreased real estate footprint many businesses adopt, surging employees into offices is a limiting strategy. With this in mind, we need to prepare our own homes to be our emergency operations center.
So, what can we do? At a minimum, ensure you are keeping your devices charged. If you have any concerns about battery life, there is a fun article from PC Magazine here. I own multiple mobile chargers, a mi-fi, laptops, and my smartphone is always at the ready. Having an inverter on-hand for electronics is another option. We purchased a built-in generator recently, so that is an option as well. However, I know that this may not be possible for some of you. In that case, determine if accessing your company’s office or a shared space like WeWork is possible. Of course, you will want to be fully aware of the emergency plans for those spaces.
The value of redundant systems
Knowing that power and network outages are an increased concern in today’s world, I urge you to add these considerations to your planning. Whatever resources you identify, you should look at redundant systems. Just as we ask businesses to identify back-ups, we should as well. I am glad to share that not only will we have a viable redundancy installed this year, but we are planning for a fail-over system in the future. After learning the hard way from a 96-hour power outage, we determined a fireplace and outdoor grill did not cut it. Yes, we plan to have a backup to the backup. You should, too.
#3 - Transportation options
Have a get-away car. No, this is not a reference to Batman; my favorite superhero that I mentioned in the Future Business Continuity Is Customer-Centric blog. Sadly, Batman’s Tumbler has yet to show up under my Christmas tree. To round out my three personal preparedness tips, you need to keep your car ready. Regardless, I am suggesting that you keep your car’s gas tank full at all times. If you live in an urban area where owning a vehicle is not feasible, I suggest a bike. Having lived through several significant disasters, I value the ability to be mobile when needed. If you live on an island or peninsula, I recommend a boat or kayak as a means of egress. Of course, there are some disasters where escape will not be possible, which speaks to the value of home preparedness. Another recommendation is to keep kits in your vehicle and have a go-bag on hand, especially for urbanites.
After years of disaster experience, this is how my thinking has evolved. As much as I am advocating for planning how to shelter-in-place, I also propose leaving if necessary. And think about when to lean forward. It does not seem right if the company crisis manager gets stuck in evacuation traffic. It is a strategy FEMA leveraged after the hard lessons of Hurricane Katrina. Having transportation is critical for either getting to that recovery site, replenishing supplies, or even getting to safety, if needed.
Be in for the long haul
I am generally a positive person. Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best is the motto I follow. It makes sense for us all to keep an optimistic outlook but be ready for adversity. Along with physically preparing our homes, we should make self-care a priority. In another blog, I wrote about the importance of resilience during COVID, where I discussed emotional immunization and the concept of Psychological First Aid. Last year, I wrote a blog on self-care for disaster professionals and recommended you check that out.
With no clear end to the pandemic on the horizon, it makes sense to get real about disaster readiness. Many of you do prepare, but I hope I shared a few new ideas within the three personal preparedness tips. Most of us excel at our professions but neglect our continuity planning. Not only should you conduct multi-situational personalized planning but consider sharing with your employees.
Considering the growing boom in remote work, adding at-home emergency planning to risk assessments is good hygiene. Finally, just like airplane safety instructions indicate, we need to care for ourselves to best care for others. Doing this builds resilience and will allow you to continue through the challenging times ahead. Being ready for emergencies at home is important and makes you more effective at your job.