Flooded: Keeping Your Business Out of Hot Water

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Fifteen inches of rain over the course of just a few days caused what is being described as a 1,000 year flood in the mountains of Colorado this past September.  Rainfall patterns turned rains into a biblical storm that ravaged the lands and forced unsuspecting residents out of their homes and a disaster proclamation. Now, while they rebuild, many wonder how they could have been prepared for something like this.

“The area has flooded before, but never like this.” With an increase in population in this country, paired with manmade and natural changes to the environment, we will see an abundance of climate-based devastation, yet the key is to find out how to be prepared. How do you prepare for a storm that had a .001 chance of occurring?

It WILL happen. This isn’t negativity, this is preparedness, and many people would rather believe the sun will always shine instead of invest in a gloomy uncertainty.  It can work to lessen the shock of the event, and allows people to think critically about their needs.

2013 Colorado Flood Photo Map - The Denver Post - Mozilla Firefox 1022013 113514 AM

Points on map reflect where flooding and damage occurred

Floods are the most expensive and widespread of all disasters. According to the Small Business Administration, businesses are more likely to flood than burn down, so it is vital to prepare now.

The following checklist from Agility Recovery will help keep your business afloat even if the worst happens. “The following resources and tools will help mitigate your risk and protect not only your business, but also the most critical element of your business – your people.”
Before the Flood

  • Review Emergency Plan with team, and key employees
  • Take all necessary steps to prevent the release of dangerous chemicals that might be stored on your property – locate main gas and electrical shut-offs and anchor all fuel tanks
  • Postpone any receipt of goods- deliveries, couriers, etc.
  • Contact insurance agent, discuss policy, etc.
  • Establish emergency communication method (Alert Notification System, phone tree, etc.); identify meeting place and time for all key employees in Crisis Management Team; create voicemail for when evacuated, or out of office, etc.
  • Update disaster recovery kits and begin crisis back-up procedures
  • Maintain accurate inventory of product on site
  • Use plugs to prevent floodwater from backing up into sewer drains, or install flood vents/or flood proof barriers
  • Stay tuned to local media & community messaging

During the Flood

  • Life safety is paramountBegin next phase of your business continuity plan
  • Send non-critical staff home
  • Raise elevators to the 2nd floor and turn off
  • Stay tuned to local media- evacuate when required
  • Take cell phones, charger, critical hardware, and emergency kits with you
  • Unplug electrical items before leaving
  • Consider your business phones and redirection to cell phones, an answering service, or Google Voice
After the Flood

  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage – water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded, roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet, mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals
  • Implement DR plan, and monitor local authorities’ communication
  • Contact employees via determined method of communication and discuss next stepsContact your insurance agent
Your People

  • Ensure you have an emergency communication plan in place prior to the storm, evacuation, or threat
  • Have all employees, vendors, and client contact information on hand
  • During evacuation have a central point of contact for all employees, and ensure you know where your employees are located
  • Following the flood, notify all critical people of next steps, based on damage

Helping to Mitigate your Risk for Flood Interruption:

Do You Know the Terms?
•Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
• Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
• Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Flash Flood Warning:  A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.
For more information about flood prevention visit www.floodsmart.gov.

Fascinating, Flooding, Ferocious Storms: Summer Hazard Series Spotlight on Hurricanes

Blog_HeaderHere at REM4, those of us in the disaster/emergency field are likely to stay abreast of the latest storm formations on the www.nhc.noaa.gov  site and look for brooding tropical storms in the gulf, and carefully pay attention to whether a circle of clouds is showing hints of becoming a spiral, and wait with baited breath during the hot months for a potential hurricane.

In the Atlantic, hurricane season starts June 1, while in the Pacific it starts May 15. Both end on November 30. Mid-August is considered the beginning of the peak of the season—so here we are!

If you and your business are in a hurricane-prone area, then you have probably seen it happen time and time again. When hurricanes hit, communities may experience devastation, yet many choose to prepare to rebuild. More and more, due to climate change and sea level rise, this has become a hot topic: To rebuild or not to rebuild? Home is where you live, you work, where your community is, where your family and friends are, and dedication to sense of place is something that should be heavily considered when choosing recovery strategies. 

Hurricanes are called different names depending upon where they form. In fact, a hurricane is what the storm is called in the Atlantic Ocean. In the northwest Pacific Ocean, it’s called a typhoon. In the South Pacific and Indian oceans, it’s called a cyclone. The scientific name that’s acceptable for these storms across the world is “tropical cyclone.”

These storms aren’t going to get any easier. Here are some things you may not have the answers to that you should consider:

“Of small businesses that close because of a disaster, at least one in four will not reopen,” according to a previous statement from Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute.

What’s insurance for? Aren’t I supposed to be covered?

Insurance may not cover everything and counting on FEMA and insurance to bail you out of a hurricane doesn’t cover your full loss and expenditures unless you’re already paying a high premium on flood insurance. Other damage that occurs may be out-of-pocket, and if your community or business damage costs are high, you may be out of money for months or even years. Mitigation is another aspect to consider—windows leaking, old roof systems, computer damage, etc. all need to be taken into account for a business continuity plan.

When customers and clients are counting on you, what response and recovery plans do you have in order to assure they are tended to while you take care of personal costs at home and at your place of work? Business loss insurance coverage usually begins after a waiting period of about 72 hours and claims can take weeks for companies to estimate. $10,000/day in losses the first three days of waiting can come straight out of your business. Ouch.

There is business interruption coverage, which will help a business relocate and continue operating if its building is physically damaged, and contingent business interruption coverage, which can help a business if its major supplier or supply chain is damaged by the disaster. (courtesy of newspress.com: http://tiny.cc/z9pr1w)

At home: The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has an online tool that helps calculate a rough estimate of how much flooding, by height of water, could cost a household. A home that spans 1,000 square feet with six inches of flooding could have total losses of $20,150. Those costs, which vary by state and by type of home, average $1,000 in cleaning, $150 for electrical and plumbing, $7,900 in wood and carpet repair, thousands of dollars more in appliance and furniture replacement, and $1,100 in repairing doors, base trim and windows. (courtesy of http://abcnews.go.com/Business/top-things-flooding-sandy/story?id=17616519)

Want to know your updated flood risk? Visit FEMA’s website at http://www.fema.gov/risk-analysis-helping-communities-know-their-natural-hazard-risk

Getting Out of a Bind: Why Paper Emergency Operating Plans DON’T WORK!

ImageMany industries find facility-wide process changes difficult to implement. This is especially true if their Emergency Operations System has never been compromised in an emergency. Oftentimes, there may only be one master binder with hard copies of important documents alongside the Emergency Operating Plan. The use of the crisis binder that sits on a shelf collecting dust is a thing of the past. The prioritization of emergency planning in each industry is a growing one, as disasters are growing more common, demanding schools, the health sector, airports, and infrastructural public works and other industries, keep crisis binders active in their updating and implementation of their contingency exercises and drills. In our previous blog on crisis binders, we discussed why it is important to have one. Today, I want to highlight why it’s important to keep it updated with easy-to-access software and synch it to a mobile application for your phone or iPad, such as the one we offer here at REM4TM. By taking a proactive, technological approach, you will have access to the documents and plans you need to pull you out of a BIND in an emergency.

Top 10 Reasons Paper EOPs DO NOT WORK

1.     Emergency Operating Plans (EOPs) are meant to be living documents with consistently updated information based on the ever-changing needs of its users; paper EOPs are static, allowing the information to become outdated upon review.

2.     Bulky paper EOPs serve more as a tick in a box for compliance than a strategic plan that is actively utilized.

3.     Paper plans are often misplaced, locked in someone’s office, or placed on a shelf and not reviewed regularly; making updating changes to distributed copies a logistics challenge and leading many to forget or misinform important updates when it is time to review.

4.     Updating paper plans periodically rather than updating as needs arise incurs a large use of staff time and cost associated with the collection of information, printing and distribution. 

5.     You can’t easily forward or send a paper EOP to others during response, nor can you read the content in severe weather or darkness.

6.     If all staff were not included in the latest distribution, in the event of an emergency this would leave employees vulnerable and without instructions.

7.     Size matters! During an emergency evacuation, staff is unlikely to take a paper EOP, while their iPads, laptops and/or smart phones are already in their bag as they’re headed out the door.

8.     When your facility is impacted by a catastrophic event, such as tornado, hurricane, or wild fire, paper EOPs and the computers they’re saved to, may be destroyed.

9.     Paper EOPs are strategic documents that are not typically “user friendly” and staff may be unfamiliar with its organization. If you have to collect pieces of information during or after an emergency situation, it may impede your recovery by months or even years. 

10.  The nature of constructing paper EOPs do not allow for a complete backup of all plans, checklist, photos, maps and workflows to exist in one place.

 

This is not to say that having hard copies of documents isn’t good to have in addition to a software approach, we just want to promote one that beckons you to think critically about the amount of information required by FEMA and other response institutions should you need it as efficiently as possible.  Documentation of insurance forms, property information, staff information, recent repair work (to help estimate value), inventories, floor plans, etc., may take up several hundred sheets of paper. Factor in the plan itself and you may realize by weight alone will lead you to a technological approach that values your time, energy, and likelihood of utilization, leading to a safer workplace for everyone.

Please contact info@rem4ed.com if you have questions about products and information today!

Kali Rapp, REM4ed Emergency Preparedness and Technology Blog Contributor

Preparing for Rain on a Sunny Day

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What we don’t know can hurt us: Emergency preparedness is a top concern for each school, business and government entity. Your organization has hopefully completed risk assessments that outline its hazards and their potential severity, yet what no one can assess is WHEN the hazard will strike nor HOW MUCH damage it will cause.

So when an emergency strikes, who will be affected? In planning, we must assume the answer is EVERYONE! Who should be involved in emergency preparedness? You guessed it! EVERYONE! Participation is the key to ensuring safety facility-wide. It should be simple for individuals to learn their role and responsibilities for preventing, preparing, responding to and recovering from any crisis. When dealing with uncertainty, we must behave as if we are certain that an event WILL occur, and preparedness and mitigation participation on an individual level are the only feasible solutions to prevent maximum damage occurring. 

Because we know that preparedness planning is in everyone’s best interest, we want you to know to know it too. With the upcoming entries in this blog, you can begin to learn about preparedness tips and methods will help get you there! So welcome to Preparedness, Readiness and Planning–we hope that you stop by again and again to read our up-to-date emergency information to help you get ready for those rainy days, even though it’s a perfect 75 degrees outside.

 

Emergency Preparedness 101: Getting to know the Four Phases of Emergency Management
These phases are important to understand so that you can create courses of action in mitigation and preparedness to prevent the amount of work one must do during response and recovery. Scroll down and get to know these phases’ definitions and examples on a basic level. Upcoming blogs will identify ideas and actions that can be taken to practice these methods further!

Mitigation

 

Preventing future emergencies or minimizing their effects

: Includes any activities that prevent an emergency, reduce the chance of an emergency happening, or reduce the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies.

: Buying flood and fire insurance for your home is a mitigation activity.

: Mitigation activities take place before and after emergencies.

 

Preparedness

 

Preparing to handle an emergency

 

: Includes plans or preparations made to save lives and to help response and rescue operations.

: Evacuation plans and stocking food and water are both examples of preparedness.

: Preparedness activities take place before an emergency occurs.

Response

 

Responding safely to an emergency

 

: Includes actions taken to save lives and prevent further property damage in an emergency situation. Response is putting your preparedness plans into action.

: Seeking shelter from a tornado or turning off gas valves in an earthquake are both response activities.

: Response activities take place during an emergency.

Recovery

 

Recovering from an emergency

 

: Includes actions taken to return to a normal or an even safer situation following an emergency.

: Recovery includes getting financial assistance to help pay for the repairs.

: Recovery activities take place after an emergency.

Chart and diagram taken from The Four Phases of Emergency Management, courtesy of FEMA IS 10: training.fema.gov/emiweb/downloads/is10_unit3.doc