Learning From Experience
In many cases, emergency plans have been either created or updated
in the wake of disasters. At Dancor, for example, “The catalyst was
the 100-year storm of August 2005 where buildings and parking areas
were flooded as a result of an extreme microstorm,” Ford shares.
“From that event, steps were taken to educate tenants on what to do
when flooding occurs.” Tenants also regularly perform drills and
practice sessions. In addition, Dancor uses health and safety consultants who audit its plans annually and provide updates as required.
However, he adds, facilities in his country are not as well prepared as those of “Our American cousins.” At his firm’s facility in
Texas, for example, the tenant not only has well prepared disaster
plans but is aware of evacuation routes out of the city. “If a similar
disaster occurred in Ontario Canada, the majority of clients and tenants would not know where to go or how to leave,” he concedes.
“In 1996 we had a blizzard and I couldn’t get out of the house
for three days,” Gladstone recalls. “That’s how we developed our
plan – almost by the seat of our pants.” Today, he shares, everyone brings their laptops home each day, and they come together at 8
a.m. to review the plans for the day – including emergency response.
Now, he says, the company is going even further; Gladstone, the
other sales professional and the head of operations are all integrating
iPads into their equipment. “Utilizing this technology allows us to
communicate in the event we lose WiFi and wireless connections –
which has happened in the past,” he explains. He also has a backup
cable, plus access to NAI’s if that is unavailable for some reason.
This speaks to protection of data. During the blizzard, he
recalls, there were power outages caused by flooding, and emails
could not be accessed because the server was down. “Now we’re
pricing out going to the Cloud, and could be there in two to
three months,” says Gladstone. “We’re also going to remote programs. Our database is on a server; we have remote access and I
have a copy of the database program on my laptop so I can work
off that and when power comes back on line I can sync it up.”
In addition, says Gladstone, everyone in his group just received
CPR and AED training from the Red Cross – which is offered at no
charge. “What would happen if I was sitting with a client and they
choked or had a heart attack?” he poses. He also derived some marketing benefits from the course; he called the local newspaper, and
they came over and took pictures of the staff.
scuffles), grabbing a bag of clothes and his . 45 automatic. “Thirteen
hours later we were in Birmingham; it was a nightmare,” he shares.
Today, should disaster strike again, things would be much
different. “In any disaster, my family knows they can find me
by leaving a message at SIOR,” says Walker. “It’s simple; the
association will do anything to help its members, and my family knows this is my point of contact. My second point of
contact is my brother, who lives in Dallas, so there are two
separate and distinct points of contact in two separate cities.”
As for business, his server is no longer in New Orleans.
“It’s been contracted somewhere in the central U.S. in
a secure bunker; I feel a lot safer that it’s separate from
where disaster is most likely to affect me,” says Walker.
“I had thought my secretary had scanned in my most critical
documents, but it was just in progress,” he adds. “That’s all been
done now, and I personally verified it. As for data storage, it’s all
in my laptop, which obviously goes with me; I really encourage
people to do this. I have my business associates, primary and secondary contacts, family, customers, their key personnel – Outlook
can do all of that.” In addition, says Walker, you should keep copies with you of all personal documents you might need, such as
your passport, birth certificate, and insurance coverage documents.
“If you sense something may be happening, have your
‘evacuation car’ gassed up and do not use it,” Walker advises.
In terms of buildings, he says he has already lined up key contractors and told them “You will pretty much get the bulk of my business, but if a disaster strikes I expect to be your preferred customer.”
These are “handshake” deals, he continues. “I know I will
have roofs to replace, and possibly flooded buildings, so I have
all my contractors lined up,” he explains. “I have access to
many buildings, so I can set them up with a place to operate.”
None of this had been done prior to Katrina, says Walker,
whose preparation also now includes a raised up jeep to serve
as an emergency vehicle. “Food, water and security are critical,” he notes. “I am personally well armed and carry legal.”
Katrina, he adds, may be different in scope than other disasters,
“But this plan can apply to tornados, to floods in the Midwest, to
earthquakes -- to a lot of natural disasters,” Walker asserts. “The
worst case scenario is a good one to prepare for.”
The "Mother" of All Disasters
Walker had perhaps the best – and the worst – teacher for those who
want to learn about disasters; he lived through Hurricane Katrina.
“Katrina allowed me to see that your personal and business interests
are often in direct conflict with one another,” he shares. “It became my
clear vision that what we needed to do for business was ‘X’ and my
personal life and family were ‘Y.’” If you can’t support yourself
your family suffers, he notes, but you also can't do business
if you’re consumed with worries about your family.
“In hindsight, it all goes back to preparation – and
what I did and didn’t do,” says Walker. The weekend
before Katrina (the storm hit on a Monday), his wife
and daughter were up in Tennessee looking at colleges
and his son was at a boarding school in Asheville,
NC. After making some personal preparations over
the weekend including taking care of his boat and Gulf
Coast home, he received a call from his daughter who
was in tears, saying she had heard New Orleans would
be “wiped out.” Meanwhile, his parents, who were in
their 80’s, could not evacuate by themselves so he picked
them up after gassing up (and witnessing a number of