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BY MICHAEL R. WARFEL
While sitting in the two-hour traffic nightmare on I-5 north of Vancouver during the snowstorm a couple of weeks ago, I was nervously watching my gas gauge and wishing I had not previously raided the granola bars from my emergency kit. Living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest means enjoying our wonderful surroundings, while remaining aware of the multiple types of natural disaster threats that we face: winter storms, windstorms, floods, landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis.
“Are we ready?” is a cliché we hear on the news within hours of these disasters. For Oregon businesses, the importance of the underlying message cannot be understated. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an estimated 25 percent of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster. Similar research by the Insurance Information Institute indicated up to 40 percent of businesses fail after a disaster, and only 43 percent feel prepared to handle an extensive emergency.
Oregon businesses are not immune to this pattern of unpreparedness. A 2011 Oregon Business disaster preparedness survey showed that more than 80 percent of the 513 responding businesses were only somewhat or not well prepared for a disaster.
While I’m not an expert in disaster preparedness and business continuity planning, I have been fortunate in my work and community activities to discover some useful tips and resources that may be helpful to you and your business.
Since joining GeoEngineers last year, I have become aware of two basic tools our company uses to prepare for the variety of disasters that may strike our offices. Each of our 13 offices has developed an Emergency Action Plan tailored to its specific location (climate, potential hazards and building type). Each plan includes a map of building evacuation routes, an outside location for meeting after an evacuation, standard procedures for specific disaster scenarios, staff training (including regular drills) and recordkeeping. The plan identifies responsibilities for staff member response actions, along with communication “trees” and backup contacts. Close coordination with building owners and managers is key, especially in high-rise buildings with hundreds of tenants and site-specific evacuation procedures.
Our other disaster preparation tool is having a Business Continuity Plan for each GeoEngineers office that provides a stepwise approach to minimizing business disruption in the event of a local disaster. Our plans include a chain of command, responsibilities by staff function and a comprehensive list of internal and external resources critical to conduct our business.
Our Business Continuity Plans and Emergency Action Plans are designed to be applied in conjunction with each other. An example of our disaster plans in action occurred when Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana in August 2012. Our Baton Rouge location closed its office as part of its Emergency Action Plan, and then forwarded calls to our office in Springfield, Missouri, as part of its Business Continuity Plan. These two plans together ensured the safety of our employees and continuity of service to our clients.
Here are some basic disaster preparation concepts that might be helpful:
Hopefully this blog post has served as part of the first step for being informed. To help with the next steps, here are some useful resources.
Disaster Planning Resources
Business Continuity Planning Resources
About the Author
Michael R. Warfel, LG, LHG is a principal environmental geologist with the Portland office of GeoEngineers, and has 37 years of environmental consulting experience on projects across the U.S. His work has focused on the investigation, cleanup and monitoring of contamination at industrial facilities, waste disposal sites and landfills. He has also participated in developingemergency-response and business-continuity plans for his employers, and has served in his community as an elected fire commissioner, emergency response volunteer and amateur radio operator with training in CERT and NIMS.
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Transforming the culture of Oregon’s educational leadership.
The Board dismissed a petition related to efforts to unionize the Northwestern University football team.
Every once in a while we receive a letter in the (fictional) mailbag that is tough to describe and quite compelling. This week, Isabel, the new HR manager at LabCo (and someone who is new to HR), wants to know whether she may fire the owner’s son for having an Oregon medical marijuana card. In passing, Isabel also makes a number of alarming admissions about her motivation. Here is Isabel’s nerve-racking question and our response to it.
Oregon Sick Leave is here, and changes to the federal white-collar worker regulations are on the way. This workshop will prepare you for both. We invite you to participate in an interactive discussion on how to start planning now for the future impact on your operations and finances.
Presented by OEN + CENTRL + YESpdx.
This Roundtable will cover numerous issues under the employer "shared responsibility" rules of the Affordable Care Act, including how to track the "full-time" status of variable-hour employees, temporary or seasonal employees, and employees who experience a change in status or a break in service. Additionally, we will provide a brief overview of Code sections 6055 and 6056, which require most mid-sized and large employers to submit their first information reports to the IRS in early 2016 regarding the health insurance coverage being offered to employees. We invite you to participate in an interactive discussion on how to prepare for the future impact of the shared responsibility rules on your operations and finances.