Emergency planning starts with personal preparedness. Promote this concept to your teams and provide resources to help them get started, like those offered by your local Red Cross to help them get a kit.

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More than Checking the Box

More than ever, preparedness is simply a cost of doing business. Now is a great time to focus on it: September is National Preparedness Month.

As a safety professional, there are endless items to check off of your "to-do list" each day. Design employee compliance training. Research new OSHA regulation. Conduct on-site safety audit. Sound familiar? With so much to do -- often with limited time and resources -- are you making sure your employees and facility are prepared in case of an emergency and making preparedness a permanent priority?

The Statistics Speak for Themselves
Michael A. Pulick, president of Grainger USBefore emergency preparedness finds its way to the top of your list, you must first understand why it matters. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 15-40 percent of businesses fail following a natural or man-made disaster. Additionally, FEMA states that 40 percent of businesses struck by a disaster never reopen, and of those that do reopen, 25 percent close within two years. To top it off, according to a survey conducted by the American Red Cross, close to 60 percent of Americans are unprepared for a disaster of any kind.

Emergencies are inevitable, and recent natural and man-made disasters have intensified the urgency of business continuity planning. Emergencies are not always widespread disasters like a hurricane. It can be anything that disrupts an organization's ability to conduct business, such as a power outage, broken pipe, or disgruntled employee. No matter the size of the emergency, businesses can't afford not to be prepared. Now, more than ever, preparedness is simply a cost of doing business.

'Tis the Season: Plan, Practice, and Partner
September is National Preparedness Month and a perfect opportunity to reflect on your approach to preparedness. Here are some simple suggestions -- based on Grainger's learnings within its own organization, as well as working with hundreds of thousands of businesses -- to keep in mind this month and beyond when thinking about getting and staying prepared.

  • Build a plan. An effective plan always starts with a thorough risk analysis to help prioritize the essential elements of the plan. Make sure the plan has clearly defined processes and procedures to quickly move team members to action. Revisit your plan often and make necessary adjustments. Your plan should address the risks that are likely for your organization, including those relevant to different geographies. For example, if you have locations in the South, you'll want to ensure that your Southern-based employees aren't reviewing a plan that addresses blizzard preparedness. As part of your planning, compile and stage emergency supply kits for each employee with basic supplies needed in the event of a disaster to keep the person warm and dry, hydrated, and able to treat minor injuries. Example items include things such as hand sanitizer, water, hand warmers, and an emergency blanket.
  • Practice your plan. Simply having a plan is not enough. Practice makes perfect, so create venues for your employees to test the plan in action by holding mock drills and emergency simulations. Make sure employees are aware of the organization's priorities around emergency preparedness, and solicit their input and feedback along the way. People take great pride in helping out during times of need, but in order to do so, they first need to be safe and secure as individuals. Remember, any emergency planning first starts with personal preparedness. Promote this concept to your teams and provide resources to help them get started, such as those offered by your local Red Cross to help them get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.
  • Establish partners. Building the right partnerships plays an extremely important role in strengthening the resiliency of a business and community. As you get to know other organizations, your trust builds and stronger communication channels develop -- vital components to responding in an emergency. Make sure to establish local partnerships that include key organizations such as police, fire, EMA, Red Cross, FEMA, utilities, skilled trades, and local emergency planning officials. These relationships will help your organization today and create a network of preparedness in your community that will pay dividends in the future. And don't forget to thank the first responders who protect and serve your community each and every day.

The Experts Know Best
There are plenty of free resources available for individuals and businesses as you think about your planning. One such tool is the American Red Cross's Ready Rating Program, a free, self-guided curriculum designed to help businesses, organizations, and schools become better prepared for emergencies. Members complete a 123-point self assessment of their level of preparedness, gain access to tips and best practices, and commit to improving their score each year to maintain membership. For more information on the Ready Rating program, visit www.readyrating.org.

Preparedness as an Investment
Every day, we are reminded that emergencies are not selective. All businesses and facilities are at risk, and almost every incident causes some degree of loss. But there is good news. The extent of the loss can be reduced and the time needed to "return to normal" can be shortened by effective preparedness planning.

As North America's largest distributor of safety and other maintenance, repair, and operations products, Grainger helps businesses with small problems, such as a burned-out exit light -- all the way up to providing products such as generators, respirators, flashlights, and chain saws to help respond to larger-scale emergencies, such as a flood, oil spill, or hurricane. More than 80 years of helping businesses in times of disaster has taught us the importance of partnering with our suppliers and relief agencies, including the American Red Cross. We also prepare more than 18,000 team members to act quickly to mobilize resources and products to help serve local needs.

A passion for preparedness is what led Grainger to partner with the American Red Cross to become the National Founding Sponsor of the Ready When the Time Comes program in 2001. Through this powerful corporate volunteer initiative, the American Red Cross pre-trains employees of local businesses who can be mobilized as volunteers when disasters strike. Today, more than 13,000 employees representing 460 businesses and organizations in 52 communities across the country have been trained as volunteers through the program. The program recently expanded to Canada and Puerto Rico.

The Time for Preparedness is Now
All of us have a role to play in disaster preparedness, both individually and as leaders within our organizations and communities. Effective emergency planning and preparedness can help your businesses better manage disruptions when they occur and keep costs to a minimum. Preparedness is not just something that you check off of the list, but something that becomes part of how you operate. As you prepare for tomorrow's work day, don't forget to put preparedness and the safety of your people at the top of your list.

For more information about Grainger’s commitment to emergency preparedness, visit www.grainger.com/emergencyinfo.

For more information about the American Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org.

About the Author

Mike Pulick is Senior Vice President of Grainger and President of Grainger U.S.

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