Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Michelle Taylor, VP, Digital Operations & Support, Univest

Emergency Managers See the World a Bit Differently. Have you ever met a professional emergency manager? When sharing a story about your new home, the emergency manager will ask if your new home has the latest resiliency building codes (in your area) or how close your dream home is to the 100 or 500 year flood zone. Emergency managers will know if their community is suffering through a draught, if the infrastructure is weak in certain neighborhoods and strong in others. They know how much food and water the average person needs to ride out a storm (FEMA states a normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts (half gallon) of water each day. People in hot environments, children, nursing mothers, and ill people will require even more. You will also need water for food preparation and hygiene. Store at least one gallon per person, per day). Emergency managers will know which electrical grids come back on the quickest and know if your neighborhood is considered a food desert (USDA Defines Food Deserts. Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers). We are invited to community meetings but cautioned not to always point out the gray side of the cloud and are always grateful when the few take our words of caution and take baby steps towards preparedness. The question that perplexes most emergency management professionals is why doesn’t everyone know their own risks within their own community?

Home – Your family is the most important thing in your life. Your disaster preparedness steps of purchasing extra food, water, fuel, batteries, and various other supplies could be solved with a trip to the grocery store of choice. Where there seems to be a disconnect is knowledge about your home.

During Hurricane Irma Florida issued an evacuation order to very specific areas of the state (tourists, barrier island areas and trailer/RV parks). Due to not fully understanding the evacuation zone system, over 1 million residents evacuated the state that had no need to leave. This unnecessary evacuation led to resource (fuel, food, water, etc.) shortages along the major transportation corridors and terrible traffic congestion which delayed the evacuation. Limited spaces on planes, trains, buses and vehicle rentals, hotels were packed (which is great for the local economy but displaces persons that actually needed shelter). This over evacuation also placed an immense strain on public shelter spaces which were designed to handle the population in designated evacuation zones.

To avoid unnecessarily spending money and leaving a perfect home (and shelter) behind, here are a few questions you should be able to answer;

• Is your home in the 100 or 500 year flood zone?

• What evacuation zone is your home in? 

• Is your home properly insured?

• What is the tolerances/build code your home was designed to?

• Do you live in a draught prone area?

• How much rain can your neighborhood tolerate at once?

• Does storm surge affect your neighborhood?

• What is your family emergency communications plan?

• If you must evacuate, (Earthquake, Tsunami, Flash Flood, etc. where are you going and how are you getting there?

Business – For the business owners, CEO’s, and leaders, is your business ready for the hazards in your area? Successful businesses will be prepared for the unexpected, treating every set back as an opportunity. Disasters are no different. Your community needs your business to be open, functioning and profitable. Disasters can also lead to increased revenues (depending on your type and kind of business) by planning on leveraging your business knowledge, skills and ability t help get your community back on its feet.  

The reality is 1 out of every 4 businesses will not survive post disaster. This causes a Cascadian effect on property values, population and the tax base just to name a few. To avoid becoming a statistic a business owner should ask; do I know all the hazards to your business? To save time I will not re-list the same questions regarding your home but they should be applied to your business plus;

• Do you have a Continuity of Business (COB) plan and if so, are you and your staff trained on it?

• Does your COB have any of the below annexes (but not limited to);

o Staffing Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)

o Threats, Hazards and Risk Analysis

o Pandemics

o Telework

o Devolution

o Disaster Recovery (DR)

o Security

o Active Killer

o Communications

o Disruption of business Insurance

o Primary, Secondary and Tertiary vendor lists

o Operations policy during emergency declarations.

o Post Disaster Recovery

• Is your Human Resources (HR) leaders training and preparing your staff on family preparedness (if they are not prepared, they are not working).

Note: The lists above should be applied to your place of worship as well. Places of worship are at the same risks as businesses post disaster and are an integral part of post community disaster recovery.

Emergency managers see the world a bit differently for sure but identifying the risks you and your community face, planning for them accordingly and taking the steps needed to not survive but thrive during a disaster will lead you towards a more resilient community, a safer family and business and personal peace of mind. 

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