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Edition 314 – Disaster Preparedness

We’ve all seen the images of utter devastation that have occurred across the East Coast of Australia over the past two weeks. Torrential rain and huge floods have impacted thousands of people and the insurance bill is surely going to mount to amongst one of the largest ever in Australian history.

In our own corner of the world, a planned business trip to Melbourne was cancelled in preparation for the forecasted weather event. The warnings were severe enough to to make the call to stay home, rather than be interstate when things could deteriorate.

Over night Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, nothing eventuated. As I fried up my eggs for breakfast on Wednesday morning, I remarked to myself that it all seemed a little anti-climatic. I’d wondered if I’d over-reacted by cancelling the trip and inconveniencing my great clients. Then it started!

By 9.00am the pool was overflowing and full of mud. By 10.30am, a garden wall had collapsed and we simply couldn’t get the water away from the back of our home fast enough. As my wife frantically pushed towels up against the inside of the doors, I was outside, running around like a mad man, trying to sweep the water away from the house before it breached our defences. Even with all outside drain grates removed, the water level continued to rise, such was the huge volume of water falling from the sky and travelling down our backyard.

After what seemed like an eternity, and with the pool of water less than 5cm from entering the house, the rain eased slightly and we were winning the battle, though by this time, my wife had to rush to the scene of an accident that our eldest son had 1km from home after aquaplaning in the huge downpour. That’s a story for another time.

It’s become very obvious to me this week that we were woefully underprepared for such a significant weather event. Now, with the lessons of what we’ve been through, is the time to enact a new plan.

Thinking it through further, I’d suggest that most businesses are also not prepared for any form of natural, or other, disaster. Flood, fire, heavy rain, electrical outage, loss of internet connectivity – you could fill a whiteboard quickly with all of the eventualities of how your business could be impacted by events completely outside of your control.

Breaking it down, there are three key elements that we, as a household, and you, as a business owner, needs to engage in in terms of disaster preparedness:

  1. Prevention – what do we need to do now to ensure that when it occurs next time, we are better prepared? For us, that’s about some major drainage works around the house – both in the yard and attached to the home. This is a significant investment for long term preparedness.
  2. Protection – what do we need to have in readiness for the next event to deal with it at the time? Generators, pumps, long hoses, sandbags are the top of mind purchases that we need to have ready in our disaster kit.
  3. Processes – can everyone that lives in our home operate the equipment that we’ll need to put into action when it happens again? There’s no use buying a generator if no one knows how to fire it up.

The time to get on with this is now! The experience is so raw in your mind that we don’t need an inquiry or a committee to determine what has to be done. It’s about:

  1. Developing an immediate plan of action.
  2. Enacting the action plan.
  3. Testing your preparedness
  4. Refining the plan.

My guess is that over the next few weeks, life will return to normal, the day to day will get in the way and for most business owners, they’ll do nothing about preparing for the next business impacting event. If it were a Government that did that, we’d all be pointing fingers at politicians and calling them incompetent. So, what does that make business owners that don’t plan for it?

This Week’s Tip

“Our home is not in a flood zone, yet still we were impacted by potential flooding.
You need to think wide and deep when considering how you can be impacted by,
and prepare for, a major event.”