Houston, We Have a Plan

Did you notice people going crazy after 9/11 like they did after the Trump election? I remember my sister – who lived far from the target where I live – telling me that she was having panic attacks that were keeping her from sleeping. What if a terrorist decided to bomb her town?

I didn’t try to reason with her. Instead I walked her through assembling a Go-Kit. What would she need for the cats? What documentation? How much money? Could she buy a big bottle of water, some canned food, and an extra can opener, put everything in a dedicated bag under her bed, ready to grab if something happened? She did, and the panic attacks stopped. She found the bag a few years later when she packing up to move and just shook her head.

But Houston shows us, once again, that having a plan is not just an exercise to alleviate our fears. With climate change happening now, everyone needs to be ready to get up and go at a moment’s notice. Cities, towns, and villages need to be ready to evacuate from a hurricane, or an earthquake, or a flood, or a tornado. And businesses need to be ready, too.

Is your company ready?

What’s in your company’s Go-Bag? After 31 years in business, here are my suggestions:

  • A pre-evacuation plan. What needs to be secured? How? What’s on the ground that needs to be moved up to higher ground? If you need to cover the windows and doors, have you secured a service to do that? Don’t wait until the evacuation is announced – their lines will be busy from last-minute calls. What are you doing with the cash? Leaving it in the safe? The safe downstairs in the basement? Or are you depositing it at the bank before you go?
  • An evacuation plan. What do you need to bring with you? Do you have your employee contact information? Where are your employees going to go? After Katrina, many people ended up in Houston or even Nashville – will you be able to find them later when you need them to work? And you’ll want to make sure they’re safe and unhurt. How about your customers? Do they need anything from you? An update? A promise to return when the flood waters recede? If you want to continue business later, they will…
  • A business recovery plan. How will you keep the business going if you can’t get to the office? What if the power is out? What will it take for you to get back up and running again, in the short-term, to file your insurance claims, and connect with service providers. And reconnect with customers. How do you demonstrate that you’re part of their community – be there for them right after the storm and they’ll be there for you when they’re ready to start purchasing again.

Review your plans and kits annually, updating them, and making sure everyone on the team understands their role.

There’s an old management saying: you can’t build a relationship when you need one, you have to build it ahead of time so it’s there when you need it.

The same thing is true of a good emergency plan: the time to stop and plan isn’t when the water is rising – it’s while the streets are dry.

My husband likes to the tell a story about an old lady on the roof during the flood. She prays, “God, I trust you to save me.” A man floats by on a log and calls to her to join him, but she waves him away, saying, “I trust God.” The water rises up to the eaves. A woman in a boat comes along, and she waves her away, saying, “I trust God.” The water rises up to her feet. Finally a helicopter comes along and she waves it away too, calling, “I trust God.” The water rises again, carrying her away. When she gets to the pearly gates, she demands, “God, I trusted you, why didn’t you save me?” And God replies, “You’ve got to be kidding – I sent a log, I sent a boat, and I sent a helicopter, and you waved them all away.”

Whether you believe climate change is man-made or not, the earth is sending messages, warning us to get our act together. We must all do what we can to alleviate the load the climate is carrying but it may already be too late.

Now all we can do is have an emergency plan ready to go so when the next storm comes, we’re ready.

What’s in your To-Go Kit?

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