Recently, I found myself in a small business on a weekend morning. The shop was relatively busy, with the owner, 6 or 7 employees, and perhaps a dozen clients. Suddenly, the wind came up and the sky became an ominous green/black color. It looked like a tornado sky.
The shop owner had wisely invested in an emergency, NOAA Weather Radio. Our fears were confirmed as we heard the blaring announcement of a Tornado Warning.
It was what unfolded next that was the most worrisome of this already tense moment. A customer asked, “Where do we go for tornado protection?” As torrential rain, wind, and lightening unleashed, the shop owner replied, “I have no idea. I know this building is like a tin can. Maybe we could go down to the corner of the shopping center to the restaurant. They may have stronger walls.”
Incredulous, several of us stepped into action and directed employees, clients, and the business owner where to take shelter within the building until the all clear was sounded. At that moment, I was thinking “How many small to midsize business owners overlook implementing and communicating an Emergency Response Plan?” Clearly, this one had.
Unlike large entities, small to midsize businesses often operate with sparse personnel due to smaller budgets, and most certainly without a Safety Manager. So, how should a business owner or HR professional address this issue for your small to midsize business?
Education is key
A quick search led me to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Business Guide. The SBA’s site offers a full section on how to prepare for emergencies. There you will find specific disaster checklists and tips not only for tornadoes, but also for hurricanes, winter weather, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, and cyber security. You will also find helpful links to FEMA and other disaster training, recovery, and assistance information. Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) offers an Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning Kit in PDF format for easy download here.
Are you ready?
Do you know what to do when disaster strikes? Do your employees? Accept the challenge to be certain. Take advantage of the SBA, IBHS and other state and local agencies to gather information. Then arrange a lunch-and-learn or other mandatory training sessions to ensure all employees know what to do in any kind of emergency.
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