Disasters, either natural or man-made, pose a year-round threat to most of us. A good leader will prepare for the unexpected in order to be ready to guide his team through a disaster.
Potential disasters will vary from one region to another. In my area, the greatest threat is posed by earthquakes or human-caused disasters. Wildfires and flash flooding are also potential threats. Hurricanes and ice storms are highly unlikely for us. While we can’t adequately prepare for every possible disaster, we can take basic steps to ensure that we are ready.
There a several steps a good leader can take to help his team be prepared.
A leader must have a general emergency plan in place. In 30 years, I have experienced two significant earthquakes while at work. This taught me what I need to do if it happens again. Risk assessment is important. I have surveyed each office I have worked in so that I knew the best exit routes and how far from the building I needed to be in order to be safe. This included surveying for overhead power lines and other potential hazards. You don’t want to walk from one hazard into another one. I have rehearsed the process in my mind, but I didn’t stop there.
It is important to make sure that your team understands expectations and how to act in an emergency. There will also be concerns specific to each type of team or business.
You will all need to keep your cool and be of assistance to visitors and others who are onsite. Knowing evacuation routes and meeting places is critical. It is also important to know when not to evacuate.
One example: I work next to a major railway freight line. One of our possible concerns is a derailment with hazardous materials. We cannot evacuate if there is a hazardous material concern outside, unless the building itself is in danger.
3. Delegate assignments
Each team member should have a responsibility. For example, someone can take charge of inspecting your facility for potential hazards. Someone can monitor expiration dates on emergency supplies. Someone has to take the lead during an evacuation. Someone could grab the first-aid kit or a “go-bag” on their way out. And someone needs to be designated as the last one out. And don’t forget those who will need assistance.
These responsibilities as well as others that you may identify should be assigned and understood. Even as a dentist and a faculty member, I have a specific emergency responsibility in our clinic. And people respect this uniform!
4. Prepare supplies
When we think about supplies, first aid supplies come to mind first. But other items will assist our team as well. A supply of emergency food and water may be beneficial. A set of clothing and sturdy walking shoes in a small duffel bag can be beneficial if you and your team dress professionally.
5. Regularly update information and training
The prepared leader will have contact information for his or her entire team, and for their family members or significant others. Contact information should include various media types, e.g. email addresses, cell numbers, even social media info. In a pinch, you want to have all the possibilities covered. Communication during and after the emergency is critical.
Think about this: some disasters will occur while we are not at work. It may become important to contact your team to tell them not to come to work in some situations.
Remember also that training is not a one-time event. A good leader will set aside time to retrain and refresh skills, as well as to bring new team members up to speed.
A good leader will ensure that he and his team are ready to face a disaster. And we should think about more than just the human element. What about data backups and important documents? If you plan ahead and make use of available resources, you will be able to face an emergency with confidence.
Please note that this is meant to be an overview only. Due the variations in leadership situations, businesses, geographic locations and potential disasters, I cannot cover all the possibilities. You must make relevant preparations for your own situation. For more information, checklists, and training materials, see ready.gov, or websites for your state, province, or local disaster agencies or the Red Cross. British Columbia has an outstanding website for my Canadian friends. There are also many commercial entities who can provide helpful resources for your preparedness needs.