Disaster Strikes –> What’s Next?

— Written By Rachel Monteverdi

Disaster Strikes. What’s Next?

It was the family business. Tom began working there as a child and was responsible for it now that his parents were in their 80s. He took his work seriously from sun up to sun down. Tom’s family name was on it, and his blood, sweat and tears went into every aspect of the business. Everyone would be impacted: customers, suppliers, employees, the list goes on. He stands there in disbelief as he watches the fire trucks roll away. Tom smells the ashes. Everything was destroyed in that fire. Now, what will he do? How will he tell his family? What will happen to his team? They depend on the business for their livelihood.

It happens every day in America. Whether fire, flood, winter storm, cyber attack, tornado, hurricane or some other disaster, businesses are ruined overnight. Ready Business, a training effort of the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), in partnership with FEMA and Homeland Security, walks businesses through the steps of thinking through and creating a disaster recovery plan. Why? Research shows that 40 to 60 percent of all businesses that close after a disaster will ultimately fail. Ready Business helps businesses plan to stay in business in the event of a disaster.

First, businesses must create their plan, talk with employees about the disaster plan and protect their business investment. On the statewide level, Ready Business trainers provide groups with the information and tools they need to offer the workshop in their community. At the local level, Cooperative Extension can develop a schedule of workshops and events that will help local businesses and the county become more prepared for a disaster. Businesses that attend the training will come away with the beginning of a disaster recovery plan, knowing how to protect employees, back up critical records, communicate with employees following a disaster and find a new business location in the event theirs is destroyed.

Lessons Learned

In 2011, Lee County businesses were hit hard by tornadoes. Four major agricultural businesses were destroyed, along with a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store and others. One year later, the Lee County Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) called on Cooperative Extension about offering a train-the-trainer workshops. Committee members wanted to be trained to offer “lunch and learn” sessions to other businesses in the community to ensure they are prepared for disasters that may come their way.

Trainers for the program included Rachel Monteverdi, a Family and Consumer Sciences agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension in Franklin County, and Kami Baggett, an Extension Specialist for the Industrial Extension Service. At the end of the training, 100 percent of participants stated they would recommend the training to others, the information was easy to understand and the workshop met or exceeded their expectations. The group was energized.

“What Lee County is doing is right on,” Monteverdi said. “They want to create a community and culture of being disaster prepared. Businesses can’t afford to have a disaster wipe them out.”

For Franklin County, Cooperative Extension is offering community leaders, concerned citizens and members of the Franklin County Emergency Planning Committee an invitation to attend a train the trainer session on April 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 919-496-3344 and sign up at least one week in advance. The cost is $40 per person, a small price for such a large investment, our community!

A special thanks to Natalie Hampton, CALS Communications, N.C. State University for contributing to this article. #

Rachel Harris Monteverdi is the Franklin County Family & Consumer Sciences Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, a division of North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University. The Family & Consumer Sciences department incorporates prenatal to end-of-life programs. Priorities for North Carolina citizens include:  Family & Parenting Education; Balancing Work & Family Workshops; Academic Success; Leadership; Active Aging; Planning for the Future; Energy Conservation; Emergency Management and more. Call 919-496-3344, email Rachel_Monteverdi@ncsu.edu or visit http://franklin.ces.ncsu.edu for additional information.