With this week being Natural Disaster Preparedness Week and many companies having already implemented emergency procedures due to coronavirus, now is as good a time as ever to evaluate your company’s contingency plans in case of disaster. 

While entirely different from a natural disaster, the coronavirus pandemic is quickly teaching business leaders how to adapt on the fly to an emergency that affects not just them, but an entire community or broader region across all industries. We’re also learning plans are just that: plans. But living through something is entirely different and flexibility is important because surely something that is an emergency will not fit into the bullet points you’ve outlined in a company document. 

Today’s focus of Natural Disaster Preparedness Week, tornadoes, is of particular importance to me because I lived through one in Marshalltown in the summer of 2018. There were so many things you simply don’t think about until the storm is real. For example, when employees come out of shelter, it’s important they keep in mind that the building may not be safe to stay in (or go up to the top floor) until a structural engineer has evaluated it. Or what about older buildings that share a wall with a next door neighbor – whose insurance will pay when there’s damage to it? Or who knows how to manually shut off your water if pipes get struck and are flooding the building? 

Because we live in the Midwest, we might see tornado warnings as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” but they are very real and thorough planning should be taken seriously. For businesses that go through a tornado or flooding, 75% without a contingency plan will fail three years or less after the storm, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Labor. 

So what can you do?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a resource called Ready, which includes resources for business leaders preparing for natural disasters. By the way, the plan lists media relations as an important element to think through. Additionally, last week, staff writer Kate Hayden wrote about making sure your remote work station is secure.