March 22, 2017: A car and knife attack takes place near the Houses of Parliament in London. April 2, 2017: A water avalanche in Colombia kills 254. April 3, 2017: A train explosion in Moscow kills 14.
These are just three of the most recent examples of crises or disasters that struck suddenly and had an impact on a great number of people. Does it not seem as if these events are happening more and more frequently? That’s because they are.
In addition to man-made crises such as the terror attacks in Paris, Brussels or at an Orlando nightclub, there is the ever-growing threat of natural disasters such as blizzards, hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes.
As a CEO, you, your people and your company are vulnerable. The questions to be answered and planned for include:
- Are you and your staff ready if a disaster strikes your company?
- Do you have people traveling in the affected area? Can you reach them?
- Does your staff have family in the affected area?
Assistants in companies are accustomed to handling crises of all shapes, sizes and intensity. It is your team’s business to expect the unexpected, but they need your full support. Remember that the crisis doesn’t have to be a full-out terrorist attack to cause chaos for businesses.
We have all learned some painful lessons since 9/11, and websites created by the Department of Homeland Security have been designed to help us run the what ifs and be prepared to the best of our ability.
So what if, or rather when, it happens again?
How you and your team can improve disaster readiness
- Learn from a survey of all staff members, asking their thoughts on your company’s readiness for both kinds of disasters (man-made and natural).
- Be sure you can reach your people by text and have emergency contact information for them, including phone numbers and email addresses.
- Urge your team to have hard-copy backups of key data in the event of a power outage.
- Review disaster equipment that you should have on hand in the office as well as in your cars and homes, which is specific to your particular area. Don’t leave this to chance. More people would have lived on 9/11 if they had had flashlights to navigate the pitch-black stairwells. Many companies have “go bags,” which contain emergency supplies for a situation where people have to leave the building suddenly. Batteries, a blanket, track phones, a power strip, an extra phone charger, bottled water, medicine, $200 in small currency and energy bars are examples of items in the bag.
- Create a team that includes the assistants to devise your company’s disaster plan. Where is the meeting area if people cannot get into the building?
- Remember fire drills in grade school? Run periodic drills with your team and distribute up-to-date information.
- For the sake of cybersecurity, be sure your IT team has a disaster plan in place that is shared with the whole staff. Devise a plan for password protection.
- Make “if you see something, say something” part of your company policy. The former co-worker of the Orlando nightclub shooter wishes he had spoken up.
Clearly, the time to create a disaster plan is when there is no problem — not in the middle of a crisis. The days of “It could never happen to us” are long over. It’s a whole new world.
Only you know whether your company is ready. If the answer is no, today is a great day to act.
Bonnie Low-Kramen is a workplace leadership expert and international trainer and speaker. She served as Olympia Dukakis’s executive and personal assistant for 25 years. Through Ultimate Assistant, LLC, she is now dedicated to opening the lines of communication between executives and their assistants in every organization. Her purpose is to educate executives on how to leverage this powerful relationship, and empower assistants around the world to find their voice, and communicate with intention, confidence, and honesty. Sign her SpeakUp Pledge at www.speakuppledge.com, and follow her on Twitter @BonnieLowKramen.