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What We Can Learn from a Disaster

By Jessica Larson,

October 2 2020 - The word "disaster" conjures up images of hurricanes, wildfires, tornados, floods, chemical spills, or mass power outages. However, as we've learned this year, disaster can come in ways we've only read about in history books, such as the global pandemic we're experiencing now.

No one envisioned that this global health crisis would last as long as it has, nor how emphatically it would highlight the need for greater planning and preparedness. While our infrastructure has remained intact, our social networks and economic systems have taken a major hit.

Knowing what we know now, we can revisit and upgrade our strategies to better prepare for future disasters.

1. Maintain a healthy bottom line

Organizations that don't have resources tucked away for a rainy day will have a tough time surviving a disaster. It's always risky to operate when you're short of funds and a disaster hits: It might even keep you from reopening.

Many companies failed to survive the 2020 pandemic, often through no fault of their own. However, the stronger your organization is financially, the more flexible you can be in an emergency - and the better your chances are of surviving.

2. Always plan for the worst

If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that many things can go wrong at once. It's important to plan for worst-case financial scenarios because, as this year has shown us, mass unemployment and disruption of business as usual can occur at any time.

Whether you're a private individual or a business owner, you should have an emergency fund, insurance coverage, and access to credit. Consider other money-saving options, too, such as a home warranty. With a sudden - and possibly permanent - shift to remote work, it'll be important for employees to be able to work safely and comfortably from home.

3. Let go of unnecessary things

Chances are, you could fill a dumpster with unnecessary items from your home or workplace. It doesn't take a disaster to highlight the drawbacks of being tied down by excess belongings.

Lighten your load before a disaster happens, so you can be better equipped to respond rapidly in an emergency. Keep only what you need or truly cherish - the rest is just weighing you down.

A bonus: In addition to clearing space for a home office, you can utilize any additional space you free up to store emergency supplies and pandemic kits.

4. Prepare everyone's skill sets

The best time to prep for an emergency is before it happens. Prepare yourself and your employees so everyone is equipped to handle unexpected situations.

  • Review specific pandemic-related precautions and policies.
  • Provide training for your team in basic safety protocols and first aid.
  • Bring in experts to teach CPR.
  • Provide resources for gaining other diverse life skills, such as emergency response, changing tires, reading an insurance policy, or mobilizing volunteers.

The more skills your team members acquire, the better equipped they'll be to handle different emergency situations as they arise. (Hopefully, they won't.)

5. Protect valuable data

Data is one of the most valuable assets an organization possesses. Sometimes, it's irreplaceable. Be sure to have a backup strategy for both critical and noncritical data. Classify the most important and/or rapidly changing data; perform backups more frequently on those, but don't neglect to back up other data that changes less often.

Cloud storage options make it easy for organizations of any size to select a data plan that's feasible and affordable. Explore backup options for paper documents as well, either by scanning and storing with your electronic data or looking into off-site storage facilities.

6. Invest in team-building activities

Team-building is a valuable effort in non-emergency times, but during a disaster, it can be priceless. People working together have the best chance of enduring hardship.

So before a crisis occurs, invest in building your teams. Create and unite a cohesive, collaborative, and productive team that can help you stay prepared for - and respond well to - a potential disaster.

Schedule team-building events so your staff can get to know one another better and really gel. Even if a disaster never occurs, team-building can build camaraderie and set the stage for success in other collaborative efforts.

7. Adjust organizational thinking

Difficult times can test our response to situations beyond our control. The natural reaction, initially, can involve fear, impatience, or panic. To guard against this, cultivate a mindset of strength, patience, and calmness as an example that others can follow. Mature positivity can help you prioritize the greater good and be proactive in your response to trouble.

To weather a disaster, it's important to be proactive and to consider all possible scenarios. Any level of preparedness increases the chances of survival in a crisis.

Disastrous events pose both immediate and long-term repercussions. The better prepared we are, the more effective we'll be if and when we face disaster. Often, we don't realize how unprepared we are until we're confronted with a crisis we hoped would never happen - or one we never even imagined.

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