Hurricane Preparedness - Managing the Storm in All of Us
By Gamal Newry
Sep 16, 2008 - 3:47:33 PM
What now Disaster Preparedness Coordinator or Emergency Manager? Yes, what advice and recommendations are you developing, to report on the events of the last few weeks and see how they will effect your emergency preparedness in the future. At this point you should be reviewing, researching, then rewriting, how our companies are going to respond during the next event. The rules have changed, and apparently in favor of the opponent – the hurricane. How can you compete against such an adversary you may ask and yet really, you do not have much of a choice. If your responsibility is asset protection for your organization, then you are not only in the game, you are wearing several hats, like the coach, the quarterback, and the wide receiver, (yes it is football season also). So what now, and how do we move forward?
Just as 9/11 created a quantum leap for the physical and access control components of security, so too have recent hurricanes like, Katrina, Rita, and Ike. These have caused a jump forward with regard to emergency, crisis, and disaster management elements of loss prevention. So now out of this chaos we must first and foremost review our plan. What elements have now become obsolete and irrelevant to preparedness, response, and recovery effort?
Additionally, a critical element which is sometimes overlooked is the awareness / education phase of the plan. This is especially important to professions like health care, where the workplace must be manned regardless of what happens. Persons working in similar industries cannot just close up shop until the storm passes. Education and awareness of what you may ask? Simply what is expected of them and what benefits the company has in place for the support during possible life threatening circumstances. Do not make the mistake of only educating your staff on how much damage the various categories of a hurricane can cause, as we can turn to the weather channel for that. They must be reminded of the organization's commitment to business continuity, specifically their well being.
Let's take for example human behavior and as our model, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. A hurricane can be a traumatic and horrific event. This is seen by the constant bombardment of video of the damage caused or the reminder of potential damage it can cause. Those of us who have had to withstand weather storms in the execution of duty, know very well how much damage can be done in a few short hours. It motivates some very powerful human emotions, and as the coach / quarterback you must be able to immediately read what your other team members are going through and adjust accordingly. When we review Maslow's Theory, we see that all categories of his pyramid are experienced during a storm of such magnitude.
At the very minimum the physiological component which speaks about fulfillment's such as, food, drink, shelter etc. This usually the first advisory response to the public, something to the affect of 'store up on extra water and food', to the point of how much you will need to survive and canned food not fresh. As simple and good intention as this may seem, this is a very overwhelming demand to place on persons especially those of us who are struggling to meet these needs on a regular basis. Not to mention pack up what is only necessary and bring it with you. What a request to ask of persons, but a critical demand that must be adhered too.
Then if this is not enough it is demanded that nurses, doctors, police, marines, correction officers, and the like not only leave their homes and loved ones but also place themselves in harms way. When the body instinctively says 'run and hide' these brave souls are being asked to stand their ground against winds in excess of 100 miles per hour. This is a direct attack on the safety and social needs as described by Maslow.
Finally, after the storm we must deal with esteem and self- actualization needs. These factors have been attacked as persons return to what is left with little, or no help from anyone, 'because we all sufferin' as stated by a victim of Hurricane Jeanne a few years ago. Years of building a dream home with the little savings one has, gone in seconds, in a matter of moments totally destroyed.
But haven't you asked, rather demanded, that your team come out and perform regardless, this is their patriotic duty to the country and loyal duty to the organization. As we have seen not only in New Orleans, but also during war and other traumatic events some persons cannot take the pressure, so they, as it is taught in police self-defense training, tactically retreat. Can we hold this type of action against these persons? Unfortunately we must or face dysfunction when another critical event occurs.
As leaders if our only concern is about the physical and financial preparedness, thus neglecting the human element we are in for a rude awakening. Consider the exposure by the media of the poor response to Katrina, will do the demands of the persons expected to responded and ride out the storm. They have now been educated in my opinion, on some very real characteristics of government and public policy. Firstly, government, yes the people who are supposed to lead are people too, and subject to serious errors and bad judgment. Finally, public policy, the rules which we are to abide by, if not regularly reviewed and tested will be 'thrown out with the bath water'. That is to say in times of panic and desperation our tolerance will be lowered in an effort to survive. Is it not, what we need to survive is not what we need to live? That is another discussion.
This article has focused on how mental health relates to mitigation of response to hurricanes and other similar disasters, and it is this writer's opinion that this is the underlying failure in training as it pertains to emergency response. We as leaders forget the human beings who have to carry out the plan.
About the Author: Gamal Newry is the President of Preventative Measures, a Loss Prevention and Asset Protection Training and Consulting Company, specializing in Policy and Procedure Development, Business Security Reviews and Audits, & Emergency and Crisis Management. Comments can be sent to P.O. Box N-3154 Nassau, Bahamas or, email
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