Home Disaster Preparedness

Many people think that business continuity plans are for their employers or their government and supporting agencies but few realize that they should have some sort of response plan for their homes.  It’s not the responsibility – in my belief – for employers and government officials to tell others what they should do and not do at home.  In fact, to paraphrase former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau who said that governments have not business in the bedrooms of it’s citizens.  Employers have not business (no pun intended) in people’s homes either.  If they have a home office and perform corporate functions there then they may be following a level of protocol and procedures that must be followed but beyond that, it’s up to the family or the individual to have an emergency response plan in place.  Here are just a few examples with a very a very brief description.

  1. Evacuation Plan – Ensure that you know how your family will evacuate the house should a fire suddenly erupt.  If fire breaks out on the main floor, would it make sense to go downstairs to evacuate if you’re on the 2nd or 3rd floor?  It might be possible but you’re probably walking into smoke – and more people die from smoke inhalation than from the actual fire.  Know what your plan is and practice it.
  2. Assembly Points – To continue from above, if you do vacate your home – be it a house or apartment – know where the assembly point is.  Meaning, if you and your partner and children do evacuate safely but have evacuated from differing points, identify ahead of time where you will all meet up.  This will at least let you know if everyone is safe. 
  3. Pandemic Plan – A pandemic illness can affect everyone, regardless of where they are and what they do.  Just like a business, people need to know what they will do if they can’t leave their home because of a quarantine; this doesn’t mean they are sick, it just means they can’t leave home because a fellow resident is ill.  How will they pay their bills and do banking?  If you can’t leave then the home then some level of online services need to be established.  If a child is sent home because a school has been closed, a parent must know which one will stay home to care for the child (assuming they aren’t old enough to care for themselves). 
  4. Have an Emergency Contact – Sometimes the disaster or emergency doesn’t allow you to be immediately in contact with others.  You may be in the same city but can’t get a hold of your significant other because communication lines are down or your significant other simply can’t be reached for any number of reasons (maybe they are out of town and can’t contact you).  Identify someone outside of your general vicinity that you can contact and let them know you are OK.  Your partner can do the same thing so that the contact can reassure them that you are fine.  Make sure your contact is accepting this role because it could add stress; they may be wondering if you’ve been affected by the disaster, let alone be receiving calls from you partner who can’t reach you.
  5. Non-Perishable Food Supplies / Emergency Kits – Governments have asked the general public (at least the Canadian Government has) to be prepared with food and supplies for up to 72hrs after a major incident.  This means that 1st responders – police, rescuers etc – may not be able to immediately help you so you must be able to take care of yourself and your family.  What sort of things should homes have ready in the event of a disaster?  Non-perishable food items and supplies such as granola bars, canned foods (don’t forget the can opener), matches/lighter, candles, bottled water, wind-up radio and flashlights, some cash in small bills, utensils, hand sanitizers, toilet paper, change of clothing and footwear (for all seasons just in case…) and other items that a family may need.  If you have pets, don’t forget to make allowances for them and if you have small children, ensure you have games and the right food and supplies that will address their needs.

Businesses need to have response plans when a disaster strikes their premises but they can’t respond to every employee’s home needs.  In fact, it would be impossible to do so.  Can you imagine a manager trying to get their business processes up and running, while also trying to make sure the homes of 10 direct reports are organized?  Can’t be done.  Individuals and families need to prepare for any situation that can affect their abode and ensure they can respond appropriately. 

For more information home preparedness, check out the following and look for information on home preparedness (Note: Some sights will also provide information on pandemic home preparedness.):

Your Local/Municipal Health Agency,

State or Provincial Government sites

Federal Government Websites

Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA)

Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness (CCEP)


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