Why We Have Emergency Drills

Satellite Image DorianI’ve mentioned once or twice that I’m a fan of emergency/contingency planning for when things go wrong. The usual emergency I have to worry about here in Florida is the occasional hurricane. It’s not just enough to be aware that the season starts in June. I need to have a checklist of emergency food/water supplies and additional plans for what to do with my computers and other valuables should my apartment be compromised by flood or flying debris. More importantly, if  I don’t practice what I’m going to do, I might not be fully prepared when an actual hurricane arrives. 

As I write this (Friday, August 30), Hurricane Dorian is continuing its slow roll toward the Sunshine State. Originally it was supposed to hit Saturday, but now is likely to arrive Monday or Tuesday, giving everyone a brief reprieve and additional time to prepare.

I admit that I was caught slightly off guard by this storm. Usually I keep an eye out when storms are way out in the Atlantic, a week or more away. I was lulled into a false sense of security because the storm appeared weak and was likely to pass over Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic before ever reaching Florida. As a result, when Tropical Storm Dorian became Hurricane Dorian and the forecast shifted from being a minor problem to a major storm, I found myself at a crowded grocery store with the other last-minute shoppers. Usually I’m early, so…lesson learned.

It’s better to be early when it comes to preparing for emergencies–tropical weather, snow storms, earthquakes, power outages, pick your crisis–because planning in the heat of the moment does not produce the best results. You’re worried about the problem as it’s happening rather than before it ever arrives. A worried or stressed person is not going to produce the same results as someone who has time to think. This is also true of business emergencies, from cashflow crunches to contract cancellations. You need to have a plan in the back of your mind as well as the resources to execute the plan should the emergency occur.

Beyond preparation, there is also practice. This is why office buildings still stage periodic fire drills or even, alas, “active shooter” drills. Some businesses practice for other large-scale emergencies (Walt Disney World and NASA run hurricane simulations, if I recall correctly). In the event of an emergency, do you know where to go? Do you know what to do? Do you know where to find and how to employ the resources at your disposal in the event of that emergency?

Obviously I was a bit out of practice with my hurricane preparedness this year, as I not only was late at shopping, I had to go back the next day because I realized I’d forgotten some things–part of the effect of trying to shop and think clearly in a store full of stressed-out people. Additionally, some things I wanted had run out because other people had gotten to them before me.

Regardless of your potential likely emergency, you should give some thought to your plan and practicing that plan in a calmer time when you have the leisure and clear-headedness to think things through. If you are asking yourself what you’re going to do as an emergency occurs, you’re too late to plan. You’ll be operating out of instinct and, most likely, fear. There are better ways of doing things.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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2 Responses to Why We Have Emergency Drills

  1. Erin says:

    What is the best way to determine what your plan needs to have in it? I imagine I’d get started with financials, but what else?

  2. Bart Leahy says:

    Your personal emergency plan? You’d want to make sure your content, financials, and basic hardware-to-function (car keys, computer, mobile devices, wallet) are all within easy reach, either to put in a safe place or take with you. Some stuff you’d want to make sure is in “the cloud” so it can be accessed remotely.

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