GREENVILLE — Even if you’ve made an emergency plan at home for your family, do you know what you would do if disaster strikes while you are at work?
September is National Preparedness Month, and the American Red Cross is promoting its Ready Rating programs to help businesses and organizations assess how ready they are to face emergency situations.
“Emergencies can hit without warning, and the aftermath can affect small businesses and schools the most,” said Dominick Tolli, vice president of preparedness and health and safety services for the American Red Cross.
The Red Cross Ready Rating program can be accessed at www.readyrating.org.
“Ready Rating is an incredible program,” said Lynne Gump, executive director of the Northern Miami Valley Red Cross.
Gump noted that some businesses are required to have preparedness plans in place, but many, especially small businesses, are not, and it’s overlooked. She pointed out that having a plan not only helps to keep employees safe, but it’s also vital to ensure that a business is up and running when it needs to be after a disaster.
“An assisted living home, for example, they absolutely have everything about their plan in place because there are all kinds of regulations that require them to do so,” Gump said. “But there’s no regulation that says a hardware store has to be open the day after a disaster. And you run a hardware store, you want to be open the day of or the day after, because people need what’s in your store, and if your competitor is open, that’s really going to hurt your business.”
Gump also pointed out the importance of seeing that someone in management has a list of all employee contact information at home.
“A lot of times they’ll say, ‘Well, we have that on a database at the office,’ but what if you can’t get to the office?”
To use the Ready Rating program, business owners or operators just sign up for free at the website and answer a list of questions. The program then creates a customized assessment that not only lists the areas that need to be fixed and how to do so, but it also prioritizes that list.
“So if you’re a small business, and you don’t have a lot of money, you can see what you really need to do first and then what more you can do later,” Gump said.
Gump said there are staff and volunteers who can work with a business to help them prepare for emergencies. Kelly Parker is the contact with Northern Miami Valley Red Cross for local businesses.
“I always ask that they do the Ready Rating program first, though, so they can see where their weaknesses are,” Gump said.
The website stores assessments, so businesses also can come back to the site as they’ve made improvements and update their information to see where they are and what they still need to do.
The local Red Cross also has instructors available to come out to businesses and teach classes on first aid, CPR/AED, bloodborne pathogens and basic life support.
“We’ve even gone out and taught third-shift classes, where a volunteer is at a business teaching CPR at 2 o’clock in the morning,” Gump said.
The Ready Rating program encourages members to recognize the five essential components of preparedness:
1) Commit to preparing. Businesses and organizations are encouraged to make preparedness a priority, engage senior leadership and appoint someone to assess their readiness level.
2) Understand the threats. This means knowing the types of disasters that are most likely to affect your business in your location and your type of business and having plans in place to address those threats.
3) Ensure you have the right equipment. An emergency plan should explain, in writing, the steps that should be taken to protect the business, employees and customers before, during and after and emergency, and that the supplies, equipment and resources are in place to support the plan.
4) Practice your plan. A dusty manual in a cupboard does no one any good. Preparedness should be a priority with all employees participating in drills and knowing what to do and where to find and safely use emergency supplies and equipment.
5) Help your community get prepared. “In order to be a truly resilient community, all its parts (households, businesses, school, nonprofits and the government) rely on each other in many ways,” Tolli said. “If everyone is prepared, that positively influences how well the community bounces back from a disaster situation.” Businesses are encouraged to host blood drives, donate supplies and services, and support education on disaster preparedness.