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Preparedness Starts at Home

  • 1 November 2021
  • Author: WebTeam
  • Number of views: 580


If you’ve considered how to prepare your business for an emergency or disaster, you likely focused on your facilities, equipment, services and staff. To increase the success of your plan, it may be time to think outside the walls of your workplace — specifically, whether your staff are prepared at home.

A recent study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) found that 98% of U.S. households believe that their community is likely to be impacted by a disaster. However, one in every two households is unprepared for an emergency and more than half don’t feel confident in their ability to get prepared. [i]  

What does this mean for your workforce? If they follow national trends:

  • Approximately one-fifth don’t have enough supplies to support their household for at least three days. 
  • About four in ten haven’t practiced an emergency drill with members of their household, which lowers the likelihood that they will know what to do during an emergency. 
  • Less than half have an emergency plan in place for their household.

When a disaster happens, you depend on your staff to execute your emergency plan and maintain essential business operations. What are the odds that they will be able to do so if they fear for the safety of their home and family?

When a disaster happens, you depend on your staff to execute your emergency plan and maintain essential business operations. What are the odds that they will be able to do so if they fear for the safety of their home and family?

 Preparedness and role conflict

In 1952, the sociologist Lewis M. Killian set forth one of the earliest explanations of how disasters create tension between an individual’s various responsibilities. Although a person can generally manage the day-to-day functions associated with their multiple roles (e.g., employee, member of a household, active community citizen), a disaster can present a dilemma in which the individual must decide which role to prioritize. According to Killian, conflict happens most frequently between a person’s professional and familial roles.

A recent article in the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management suggests that — in the conflict between responsibilities — family takes precedence. The research revealed that concern over family safety was a top barrier to the willingness of health care workers and first responders to report to work during an emergency.

Less is known about if, or to what extent, role conflict would actually result in staff absenteeism. However, the findings suggest that staff are likely to be confronted with dilemmas that may be avoided through household preparedness. In fact, researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health surveyed health department workers across the U.S. and found that those who perceived that their family could function in their absence were more likely to be willing to report to work during most types of natural and biological disasters. 

The bottom line? Home emergency preparedness can give your staff the peace of mind they need to focus on their professional role during a crisis.

Household preparedness and your role

FEMA’s research shows that many Americans could use a little help in preparing their household for an emergency. As a business leader, you can play a key role in disseminating information that will help your staff take simple steps to get prepared. In fact, individuals encouraged by their employer to have a household emergency plan are not only more likely to do so but are also more likely to engage in other preparedness activities. [ii] 

If you are unfamiliar with what it means to be prepared for an emergency at an individual level, here are the three basic steps:

  • Gather supplies
    • A prepared household has, at minimum, the basic things they need to survive following a disaster. This includes a three-day supply of food and water (if evacuating) or a two-week supply (if sheltering at home), a 1-month supply of medication, a weather radio, a first aid kit and any personal or pet supplies that are necessary to meet the needs of everyone in the household.
  • Make a plan
    •  Members of a household should create a plan that explains what they will do during an emergency. For example, the plan should include where they will meet in the community if separated, how and to where they will evacuate, and whom they designate as an out-of-area emergency contact. 
  • Be informed
    • Knowing which disasters or emergencies are likely to impact your community is key to making effective preparations. Additionally, it is important to understand how local authorities will relay information to the public to remain informed before, during and after an event. 

The prospect of adding this information into your overall workplace preparedness strategy may seem overwhelming. However, know that helping your staff personally prepare for disasters doesn’t need to be complicated. 

First, the American Red Cross has many resources available to help:

Second, you can integrate preparedness information into your normal communications, such as staff meetings, newsletters or flyers posted within the workplace. Use the message “Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed” as a concise way to underscore actions staff can take. 

Does your community tend to experience a specific type of natural disaster, like hurricanes or earthquakes? Is a major event predicted for your area, such as a heat wave? Use your existing communication channels to share timely preparedness tips and news. You can also leverage your experience as a business leader to pass along information about resources in your community that may be helpful to your staff before, during and after a disaster or emergency.

Finally, make your team’s household preparedness a fundamental part of your preparedness strategy by integrating it into your Emergency Action Plan (EAP). As part of your Ready Rating membership, you can use the EAPAdvance template generator to create a customized plan. Make sure the “Assisting Staff with Household Emergency Planning” section is enabled to add several home preparedness recommendations to your EAP. Once you download your plan, you can also add the above suggestions or brainstorm new ideas that will best suit your workforce’s needs.

Since an emergency can happen at any time, it makes good business sense to help your staff prepare their households so that they have less to worry and can focus on work. As Mike Adamson with the British Red Cross is credited with saying, “Every person who prepares is one less person who panics in a crisis.”