A Decade After 9/11, Focus Is on Emergency Preparedness

The Safe America Foundation (http://www.safeamericaprepared.org/) has launched a campaign to rally a million Americans to drill for preparedness in 2011. And according to the nonprofit organization’s president and CEO, Len Pagano, many employers need to understand their liability in terms of training workers for an emergency. He also stressed that even participating in a 15-minute drill can have far-reaching benefits.

In a recent smartplanet.com interview with Pagano, author Melanie Kaplan asks how businesses can most effectively be prepared for disaster and why the initial investment in disaster preparedness is well worth it.

Kaplan: I think most of us understand now what individuals can do to prepare, but what do you recommend for a business?

Pagano: If they don’t have a continuity of business plan, we encourage them to create one. Each year we have a series of free Webinars; we’ll be posting those starting in June. We offer free advice on what companies need to do legally for their employees and what will make an employee feel comfortable enough to leave their family and go to work in an emergency. If people aren’t comfortable their families are safe, they won’t go to work. So we try to point out to companies that they should have key employees identified in case of an emergency.

Kaplan: What grade would you give businesses today?

Pagano: There are some companies that are very exemplary, and some have a long way to go ... Some of it is cost — and something like funding for training gets cut off easily. But as the economy improves, we see this as an important step. The 10th anniversary of 9/11 is a perfect time. I think all of us will be reflecting on what happened 10 years ago. If we don’t want another Twin Towers incident or what happened in New Orleans, we need to practice drills on how to survive ...

Kaplan: Is an annual drill enough practice?

Pagano: It’s not enough, but it’s a good first step. But we’re trying to create a culture of readiness year-round ... UPS has encouraged its employees to take the information home and to practice with their families. Verizon and Motorola are some others that have done a great job extending it to their employees and to their employees’ families.

There are so many different occasions when it would help us to be prepared — and most of us in our lifetimes will face some sort of disaster. Practice how kids would escape from a fire, practice being on a bike or in a car and knowing what to do in severe weather. Be prepared, not scared — that’s our motto.

Kaplan: If businesses are concerned about the cost, how do you persuade them that this is a crucial investment — or that it won’t cost a ton?

Pagano: Part of it is just putting certain policies in place. We say just start educating people. You can get most of the information for free online. And then we have drills people can execute in 15 minutes. Last year the New York Stock Exchange had 2,500 employees doing safety drills.

For more information about how businesses can enhance their disaster preparedness and business continuity plans, read the full article:http://www.smartplanet.com/people/blog/pure-