California Wildfires – Evacuating Family and Work Safely

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soundeklinUpdate 5/16/2014:

Two teens were arrested Thursday evening after police say they started at least two brush fires in San Diego’s Escondido area, as a number of larger fires rage across the county.

Police arrested 19-year-old Isaiah Silva of Escondido and a 17-year-old juvenile on suspicion of attempted arson after a witness unsuccessfully tried to chase the teens, who were on bicycles, NBC San Diego reports.

At Firestorm, we have watched as the devastating fires in San Diego and surrounding areas have destroyed homes and businesses. 21,000 have been evacuated in the San Marcos Fire alone.

Firestorm is nationally recognized for our experience in assisting in consequence management after a business disaster to identify mission-critical business functions that must resume, and can assist in helping restore the continuation of these functions.

Click here for a real-time Fire Incident updated map

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Family will always Trump Work

While continuing business operations, employers must be aware of what assistance is needed by employees to assure the safety of employees and their families. Should evacuations from the workplace be required, these must be coordinated in a safe manner with local officials to assure the reduction of gridlock (as we saw in Atlanta earlier this year), and to assure that employees are not racing to areas that have already been evacuated.

For Employees and their Families

First, develop a Personal Preaction™ Plan.  What is a Personal Preaction™ Plan?

As detailed in the Firestorm Publication, Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America, when you “react” you may behave thoughtlessly and irrationally, often making things worse.

When you “preact” you take time to think clearly, process possibilities, options and contingencies and develop a plan that enables you to perform well in an emergency.

You control your own disaster preparedness. No one is more interested in protecting you and your family than you are, and more importantly, only you and your family truly understand your particular situation.

By incorporating the best tactics and strategies and then tailoring them to your needs, a customized plan will emerge to give you an upper hand in most crisis situations. This plan is what we refer to as a Personal Preaction™ Plan.


Meeting Places

First, during an event, follow the directions of local police and fire authorities. Do not attempt to access areas that have been evacuated.

Identify where you and your family will meet after an evacuation event. If schools are being evacuated, make sure your entire family is aware of all alternate evacuation locations, and easiest routes from the workplace, home, and other travel origination points.

Should the party become separated due to individual activities, and the agreed-upon meeting place is off-limits due to evacuation, identify a secondary location beforehand as the secondary meeting spot, and assure everyone in your party knows how to get to the location safely.

If your primary meeting place is destroyed, or access to it is cut off, plan to meet at this secondary, pre-arranged location. Often community centers or schools themselves are “designated evacuation centers.” If you are unable to identify such centers in your area, contact your local Red Cross for assistance.

To determine the best secondary meeting place for you and your family, consider patterns of movement, routines, schedules, times of year, etc. for each family member. Take into account what options each person may have if:

  • They have no personal means of transportation
  • They depend on public transportation and it is out of commission
  • The secondary meeting place is inaccessible; does a third alternative exist?
  • NOTE: As with all meeting places, make sure everyone is clear on how they are going to get to each one. If you have a car, drive to your meeting places a few times. Since you may not have a car during an emergency you should walk to each location at least once. (Your perspective and observations are different from the comfort of a car than they are on foot.) Notice landmarks and how they might guide you if street lights or roads are out. While landmarks are easy reference points, make note of their relationship to other things because landmarks may be destroyed or otherwise unrecognizable.

For Children

Talking about the event with children can decrease their fear. It is important to explain the event in words the child can understand, and at a level of detail that will not overwhelm them.

Children are aware of their parents’ worries most of the time, but they are particularly sensitive during a crisis. Parents should admit their concerns to their children, and also stress their abilities to cope with the disaster.

If a friend or family member has been killed or seriously injured, or if the child’s school or home has been severely damaged, there is a greater chance that the child will experience difficulties.

A child’s age affects how the child will respond to the disaster. For example, six-year-olds may show their worries by refusing to attend school, whereas adolescents may minimize their concerns, but argue more with parents and show a decline in school performance.

Emotional Care for Children after Disaster

Suggestions to help reassure children include the following: (FEMA)

  • Personal contact is reassuring. Hug and touch your children.
  • Calmly provide factual information about the recent disaster and current plans for insuring their safety along with recovery plans.
  • Encourage your children to talk about their feelings.
  • Spend extra time with your children such as at bedtime.
  • Re-establish your daily routine for work, school, play, meals, and rest.
  • Involve your children by giving them specific chores to help them feel they are helping to restore family and community life.
  • Praise and recognize responsible behavior.
  • Understand that your children will have a range of reactions to disasters.
  • Encourage your children to help update the family disaster plan.

For Businesses

Disaster Ready People Book For many companies in the areas of fire threat and impact, entire neighborhoods and business districts are closed (or may quickly be closed-off), and these businesses are unable to conduct business as usual.

However, payrolls and bills must be paid, customers served, and deadlines met.  For some companies such as hotels and restaurants in the immediate area, a plan for re-opening is the first order of business, but must by necessity wait upon official release of the areas.

For others, re-working how, where and when business is conducted may be feasible.  Companies such as Regus specialize in workspace to use immediately when disruption occurs, with dedicated, productive working environments.  You can reach a Regus Workplace Recovery Advisor at 1-800-OFFICES.

When planning for alternate work space in a crisis, first, analyze and know your organization.

Determine Your Critical Services & Functions

Answer the following questions to help craft your recovery plan:

  • What are your organization’s functions and services?  (what you do—in detail)
  • What staff is responsible for what functions?
  • Which functions and services are critical, and which are less so?
  • Conduct a client impact analysis:  in the event of an interruption, what would be the impact on your services to your clients?  For example, if your organization delivers printing to clients, how would you get deliverables to them should your facilities be inaccessible? 
  • Whom do you serve?  Who are your clients?
  • Where do you serve them? (on-site, at their business, at another organization’s facilities, etc.)
  • How do you serve them?  What do you provide to your clients:  information, food, medical care, transportation, etc.  
  • How are these services provided:  via phone, fax, or internet, in person, etc.
  • What are your personnel requirements? (are services provided by staff, volunteers, etc.)
  • What are your equipment requirements? (cars, computers, etc.)
  • How do your services impact the organization’s functioning?  (For example, if fee-for-service is crucial to your operations, what will happen if you cannot perform those services?)

Preparedness and Resiliency are Brand Attributes

  • In order to make contingency plans, differentiate your organization’s services.  If, for example, a phone system is needed to provide services to your clients, diversify your options with multiple providers.  If it’s your computer system or your website, this may be where you want to focus your resources. 
  • How quickly do each of your services have to get back up and running?  In other words, what is the acceptable level of downtime?
  • Alternative Work Sites:  Do you have a place for your staff to go should your offices become unusable? 
  • Make arrangements with another organization such as Regus to set up an office, kitchen, classrooms or whatever is needed in order to provide your services.
  • Alternatively, can you make arrangements for another organization to take over your services?

The wildfire near Carlsbad claimed several homes and destroyed two commercial buildings, with early structural damage assessments estimated at $22.5 million, according to the City of Carlsbad.

California Governor Edmund Brown declared a state of emergency for San Diego County Wednesday evening. The San Diego Unified School District, along with many other school districts in the county, will be closed Thursday because of the fires and the extreme heat.

California State University San Marcos has been evacuated and is closed for the rest of the week. Commencement ceremonies scheduled for Friday and Saturday have been canceled. President Dr. Karen Haynes said on the school’s website: “Canceling commencement was not a decision we took lightly and we are saddened by the circumstances. Safety continues to be our first concern.”

Mobile Apps for Crisis – List courtesy of Thomas Francisco Community Manager, FEMA National Preparedness Community

American Red Cross: Mobile Apps: from the American Red Cross, there are multiple apps designed to get you information for specific disaster types and emergency scenarios. From floods, to hurricanes, wildfires, general first aid and pets, the Red Cross has provided multiple offline capable apps to assist you in a time of need.

Disaster Alert provides real-time listing and map of active disasters occurring around the globe. (for iPhone and Android)

Dropbox is an online, cloud storage service that offers a mobile app. It is a free service that lets you access your photos, docs, and videos from anywhere, including via the mobile app, and share them easily. This is useful for storing digital copies of important documents in the case of home fires, burglary or natural disasters.

Emergency Radio provides access to real-time information via police and fire scanners as well as maps where relevant events are occurring. (for iPhone)

FEMA App contains preparedness information for different types of disasters, an interactive checklist for emergency kits, information on how to stay safe and recover after a disaster, Recovery Center and Shelter maps, and more. (for Android, iPhone and Blackberry)

Flashlight-4 uses the iPhone white screen as a flashlight. This app jumped to 3rd from 65th for free apps in the app store download rankings following the recent earthquake off the east coast of Japan. See also Tiny Flashlight (Android)

Google Earth mobile allows user to view the same 3D imagery and terrain as the desktop version. Find current location with the touch of a button; pan, zoom, and tilt view. Search for cities, places, and businesses around the world and view layers of geographic information. User can also search by voice. (for iPhone and Android)

GPS Tuner aggregates a number of maps that then can give on-road or off-road directions that may be useful during disasters when typical navigation markers have been destroyed. (for iPhone, Windows phone and Android)

HealthMap’s Outbreaks Near Me was developed by a surveillance team from MIT and Children’s Hospital in Boston in order to try to gain more current information on the H1N1 outbreak at the time. App (and website aggregates a range of data sources, including a user-generated crowd-sourcing feature, to track outbreaks. User can search for outbreaks based on location or disease. (for iPhone and Android)

NIMS ICS Guide is an interactive guide that allows for customized on-scene contact information and provides detailed checklists. The content is all-hazards, non-jurisdictional and discipline-specific, and includes responsibilities and rules for applying the Incident Command System (ICS). (for Android, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad)

First Aid from the American Red Cross. This app saved lives during the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and offers up-to-date, just-in-time first aid training and information (including instructional videos) which are stored on the phone and accessible when out of cell phone range. (for iPhone and Android)

Psychological First Aid (PFA) Tutorial App PFA Tutorial provides a just-in-time review for those who have previously received training to provide PFA.  The tutorial describes the four core actions of PFA providers, reviews ways to engage with disaster survivors, lists common reactions to traumatic events, and provides an opportunity to check understanding in practice scenarios.  Available for iPhone, Android and as a mobile website.

PTSD Coach app can help individuals learn about and manage symptoms that commonly occur after trauma. Together with professional medical treatment, PTSD Coach provides dependable resources. If you have, or think you might have PTSD, this app is for you. Family and friends can also learn from this app. (for iPhone and Android)

WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) is a mobile application designed to assist first responders in hazardous material incidents.  The WISER application extracts content from TOXNET’s Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB), an authoritative, peer-reviewed information resource maintained by the National Library of Medicine.  (for Android, iPhone and iPad)

ReadyNova was developed to assist residents and business owners in developing a Family Emergency Plan or a Business Emergency Plan and follows basic and accepted emergency management practices. Both the Family Emergency Planner and the Business Emergency Planner provide an easy to use tool in developing your emergency plan. (for Android and iPhone)

How Can We Help?

A crisis is not business as usual. A crisis is business as unusual.

Crises have a short duration, but have consequences that can determine the viability of a business or organization for years to5 Phases of Crisis Activation come.

Every crisis starts with a combination of opportunity and danger. Where the risk/crisis conundrum balances depends upon your initial critical decisions, your crisis communications, your monitoring of events, and your adjustments made to strategy and actions as events develop.

Your company’s legacy and profitability hang in the balance in a crisis.

Only resilient businesses survive crises and disasters. And, of all the disasters you have seen, the worst is the one that happens to your company.  If your business has been effected by these fires and evacuations, and you need a plan to continue operations, we can help, today.

Contact Jim Satterfield for more information, assistance and discussion.

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