Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

There are no more excuses to not have emergency plans in place for disasters. Last year a man walked into our showroom and asked to use the restroom. After he had been in there awhile, we became worried that something had happened to him. We knocked on the door and asked if he was okay. He told us to go away. We waited a bit longer and knocked again. We got the same response but a louder “Go away.” Again, we waited a bit (thankfully it was a slow showroom day) and tried a third time. The response this time was filled with anger and curse words. 

Luckily for us, we had a retired police officer working out in fab and he knew just what to do. He took the outside hinge pins off the door so he could gain entry to OUR restroom and escort the man off OUR property. That all sounds so simple, take the door off the hinges and escort the guy out. But you know what? No one in the front office thought of it.  Why did no one think of it? Because it had never happened or been discussed before. There was no plan of action in case something like this ever happened.

That was a people incident. What about a weather emergency? Let’s face it, the weather is changing. More hurricanes, more rain, more thunder and lightning, more cyclones and tornadoes, global warming, higher highs and lower lows. A major insurance company even has a commercial out saying that we have had twenty six 500 year storms in the last 10 years. Back in the fall we had a tornado outbreak in my area. 

A friend of mine rushed to the school to pick up his daughter. Guess what? The school was on lockdown. He couldn’t get in and his daughter couldn’t get out. My friend drove through a tornado infested area to accomplish nothing.  The school knew what to do. He did not. He questioned the school at a later date and found that the school had sent home severe weather instructions at the beginning of the school year and the school severe weather policy was posted on their website as well. 

What about disasters that aren’t people or weather related? Look at the Woolsey and Camp fires in California late last year.  Those are just 2. There is an average of 100,000 wildfires a year across the globe. Some are in remote areas and impact no one, but some reach into densely populated areas and force evacuations.  What if the building you work in catches on fire? Do you know what to do or how to evacuate? 

Then there’s earthquakes. There are 12,000 to 14,000 worldwide every year. Granted, most are small but we have all seen news coverage of devastating earthquakes. Back in December Alaska had several over 3.0 and Tennessee had one over 4.0. I live in Virginia and several years ago we had one over 5.0 that did a lot of damage. I remember that day. After it was over, I was desperately trying to get in touch with a loved one much closer to the epicenter than I was. I tried and tried but the calls weren’t going through and I was getting more and more upset. Later on I learned that texting is a much better way to communicate with loved ones in disasters.  I didn’t know that. (A lot of police 911 departments are adding text to their 911 services. My area has it. Check with your area and see if they do as well.)

The point here is that we don’t always know what to do in case of emergency. Large institutions like schools and hospitals have very specific plans in place to deal with most disasters. Large corporations that employ hundreds or even thousands of people have plans in place as well. Where things fall short is in the smaller privately owned companies. 

A recent survey noted that 68 percent of small businesses DO NOT have plans in place for natural disasters or man-made incidents and disasters. What? 68 percent? That is a huge number! When asked, a variety of answers were given:

Don’t have time

Too overwhelming

Too complicated

Don’t know where or how to start

Don’t need one (!)

Whatever the reason why don’t have one, there are two big reasons to do it: the safety of your employees, and your peace of mind. 

In the middle of any kind of incident, do you want to be running around like a chicken with your head cut off, looking for your employees because they are all scattered and don’t know where to go? 

There are no more excuses to not have emergency plans in place for disasters. There are many excellent on line resources available to help put plans in place. A great one is They have put together tips and plans for approximately 30 kinds of disasters. They tackle Active Shooter through Wildfires and everything in between including pandemics, chemical hazards and yes earthquakes. They even guide you through Cyber Attacks. All this information is free to whoever needs it. 

There are also multiple sites that will help you with templates to make putting your plans together much easier. These are usually called Business Continuity Plans. You do have to be careful, some sites do charge for the templates. Make sure you pick ones that can be modified to suit your needs. And, be prepared to make more than one plan. Different situations call for different plans. A fire plan may call for you to go outside and meet somewhere while a tornado plan may advise you to shelter in place in an interior room or under a desk. 

We are still in the beginning of 2019. Don’t let this be the year you needed a plan and didn’t have one.

Please send your thoughts on this article to Sharon Koehler at